Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Night Gallery: House - With Ghost/A Midnight Visit to the Neighborhood Blood Bank/Dr. Stringfellow's Rejuvenator/Hell's Bells (1971)
It coulda been a contender....
This entry draws some inevitable comparisons to the Twilight Zone episode "Mr. Garrity and the Graves" (also written by Serling). Both shows take place in the old west and feature traveling salesmen who try to resurrect the dead. But while Mr. Garrity's tale hits the bulls-eye, Dr. Stringfellow's falls a little short of the target. Forrest Tucker plays the title role as a snake oil salesman who pulls into a desert town and starts selling his healing elixir to the local yocals. One of these is a man whose daughter is dying. Stringfellow, trying to give the man some hope, promises that his tonic will cure her, and if it doesn't he will resurrect her from the dead. Inevitably all his promises fall far short of his claims. The patient dies and he certainly can't bring her back to life. But who is that eerie young girl sitting across the street as Stringfellow prepares to leave town?
In the beginning of the episode Tucker does a decent job playing the gruff and travel hardened "doctor". As the show progresses, however, the character's dimensions expand and a show of emotion is needed, yet Tucker just keeps his acting chops stuck in neutral. Another gripe is the ghost sequence at the end when Stringfellow approaches the girl. They pull a few tricks with the point-of-view shot by wobbling the camera and blurring the focus, but it's obvious that it's only a young girl sitting there. So the horror diminishes the closer the camera gets, which is a pity since a simple solution was at hand. When the dying girl is first introduced she is wearing a veil (presumably to keep out the blowing desert sand). If the ghost was shown wearing this it would have ramped up the terror considerably as you wondered just what was under that veil now.
Don't get me wrong. These are only minor complaints to what is a pretty solid Night Gallery "exhibit". The supporting cast does a fine job ( Murray Hamilton in particular) and the writing is vintage Serling. I just can't help thinking that with a better actor it could have been a really good episode, and with a little more creativity it could have been a classic. In a way "Dr. Stringfellow's Rejuvenator" is an epitaph for the entire Night Gallery series - it has all the right ingredients for greatness but has difficulty with the chemistry of mixing them all together.
This is one of my favorite stories from the Night Gallery. It looks so ordinary on the surface - a bright sunny day and a father is checking out a military academy he might send his wayward son to. There's no spooky music here or characters screaming in terror. In fact, if you were to stumble across this episode while channel surfing you might think it was just some boring two-star family drama. When you sit and watch it, however, the horror slowly drips down on you until you're drowning in it, not knowing if you should laugh or scream.
Pat Boone plays the lead and makes for interesting casting. He's probably the ultimate Hollywood goody two-shoes and yet here his performance leaves you wondering whether the father is a good-guy faced with a gut wrenching decision, or a bad-guy simply contemplating an evil one. Very disturbing. Good directing from Night Gallery regular Jeff Corey and some creepy cinematography from Lionel Lindon add to the chills. It's a pity that smart (or at least different) approaches to horror from Hollywood, such as "The Academy", seem to have mostly died off with Rod Serling.