Night Gallery season 2 episode 1: The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes/Miss Lovecraft Sent Me/The Hand of Borgus Weems/Phantom of What Opera?

As Night Gallery moved into its second season, it would start becoming schizophrenic, caught between the darkness and the light of pained comedy or more to the point, creator Rod Serling versus producer Jack Laird. Yet when it works, well, man does it work.

I think about “The Boy That Predicted Earthquakes” so often. Directed by John Badham, years before he’d make Saturday Night Fever, it was written by Rod Serling from a Margaret St. Clair story. Clint Howard is astounding as Herbie Bittman, a young boy who simply talks like a real little kid going on and on about telescopes before dropping apocalyptic knowledge on TV audiences. What kid could hopefully deliver a message of hope when he knows that the world will end horribly the very next day? What a Satanic moment in a series known for so many, a child delivering the burnt out worldview of Serling to the masses. A near-perfect segment worth endlessly rewatching.

Less can be said about “Miss Lovecraft Sent Me,” the first of too many “black out” gags which has Joseph Campanella as a vampire and Sue Lyon as a babysitter. Director Gene R. Kearney wrote Night of the Lepus and would go on to contribute to the beloved 1979 series Cliffhangers, but the fact that he was involved in Laird putting his insipid fingerprints all over a masterwork is a strike against him. At. least Lyon is gorgeous; she did better work in Lolita and Murder In a Blue World.

“The Hand of Borgus Weems” has that most horrific and hoary of horror tropes: the haunted human hand. Peter Lacland (George Maharis) claims that his hand is possessed and demands that Doctor Archibald Ravadon (Ray Milland) amputate it. It’s simple and effective, with assured direction by John Meredyth Lucas, a producer on Star Trek and the director of several episodes of the Planet of the Apes TV series. Its writer, Alvin Sapinsley, also wrote Moon of the Wolf.

Sadly, “Phantom of What Opera?” is another gag with Leslie Neilsen as the Phantom and Mary Ann Beck as his victim. Directed and written by Kearney, it’s exactly the kind of two-minute silliness that would continue to mar this show all season long.

What do you think of this episode? Which story is your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

You can buy the second season of Night Gallery on blu ray from Kino Lorber.

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