To the show’s credit, Night Gallery enjoyed a pair of Primetime Emmy Awards (one in 1971 and again in 1972 in different categories). While the program didn’t win, series creator Serling himself took home a 1970 Edgar Allen Poe ‘Special Edgar’ trophy for bringing the program to life, another much deserved nod toward the quality recognized in the man’s ongoing legacy at the time.
Recently, I had the good fortune of receiving a complimentary Blu-ray copy of Night Gallery: Season 03, and I wanted to spend some time reviewing a handful of the episodes for interested readers.
Today’s installment: “The Girl With The Hungry Eyes” first aired on U.S. broadcast television on October 1, 1972, and the curious yarn starred James Farentino and Joanna Pettet as the fashion photographer and his muse (respectively) thrown together out of mystical circumstance but only one of them has the power to break the spell over mortal men … even at a very high professional cost.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the episode’s IMDB.com citation page:
“Photographer David Faulkner makes the acquaintance of a beautiful but anonymous woman. A beer manufacturer is entranced by the girl and wants to put her on all of his billboards and demands a meeting with her. David and every man the girl meets becomes similarly infatuated with her.”
In fairness, that synopsis (apparently provided by a reader of IMDB.com) doesn’t quite do the thirty-minute story justice because it only flirts (snicker snicker) with the installment’s subject matter. Instead, the script credited to Robert Malcolm Young (inspired by a story from Fritz Leiber Jr.) conjures up a bit of TV magic and commentary about beauty, where it comes from, where it might take us culturally, and maybe why it’s more than a bit elusive. At its core, “The Girl With The Hungry Eyes” only toys with the ideas of advertising and commerce, centering on how something that’s more than a pretty face might move nations to war (or, at least, buying beer), and instead hones in on the dark side of what might make beauty as dangerous as it is lovely to behold.
But I digress …
Cast as the Girl is the lovely Joanna Pettet, indeed a delicious creature with a face one easily imagines in any and all types of major market media campaigns. She’s a talent who even bared more than just her soul in the pages of Playboy (1968, for those of you Googling); while her professional career appears to have ended in the early 1990’s, she definitely enjoyed a string of small roles in some of TV’s more memorable franchises. Still, it’s easy to see her as the inspiration here, and she makes even the anonymous nature of her curious spirit in the piece real enough to be accepted.
The late James Farentino – a guy who in my opinion never quite found any big breakthrough performance but turned in solid work whenever called upon – plays the somewhat blue-collar photographer David Faulkner who somehow mysteriously finds the Girl in the last frame of a newly-developed roll of film. He knows that he didn’t snap her picture, but – captivated as all men are by her radiance and beauty – he can’t help but expand upon their professional encounter more. Before he knows it, the two of them are bound contractually together, though he’s limited to allowing her to exist in his world without sharing her name, her address, or her true identity.
As you can imagine, the magic of The Girl With The Hungry Eyes requires that no one glance too deeply at its premise, perhaps the guiding metaphor for these thirty minutes if there ever were. When he can’t help himself, Faulkner gets closer and closer to violating the demands his magical model has put on their dubious partnership; but – in the end – he’ll know that she was never quite as real as she was the wistful source of all that men dream about when they’re slaves to hormones they know all too well. As one might imagine, it only takes a spark to send it all up in smoke … eyes included.
Night Gallery: Season 03 (1972-1973) was produced by Universal Television. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the good people at Kino Lorber. As for the technical specifications? Though I’m not trained video expert, I found the sights and sounds of this episode to be particularly solid.
Though it’s far more magical surrealism than anything else, The Girl With The Hungry Eyes is a winning thirty minutes. It has just enough story to draw an audience in, and it boasts two central performances – Farentino’s and Pettet’s – that work within the mystical construct of a world both with and without boundaries. Naturally, Pettet is just damn fabulous to look at – one could expect no less given the tale – but Farentino is man enough to put an end to her shenanigans before it costs him more than his existence. Good call, my man.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Kino Lorber provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Night Gallery: Season 03 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.