Night Gallery 1.5 – Pamela’s Voice / Lone Survivor / The Doll

I gave our son a heads up that he’d get to meet Phyllis Diller in the flesh in the opening installment of tonight’s episode. He knows her voice, and her caricature, from Mad Monster Party?, which we watch every Halloween. He didn’t offer up any “oh yeah, her” in response – nor did he offer any recognition of her co-star, John Astin – but he did say that the second segment, “Lone Survivor,” reminded him of a Twilight Zone that’s been lingering around in his head. He said that “Survivor” was a little like “Judgment Night,” and he’s right. He also predicted the revelation that the survivor that they picked up was from the Titanic, but the story had a couple more twists after that.

For me, the first two segments were in the way of the third. We paused after “Pamela’s Voice” to talk about horrible husbands and wives fighting because it’s yet another Serling depiction of a horribly miserable Lockhorns-style marriage that should have ended years earlier. Granted, nobody but Serling wrote marital fights that casually drop words like “ossuary,” “cacaphony,” and “bacchanalia” into the venom, and that makes it pretty entertaining, but the dude had issues with matrimony. Even for his generation of misery-pants marriages, the dude had issues. “Lone Survivor” felt a little longer than it needed to be, but I enjoyed John Colicos devouring all the scenery onscreen and everywhere else on the Universal lot.

“The Doll,” which wrapped up the episode, was tremendously entertaining. Nothing here was all that unpredictable – I mean, you’ve seen one living doll story, you get the idea – but I really enjoyed John Williams’ performance. He was living in Hollywood and on call whenever an upper-class Brit was needed on TV in the period. A couple of years later, he and Bernard Fox and Wilfrid Hyde-White were all playing supporting parts in one of my least favorite Columbos when Richard Basehart was pretending to be British. Yeah, I’ve mentioned it here before; it remains an annoyance.

Anyway, Williams, who is playing a character named Colonel Masters, figures out what’s going on with this strange doll that’s infiltrated his household even before Henry Silva, pretending to be Indian, shows up to gloat at him. It’s a great, sympathetic performance of a character who knows his fate and takes steps to see that the evil magic will return to its user. And the hideous doll is pure nightmare fuel. Our son allowed that it was really, really creepy.

I hate to spoil the end, but I absolutely love that this episode, which first aired on January 13 1971, ends with Colonel Masters ensuring the delivery of a big killer doll to his adversary. Four days previously, in the UK, Roger Delgado had been seen posing as a different “Colonel Masters,” delivering another big killer doll to his own adversary. No wonder everybody spent the seventies afraid their toys were going to come to life and kill them.

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