Directors: Jeannot Szwarc and Gene Kearney
Writers: Halsted Welles and Gene Kearney
Cast: David McCallum, Linda Marsh, David Carradine, Orson Welles, Ivor Francis, Ford Rainey, Trina Parks, Bill Quinn, Gail Bonney, Martin Ashe, Ray Ballard, Frank Arnold, Lonny Chapman, Lisabeth Hush, Radames Pera, Jason Wingreen, Frances Spanier, and Patti Cohoon
Composers: Oliver Nelson and Paul Glass
Gallery Painter: Tom Wright
Air Date: 10/20/1971
The Phantom Farmhouse
When the mentally unstable Gideon (David Carradine) blames the murder of a fellow patient on Mildred Squire (Linda Marsh) from a local farmhouse, psychiatrist Doctor Joel Winter (David McCallum) investigates the matter himself. Upon visiting the farmhouse, Dr. Winter falls deeply in love with Mildred—an attractive woman hiding a terrible secret about her true self.
“The Phantom Farmhouse” offers a clever twist on the werewolf legend. Supernatural horror fans in particular will enjoy this segment, which combines witchcraft and lycanthropy in a compelling fashion.
Languidly paced in a country setting, “The Phantom Farmhouse” creates a dreamlike atmosphere that transitions from idyllic to nightmarish in a highly effective manner. Especially worth noting are the lazy afternoons on the sanitarium playground, which, by pulling the viewer into a serene and relaxing frame of reference, serve to contrast the evening sequences near the titular farmhouse—the tone of which resembles that of a slow-burn horror film.
Heightening the suspense of Halsted Welles’ narrative, David Carradine’s portrayal of Gideon conveys an air of malice buried beneath a gentle and unassuming veneer—an aspect that lends credibility to Gideon’s ominous description of Mildred and the farmhouse.
A pre-1980s werewolf outing, “The Phantom Farmhouse” may elicit criticism for its lack of transformation sequences, visceral gore effects, and humanoid wolf creatures. (Certain viewers may, however, commend this segment for leaving many details to the imagination.)
Though ambiguous, “The Phantom Farmhouse” seems to emphasize the dangers of forgoing caution when pursuing relationships with the opposite sex.
A surreal story with a monster theme, “The Phantom Farmhouse” should appeal to Night Gallery viewers of a sensitive nature. Horror buffs may nevertheless take issue with this segment, which reduces the werewolf—arguably the most vicious and terrifying creature in all of fiction—to a common house dog.
Overall Quality: 7/10
Silent Snow, Secret Snow
Withdrawn from the real world, Paul Hasleman (Radames Pera) develops a strange obsession with snow. Concerned for their son, Paul’s parents hire a doctor to form an official diagnosis—with a perplexing outcome.
Combining poignant character insight with the haunting narration of Orson Welles, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” is a thoughtful and delicate Night Gallery segment. Specifically deserving of praise is the core message of this offering, which evokes compassion for children with special needs.
Though likely unintentional, Radames Pera’s portrayal of young Paul captures almost every defining characteristic of a boy with Asperger syndrome: high intelligence, odd mannerisms, poor communication skills, difficulty relating to peers, and obsession with fantasy. Viewers on the autism spectrum will thus identify with Paul, who endures unfair scrutiny for his bizarre, albeit harmless, conduct in social situations. (It should be noted, however, that those unfamiliar with AS may attribute Paul’s behavior to madness, sociopathy, or the influence of paranormal/supernatural phenomena.)
Similar to “Miniature” from The Twilight Zone, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” reveals how society fails to accommodate the needs, challenges, and emotions of individuals with autistic or eccentric personality traits—an unrecognized problem prior to the modern era.
Despite forgoing horror and science fiction, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” earns its status as a Night Gallery classic. Mainly worth commending is the performance of Pera, who embodies the distant but sensitive manner of a child with autism.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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