Directors: Richard Benedict, Gene Levitt, and Rudi Dorn
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Phyllis Diller, John Astin, John Colicos, Torin Thatcher, Hedley Mattingly, Shani Wallis, John Williams, Henry Silva, Charles Davis, Brendan Dillon, William Beckley, Terence Pushman, Edward Colmans, Pierre Jalbert, Carl Milletaire, Than Wyenn, Jewel Blanch, and John Barclay
Composer: Robert Prince
Gallery Painter: Tom Wright
Air Date: 1/13/1971
A husband named Jonathan (John Astin) murders his insufferable wife Pamela (Phyllis Diller), no longer able to endure her incessant nagging. Following her demise, Pamela returns to haunt Jonathan—with a horrible and unforeseen outcome.
“Pamela’s Voice” deserves recognition for blending morbid humor with acerbic dialogue. This segment should also be commended for its succinct execution, which allows just enough time to develop its premise before finishing with a “grave” twist.
Though known for playing characters of a comedic and eccentric variety (e.g. Gomez in The Addams Family), actor John Astin exemplifies the callous and conniving manner of a cold-blooded killer—a rare opportunity for Astin to showcase his talents in a dark and serious role.
Additionally worth noting is the performance of Phyllis Diller, whose grating voice and horrid personality compel the viewer to sympathize with Jonathan—a man who, despite relishing the murder of his wife, offers a realistic and relatable motive for pushing Pamela down a flight of stairs.
Implying that Jonathan must either be haunted by his wife’s ghost or flat-out hallucinating, “Pamela’s Voice” relies on misdirection to strengthen the impact of its surprise ending—a narrative technique later used in Shutter Island, The Sixth Sense, and other classic films within the supernatural horror and thriller genres.
A short but clever Night Gallery segment, “Pamela’s Voice” should appeal to fans of ghost stories with a satirical tone. In addition, this offering will earn praise for the acting/chemistry of both Astin and Diller.
Overall Quality: 8/10
In the year 1915, the Captain of the Lusitania (Torin Thatcher) picks up a Survivor (John Colicos) of the Titanic. Incredulous that a man could live in the open sea for three years, the captain interrogates his new passenger in search of answers—with a grim result.
A remake of “Judgment Night” from The Twilight Zone, “Lone Survivor” succeeds in evoking a thick layer of ominous dread. Worth praising in particular are the mystery aspects of this segment, which stem from the bizarre circumstances of the Survivor’s account.
“Lone Survivor” benefits from the tormented acting of John Colicos, known to science fiction buffs for playing Kor in Star Trek and Count Baltar in Battlestar Galactica. Specifically, the Survivor, visibly perturbed over his cowardly actions aboard the Titanic, explains in harrowing detail how the ship crashed into an iceberg, began tilting into the ocean, and forced him to make a terrible decision within a matter of minutes: either perish aboard a doomed vessel or sneak onto a lifeboat while dressed in womanly attire—a rare case of exposition serving to heighten the suspense and overall backstory of a horror-themed tale.
“Lone Survivor” contains a simple but poignant moral lesson, namely that one can never escape the consequences of deceit, cowardice, and shirking responsibility to those in need of assistance.
Combining ghost story tropes with an historical background, “Lone Survivor” will interest fans of the supernatural horror genre. Exceptionally compelling is the performance of Colicos, who adds a hint of credibility to the fantastic nature of his character.
Overall Quality: 9/10
After ordering the death of an Indian national, British Colonel Hymber Masters (John Williams) receives an evil-looking doll for his niece Monica (Jewel Blanch). Realizing that Pandit Chola (Henry Silva)—brother of the executed prisoner—had sent the doll for nefarious purposes, Col. Masters returns the favor in a final act of spite.
“The Doll” benefits from eerie atmosphere, topnotch acting, and veiled commentary on colonialism. Rod Serling enthusiasts may, however, observe numerous parallels between this segment and “Living Doll”—a classic (and arguably superior) episode of The Twilight Zone.
An early example of the uncanny valley in fiction, Monica’s doll will induce horrified reactions due to her vaguely humanoid countenance—unlike Chucky from the Child’s Play series, who, though more violent and psychotic than the doll in this segment, hardly qualifies as a credible villain given his cartoonish, if not comical, appearance.
By wearing a malevolent expression at all times, Monica’s doll reveals her evil intentions to every character—an aspect that prevents both Miss Danton (Shani Wallis) and young Monica from doubting Col. Masters, who, under normal circumstances, would come across as a total madman for claiming that an inanimate object intends on murdering him. (Talky Tina from The Twilight Zone, in contrast, embodies a subtle creepiness that manifests only in the presence of Telly Savalas’ character, prompting his wife and stepdaughter to disbelieve his accusations against the eponymous living doll.)
An unsettling Night Gallery entry, “The Doll” may intrigue horror fans for its nightmarish qualities. Also outstanding is John Williams’ portrayal of Col. Masters, who allows the audience to accept the doll as a plausible antagonist.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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