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
After 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.
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”) exemplifies 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.
Optimistic fans may take issue with this segment for its final sequence, which embodies the misanthropic worldview of Rod Serling.
As 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.
“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
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, Betsy—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.
Emulating 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.)
Lacking the atmospheric quality of Dracula and the raw creepiness of Frankenstein, “Miss Lovecraft Sent Me” fails to generate a layer of suspense 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.
“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
Arriving 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.
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 to 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.
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.
“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?
“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.
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—unlike 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.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
Though written solely for comic effect, “Phantom of What Opera?” contains a valuable lesson about making judgments based on physical appearances.
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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