Night Gallery season 2 episode 11: Pickman’s Model/The Dear Departed/An Act of Chivalry

Finally, an episode of Night Gallery you can savor, as “Pickman’s Model” is one of the better stories that the show would present. Sure, you have to deal with a middling story in the, well, middle, and the Jack Laird blackout segment is predictable flotsam and jetsam, but when you have an opening this strong, that’s why you stay with this show.

Remarkably, Laird would direct the first segment from a script by Alvin Sapinsley. Based on the H.P. Lovecraft story, this is about Richard Upton Pickman (Bradford Dillman), a painting teacher at a women’s college. Somehow, he keeps his job despite all of his work being so horrific it nearly causes people to pass out. Mavis Goldsmith (Louise Sorel) becomes obsessed with him, despite him trying to remain apart from her. As she tracks him down, she discovers that the creatures in his paintings are horribly real, thanks to special effects by Leonard Engelman and John Chambers, who used the original mold for the Creature from the Black Lagoon to make their monster. Another tie to monster films is that Mavis lives in the same studio backlot house that was once home to the Munsters.

For someone so devoted to humorous vanilla horror, the fact that Laird made more than one Lovecraft story on this show is slightly perplexing. Maybe people really aren’t all good or bad; there are shades of everything.

“The Dear Departed” was directed by Jeff Corey and written by host Rod Serling. Based on a Alice-Mary Schnirring story, it’s about two spiritualist con artists — Mark Bennett (Steve Lawrence) and Joe (Harvey Lembeck) — and the affair Mark is having with his partner’s wife Angela (Maureen Arthur). Once Joe is hit by a bus, their act becomes legitimate, to Mark’s horror.

“An Act of Chivalry” is the absolute nadir of this show, if “Pickman’s” is near the height. Just the dumbest of sight gags and something that denigrates this show to a degree that emotionally bothers me. About the only nice thing you can say is that at least future Electra Woman Deidre Hall is in it.

Ah Night Gallery. Often you are the peak and the valley at the same time.

Night Gallery season 2 episode 10: The Dark Boy/Keep in Touch – We’ll Think of Something

I prefer the episodes of Night Gallery with fewer stories, as it allows each tale time to stretch out and capture you. Sadly, this episode only has host Rod Serling appear as the host; the first segment “The Dark Boy” is directed by John Astin and written by Harland Welles from an August Derleth story and “Keep in Touch — We’ll Think of Something” is directed and written by Gene R. Kearney.

“The Dark Boy” has a widowed schoolteacher named Judith Timm (Elizabeth Hartman) coming to a small town in Montana to take over the one room schoolhouse. She rents a room from sisters Abigail (Gale Sondergaard, the original Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz who was replaced because the makeup team could not make her into a suitably ugly witch; she’s also in The Spider Woman Strikes Back) and Lettie Moore (Hope Summers, Mrs. Gilmore from Rosemary’s Baby).

Judith claims she has seventeen students, but one can’t be found in the list of her pupils. It’s the same issue the last teacher dealt with, a dark haired boy of mystery. It turns out that it’s Joel Robb, a child who died two years before who has been haunting the entire neighborhood and everyone in it. She begins to get to know the boy’s father and understand the grief that the man has been living.

“The Dark Boy” is a strong episode and Astin shows some skill as a director.

“Keep In Touch — We’ll Think of Something” is all about a piano player named (Alex Cord) and his obsession with a woman named Claire Foster (Joanna Pettet; she was married to Cord at the time). He dreams of her every night, while her husband dreams of a man with a scarred hand trying to murder him. Strangely, when he finds her — using the police to track her down, claiming that she stole his car — she isn’t nervous about this strange man. She also knows they are destined to be together.

It’s a decent story but struggles following the first story in this episode. Still, two serious stories in one Night Gallery? That’s how it should be.

Night Gallery season 2 episode 9: House With Ghost/A Midnight Visit to the Neighborhood Blood Bank/Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator/Hell’s Bells

By now, you know the deal. If you see four stories in an episode of Night Gallery, you’re not getting more. You’re getting less.

“House With Ghost” is directed and written by Gene R. Kearney from an August Derleth story. Ellis Travers (Bob Crane) just wants to be with Sherry (Trisha Noble), which means he has to murder his wife Iris (Jo Anne Worley) by using her dizzy spells and a haunted house, which seems like a lot of work.

“A Midnight Visit to the Neighborhood Blood Bank” is so Jack Laird that while he got William Hale to direct it, he wrote it and his stepdaughter Journey plays the victim of perhaps the healthiest looking vampire ever, played by Victor Buono. You can imagine how one note this all is. It’s also the same idea as “A Matter of Semantics,” which was in the last episode.

“Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator” is directed by Jerrold Freedman from a script by Rod Serling. Doctor Ernest Stringfellow (Forrest Tucker) claims that he has the cure for anything and when a father believes that it can save the life of his daughter, not even a doctor (Murray Hamilton) can change his mind. But what happens if that snake oil doesn’t work?

This is the kind of story that Night Gallery was made for and I wish that it had time to breathe in this episode instead of being jammed in with filler.

Randy Miller (John Astin) is a hippie that dies and soon finds himself in hell’s waiting room with a larger woman (Jody Gilbert), an old man (Hank Worden) and Satan, plated by Theodore J. Flicker, who directed and wrote this segment — based on a story by Harry Turner — called “Hell’s Bells.”  It’s not long and it’s one joke, as the hippie thinks that hell will be a party and it’s behind his generation forever.

Sometimes, all you get is one great story in these episodes and that’s enough. That said, there are some good moments coming up in the rest of the season.

Night Gallery season 2 episode 8: The Diary/A Matter of Semantics/Big Surprise/Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture

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 VictimsThe Boy Who Drank Too MuchA 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.

Night Gallery season 2 episode 7: Midnight Never Ends/ Brenda

Rod Serling is back in this episode and not just hosting as he contributes an experimental story that might not completely work, but offers something beyond the expected and the everyday.

“Midnight Never Ends” has Ruth Asquith (Susan Strasberg, Scream of Fear) and hitchhiking marine Vincent Riley (Robert F. Lyons, 10 to Midnight) returning again and again to a diner where owner Jim Emsden (Robert Hogan) and Sheriff Lewis (Robert Karnes) confront them, all as they hear the faint sounds of clicking. They’ve all been there before and yet, they have no idea why. You’ll be able to decipher what this is all about relatively quickly, yet the blackened setting and strange air make this work. This is the second Jeannot Szwarc Night Gallery story that tries this approach.

This is the only story that has a painting of Serling, which is appropriate, as it is very much about how. a writer tries to bring his story to life.

“Brenda” (Laurie Prange) is a weird and often mean little girl, knocking over sand castles and treating her friends horribly. The one friend she bonds with and understands comes from the sea and is a monster feared by everyone in the summer vacation town she’s spending a few months enjoying with her parents.

Directed by Allen Reisner, whose TV career had work on every show from The Twilight Zone and Playhouse 90 to Hardcastle and McCormick, and written by Douglas Heyes, who created the mini-series North and South from a short story by Margaret St. Clair, this has an odd monster, a strange little girl and an interesting friendship between them.

Not the greatest of episodes but definitely it’s nice to have Serling back writing one story and Laird’s influence isn’t as strong.


Narrated by Robert R. Cargill, this eight-part documentary — originally airing on the History Channel — brings to life the rise and fall of the Roman Empire through one building — the bloody arena known as the Colosseum. In each episode, one fighter type or person tells the story of how Rome’s Emperors used blood and circuses to show their power and appease their people.

The series starts in the year 80 AD and “The Gladiators,” as Titus gives his people 100 days of games with the main event presenting a battle between the gladiators Priscus and Verus. It goes deeper than just these two men and shows how the fighters were selected, how they trained and how poets and made their exploits remembered up until now.

“The Builder” is an episode that taught me so much, exploring how Emperor Domitian pushed master builder Haterius to feats of engineering near magic, as he built a labyrinth underneath the colosseum floor and a series of elevators that could make it appear that gladiators, animals and scenery could appear out of nowhere.

“The Beastmaster” is about Carpophorus, who was enslaved by the Romans and trained to fight the beasts of his homeland. “The Gladiatrix” is about the female gladiators who fought under Emperor Trajan, while “The Martyr” is about the Christians who died in the Colosseum, including Ignatius, who walked 1,800 miles to be killed there.

“The Scientist” explains the life of Galan, who goes from a lowly physician to becoming the personal doctor and close ally of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, “The Emperor” describes the reign of Commodus and “The Pagan” follows the end of the empire, as earthquakes, fires and an invasion take their toll, with the Colosseum itself finally being left empty.

Each episode, directed by Roel Reiné (Hard Target 2The Man With the Iron Fists 2The Marine 2Death Race 2) and written by the team of Jim Greayer, Jeremiah Murphy, Colin Teevan, Niall Cassin, Joseph Millson, Dario Poloni and Sumerah Srivastav, this series packs a lot of history into a very short time. It doesn’t shy away from violence, as you can imagine, and that might be why this is a much more entertaining way of learning history than old books and filmstrips from high school.

Night Gallery season 2 episode 6: A Question of Fear/The Devil Is Not Mocked

There are only two stories in this visit to Night Gallery and it’s the first episode where Rod Serling had nothing to do with the stories other than hosting. The first tale is decent but the second is expected.

In “A Question of Fear,” mercenary Colonel Dennis Malloy (Leslie Nielsen) laughs when Dr. Mazi (Fritz Weaver) discusses how dangerous a haunted house is. Mazi challenges him to stay overnight to make $10,000, which the eyepatched military man believes is easy money. The ending, however, with its discussion of transforming men into earthworms, elevates this from a basic scare to inspired weirdness. It’s also helped by Nielsen and Weaver’s performances.

It’s directed by Jack Laird and there, I actually said something kind about something that he did on Night Gallery. The script is by Theodore J. Flicker, the creator of Barney Miller and director of Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang. He based it on a story by Bryan Lewis.

If the exterior of the haunted house is familiar, it should be. It’s the Psycho house in Universal Studios.

“The Devil Is Not Mocked” finds SS General von Grunn (Helmut Dantine) meeting the owner of an Eastern European castle, a mysterious count (Francis Lederer) who may say that he’s the leader of a small resistance group but you know, doesn’t show up in mirrors.

Lederer played Dracula in The Return of Dracula, so it’s pretty much assumed he is who he is when you first meet him. There are no surprises, but this is fine. It’s not Rod Serling Night Gallery pitch blackness, however.

This was directed and written by Gene R. Kearney. It was based on a story by Manly Wade Wellman, whose story “Still Valley” was an episode of The Twilight Zone, “Rouse Him Not” on Monsters and the movie The Legend of Hillbilly John, which came from his book Who Fears the Devil?

Here’s hoping for Serling to make a return next week.

Night Gallery season 2 episode 5: The Phantom Farmhouse/Silent Snow, Secret Snow

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 BeanThe 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.

MILL CREEK DVD RELEASE: Ultraman Max (2005)

Ultraman Max is the eighteenth installment in the Ultra Series, originally airing in Japan from July 7, 2005 to March 25, 2006. Across 39 episodes and one special, the special anti-monster task force DASH (Defense Action Squad Heroes) battles invading alien monsters, helped by Ultraman Max, who is secretly Touma Kaito, a DASH team member.

Unlike Ultraman Nexus, which went for a darker tone, this is a return to the original Ultraman series, bringing back old favorite monsters like Red King, Gomora, Antlar, Zetton, Eleking, Pigmon and Baltan. It also has a belief that humanity’s future will be a positive one, unlike so much of the science fiction of the 2000s.

There’s even a black and white episode that’s a tribute to the original Ultra Q and Ultraman Xenon makes a guest appearance.

Ultraman Max has an interesting role. As a Civilization Guardian, he studies developing civilizations and  works to help the species of other planets exist as one. Like so many of the Ultras before him, he has bonded with Touma Kaito after a great sacrifice, honoring the human by saving his life and sharing a body with him.

I like the idea that even the evil aliens have to admit that they like Earth in this story and how we have a place in the universe. Ultraman Max himself is inspiring, as he believes in the human race and in having faith in others. He’s learned a lot in his 7,800 years of life.

Another cool part of this show is that the monsters aren’t just aliens, but mythological creatures from Earth’s past. This series gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling and memories of being on my parent’s couch, jumping all over the room and blasting imaginary monsters with my Ultra Beam pose.

You can get the Mill Creek complete series set of Ultraman Max from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK DVD RELEASE: Ultraman Kids: 3,000 Light Years in Search of Mother (1992)

You know,  if I had first seen Urutoraman Kizzu: Haha wo Tazunete 3000-man Koune back in 1992, I would have hated it. How dare they make a kid cartoon out of my beloved Ultraman? Now that I’m older, I find it charming and had a lot of fun watching it. Maybe there’s something to be said about not being so precious about things you love.

The 1984 Urutoraman Kizzu special was a hit, so why not do an entire show?

The hero of this show is Maa, an Ultra who survived a spaceship crash and met Grosser-sensei, a kind monster who raised him as if he were his own child. Grosser-sensai is voiced by Takeshi Aono, who was also Sanada Shiro on Space Battleship Yamato amongst so many other voices.

Even though he has friends and a new family, he still wonders where his parents could be, so he decides to travel into space to find them.

He is joined by other Ultras, including his crush Piko, the Ultraseven-lookalike Cebu, the Ultraman Taro sports star Taa, Rookie, Ace, Root and Nozzy. They attend class with a bully named Bal, which makes sense, as he’s an alien Baltan. His friend is an alien Guts named Gutsun, plus there are also monsters like Mephila, Pega, Gomotan, Elepy, Tacon, Poly Poly, Pigko the Pigmon and Midori.

This is a fun show for kids who love Ultraman as the Ultras and monsters get along together, even if they’re rivals at times. I watched most of the set over two days and it was a bright, candy colored burst of sheer joy. I’m going to return to it when I need to improve my mood. I’m so glad that it’s now available in the U.S., thanks to Mill Creek.

You can get this set from Deep Discount.

You can check out the first episode here: