Monday, June 1, 2009

Destination Nightmare (1958) (TV)

Directed by:
Paul Landres
Herbert L. Strock
George Waggner

"The Veil" was an 10-episode TV series (purported to be based on real-life cases of the supernatural and the unexplained) hosted by and starring Boris Karloff that wasn't picked up for distribution on network TV after it was made. never picked up for distribution and never aired on network TV. Instead, the episodes were combined to play as anthology features on late night television throughout the 1960s. DESINATION NIGHTMARE is one of those features. The DVD release from Rhino contains the episodes "Destination Nightmare," "Girl on the Road," "Summer Heat" and "The Return of Madame Vernoy." However, Rhino's VHS release under the same title contains only two episodes: "Girl on the Road" and "Summer Heat." The other two four-episode releases were JACK THE RIPPER and THE VEIL.

Destination Nightmare

Karloff serves as both on-screen host and lead actor in this OK episode (directed by Paul Landres) of the 12-episode series "The Veil." Former WWI pilot Peter Wade (Karloff) now owns his own aviation company and wants his college-aged son, Pete Jr. (Ron Hagerthy), to follow in his footsteps. Pete Jr. would rather design planes that fly them, and though his father is well-intentioned, he's also a bit pushy and stubborn; holding back his son's tuition check so he can't pursue what he really loves. One day while out flying with co-pilot Bill (Myron Healey), Peter Jr. is blinded by a white light, which happens to be the ghost of Wally Huffman (Roy Engel) appearing in the windshield of the cockpit. Wally, an intelligence agent, was killed during the war and is somehow connected to the father's past. The apparition (basically just a giant floating head) commands "Look at me! Look at me! Follow me! Follow me! 135! 135!" Entranced, Peter obeys the orders and almost ends up crashing the plane in the mountains. On his second trip out, the ghost insists he bail out of the plane. Peter does, finds some wreckage and then confronts his father about what really happened in the war. Not much to write home about with this one. It's a predictable and only mildly entertaining. Of course, if you're a Karloff fan you'll want to check out this entire series regardless.

Girl on the Road

Directed by George Waggner (THE WOLF MAN), this is another predictable though somewhat enjoyable and eerie episode of "The Veil." Karloff again hosts from in front of a fireplace and also appears in a co-starring role. John Prescott (Tod Andrews) is on his way back to Boston when he comes across troubled blonde beauty Lila Kirby (Eve Brent) stranded on the side of the road. After taking a look at her car, he discovers she's simply out of gas and offers to push her car to the side of the road and take her to the nearest gas station so she can get fuel. On the way there they stop for a drink and Lila start behaving strangely. She seems to be on the run from something or someone, asks John to drop her off at a service station and encourages him to meet her back at Lookout Point at nine o'clock that evening. Lila shows up and then runs off when a mysterious wheelchair-bound man named Morgan Debs (Karloff) shows up. He warns John that innocent people will die if he continues to pursue Lila and then takes off. Not taking Morgan's advice, John searches for Lila around town, discovers that some of the citizens seem to be covering up something and is clubbed over the head by Morgan's chauffeur. When he comes to, he gets the address to Lila's home, goes there and then encounters both Lila's mother (Claudia Bryar) and Morgan; finding out both who he is, as well as who Lila is.

The Return of Madame Vernoy

Based on a "true and authenticated incident," this episode of "The Veil" is set in India and involves reincarnation. Rama (Julius Johnson) wants to marry young Santha (Lee Torrance), but is warned by Santha's mother Madame Naidu (Iphigenie Castiglioni) that her daughter believes herself to be the reincarnation of a woman who already has a living husband and son. Regardless, Rama decides to accompany both Santha and her mother to another city, where Santha plans to be reunited with her former family. Meanwhile, widower Armand Vernoy (Jean Del Val) is broke and worried about not having enough money to send his son Krishna (George Hamilton!) away to college in America. Santha shows up claiming to be both Armand's long-dead wife (who passed away during childbirth) and Krishna's mother. Naturally, she's met with skepticism, but soon starts revealing things about their past (a nickname, the date she died, household details, etc.) that make them wonder if she really is who she claims she is. All loose ends are tied up with a happy ending for all concerned. Karloff appears as both host and as Dr. Charles Goncourt, a professor friend of Armand's looking for a rational explanation. As usual for the series, the episode is mediocre, talky and set-bound, with a predictable, though tolerable, storyline. The only thing distinguishing this episode are a few silly attempts at Indian accents (I'm lookin' at you, Mr. Hamilton!). Director Herbert L. Strock went on to make several popular schlock horror films, such as HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958) and THE CRAWLING HAND (1963). He also directed the "Visions of Crime" and "Crystal Ball" episodes of this series.

Summer Heat

On a hot summer day in New York City, detail-oriented shipping clerk Edward Paige (Henry Bartell) has just returned home from a hard day's work when he happens to glance out his window and sees something odd going on across the street from him. A gloved thief has just broken into an apartment and immediately starts going through a woman's purse and her jewelry box. When the woman enters the room, the thief grabs her and there's a brief struggle before she's murdered by a flashlight blow to the head. Edward immediately goes to the police, but when he accompanies Lt. Davis (Paul Bryar) and Sgt. Fenton (Ray Montgomery) to the crime scene they discover it completely vacant; no furniture, no murderer, no body... From all appearances, no one currently lives there and no murder actually took place. The cops send Edward in for a psychiatric evaluation with Dr. Francis Mason (Karloff), who listens to his story, records it and ultimately believes Edward to be sincere in his testimony. Not soon after, an actual murder does occur in the same exact apartment and every single detail (the killer, victim, murder weapon, apartment layout, etc.) is exactly as Edward had described... days before it actually happened. Will Edward be charged with the crime or will the police believe his sense of precognition and have him aid them in finding the real murderer? Thanks to a very interesting concept (kind of like REAR WINDOW with a twist) and a solid lead performance and characterization from Bartell, this episode from director George Waggner is one of the better - if not the best- entry in this forgotten 10-episode series.


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