Night Gallery season 2 episode 18: The Waiting Room/Last Rites for a Dead Druid

I’m really enjoying the last two episodes of this show, which take two stories and have one director — in this case, Jeannot Szwarc — tell both of them.

“The Waiting Room” is written by Rod Serling and starts with Sam Dichter (Steve Forrest) riding into the type of Western town that has a man swinging from a tree. As he enters a bar, he’s recognized by one of four card players, Doc Soames (Buddy Ebsen). Dichter soon reveals he’s the kind of man that’s sad that he missed getting to see that hanging. That’s when Charlie McKinley (Lex Barker) stands up from the card game, says it’s time to go and goes outside to be shot in the head, a fact that surprises only Dichter.

The same exact thing happens once an hour, as Joe Bresto (Albert Salmi) and Abe Bennett (Jim Davis)  explain their deaths, then leave the bar to relive — redie? — them. Surely Doc Soames couldn’t have been a killer like them. But he reveals that all the gunfighters he healed that went out and killed others weighed on his conscience until he shot himself.

Only Dichter remains, but as he’s told that it’s his turn, the story comes full circle. A magical 27-minute work of art by Serling and Szwarc that tells one of the best stories of every episode of Night Gallery.

Written by Alvin Sapinsley and based on “Out of the Eons” by Hazel Heald, “Last Rites for a Dead Druid” starts with Jenny Tarraday (Carol Lynley) and Mildred McVane (Donna Douglas) buying a strange sculpture because the screaming man reminds Jenny of her husband Bruce (Bill Bixby). He hates it and banishes it to the backyard.

Yet every night, he dreams of the horrible thing out back and soon learns it’s a statue of Bruce the Black, a magician who sacrificed animals and humans to gain power. And when he’s near the statue, he’s not himself, like how he forces himself on his wife’s best friend, not that she minds. But when he nearly kills a cat on the grill and tries to murder his wife to be with Mildred, Bruce hits the limit.

The end is kind of ridiculous but in a way that I love. Bruce attempts to smash the statue and the unexpected occurs, all while it’s kind of hinted that Mildred — Elle Mae turned evil — is behind all of this possession and madness.

It was so nice to enjoy another episode and not deal with black out sketches or silliness. Ah, Night Gallery. As always when you are good, you are beyond good.

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