I watched Rod Serling's Night Gallery when it was a new NBC program in the early 1970s, and have warm memories of a sporadic handful of its episodes; as the series wound-down by the mid-1970s, however, the show was really awful, so hacked-up for syndication that I couldn't watch it anymore. In order to extend the Night Gallery syndication package, NBC even re-purposed episodes of another defunct TV program called "The Sixth Sense" and inserted Night Gallery intros. Really awful, and a terrible demise for Rod Serling's last series.
However, one of the true gems that came out of Night Gallery (I think I can count them all on the fingers of one hand) is a second season screenplay called "The Caterpillar" starring Laurence Harvey. In fact, I'd venture to opine that this is the best remembered episode of Night Gallery, for its sheer horror...
To be brief, a nasty little carnivorous insect crawls into Laurence Harvey's ear as he sleeps; it proceeds to burrow through his middle and inner ears and into his brain. Harvey is tied down to his bed and writhes in screaming, tortured, insane agony for days, as the bug EATS its way through his head and emerges through his other ear. The attending physician is amazed --- he's never even heard of anyone surviving this ordeal, and yet Laurence Harvey somehow manages to pull through it. Until, that is, the earwig is identified as a female, and the doctor solemnly informs Harvey that the thing apparently LAID EGGS on its way through his brains. ARRRRGGHHHH!!!
I mean, if THIS episode of Night Gallery doesn't make you squirm, nothing will. It's creepy, it's sick, it's horrifying... After viewing it, you WILL inspect your bed for insects, you WILL wear earplugs for a few nights, and you WILL NEVER forget this episode (even if you see it only once).
If they could have only maintained this sort of quality material, Night Gallery wouldn't have spiraled out of control and crashed and burned, a sorry mess that ultimately did no honor to Serling's name.
'The Caterpillar' - Laurence Harvey stars as an unhappy man living in a foreign tropical climate who desires the beautiful wife(played by Joanna Pettet) of an older colleague, and resorts to paying a dubious local man to place a notorious bug called an earwig in the man's ear, but tragically for Harvey it goes in his ear by mistake... Legendary episode is a most graphically effective tale of irony and anguish. Plot isn't that logical really, but in spite of this, the ending provides a real shock not easily forgotten. Superb acting and direction.
'Little Girl Lost' - William Windom plays a grieving professor who deludes himself into thinking that his dead little girl is alive again, but the government's selfish efforts to perpetuate this belief lead to total disaster... Windom is excellent in memorably apocalyptic tale, which bookends the second season with stark irony.
In this segment, adapted from the E.C. Tubb short story by Stanford Whitmore, Tom Burke (Ed Nelson), a test pilot recovering from injuries sustained in a crash, is assigned to Professor Putman (William Windom), a scientist who was working in weapons research before having his daughter Ginny killed by a hit and run driver, as a bodyguard by Dr. Charles Cotrell (Ivor Francis) and Colonel Hawes (John Lasell), and they inform Burke that Putman has developed the delusion that Ginny is still alive, and in order for Putman to complete the research Burke must maintain the scientist's delusion. Burke does this by brushing Ginny's hair and reading bedtime stories to her. Burke and Cotrell suspect that the military would allow Putman to completely lose his mind once the plans are finished, summed up by Cotrell in the following: "My profession is understanding the human mind, Burke. Take a group of men. Split responsibility, avoidance of guilt. Add: security, patriotism, and man's desire to be all powerful, and, you'll see, the professor doesn't stand a chance. What better way to maintain arms supremacy for the military than to allow Putman to lapse into total insanity?" One night, Burke, Putman, and Ginny are dining at a restaurant, and a man attempts to take Ginny's chair, asking angrily where the place setting is when Burke stops him from doing so. A waiter stops the argument, but the damage is done. Putman glances at his plate, then wearily announces that Burke can have the plans tonight since the work on them is finished, asking him in an angry, accusing tone, "That's what they want, isn't it? Bigger and better weapons at a fraction of the cost? The demented fools!" Forgetting Ginny's presence, Putman stalks out. While Putman and Burke are driving down a winding mountain road, Putman attempts suicide by driving off the highway, forcing Burke to take the wheel, at which point Burke blurts out, "You could have killed both of us," and this time, Burke forgot Ginny's presence. Burke makes his report to Cotrell, and Cotrell informs him that, in view of what took place, Putman now knows that Ginny is dead. "And that is the man," Cotrell says in a trembling whisper, "who worked out the means to create fission using nonradioactive materials!" Burke realizes at once the implications of what Cotrell is telling him: that Putman gave the formula for a weapon which would destroy the entire world if said weapon were ever tested, and this prompts Burke to ask Cotrell, "Why would Putman give the military the wrong weapons formula? That's madness!" Cotrell responds, "Madness, or the perfect solution? When our world goes up in flames, he'll be revenged on the murderer of his little girl, and at the same time be with her the only way he can!" At that moment, the weapon detonates, completely consuming Putman, his daughter Ginny, Burke, Cotrell, and the entire world in a blinding white flash of light. This story comments pointedly about the means the military would use to maintain supremacy of weapons. Spoiler alert: Stanford Whitmore moved the setting of the story from England to the United States to give it extra punch, taking into consideration that the Cold War was still on at that time.
See Above. Laurence Harvey plays a man sent to a tropical plantation. While there, bored out of his mind, he falls in love with an older plantation owners young and beautiful wife. While she shows no interest, he develops the mistaken notion that if her husband would die, she would fall in love with him. So, upon hearing of an insect called an earwig, that sometimes will crawl into a persons ear and devour its way through his brain, he hires a drunken sailor to do the deed for him. This is an excruciatingly painful death, but Harvey's character doesn't care. Later while eating dinner, he realizes to his horror that a drunk was not the best person to carry out this task, as he has put it in his ear by mistake (Or is it; Harvey's character is represented as being unlikeable.) after miraculously surviving, he is told that the earwig was a female, and that they lay eggs. This story is based on an urban legend, which in turn is based upon a true story of an explorer who spent several miserable months with a dead bug stuck in his ear. This story has also been the basis for a famous scene in "The Wrath of Khan," and this episode was mentioned by Mike Meyers character in "So I Married an Axe Murderer".
I agree with Mr. Miller's assessment but must add in something. And, this is not really a spoiler since Mr. Miller already gave the spoiler away (grin). But, it needs to be pointed out that Laurence Harvey's character was a despicable man whom everyone hated. And, the earwig didn't just walk into his ear ... it was placed on Harvey's pillow while he slept by one of the persons who hated him. In other words, it wasn't an accident - it was murder.
I gave "Caterpillar" one more star than Mr. Miller did because, mindful of Harvey's hateful character, I was rooting for the earwig (grin). And, the earwig would ultimately "win" (off camera and after-the-fact). It's been years since I saw it. But to this day, I can still imagine Harvey's future agony after those hundreds of baby earwigs hatched - and like their mother, started to eat their way out of his head.
Note added 4/22/07 to the person suggesting I had the plot all wrong:
No, I just omitted the entire plot. The fact remains that Harvey was murdered by a man who hated him ... who treated him as riff-raff and hired help. And since the man already had the money, he consciously decided to kill Harvey instead of Harvey's intended victim. He did NOT put the earwig on Harvey's pillow "by mistake." It was premeditated murder.
After his daughter is killed in a hit and run crash, a brilliant scientist working on a top secret military weapon goes slowly insane causing the project to become stalled as he slow descends into madness. Believing his daughter is still alive, the scientist (excellently played by season 1 vet William Windom) talks to her as if she were still alive, brushes her hair, and reads her bedtime stories. Seeing the need for the information only he can provide, the Army enlists a injured test pilot to befriend the scientist and to play into the delusion that his daughter is still alive.
One of the better entries from Night Gallery's second season, "Little Girl Lost" is a smart commentary on the military industrial complex in this country and the effects that it has on the psyche of a brilliant scientist who is tasked with a top secret project that may, in the words of an Army general "affect the future survival of this country." After the scientist breaks down, slowly coming to the realization that his beloved daughter is dead, he tries to commit suicide, unsuccessfully. No matter, the army has their plans for what they think is controlled nuclear fission without radioactive material and the scientist is an afterthought... or his he?
It seems as I watch this over again throughout the years, it loses some of the effect it once had on me when I was younger, but this episode is still well written and one of the better segments of the Night Gallery series. This is from the superior season 2 which has many solid episodes compared to the other seasons of the short lived show. What I remember most from the Caterpillar is the performance of Laurence Harvey, who may've overacted a bit when he was infected by the "little beastie" as Rod Serling calls it, but his portrayal is the most memorable anyway. There's no need to rehash the plot again, but the beginning drags a bit with the miserable weather in the Borneo jungle, so hang in there until the episode picks up. My favorite scene is probably the one in the pub when 2 men hatch an evil plan to have the woman's husband slowly driven insane and eventually die, so Harvey can have the man's wife. A cool twist gets in the way in typical Night Gallery fashion, as the deadly bug is accidentally inserted into Harvey's(Steven)ear instead of the husband's, as he runs out of the room screaming after hearing the bad news from the local doctor. Look for an interesting cameo by John Williams as the doctor on call as well.
Usually "Night Gallery" would couple a "weak" story (or two) with a "strong" one. However, the last episode of the second season had two genuinely good ones, with the edge going to "The Caterpillar".
In that tale, Laurence Harvey portrays a visiting Englishan to Borneo obsessed with the Joanna Pettit, the comely young wife of the much older Tom Helmore ("Vertigo"). After meeting with an unscrupulous jack of all trades, played by Don Knight, Harvey devises a plan to eliminate his competition by having an earwig inserted into the old man's ear. Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong and the proverbial poetic justice is served, with terrifying results.
There is just reason why author Stephen King considers this story one of the most frightening ever done for television.
"Little Girl Lost", sharing its title with an episode from Serling's earlier "Twilight Zone", has William Windom as a deranged scientist, mourning the death of his small daughter, who holds the key to American security. Windom is excellent, showing a variety of emotions. The supporting cast includes Ed Nelson and character actor Ivor Francis.
This one also has a thrilling conclusion, though not quite as powerful as the other installment.
I think that this segment had more to do with Macy's undoing by his lust for Rhona (Joanna Pettet), the wife of John (Tom Helmore), Macy's boss, than anything else, which is evident in his dealings with John, John's wife Rhona, Tommy Robinson (Don Knight), the rummy peddler who Macy contacted to arrange the hit targeting John for the purpose of claiming Rhona for Macy's own, and the doctor (John Williams), with Macy (Laurence Harvey) screaming in horror when he is informed by the doctor that he's now host to the offspring of the earwig that exited his head. Spoiler Alert: The introductory artwork for this segment has a tribal mask with its lower part decayed representing Macy's eventual undoing, with Rhona's face exhibited in the lower portion of the mask depicting the true agent of Macy's undoing: His lust for Rhona.
Excellent NG episode! This review is for the segment Little Girl Lost, which aired with the classic The Caterpillar. When I read the synopsis, I thought it sounded like the plot of one of the first TV Movies Of The Week (it was the first TV movie for 20th Century Fox), Daughter Of The Mind. Does anyone remember that and does it sound similar to you?
"The Caterpillar' segment on Night Gallery reminds me of all those good news/bad news type of jokes - Good news: That bug in your head is now gone; Bad news: It laid some eggs while it was in in there. See, it doesn't sound so bad as a punch line, but this was one terrifying story if you imagine it happening to yourself. I'm kind of curious now about other reviewers' interpretation of events in the story; the idea that Tommy Robinson (Don Knight) might have put an earwig in Steven Macy's ear on purpose instead of it being an accident is something I'll have to think about. Either way, the end result was ironically nasty. Quite coincidentally, I just recently viewed an episode of The X-Files titled 'Ice' in which an alien tapeworm releasing a poison in the brain rendered it's victims quite violent. Just another reason to wear earmuffs to sleep tonight.
'Little Girl Lost' is a poignant story for a while, until we learn that bomb scientist Professor Putman (William Windom) is being surreptitiously employed on developing a new type of weapon that creates fission from non-radioactive material. An injured associate (Ed Nelson) is assigned to keep Putman's delusion going that his dead young daughter is still alive, and concocts various scenarios in which he plays along. Putman's true memories begin to come back when an irate restaurant customer shocks him into acknowledging there's no plate at the dinner table for 'Ginny'. I'd say that the conclusion of the story was a blast, but of course, you could take it either of two ways.
The reason I am giving this episode a 10 is because I saw it as a child when it was first on TV. I am now 58 years old and I still have to make sure that I cover my ears with my sheet and blankets at bedtime. This is a spoiler sorry, but the above reviews have also given it away. I'm afraid of an earwig crawling into my ear while I sleep.
That episode of Night Gallery has stayed in my mind for around 50 years. I'm not sure exactly how many to be precise but it's been a very long time.
I was watching a repeat of a Colombo episode and saw Lawrence Harvey today and I realized that He was the actor who was in the Night Gallery story about the Earwig. So, I looked him up and found this site
That Warwick episode was pretty gross and really got to me. I mean it really had to since I still have to cover my ears.
"The Caterpillar" deals with a man who is so bored and lonely and so taken with his friend's beautiful wife that he is willing to kill the man. He hires a sociopathic kindling salesman, giving him 100 pounds to kill the man so he can get his hands on the wife. Unfortunately for him, it all backfires. Apparently, there is a mythology around the earwig. An insect that goes into people's ears and then chews away at their brains. This is what the native boy was asked to do to the older man. Instead the earwig finds its way into the head of the conspirator. He goes through hell. Most of my friends read this story as children (or knew of it), and so I knew exactly how it would play out. This is a classic horror technique of relieving the tension for a moment and then finishing with both barrels. A truly terrifying story.
The second involves William Windom, who has pretty much left the real world after the death of his little girl. He has been doing work in nuclear fission and his mind is still tuned to his work. The powers that be send a man to humor him. You see, he actually thinks the little girl is still there. He pats her head and brushes her hair, so to speak. The agent sent to keep the process going feels sad for the guy, but plays along, trying to keep him calm. There is a scene in a restaurant where a man wants the extra chair that the girl is supposedly sitting in. Let's face it. The whole thing is really weak and empty headed.
"The Caterpillar" is one of my all time favorite Night Gallery teleplays! Serling and company proved once again you don't need a lot of mindless action and special effects to have a good story! From a physical perspective, there is nothing more terrifying than having some creature inhabiting and crawling through your body, especially the brain! Similar things like this has happen in real life too! I once heard of people have worms crawl through their brain and even heard of one person had one in their eyeball! Frighten stuff! As for the seconds story, "The Lost Girl", I wasn't as down with it as much! I am not a big fan of the William Windom NG teleplays! I thought that the "Tim Reilly" teleplay did belong on NG, because it had no supernatural tight to it! "Lost Girl" was good, but it was rather sad seeing someone lose his sanity because of a death in the family! You know, cartoons and comedy shows poke fun at mental illness, but it's really no laughing matter as this episode shows! I still think NG was an excellent series and deserves a much higher rating than it has now!