Sunday, June 14, 2015

Night Gallery (1971): H. P. Lovecraft's Cool Air

Even sub-freezing temperatures and a strong will can't stop the inevitable decay of human flesh kept alive beyond its expiration date. Dr. Munoz was finally dragged to his death after existing longer than he should have. In Episode 12 of Season 2 of Rod Serling's Night Gallery as seen on Hulu Plus, Serling's teleplay adds a main character not found in H. P. Lovecraft's short story of the same name. Did Serling write the part especially for the talented and lovely Barbara Rush?

Lovecraft's story is told by a man with a heart problem who lives downstairs from the mysterious Dr. Munoz while Serling's narrator is the daughter of one of Dr. Munoz's former colleagues. Writing for television, Serling left out a lot of the gore and creepiness that Lovecraft so skillfully applied to the story. Serling also left out Lovecraft's unflattering description of the Spanish landlady and the other tenants of the boarding house.

It is cool to see and read about problems like keeping a room cold in the summer that we take for granted now. Lovecraft used a gas powered machine filled with ammonia to keep Dr. Munoz cool enough to prevent decomposition while we would simply turn up the AC. However, the failure of the machine and the rising temperature in his room could have occurred just as easily in our time with the AC breaking down. We probably could have a new one installed before the temperature rose to lethal level though depending on how far Dr. Munoz lived from a hardware store or Walmart. 

The episode ends with Barbara Rush screaming in the bathroom as she stands over the dried out corpse of Dr. Munoz in humorous contrast to Lovecraft's gory slimy trail that leads from the bathroom to the couch ending in a puddle of something indescribably horrible.

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