Night Gallery season 2 episode 12: Cool Air/Camera Obscura/Quoth the Raven

This episode brings back more Lovecraft and a Basil Copper story as well in an episode that stays mainly on the side of horror and less of the poor attempts at humor that often ruin this show.

After having Jack Laird bring a Lovecraft story to a previous episode*, host Rod Serling wrote “Cool Air,” which is directed by Jeannot Szwarc. It’s about the strange love story between Agatha Howard (Barbara Rush) and Dr. Juan Munoz (Henry Darrow), a man who must live in a constantly cold apartment. Her father was a professor that wrote often to Munoz and they both refused to believe in the power of death. Szwarc has commented that Lovecraft, as written, was unfilmable. Serling solves that by making this horror actually about romance and loss, even if it leaves Agatha alone in a graveyard, saying “I wonder if I’m mourning something that was or something that might have been.”

I know I go on and on about how this show gets damaged by the attempts at humor, but this story is an example of just how perfect this series can be when it works. It’s not a slavish version of the Lovecraft story, but takes the main ideas and becomes something more suited for the small screen.

“Camera Obscura” is directed by John Badham and written by Serling. It’s about a money lender named Mr. Sharsted (Rene Auberjonois) collecting from a man whose 13% interest has come due, Mr. Gingold (Ross Martin). Gingold has a camera obscura — a darkened room with a small hole through which an image can be projected onto a wall or table — that can see nearly all of London and he uses it to point out the greed that has marked Sharsted’s career. And he has another camera just like it, yet it can send a man back in time to a world of even greedier men whose sins have transformed them into monsters.

“Quoth the Raven” is directed by Jeff Corey and written by Laird. Edgar Allan Poe (Marty Allen) is trying to write and the raven (Mel Blanc) is annoying him. Do I even need to write how this made me feel?

That said, this episode is so strong, one can escape those last few pointless moments.

*”Pickman’s Model” in season 2, episode 11.

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