Night Gallery works best when it’s longer stories and not — am I a broken record yet? — the excruciating black out shorts. This episode also has a more experimental first story and I love when the show tries to break new ground.
“The Phantom Farmhouse” is about a sanitarium that allows its patients to roam outside for therapy. When one of them is killed another patient named Gideon (David Carradine) claims that a girl who lives nearby named Mildred Squire (Linda Marsh, Freebie and the Bean, The Dark Secret of Harvest Home) is the murderer. Doctor Joel Winter (David McCallum, three years removed from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) refuses to believe that this could be true once he glimpses how gorgeous she is.
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc, written by Halsted Welles and based on a short story by Seabury Quinn, this is shot in a surreal style and Carradine is perfect as a character who feels like the antagonist but stay with it. I also read this referred to as a pre-80s werewolf story, as special effects made a leap in 1981, the year of the werewolf movie, but this still works for me.
Conrad Aiken’s best-known short story, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” was originally filmed as a 17-minute short movie produced by Gene Kearney. Kearney directed this story for Night Gallery and it’s a haunting tale of a boy who chooses the world of dreams and snow to the dirty real place that reality offers. It’s made even better because Orson Welles is the perfect narrator.
Paul Hasleman (Radames Pera) withdraws from our world when he starts to care about just one thing: the snow. Much like other Serling presentations that used fantasy or science fiction to explain issues of racism, this is an incredibly stirring tale of a boy with developmental issues that is failed by everyone. Kearney also wrote the teleplay for this and this is perhaps his finest work and amongst the best of Night Gallery.
This whole episode is what I want this show to be. My frustration when it isn’t aside, being able to enjoy this near-perfect journey into the Night Gallery is why I continue to champion this classic show.