Night Gallery Episode 4: Make Me Laugh/Clean Kills and Other Trophies

General Information

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

Overview

Unable to captivate an audience with his stale material, comic Jackie Slater (Godfrey Cambridge) encounters Chatterje (Jackie Vernon)—a second-rate swami desperateNight Gallery Make Me Laugh 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.

 

Pros

Night Gallery Make Me Laugh“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.

 

Cons

Leaving nothing to the imagination or the element of surprise, “Make Me Laugh” overstates every significant plot twist from beginning to end—a disappointingNight Gallery Make Me Laugh 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.

 

Analysis

Night Gallery Make Me Laugh“Make Me Laugh” indicates that a sense of accomplishment can come only from hard work, dedication, and avoiding cheap shortcuts while on the path to success.

 

Concluding Comments

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

Overview

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 Night Gallery Clean Kills and Other TrophiesJefferson 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.

 

Pros

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.Night Gallery Clean Kills and Other Trophies 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.

 

Cons

“Clean Kills and Other Trophies” may invite criticism for its goofy twist ending, which will likely induce laughter of the unintended variety.

Night Gallery Clean Kills and Other TrophiesAdditionally problematic is the characterization of Archie Jr., who, in spite of his ostensibly gentle nature, often comes across as a pitiful weakling with few redeeming qualities.

 

Analysis

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.

 

Concluding Comments

“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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