Directors: Steven Spielberg and Walter Doniger
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Godfrey Cambridge, Tom Bosley, Jackie Vernon, Raymond Massey, Tom Troupe, Barry Brown, Herbert Jefferson Jr., Al Lewis, Sidney Clute, John J. Fox, Gene Kearney, Tony Russel, Sonny Klein, Michael Hart, Georgia Schmidt, Sid Rushakoff, and Don Melvoin
Composer: Robert Prince
Gallery Painter: Tom Wright
Air Date: 1/6/1971
Make Me Laugh
Unable to captivate an audience with his stale material, comic Jackie Slater (Godfrey Cambridge) encounters Chatterje (Jackie Vernon)—a second-rate swami desperate for a customer. Upon wishing for the power to make people laugh, Jackie pays a terrible price for his request.
Rod Serling enthusiasts may choose to forgo “Make Me Laugh” for its languid, uneven, and predictable execution. This segment does, however, contain a humorous cameo from Al Lewis—known for his portrayal of Grandpa in The Munsters.
“Make Me Laugh” benefits from the pathos of Godfrey Cambridge, who evokes tremendous sympathy for his character. Especially worth noting is Cambridge’s performance in the opening sequence, wherein Jackie—visibly humiliated while delivering a cringe-worthy comic routine—will compel viewers to empathize with his embarrassing failure.
Leaving nothing to the imagination or the element of surprise, “Make Me Laugh” overstates every significant plot twist from beginning to end—a disappointing lack of subtlety from director Steven Spielberg.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
After demanding a second wish, namely to move people emotionally instead of inducing laughter from everyone he encounters, Jackie dies in a car accident while crossing the street—a cruel and unjustified fate for a harmless, if extremely foolish, character.
Lacking the tongue-in-cheek undertones of “A Nice Place to Visit” (a similarly themed entry from The Twilight Zone), “Make Me Laugh” is a drawn-out and tedious Night Gallery segment. Horror/comedy buffs in particular may struggle to appreciate this offering, which fails to capture the ironic insight of a typical Serling effort.
Overall Quality: 4/10
Clean Kills and Other Trophies
Before signing over his fortune, Colonel Archie Dittman (Raymond Massey) requires that his weak-willed son (Barry Brown) slaughter a deer within fifteen days. Disgusted with the colonel’s lust for killing, African manservant Tom Mboya (Herbert Jefferson Jr.) makes an unusual prayer request to his tribal gods—with a horrifying outcome.
“Clean Kills and Other Trophies” deserves praise for the acting of Raymond Massey, whose cold and stern manner adds a layer of realism to Col. Dittman—written as a caricature of a conservative father and passionate hunter. Also worth commending is the ominous tone of this segment, which emphasizes voodoo magic as a means of delivering cosmic justice—a common trope within the horror genre.
Despite justifying his cruel actions with the intention of “manning up” his cowardly son, Col. Dittman will succeed in evoking contempt from those of a sensitive inclination. During the introductory scene, for example, the colonel makes a series of bigoted remarks against Tom and proceeds to torment Archie Jr. for his submissive demeanor, interest in peace activism, and reservation against killing animals without sufficient motive—all of which serve to present the colonel as a man devoid of sympathy or conscience, albeit still realistic enough for viewers to accept as a believable sociopath.
“Clean Kills and Other Trophies” may invite criticism for its goofy twist ending, which will likely induce laughter of the unintended variety.
This segment draws an important distinction between killing for food and hunting for sport—a message that, though occasionally lacking in subtlety, benefits from a powerful delivery.
“Clean Kills and Other Trophies” combines haunting atmosphere with moral commentary. Night Gallery fans should therefore enjoy this segment, which suffers only from a silly special effect in the final scene.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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