Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Night Gallery – The Funeral – review (TV episode)

dvd setDirected by: John Meredyth Lucas

First aired: 1972

Contains spoilers

The Night Gallery was Rod Serling’s follow up to the Twilight Zone and was composed of short visual stories, as it were. In truth this is less an episode in its own right but a segment of a larger whole. It was from season 2 and was written by Richard Matheson, which just goes to show that even the greats can have on off day – though the first half of the episode was rather good.

the funeralAs always the episode was introduced by Serling himself, showing us a painting that relates to the story. In this case it is the painting of a horse drawn casket and mourners at a funeral and the story takes place at the Silkline funeral home. The sign on the door telling us of their cut price catafalques.

The owner, Morton Silkline (Joe Flynn) is at his desk when there is a knock on the door. In comes one Ludwig Asper (Werner Klemperer) who wishes to arrange a funeral. He wishes the largest parlour and the finest casket, but does not wish to arrange for the Silkline sermon – one of his friends will speak.

Werner Klemperer as Ludwig AsperWhen Morton asks for the name of the deceased he says Asper and then adds, me. He explains that he never got a proper going off and has always regretted that. Morton slams his appointment book, incensed at the joke but it is no joke. Asper reveals fangs and states that all will be ready on Tuesday and that the mirror in the foyer (and any others) will be covered. He leaves, we hear squeaking and Morton sees a really crap bat leave through the window.

the mournersTo this point it has been quite interesting but it is at the funeral, as the episode takes a much more comedic turn, that we see it fall apart. Asper is delighted with the parlour and then the mourners appear, Ygor (Jack Laird) the hunchback servant, a werewolf, vampires and Jenny the witch (Laara Lacey) – it has all descended into cliché.

Charles Macaulay as the CountThe vampires in attendance, for some reason, are all blue faced. I say for some reason because Asper isn’t and we have to wonder at this double standard. The Count (Charles Macaulay) is the friend who is speaking but his flowery language doesn’t go down well in all quarters and chaos ensues. All in all it is an episode that misses more than hits but had an interesting idea at least. 3 out of 10.

The episode’s imdb page is here.

Bonus Honourable Mention: How to Cure the Common Vampire.

How to Cure the Common VampireDespite the wonderful title for the Night Gallery segment from season 3, directed by Jack Laird and first aired in 1973, this segment is so short (around 50 seconds) that it could only get an honourable mention. It starts with a castle, waves lashing the cliffs it sits upon.

We see a group of men, one with a stake (Johnny Brown) and the other with a mallet (Richard Deacon) whilst others have lanterns and torches. They open a coffin and a vampire rests inside. A stake is placed over the heart. “Are you sure?” asks one, “Well it couldn’t hurt.” retorts the other. Fin.

The segment’s imdb page is here.

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