Directors: Gene Kearney, William Hale, Jerrold Freedman, and Theodore J. Flicker
Writers: Gene Kearney, Jack Laird, Rod Serling, and Theodore J. Flicker
Cast: Bob Crane, Jo Anne Worley, Victor Buono, Forrest Tucker, Murray Hamilton, John Astin, Bernard Fox, Eric Christmas, Alan Napier, Trisha Noble, Journey Laird, Don Pedro Colley, Lou Frizzell, Theodore J. Flicker, Jody Gilbert, Ceil Cabot, John J. Fox, and Hank Warden
Composer: Gil Mellé
Gallery Painter: Tom Wright
Air Date: 11/17/1971
House – With Ghost
While pursuing an affair with blonde beauty Sherry (Trisha Noble), Ellis Travers (Bob Crane) plots the murder of his wife Iris (Jo Anne Worley). Taking advantage of Iris’ frequent dizzy spells, Ellis purchases a haunted house with the intention of scaring his wife to death—with an unforeseen complication.
“House – With Ghost” puts a clever and original spin on a clichéd horror premise. That being said, this Night Gallery segment is marred by weak characters, laughable hauntings, and mediocre performances.
Halloween buffs may enjoy this offering for its supernatural horror tropes, including a malevolent ghost who lives inside an eerie haunted house. (One should observe, however, that despite containing the potential for a spooky and atmospheric setting, “House – With Ghost” is undermined by lame special effects—even for the early 1970s—and a jarringly comedic twist in the final scene.)
In addition to its sloppy production values and abrupt tone changes, “House – With Ghost” deserves criticism for its character inconsistencies—especially concerning the actions of Ellis Travers. Shortly after moving into the house, for example, Ellis appears genuinely troubled over the failing health of Iris—now further shaken by a paranormal experience. When conversing with a doctor (Alan Napier) in a later scene, however, Ellis reacts with enthusiasm upon learning that his wife will soon succumb to a fatal illness, allowing him to pursue a relationship with Sherry—a younger and more attractive woman than Iris.
Though attempting to convey a message on the dangers of marital infidelity, the fate of Ellis fails to conclude on a somber or impactful note—an aspect that hampers the moral lesson at the heart of this segment.
Night Gallery fans may wish to forgo “House – With Ghost” for its middling execution. Especially problematic is the use of irony in this segment, which becomes apparent only at the very last minute.
Overall Quality: 3/10
A Midnight Visit to the Neighborhood Blood Bank
Upon arriving in the bedroom of a sleeping woman, a vampire (Victor Buono) prepares to make a “withdrawal” from his intended victim (Journey Laird). Before the vampire can draw blood, however, something unexpected occurs—much to the vampire’s chagrin.
Combining a one-note comedic gag with the production values of an Ed Wood movie, “A Midnight Visit to the Neighborhood Blood Bank” is a pointless and forgettable segment. Vampire enthusiasts may, however, appreciate the potential of Victor Buono in a Dracula-type role.
With his hefty build and impressive stature, Buono—known to television buffs for playing King Tut in the 1960s Batman show—has all the physical traits of an imposing vampire. (Unfortunately, this segment provides no opportunity for Buono to explore his character in a serious, let alone ominous or threatening, manner.)
Featuring a cheesy rubber bat supported by visible wire, “A Midnight Visit to the Neighborhood Blood Bank” deserves condemnation for its awful and outdated special effects—even when compared to the Universal Monster films of the 1930s.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
This segment should also be criticized for its twist ending, which, in addition to reusing the concept for “A Matter of Semantics,” suffers from a cringe-worthy punchline. Specifically, an overweight vampire enters the room of a fair young woman, leans over her bed for a midnight snack, and grows disappointed upon learning of her “deposit” at the blood bank—a weak and absurd climax to a Dracula-themed episode.
“A Midnight Visit to the Neighborhood Blood Bank” offers a goofy and unoriginal twist on vampire fiction. Viewers should therefore avoid this offering, which earns its status as a bottom-tier Night Gallery segment.
Overall Quality: 2/10
Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator
With the help of his assistant Rolpho (Don Pedro Colley), street peddler Doctor Ernest Stringfellow (Forrest Tucker) travels to a small town in order to peddle his rejuvenator—supposedly capable of curing the sick and resurrecting the dead. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Stringfellow sells his potion to a poor, ignorant farmer hoping to save his daughter’s life—with a harrowing outcome.
“Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator” provides a somber, thought-provoking twist on the premise for “Mr. Garrity and the Graves”—an ironic episode of The Twilight Zone. Notably, this segment benefits from haunting character moments, eerie sequences inside a literal ghost town, and heartfelt performances from the entire cast.
“Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator” should also be commended for its well-written characters, who add a strong human element to the supernatural concept for this segment. Exceptionally poignant are the tearful pleas of a desperate father, who, against the advice of a real doctor named Snyder (Murray Hamilton), gives up the last of his savings for a chance to heal his dying daughter—a display that will stir the emotions of compassionate viewers, unlike a similar sequence from the quirky and overacted “Mr. Garrity and the Graves.”
Despite building tension throughout, “Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator” offers a hackneyed—albeit satisfying—fate for its despicable main character.
In contrast to the blatant skullduggery of Mr. Garrity, Dr. Stringfellow comes across as a nuanced and believable conman. Specifically, the good doctor absolves himself of all responsibility for his actions, claiming that his promise of hope can work wonders for the victimized—a compelling depiction of how a conflicted scam artist might justify his crimes in real life.
Combining horror-themed tropes with a Western motif, “Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator” should be requisite viewing for Night Gallery enthusiasts. Others may likewise enjoy this offering for its insightful character study, which, as opposed to “Mr. Garrity and the Graves,” takes a subtle approach to exploring human nature.
Overall Quality: 8/10
While driving on the road at night, hippie Randy Miller (John Astin) dies in a terrible car accident. Upon awakening, Randy finds himself in a “waiting room” for Hell—occupied by a fat lady (Jody Gilbert), a boring old man (Hank Worden), and the Devil himself (Theodore J. Flicker).
Modern audiences may condemn this segment, which operates on a silly, dated premise. Horror/comedy buffs from the Baby Boom generation, in contrast, will likely enjoy “Hell’s Bells” for its clever twist on a hippie afterlife.
Hoping to make the most of his time in Hell, Randy puts on a record that he assumes will contain the latest rock and roll hits. Much to his disappointment, a big band tune plays from the jukebox while an old, out-of-touch farmer gives advice to Randy about the Beatles (specifically, the farmer suggests that Randy use arsenic to take care of his “beetle” problem)—a humorous depiction of “Hell” from a hippie’s perspective.
Viewers may take issue with the casting of John Astin, who, in spite of his amusing performance in this segment, comes across as too old to portray a young hippie. (For reference, The Addams Family ended five years earlier in 1966.)
Also worth criticizing is the Devil played by Theodore J. Flicker, whose mellow voice, diminutive stature, and clichéd aesthetic may evoke criticism from fans of the horror genre. (The corny appearance of Flicker’s Devil does, however, enhance the absurd comedic tone of this offering.)
Subverting expectations of physical torture in the afterlife, this segment highlights the subjective nature of hell, which, in a metaphorical sense, would no doubt vary from one person to the next—a concept that benefits from a subtler, more thought-provoking execution in “A Nice Place to Visit” from The Twilight Zone.
A blackout sketch with a light moral lesson, “Hell’s Bells” may appeal to Night Gallery enthusiasts. Those with a serious taste in horror, on the other hand, should avoid this segment for its goofy subject matter and lame production values.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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