I was always a huge Rod Serling fan growing up because of the quality of his writing and presentation, but The Twilight Zone just wasn't one of those shows that I went crazy over — even today. Don't get me wrong: I understand the power and influence that show has had upon the geek pop culture spectrum for decades, as well as why so many people look forward to the annual marathons that SyFy shows. But for me? I'll take horror and supernatural over science-fiction any day of the week, and twice on Friday the 13th.
So I found Night Gallery more to my liking, even though it's taken some serious re-examining and way too many years for the series to be given its just-do. Night Gallery was an anthology series that ran on NBC from 1969 to 1973, and over the course of its three seasons, Serling would introduce varying tales of horror and the macabre that scared the living crap out of viewers while somehow still finding a way to stay within network standards.
But out of its entire run of 43 episodes, there's one that still gives me chills when I think about it: Night Gallery Season 2, Episode 15: 'Green Fingers'.
The basic story setup is pretty simple: Lydia Bowen (Elsa Lanchester) loves her home and really loves her gardening, so she refuses to sell her home to an evil business tycoon (Cameron Mitchell) looking to build a development. Evil business tycoon decides to get Bowen off of her land by any means necessary. Bloody shenanigans ensue, and in the end, we learn that some of the most disturbing things can come from the soil with just a little love, care — and sacrifice.
Lanchester's (Bride of Frankenstein, Murder By Death) portrayal of Lydia Bowen is masterfully tragic and disturbing, and worth repeated viewing just to see how many times you flip back-and-forth between being heartbroken and creeped out by her. On a side note, Lanchester also starred in the comedy-horror movie/bane-of-my-young-existence-at-the-time Arnold that featured some of the most disturbing television commercials that I can ever remember as a young boy geek.
Here's a clip from the episode so you can see for yourself (check out the first 2:34)…but there are spoilers, so you've been warned!
A BC October: Tales From Terror-Vision! is Bleeding Cool's month-long look back at some lost or forgotten scary moments from the history of television.