Friday, August 05, 2011

Night Gallery: the Girl with the Hungry Eyes – review

Director: John Badham

First aired: 1972

Contains spoilers

I have looked at plenty of Night Gallery episodes and segments; the Funeral and How to Cure the Common Vampire, The Devil is Not Mocked, Death on a Barge and several shorts. Yet somehow I managed to miss out this one until now.

This was based on the Fritz Leiber Jr. story of the same name and would be made into a feature length in its own right in 1995, called, of course, the Girl with the Hungry Eyes (you’ll find my thoughts on the short at the bottom of that review). This was far more source material accurate than the subsequent movie and was, of course directed by John Badham who would go on to direct Dracula (1979).

the gallery
All that said, whilst it was certainly story accurate I wondered, watching it, whether the full impact and direction of the story would be delivered to someone not au fait with the original? The show, as always, started with Rod Serling in the night gallery. He shows us a picture of a girl (Joanna Pettet). Her face should be familiar, he tells us, we have all seen it…

the first photo
David Faulkner (James Farentino) is a photographer in his dark room. He develops several pictures of one of his models. There is a girl in the last picture that he doesn’t recognise and he phones his friend Harry (Kip Niven) and accuses him of taking a picture with his camera. There is confusion at the other end of the line but then the girl walks in. She says she wishes to be a model and he accuses her of knowing Harry. He shows her the picture but it has changed into a different picture featuring the original model. She tells him she has left her details – when he checks they are blank.

funky eye thing
She shows up the next day and he tells her that he knows she has never modelled before. He only pays on sale for amateurs and often late. She doesn’t seem to mind. He says that he needs her details and she suggests he already knows them. She has a rule, never try to follow her home. He asks her to smile and she says she is, to which he is dismissive and she suggests that he looks in her eye. Her eye does a funky mojo thing and she asks if he sees the smile. He doesn’t, all he sees is hunger and need.

John Astin as Mr Munsch
Mr Munsch (John Astin) is looking for a face for his Munsch beer campaign. That search has taken him to the smaller photographers. David has his portfolio but Munsch is looking for something special. He believes that men have developed a collective subconscious composite of all that is materialistic and lust. He knows he will know the face when he sees it. When he gets to the girl’s portrait he knows it is her.

the girl feeds
David becomes rich as she becomes the face of product after product. Her face is everywhere, on billboards, on books and in magazines. Also, a series of deaths have started to occur – that the police are dubbing ‘the maybe murders’. Healthy men dying but they don’t know what is causing it. Of course we know it is the girl. She is an energy vampire – it is suggested later that she eats souls. As to what happens… I’ll leave that to be discovered in the episode.

This wasn’t bad, in that it was fairly faithful to the original story, but as I said at the head I don’t know whether it would have carried the same power if someone hadn’t read the original. This is a vampire representing the destructive nature of consumerism, a warning that the holy grail of capitalism is eating away our souls.

I think, to be fair, that the episode should attract 5 out of 10. It is a nice, unusual tale – not often done. It could have been so much more – especially with Badham at the helm.

The imdb page is here.

*Thanks to Halek who reminded me that I hadn’t reviewed this one.


Anonymous said...

Overall, a pretty neat little story despite flaws (e.g. some scene transitions seemed abrupt).

The episode prefigures 80s sci-fi and horror movies that critique the culture of advertising and consumerism: Looker (even has 'model's glowing eyes' visual), The Stuff, They Live.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and you're welcome!


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers Halek... as I recall They Live was quite a good flick.