Thursday, September 29, 2016

Season of Horror: Little Girl Lost (1972)

Tonight I've been watching some real horror called Mandated Reporter Training, so time is short once again and a horror snack is in order. Hopefully I'll be able to dive into something meatier this weekend and find time to complete a few updates. I am finishing up the second segment from last night's Night Gallery episode, called "Little Girl Lost."

"Can a man remain a genius when his mind is clouded by delusion?"

Three guys are watching a man from behind a 2 way mirror. The man is sitting in a chair in an empty room and is miming brushing hair on a child and playing patty cake. Two of the three men are in suits and the other is in military garb. We find that 6 months prior, a hit and run driver killed the man's child, that the man being observed is a professor, and that the future of the country is dependent on him. He was working on something when his child died and began working again when he established the delusion that his child was alive, and the Colonel wants him working, so they are more than willing to help him maintain his delusion, and they've brought in Tom Burke to help with that.

Burke (Ed Nelson) is the Professor's (William Windon) bodyguard and in charge of keeping him happy and passing on his findings to the military. They have an interesting time pretending that Ginny, the invisible dead daughter is actually there, especially when Burke gets choked up telling a bedtime story to the bodiless girl.

Burke meets on the side of a remote country road with Dr. Cottrell to discuss the professor's state of mind. The doctor comes up with a poor analogy and relates how he can't tell Burke what the Professor is working on, but that the Prof would be better of dead. "They" won't allow him to receive the proper therapy, so they encourage his delusions so he'll continue working and after he's done his duty, they'll allow him to go mad as a means of safeguarding the knowledge.

The Professor and Mr. Burke are out dining with Ginny, and another patron tries to take her chair and points out that there's no plate and no-one sitting there. The Professor tells Burke that he is finished with his equations and they can "begin testing on controlled fission of non radioactive materials." While driving, the Professor keeps muttering about murdering fools and then starts driving erratically at a high speed.

Burke consults with Dr. Cottrell who wonders why the Professor should want to kill himself. He looks in on the Prof who is talking to his invisible dead daughter, saying "we'll all be with you soon." Burke relates that after taking the wheel, he told the Professor that he could have killed the both of them. The doctor slams the door and exclaims that the Professor knows his daughter is dead, that he wants to commit suicide but cannot consciously do so. He shares that the Professor has worked out the means to create fission using non radioactive materials and that when the world goes up in flames, he will be with his daughter again and avenge the murderer of his little girl.

Once again, Rod Serling clearly demonstrates the idiocy of the nuclear arms race. While the ending is still frightening today, it was likely even more so during the Cold War when kids were practicing Duck and Cover at school, families were building bomb shelters, and the detonation of a nuclear weapon seemed inevitable. Chilling indeed.

No comments: