Night Gallery season 2 episode 13: The Messiah on Mott Street/The Painted Mirror

I like the idea of only two stories in an episode of Night Gallery, which gives the tales time to stretch out and, thankfully, avoid the comedy. Well, let’s see what happens.

Directed by Don Taylor and written by Rod Serling, “The Messiah On Mott Street” finds Abraham Goldman (Edward G. Robinson) dying on Christmas Eve in the apartment he shares with his nine-year-old grandson Mikey (Ricky Powell). While his doctor Morris Levine (Tony Roberts) wants him to go to the hospital, Abraham is more concerned about the well-being of Mikey, who is an orphan. When the Angel of Death comes to his bed, Mikey runs into the snowy streets looking for the Messiah to save the only person who has been there for him.

He finds Santa Claus and man dressed as Jesus who is preaching the end of all things. As Mikey cowers in fear, he’s saved by a black man named Buckner (Yaphet Kotto) who he feels has to be the Messiah. He begs him to see his grandfather and save him. When they arrive, the Angel of Death has come again and promises that he will come for Abraham at midnight. And while the doctor laughs at the idea of the black man being the Messiah, perhaps happiness can exist even in a Night Gallery episode.

“The Painted Mirror” is directed and written by Gene Kearney. It’s about an antique store owned by Frank Standish (Arthur O’Connell) and Mrs. Moore (Zsa Zsa Gabo) who always seem at odds. When a customer named Ellen Chase (Rosemary DeCamp) brings in an ancient mirror, completely covered in black paint, Mrs. Moore will only carry it on consignment. It obsesses Frank, who removes the paint to reveal a prehistoric scene that viewers can reach into. Of course, this leads to the cruel Mrs. Moore and her dog being trapped there, painted over and inside the past, as a giant dinosaur comes after her.

This episode has one of Serling’s most touching screenplays and some great acting in the first story, so nearly no matter what follows it, it still has to be seen as a well-made episode. Along with Soylent Green, it’s hard to see an obviously ill Robinson play dying men, but he was a working actor who kept appearing in films and television up until his death. As for the second story, the stop-motion animation is really good and it’s a quick and fun installment.

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