When I see four stories on a Night Gallery, I get worried. It means that Jack Laird is messing up the dark doom that Rod Serling is bringing and I despise that.
In “The Diary,” Holly Schaeffer (Patty Duke, who was pregnant with Sean Astin during filming) brutalizes an aging and disgraced Hollywood legend named Carrie Crane (Virginia Mayo). Before she dies, Crane gives her a diary where everything comes true. It’s simple, yet it works. Director William Hale and writer Serling create a short and sweet story here; it also has some of the most amazing early 70s furniture — and a Lindsay Wagner cameo — that makes it even more watchable.
“A Matter of Semantics” is Laird directing from a Gene R. Kearney script. Count Dracula (Cesar Romero) goes to a blood bank. Another one note Laird joke that ruins the momentum of the show.
“Big Surprise” has Chris (Vincent Van Patten), Jason (Marc Vahanian) and Dan (Eric Chase) seeking whatever Mr. Hawkins (John Carradine) has buried. Again, it’s simple and quick, but this time effective. Then again, I’m someone that Carradine always works for. Director Jeannot Szwarc does a good job on the Richard Matheson script, which is just the right level of strange.
“Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture” may be silly and over the top, but this Jerrold Freedman-directed (he also was the man who made Victims, The Boy Who Drank Too Much, A Cold Night’s Death and Kansas City Bomber) effort from a Laird script is the first time that many may have heard the name H.P. Lovecraft. Professor Peabody (Carl Reiner) makes light of primitive cultures without realizing that those that live beyond the wall of the endless are always listening.
It mentions writers associated with Lovecraft as well, like Robert Bloch and August Derleth, who added Catholicism’s views of right and wrong to Lovecraft’s mythos, which take them away from their never to be understood cosmic horrors and turn Cthulu into more space kaiju, which I feel mean saying sounds like something right in the perfect headspace for Jack Laird. While this segment has a dumb ending, it has a great race toward doom.
All in all, even with Laird creating more on this episode, there’s enough that’s on the good side for once. If you can make it through his segments, there’s plenty to like here.
“Big Surprise” is a favorite of mine from Night Gallery. That last shot is a killer.