Night Gallery Episode 7: The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes/Miss Lovecraft Sent Me/The Hand of Borgus Weems/Phantom of What Opera?

General Information

Directors: John M. Badham, Gene Kearney, and John M. Lucas

Writers: Rod Serling, Jack Laird, Alvin Sapinsley, and Gene Kearney

Cast: Michael Constantine, Clint Howard, Joseph Campanella, Sue Lyon, George Maharis, Ray Milland, Leslie Nielsen, Bernie Kopell, Ellen Weston, William Hansen, Gene Tyburn, Rance Howard, Rosary Nix, John Donald, Joan Huntingon, Patricia Donahue, Peter Mamakos, Robert Hoy, William Mims, and Mary Ann Beck

Composer: Oliver Nelson

Gallery Painter: Tom Wright

Air Date: 9/15/1971

 

The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes

Overview

Night Gallery The Boy Who Predicted EarthquakesAfter making a series of accurate predictions, prophetic child Herbie Bittman (Clint Howard) acquires fame as a television psychic. Problematic signs occur, however, when Herbie hesitates to share his latest revelation with the world.

Combining the power of suggestion with a doomsday scenario, “The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes” is a haunting and memorable installment of Night Gallery. Exceptionally worth praising is the ominous music of Oliver Nelson and the phenomenal acting of Clint Howard.

 

Pros

Though twelve years old during the production of this segment, Howard (known to science fiction fans for his portrayal of Balok in “The Corbomite Maneuver”) exemplifiesNight Gallery The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes a mixture of maturity, pathos, and chilling realism while performing as Herbie—a clairvoyant child burdened with a terrible secret concerning the ultimate fate of humanity. Despite promising a utopian society in the near future, for example, Herbie delivers his final forecast with an air of intensity, solemnness, and purposeful ambiguity—qualities that enhance the impact of a dismal and unforgettable twist ending.

 

Cons

Optimistic fans may take issue with this segment for its final sequence, which embodies the misanthropic worldview of Rod Serling.

 

Analysis

Night Gallery The Boy Who Predicted EarthquakesAs evidenced by the reservations of young Herbie, “The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes” contains a thoughtful message on the dangers of taking life for granted, attempting to “play God” with unknown forces, and expecting positive outcomes when presented with extraordinary claims.

 

Concluding Comments

“The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes” is a well-written and superbly acted, if depressing, Night Gallery segment. Horror buffs in particular should enjoy this offering for its creepy score, supernatural premise, and apocalyptic finale.

 

Overall Quality: 10/10

 

Miss Lovecraft Sent Me

Overview

Upon arriving in a castle, a babysitter named Betsy (Sue Lyon) is greeted by a charming man (Joseph Campanella) with a black cape and a heavy accent. However, Night Gallery Miss Lovecraft Sent MeBetsy—initially oblivious to the danger of her situation—soon realizes that something dreadful awaits her inside the abode of her host.

The first of Night Gallery’s many blackout gags, “Miss Lovecraft Sent Me” is a silly and forgettable segment. Notably, this production is marred by an abrupt, predictable, and unamusing twist that occurs after a two-minute setup.

 

Pros

Night Gallery Miss Lovecraft Sent MeEmulating the cultured manner of Christopher Lee and the elegant movements of Bela Lugosi, Joseph Campanella—featured previously in “The Nature of the Enemy” from season one—will likely evoke praise for his portrayal of a traditional vampire. (Gothic horror fans may, however, criticize Campanella’s character for his cheesy makeup and stereotypical attire.)

 

Cons

Lacking the atmospheric quality of Dracula and the raw creepiness of Frankenstein, “Miss Lovecraft Sent Me” fails to generate a layer of suspenseNight Gallery Miss Lovecraft Sent Me before revealing the nature of its main character—obviously a vampire whose “child” wishes to feast upon an unsuspecting babysitter.

On a related note, “Miss Lovecraft Sent Me” suffers from the unintelligible speech of young Betsy—a consequence of her incessant (not to mention thoroughly insufferable) gum chewing, which, when coupled with the noise emanating from a small radio, drowns out her conversation with Campanella’s vampire.

 

Analysis

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Concluding Comments

“Miss Lovecraft Sent Me” is a pointless, irritating filler segment. Night Gallery buffs should therefore avoid this offering, which fails as both a pure comedy sketch and as a serious horror piece.

 

Overall Quality: 2/10

 

The Hand of Borgus Weems

Overview

Night Gallery The Hand of Borgus WeemsArriving at the office of Doctor Archibald Ravadon (Ray Milland), a troubled man named Peter Lacland (George Maharis) requests an amputation of his right hand. When questioned about his motives, Peter reveals his inability to control the appendage—supposedly possessed by an evil power.

Despite operating on a clichéd horror premise, “The Hand of Borgus Weems” benefits from the tormented performance of George Maharis. Other highlights include a spooky music arrangement, a thrilling backstory involving numerous murder attempts, and a chilling resolution (or lack of resolution) in the closing scene.

 

Pros

It should be noted that this segment offers no medical or scientific explanation for how its protagonist, Peter Lacland, acquires a sentient hand that once belonged toNight Gallery The Hand of Borgus Weems another person—much in contrast to “Dead End” from season two of Angel, wherein amputee Lindsey MacDonald receives a transplant before committing deeds against his own will. Nevertheless, “The Hand of Borgus Weems” opens with a gruesome act of violence, continues with a series of captivating flashbacks, and finishes with a supernatural twist—all of which allow the viewer to become engrossed in Peter’s story, fantastic subject matter notwithstanding.

 

Cons

After crushing his hand with a small statue, Peter finally compels a medical doctor to perform the amputation. During the procedure, however, Peter’s hand appears perfectly healthy with the exception of several minor bruises.

 

Analysis

Night Gallery The Hand of Borgus WeemsThough founded on tropes of a supernatural variety, the symbolism in this segment seems to represent the conflict—specifically between good and evil—that resides in every sane, moral human being.

 

Concluding Comments

“The Hand of Borgus Weems” deserves praise for adding credibility to a bizarre concept. Also exceptional is the acting of Maharis, who may induce sympathy for the character of Lacland.

 

Overall Quality: 8/10

 

Phantom of What Opera?

Overview

Night Gallery Phantom of What OperaUpon kidnapping a beautiful woman (Mary Ann Beck), the Phantom of the Opera (Leslie Nielson) receives the shock of his life—with a humorous outcome.

“Phantom of What Opera?” is a cute and amusing parody of an iconic tale by Gaston Leroux. Worth acknowledging in particular is the twist ending of this segment, which will appeal to fans of the horror/comedy crossover genre.

 

Pros

Inspired by the corpselike visage of Lon Chaney’s character from the 1925 film, the Phantom in this segment may earn praise for his cadaverous countenance—unlikeNight Gallery Phantom of What Opera the version starring Claude Rains, who, though mildly grotesque in the Phantom role, appears only partially disfigured during the climactic scene.

In addition to its haunting makeup effects, “Phantom of What Opera?” should be commended for the performance of Leslie Nielsen—an actor who blurs the line between parody and serious gothic horror in this four-minute segment.

 

Cons

(Spoilers beyond this point)

Night Gallery Phantom of What OperaDespite living with a terrible deformity, the Phantom initially recoils in horror after uncovering the true face of Christine.

 

Analysis

Though written solely for comic effect, “Phantom of What Opera?” contains a valuable lesson about making judgments based on physical appearances.

 

Concluding Comments

This segment should be requisite viewing for comedy enthusiasts and Phantom of the Opera fans alike. Those of a critical nature may, however, wish to avoid “Phantom of What Opera?” for its illogical premise.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

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