Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Night Gallery – death on a barge – review

night galleryDirector: Leonard Nimoy

First aired: 1973

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 and this one was of interest to me not only because it contained a vampire but because the director was Leonard Nimoy.

Thus it was somewhat disappointing to discover that, in order that I might watch the episode, I had to wade through a veritable miasma of melodrama.

The episode begins with a man, Ron (Robert Pratt), approaching a girl who is sat upon the deck of a barge. She seems to be marooned and she claims she is lonely and yet she tells him to stay away from her. She tells him her name is Hyacinth (Lesley Ann Warren) and when he tries to give his name she already knows it, plus the fact that he works in the fish store.

Phylis and JakeHe works there with Jake (Lou Antonio). Ron’s gal Phyllis (Brooke Bundy) comes along but he tells her he can’t see her that night. She asks Jake what Ron does at night and Jake tells her that he goes home and sleeps. He then gets up around midnight, goes out and returns at dawn. She confronts Ron and asks if he loves someone else and he says yes.

That night he returns to Hyacinth. She tells him that she is starved because she is so lonely but still refuses to allow him to come over – even though the waters are draining slowly due to work upstream. She lives with her father (Jim Boles) but he sleeps at night and she sleeps during the day. She retreats into the barge as dawn comes. We see the father emerge and realise that Phyllis has watched all this.

getting in her coffinPhyllis sneaks onto the barge and enters the cabin. She sees Hyacinth getting into a coffin but the vampire spots her and attacks the girl. However Phyllis opens the door and escapes into the sunlight. She starts to read up on vampires and tries to warn both Ron and Jake – here was one of the problems. Both deny vampires exist and yet both actually believe in them – indeed Ron tells Jake that is what excites him about Hyacinth and Jake denies their existence to Ron. As for Ron he seems bewitched and then, when Hyacinth spares him, he suddenly goes back to a rather forgiving Phyllis. That is until he hears that Jake has been killed (because he knew she was a vampire, like Ron, and went to her) when he goes back to Hyacinth (ok with the intention to kill her but that soon turns around to love declarations again). It all seemed a bit laboured in the belief/motivation stakes.

As you plunge it in, cry out that you love me!The dialogue was also ropey with the line (as Jake stands holding a stake), “As you plunge it in, cry out that you love me!” No more comment on that is necessary! This does lead us to lore, however. The vampires retreat from sunlight, which is deadly, and must sleep in their own grave dirt. They can also be killed by impalement by oak stake (the heart does not seem to be a necessary part of the slaying technique).

Jim Boles as the fatherThey cannot cross running water and the father has trapped the daughter there after three bodies were found buried near their old home – why he wouldn’t offer her a quick death by the oak stake he keeps is not explained but one suspects he loved his daughter so much he was more content to imprison her and torturously starve her. She suggests a vampire’s bite is pleasurable – she says that Jake was happy ‘til the end but he will come back – they all come back, she says.

fangsThis had poor character motivation and was steeped in melodrama so thick you could trip over it and, all in all, it didn’t make for a satisfying episode. 3.5 out of 10.

The episode's imdb page is here.



Zahir Blue said...

I have a strange fondness for this, mostly because of Lesley Anne Warren and the overall "look" of the episode. On the other hand, I personally didn't get that the main character's friend actually believed Hyancynth was indeed undead.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

As I said, the motivations and beliefs seemed off to me... I can appreciate your fondness but the whole thing left me feeling cold.