Directors: Douglas Heyes and John Meredyth Lucas
Writers: Doulas Heyes and Matthew Howard
Cast: Carl Betz, Jeff Corey, Louise Sorel, Michael Blodgett, Larry Hagman, Suzy Parker, Jeanette Nolan, Glenn Dixon, Cathleen Cordell, and Howard Morton
Composer: Robert Prince
Gallery Painter: Tom Wright
Air Date: 12/16/1970
The Dead Man
Highly susceptible to suggestion, John Michael Fearing (Michael Blodgett) can mimic any disease while under the hypnosis of Doctor Max Redford (Carl Betz)—whose wife Velia (Louise Sorel) develops an attraction for her husband’s patient. Against the advice of fellow scientist Miles Talmadge (Jeff Corey), Dr. Redford takes his experimental procedures to a new extreme—with a horrible outcome.
“The Dead Man” offers a creepy twist ending, a suspenseful execution, and a clever spin on the mad scientist genre. Sci-fi/horror buffs will therefore appreciate this segment, illogical aspects notwithstanding.
A man of conscience despite his unethical actions, the main character benefits from the conflicted performance of Carl Betz. Notably, Dr. Redford displays terrible remorse for an accident involving his test subject—a contrast to the average mad scientist, who would typically stop at nothing while on the verge of great discovery.
“The Dead Man” should also be noted for its original science fiction premise, namely that mental states can influence the physical condition of a human body—a concept previously examined in Hammer Studios’ The Revenge of Frankenstein.
Portrayed by soap actress Louise Sorel, the character of Velia may induce cringing due to her hysterical antics.
Similar to the 1931 version of Frankenstein, this offering explores the arrogance, obsession, and inevitable downfall of a man who, being motivated by jealously of the divine, attempts to pervert science for his own grotesque purposes—a timeless tale given a fresh update by writer/director Douglas Heyes.
Combining mad scientist tropes with a mind control theme, “The Dead Man” should be commended for its spooky atmosphere and thought-provoking moral commentary. Night Gallery fans are thus advised to view this segment, which suffers only from the weak acting of one performer.
Overall Quality: 9/10
Though enamored of his beautiful wife Carlotta (Suzy Parker), Cedric Acton (Larry Hagman) desires a woman of kind, humble character. In order to have his cake and eat it too, Cedric hires homely housekeeper Miss Wattle (Jeanette Nolan) and trades her personality with that of Carlotta—with a predictable result.
Featuring mad scientist hijinks and a Frankenstein laboratory, “The Housekeeper” embodies all the elements of a classic horror piece. Unfortunately, this segment is marred by comedic gags of a cringe-inducing variety.
“The Housekeeper” may evoke praise for the performance of Larry Hagman—known for his portrayal of J.R. Ewing in Dallas. As opposed to Dr. Redford, for instance, Hagman plays the role of a mad scientist with cold, hollow indifference toward those affected by his evil, if somewhat goofy, experiments—a chilling addition to an otherwise silly and ridiculous offering.
Actually a normal-looking woman in spite of her elderly appearance, Miss Wattle is often treated as a foul, hideous creature whom no human being would ever wish to associate with—an unrealistic, not to mention mean-spirited, reaction from the main characters.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
“The Housekeeper” may also invite criticism for its unresolved twist in the final sequence, which contains a second transference procedure involving poor Miss Wattle.
Despite criticizing his wife for her shallow attributes, Cedric endows the body of Carlotta with a new personality instead of settling for a less attractive woman—likely a veiled statement on the nature of hypocrisy.
“The Housekeeper” deserves condemnation for its quirky, juvenile humor. Certain viewers may, however, admire this segment for its cute life lesson.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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