Directors: John Astin, Theodore J. Flicker, Jerrold Freedman, and Jeff Corey
Writers: Rod Serling, Gene Kearney, and Jerrold Freedman
Cast: Patrick O’Neal, Kim Stanley, Wally Cox, Robert Morse, Rudy Vallee, Leif Erickson, Pat Boone, Tom Pedi, Barbara Flicker, Bill Svanoe, Larry Linville, Ed Call, Stanley Waxman, Robert Gibbons, E.A. Sirianni, and John Gruber
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Gallery Painter: Tom Wright
Air Date: 10/6/1971
A Fear of Spiders
Upon rejecting his neighbor Elizabeth Croft (Kim Stanley), gourmet critic Justus Walters (Patrick O’Neal) finds himself in a spider-infested home. Unable to confront the nightmare in his own bedroom, Justus calls on Elizabeth for assistance—with a horrifying twist.
Despite operating from a ridiculous narrative, “A Fear of Spiders” benefits from a creepy execution. Also commendable is the performance of Kim Stanley, who complements the spider menace with a subtle human threat.
By spurning the advances of an affectionate neighbor, berating a simple janitor for his lack of culture, and repaying kindness with cruelty on every occasion, Justus quickly establishes himself as a prissy, arrogant snob with no positive qualities whatsoever. Viewers with a sense of “justice” will therefore appreciate the ultimate fate that befalls the main character, who, though initially confident in his superiority over others, must put himself at the mercy of those he wronged when seeking to escape his greatest fear: a hairy arachnid with a giant body, a set of eight legs, and a palate for human flesh.
Forgoing the realistic and skin-crawling effects of Tarantula, this segment features a moving prop spider in lieu of actual insect footage.
Exploiting a primal phobia shared by the majority of people, “A Fear of Spiders” may evoke praise for its psychological approach to insect-themed horror—similar to Them!, the original version of The Fly, and other “big bug” classics of the 1950s.
“A Fear of Spiders” is a chilling, well-acted, and occasionally humorous Night Gallery segment. Horror fans will thus enjoy this piece, which suffers only from a Z-grade special effect in the middle act.
Overall Quality: 9/10
Disturbed by the cries of his son Junior (Bill Svanoe), a man (Wally Cox) awakens in the middle of the night, takes a languid stroll to the bathroom sink, and prepares a glass of water for his “baby”—revealed to be a docile, newborn version of the Frankenstein monster created by Universal Studios.
“Junior” offers a modern twist on a famous novel by Mary Shelley. Horror/comedy buffs may therefore wish to view this segment, which, following in the tradition of The Munsters, contains an absurd parody of Frankenstein’s creature.
By playing his character with a straight face, Wally Cox may deceive the audience into believing that a serious, perhaps even frightening, situation awaits both him and his child upon entering the nursery room—an aspect that conceals the incongruous nature of Junior and his striking resemblance to a classic Universal Monster.
The character of Junior is marred by a cringe-inducing baby voice, which borders on the absurd—even for a comedic interpretation of the Frankenstein monster. (Herman Munster, on the other hand, speaks in a rich baritone that serves to contrast with his goofy, childlike demeanor.)
With a running time of only two minutes, “Junior” also suffers from an anticlimactic punchline. (However, when compared to “Witches’ Feast,” “Miss Lovecraft Sent Me,” and other blackout sketches featured in the early episodes of season two, “Junior” stands out for its clever ending.)
Coupling infantile antics with Gothic horror tropes, “Junior” is a silly but amusing filler piece. Nevertheless, those with a mature taste in humor will likely choose to avoid this segment.
Overall Quality: 6/10
Lost in the woods during a violent rainstorm, photojournalist Roger Blacker (Robert Morse) encounters Dr. Francis Deeking (Rudy Vallee)—an eccentric surgeon with a dark secret. Providing Dr. Deeking with information about the future, Roger ends up in a terrible predicament.
Combining a surreal atmosphere with a mad scientist theme, “Marmalade Wine” should appeal to fans of experimental horror. That being said, this segment may invite criticism for its nonsensical plot, copious exposition, and disturbing subject matter.
Showcasing milky white trees, pitch-black landscapes, and stairs leading to an otherworldly realm, “Marmalade Wine” deserves recognition for its dreamlike scenery. (On a side note, Lost in Space enthusiasts will observe many parallels between the shadow dimension of “The Anti-Matter Man” and the bizarre setting featured in this segment.)
(Spoilers beyond this point)
To prevent his guest from leaving, Dr. Deeking amputates both of Roger’s feet—a twist that, though reminiscent of Tusk (a body horror film directed by Kevin Smith) and Stephen King’s Misery, seems out of place in a comedic Night Gallery segment.
“Marmalade Wine” captures the essence of a typical nightmare. Unfortunately, this segment fails to develop its horrifying premise in a logical or compelling manner.
Overall Quality: 5/10
Hoping to reform his wayward son, a concerned father named Holston (Pat Boone) goes on a guided tour of a military school. While accompanied by a no-nonsense director (Leif Erickson), Holston discovers something very unusual about the cadets at the academy.
Preying on fear of paternal abandonment, “The Academy” will resonate with viewers on a primal level. It should be noted, however, that Rod Serling’s narrative is hampered by a premature plot twist, a strange ending, and an overall absence of dramatic tension.
Taking place on a bright sunny day, progressing at a soft languid pace, and focusing extensively on Holston’s casual tour of a traditional military school, this segment opens with a deceptively pleasant and ordinary atmosphere that, when coupled with the unassuming presence of Pat Boone, serves to mask the true, awful nature of the eponymous academy—a subtle and slow-burn method of unfolding a nightmarish scenario. (Two of the three preceding segments in this episode, in contrast, combine dark musical cues with overt horror imagery in order to unnerve and terrify the audience.)
Though potentially justified in his decision, Holston appears to represent parents who neglect raising their children due to laziness, callousness, or disregard for familial responsibility.
Lacking scary monsters and gory situations, “The Academy” provides a unique and effective twist on the horror genre. Night Gallery fans are therefore advised to view this segment, ambiguous character motives notwithstanding.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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