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39 reviews in total 
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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
And Just Where Did They Think Transylvania Was?, 9 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Well, about "The Devil is Not Mocked." My 15 year-old self (my age when the episode premiered and I first saw it) would probably have given this segment 9 out 10 stars. And it still sends a few chills down my spine. But much of that initial thrill has dampened through the years. Yes, Helmut Dantine is still a pleasure to watch, albeit he is there but briefly. And the collision of evil with evil is a wonderful idea. But two things irritate. First, the premise: that the count and his cohorts were a "patriotic" resistance group. Transylvania was (is?) a region populated overwhelmingly by Magyars. And, of course, the Magyars of Hungary were enthusiastic *allies* of the Nazis. Not the least because one of Hitler's rewards for Hungary's joining him was the return of Transylvania from Romanian control--Romania's control being considered an act of theft by most Transylvanians following the First World War. (Oh, and, by the way, Romania was also a Nazi ally, so however you look at it, the Count was a "traitor," not a "patriot.") Second, is the use of Dracula (another figure of Magyar/Hungarian heroic lore). He comes off pretty close to looking like Count Chocula, here. And aren't silver bullets for werewolves, not vampires? Still an enjoyable 20 minutes or so, even today.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Chill Wills at his Best, 15 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I know that Chill Wills usually played lovable old sorts in Westerns. But his role in this segment is something I've remembered for a long time. Wills could be a first rate villain. Yes, Burgess Meredith's Fall was correct! That look in Hepplewhite's eye! It expressed porcine greed, ignorance, and the threat of violence all at once. Quite a performance, I think.

The segment itself was a good one, too. Question: couldn't the little black bag cure alcoholism? I guess it did, sort of, with Fall. But the doctor would have been wise to apply the cure, if he had it, as quickly as possible to Hepplewhite.

There is one moment that was annoying but also necessary. And it is something that appears to recur in these Night Gallery segments. It's Serling's constant need to sermonize. For that's what we got, one more time, with Dr. Fall. I don't know what was more frustrating, losing the black bag and all its miracles or not being to stop Fall from preaching about the bag's benefit for humanity, all while rubbing Hepplewhite's greedy face in the mud, and, therefore, all but begging for Hepplewhite to strike out at him. But as I say, it was necessary. At least it was for me. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to see Wills' performance discussed above. All done without moving a muscle or speaking a word.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Character Sketch, 15 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A brief character sketch, "The Housekeeper" spotlights Larry Hagman playing against type. Remember, back when this first aired, Hagman was universally identified with the wacky, bumbling Maj. Anthony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie. Thus I guess you could say Night Gallery was somewhat prescient in presenting Hagman's Cedric as a sort of greedy, lustful, evil wizard, foreshadowing the conniving J.R. of Dallas.

Other notable touches in the segment: 1) presenting Miss Wattle against a tulip patterned stained glass background, at once emphasizing her as a hag and maybe someone more vain than appearances would let on. 2) Cedric's lab, which had all the successful earmarks of a Hammer horror lab suitable even for Frankenstein. 3) Carlotta being cornered by her full length three dimensional mirrors, before being switched into the hag's body, where, presumably she immediately and suddenly would see her new self in the mirror.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Decay of the Body and the Soul, 15 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was transfixed by this segment. I simply couldn't take my eyes off it. Yes, the ending is obvious (although this might not be so much NG's fault as this story has been reworked and re-envisioned what must be at least a dozen times or more since NG on all those other syndicated horror anthologies). But the construction and portrayal was so tight and effective that it worked.

All the characters were crazed. From Carl Betz' sardonic Max to Louise Sorel's Velia Redford, who eventually looked like a 1960s version of the Bride of Frankenstein, each one was mad as a hatter--and morally empty. Even the supposedly "sane" Miles Talmadge looked the part of a crazed fanatic. His face hidden behind coke bottle sized eyeglass lenses, bushy brows that would create envy in a Neanderthal, and a frizzed out hairdo that probably inspired Dr. J, Miles quickly succumbed to investigating the failure of the experiment, rather than locking up the madman responsible for it.

In a deft little touch that seems to symbolize Miles' descent into the darkside, there is a drastic shift in photography when Talmadge essentially joins in with Max. Whereas the story had been photographed rather straightforwardly, albeit in numerous close-ups, when Miles files out, after the attempt to revive Fearing has failed, and settles on the staircase next to Velia the photography suddenly becomes Expressionistic. Deep shadows fall across characters and their situations. The close-ups are replaced by extreme low and high angle shots--more low than high, however. And the entire set begins to seem like something designed by Dr. Caligari.

This is all very effective. Yet I hesitate to call the segment "good". Why? Maybe it's because there is no catharsis for the viewer with this tale. Instead, I'm left feeling "disturbed" and "uneasy". I can still, long after the actual viewing, "feel" the weight of the segment. The interior of the Queen Anne/Eastlake style house was stifling. Its Edwardian decor, with the heavy curtains and drapes, the massive wooden beams, made for such a close feeling that I thought I would have trouble breathing. And then there was the "research room", where modern medical equipment seemed to be jammed into what was an already impossibly small room better suited for antiques, which just highlighted the ill fitting nature of it all.

In the end, I was drawn to this thing, although I'm not really sure why. Everything about it projected a sense of revulsion, decay, and disorder. I doubt I've ever seen a locale on television that I wanted to avoid more than this one.

2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Premise Has Promise But Prematurely Putters Out, 3 April 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first segment is better than the other two.

First, "The Cemetery". Rather than Southern Gothic horror, I find it more likely influenced by Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables. Where? Clearly, in the portrayal of generational guilt, culminating in the execrable Jeremy. For Jeremy seems the logical, if final, result of a family line dedicated to dishonesty and amorality. Uncle William (Hendricks) is himself a death obsessed picture of decay who has infected everyone and everything around him, including--in one of those wonderful Serlingesque Twilight Zone type twists--the seemingly loyal manservant, Portifoy. Poor put upon Portifoy turns out to be corrupt, avaricious, and greedy to the point of driving the foul Jeremy to insanity and death.

The art and set direction contribute mightily to the oppressive sense of doom in this segment. The color scheme in particular drives home the theme of impending demise and finality. Filled with cold bronzes (not gold, not amber but bronze), every shot of the molding, the staircase, the curtains, sheets, wallpaper, and even the cold bronze statues situated throughout more than hint at the vehicle of death, the bronze casket itself. Even the flesh tones of Jeremy and Portifoy melt into these bronzes. Only the ashen Hendricks stands out.

Yet Hendricks also projects the other apparent dominant color scheme, the ashen grey white which fills the space between the bronzes and reflects the outer color of the house per se. It's tomb like. Yes, the cast of characters are living in a virtual casket, surrounded by a gloomy mausoleum.

Thus the end of "The Cemetery" is not really a surprise. And Jeremy and Hendricks never really leave their graves. They've been residing in them all along, as has Portifoy. Woe be it to the next tenant of that house.

The segment, "Eyes", has always been one of my most disfavored ones. I don't know if it's the cast: I dislike Lady Joan, Tom Bosley, AND Barry Sullivan. I don't know if it's the oafish morality tale, typical of Serling sometimes but all coated in a sugary sort of irony that would be so typical of Spielberg as he developed. Or it might have been the static setting.

That said, there is one scene that does have merit. The one in the lawyer's office, where Resnick signs up to donate his eyes. In what would be a throw away moment, otherwise, Heatherton offers Resnick a drink. It's a drink from an ornate tumbler, just the sort of cold, useless bauble that Claudia Menlo would find so appealing. Resnick doesn't even notice it. Instead, he reminisces about what he has seen, a fight, a baseball game, the real things of his life, where image merges with sound, smell, and taste. Whatever Resnick's failings, he is still a whole person, a complete human being.

Not so our Mrs. Menlo. She has compartmentalized every facet of her existence in her quite literally golden gilded cage. She is surrounded by art objects, all just as cold as the frozen blue dress we first see her in as well as in iceberg-like blue eyes.

Other flaws: Of course, the first thing any viewer would want to know is why someone who had never had sight a day in her life would have a surgery whose grant of sight over such a brief time would STILL leave here without seeing a day in her life. For some odd reason, Mrs. Menlo chose to time the operation so she only had the nighttime. Well, probably not such an "odd" reason, as the story wouldn't have worked without the night setting, and the great New York City blackout of 1965 was also fresh in viewers' minds. Oh, and just another thought: a lonely woman, living alone in her own apartment building. Wouldn't she have her own emergency generators, especially as that NYC blackout of 65 was indeed so fresh in the memory?

"The Escape Route", the last segment, contains a couple of desperate performances, alas. Others will disagree, but that is all I could think about as I watched it. And it was especially true when Strobe gave his "confession" to Gretchen through the shared wall of their apartments. What could have, and should have, been played with subtlety, perhaps pensiveness, quiescence, and moral confusion, was instead given over to Gretchen's cackle and the Sermon From a Whore. It just didn't work.

Next, there is the issue of the sympathy we feel for Strobe. Intended or not (No doubt "not") the degree of sympathy for him is enormous, simply because the rest of the cast was filled with such sanctimony, including that self-satisfied smirk on Serling's face as he walked away at the end. Too, what felt sooo out of place, at least today, was all the 1960s psychologizing about guilt and justice, which was the segment's essential theme. It's a misreading of human nature, IMHO. One thing we've had plenty of opportunity to observe since this segment was made is that mass murderers and genocidal maniacs do NOT feel guilt. Quite the opposite, they usually feel that they're doing God's work.

One last remark. Sam Jaffe playing the quintessential Jew was a disaster. Isn't it a wee discordant to have a crucifixion symbolize Jewish suffering? Not to mention making a referral to Jesus the last word uttered by the strangled Blüm. It just seemed wrong. All this in addition to Blüm's character being more creepy than Strobe!

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Road Movie in an RV, 16 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Two-Lane Blacktop. Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry. Vanishing Point. And Race with the Devil??? Yep. Peter Fonda and Warren Oates are back in a road movie, plowing down the highway in an RV. But with a twist, a Satan worshiping twist of infinite proportions.

In fact, watching this movie, you might think that virtually all of rural Texas is inhabited by Satan worshipers performing ritual human sacrifices. All just waiting for the first innocent dirt bike racers they can get their hands on. As outlandish as it sounds, it works. It works real well.

And it's not just the two icons of the road movie, Fonda and Oates, who make the film such a classic. It's also the presence of Lara Parker, fresh off Dark Shadows, whose iconic presence in that other genre, horror, makes for the perfect melding of the two subjects. Oh, yea. There's also Loretta Swit. Nothing is perfect. But Race with the Devil makes up for Swit with the inclusion of the magnificently sinister R.G. Armstrong as the small town Texas sheriff on a mission.

So why does this movie work so well? My thinking is that it carries off two seemingly mutually exclusive settings from the two entirely different genres. First, there is the freedom and anarchy of the road, the wild times, excitement and open-ended adventure promised in every Road Movie, whose conclusion stretches as far as the road will take you. Second, there is the claustrophobia and sense of being trapped common to the horror film--all made possible by the tight confines of the haunted house on wheels, the giant RV. Snakes pop out of cabinets. Witches and warlocks break through windows. Tiny dogs end up on a noose. All while toothless sons of Satan look on, snicker, plot, and scheme the deaths of the two couples.

Finally, there is the concluding scene. How many road movies end in a cataclysm, a fiery crash, complete devastation? (Oh, I forgot. Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry and Vanishing Point both do. Never mind.) And how many horror films lead you to a moment of release, of freedom from terror, only to toss you back into the pit of fear as The Horror reaches out to drag you once more back into the abyss? (Yea, sure, just about all of them since Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Again, never mind.) In Race with the Devil, you get both. Cataclysm and damnation, as flames surround the battered RV, while the couples drink to their escape, and the satanists march up to the isolated RV and its occupants, all of whom are about to be made into a massive sacrifice to Darkness.

Good stuff.

"Leverage" (2008)
5 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Good Morning Mr. Phelps, er, uh, I mean, Mr. Ford, 12 December 2008

(After viewing this series for a couple of seasons, now, I've changed my mind. It's an entertaining hour, with a dynamic ensemble who have developed quite an interesting history of character evolvement. Nevertheless, I'll keep my original review from December 12, 2008 intact below.)

Let's see, an avuncular mission leader who counts among his team, a black techno-geek, a beautiful and glamorous femme fatale, a "muscle man" and a master of disguises/magician? Oops, that's Mission: Impossible. How about an avuncular mission leader who counts among his team a gaffe prone techno-geek, an exotic and deadly beauty, and a wise-cracking tough guy? Nope. That's NCIS. Just one more time, then! How about an avuncular leader who counts among his charges a youngish, sort of awkward geekish professional and two other professionals, a man and woman, unafraid of danger, who are constantly challenging the law, while bickering and making wise cracks towards one another. Oh, heck, no, that's JAG. Well, what if we keep all the above and insert an acrobatic wise-cracking girl thief? Yep. That's it. Leverage.

Actually, the series seems OK enough. Not great fare, and not in the same league as NCIS or JAG, for sure. But it's still worth an hour's time on a Tuesday night. Gina Bellman does a nice job and so does Timothy Hutton. The girl playing the blond Parker, however, really seems to be straining at the effort. The Hardison character, on the other hand, works quite well. And Christian Kane's Spencer looks like he could develop into an interesting enough character.

Production values are lacking. (That scene in the second episode of Bellman and Hutton masquerading as the tourist couple in the dockyards was *painful* to watch.) In the league of cable dramas/adventures, Leverage doesn't look like it will be able to match either Monk or Psych, for example.

What would you get if you imported the cast and scripts of the Rockford Files into Maverick's Old West?, 1 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What would you get if you imported the cast and scripts from the Rockford Files into Maverick's Old West? Answer: Bret Maverick, a fairly good Western that occasionally misses a beat here and there. The latter circumstance occurs, alas, in an episode such as "Faith, Hope and Clarity," which not only recycles a Rockford script but imports some of the same guest stars as well. But that's alright, because the series has Garner, who always generates enjoyable performances, especially when he brings along his usual co-stars, such as Stuart Margolin. (Aside: What is it about the Western that it brings to the fore actors such as Garner, Tom Selleck, and Sam Elliott, all of whom at least from a distance appear to be steady, decent, stable, well grounded people? This in contrast to . . . well, just about everyone else in Hollywood.) I suspect that NBC made a tremendous error in not giving this series a chance to breathe and find its own feet. (Wasn't this during the Fred Silverman era at NBC, when the inventor of "jiggle TV" was busy trashing anything that appealed to an IQ above 50 and bringing to the schedule such gems as Hello, Larry and Supertrain?) Too bad, really.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Not the Best Episode But Still Enjoyable, 30 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I like planetariums. For that reason alone, I like this episode. For Kolchak and the police's showdown with the alien in the planetarium is a wonderful scene--if for no other reason than watching the old fashioned stunt work. And for all the abuse Kolchak's crummy camera gets, what a twist it is to find out it's the world's best alien repellent. And something else. Perhaps an influence on the episode. I seem to remember a telekinetic murder scene, which takes place in a planetarium, in a film predating this episode by six years or so called THE POWER. I haven't seen it in decades, but it's one of those films that has always stayed in my memory.

There is another influence, too, from the original OUTER LIMITS. At least, I think there is. In that series' first episode, "The Galaxy Being", Cliff Robertson's supercharged radio transmitter accidentally brings to earth an alien being, with whom Robertson's character is communicating. Confusion, hatred, violence and a lot of "misunderstandings" ensue. Supercharged particles, high winds, and technological disruption appears that is quite similar to that witnessed by Carl.

Otherwise, the episode is notable for furthering the Vincenzo/Kolchak relationship. As will become apparent in subsequent episodes, poor Vincenzo just can't win. Even after collecting on a World Series bet with a competitor's editor, in stumbles Carl to give a detailed autopsy report on zoo animals and sucked out bone marrow, just as Tony is being served a gourmet plate of . . . brains that he has just won on that bet! Best line, however, goes to Carl quoting Updyke's description of a female roller derby player: "A hippo on casters."

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The series finds its legs and stands alone, 24 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With "The Zombie", the series finally broke away free and clear from the recurring iconography and story lines that had characterized the Made for TV movies and the first episode. That's not to slam those efforts. Far from it. It's just that with "The Zombie" you get totally new concerns for the first time, although at least one icon does reappear but with a delicious twist.

What is especially new is the zombie himself. Aside from the brief scene at the end, where he suddenly sits up and reveals a rubber body suit, the feeling of horror created is abject and thus doubly effective. The sense of abjection itself is most creatively designed in the juxtaposition of two scenes. In the INS office, Carl describes how to destroy a zombie (pour salt in his mouth and tightly sew his lips together). But Carl ends the scene by demonstrating how he will bite off the thread once finished. And, then, next, when you, the viewer, are put in the junkyard scene, in the old hearse, with the dormant zombie, and after you have seen his rotting face, it becomes impossible to disassociate the idea of what you know is coming up next. Namely, that Carl is going to have to put his lips right on those of the corpse.

Multiple taboos are being threatened: racial, sexual, and social. Because, it's not just the suggestion of necrophilia that erupts. It's that this necrophilia also lies dangerously close to a sort of homo erotic necrophilia. And, to add the icing on the cake, the zombie is Haitian, a black man. All this taking place in the darkened confines of a junked hearse. The tension couldn't be higher. Most viewers literally must look away from the television set. Abject perfection!

All of which leads back to the twist on the recurring icon I mentioned above. In the two Made for TV movies and the first episode, the filmmakers thoroughly master the haunted house and its associated iconography. In "The Zombie", the haunted house has been replaced by a "haunted junkyard" of sorts. Where Carl previously found himself trapped in closets or behind curtains in small rooms, this time the claustrophobia is multiplied with Carl squeezed into that banged up hearse. In true Night Stalker fashion, the zombie awakes, the scene explodes, tension is released, and Carl tumbles out the back of the hearse and miraculously finds an alternative way of destroying his nemesis. Resolution complete. Some might even call it cathartic.

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