The Miracle At Camafeo

Filmed December 1971

As I wrote in my post for PRINTER’S DEVIL on TWILIGHT ZONE:

sometime in 1959 when I was still on staff of PLAYHOUSE 90. One of my colleagues invited me to a screening of a yet-to-be-aired CBS pilot. The film was Rod Serling’s WHERE IS EVERYBODY?; the pilot was for TWILIGHT ZONE.

WHERE IS EVERYBODY? was the opening show when the series debuted in October of that year. TWILIGHT ZONE ran for five seasons. It has become a television classic with yearly marathon cable showings on July 4 and New Year’s Eve. – this over half a century after the series left the air. It now has fans whose parents had not even met the night the original shows aired.

In 1970 Rod Serling returned to the air with a new series, NIGHT GALLERY – like TWILIGHT ZONE, still in the anthology mode, but there were differences between the two series. TWILIGHT ZONE had been a half-hour show its first three seasons. Because of network shenanigans it became a one-hour show for its fourth season (which was when I directed PRINTER’S DEVIL) but returned to the half-hour length for its fifth and final season.

For its first partial season NIGHT GALLERY aired every fourth week as part of NBC’s hour-long experimental programming wheel, FOUR IN ONE, but on NIGHT GALLERY the hour would comprise two, three or even four different films, the length of each film determined by the time required to present its tale. Renewed for a second season, NIGHT GALLERY became a weekly presentation, but its format of multiple segments remained the same. For its third and final season the show was cut to thirty minutes.

TWILIGHT ZONE was in black and white; NIGHT GALLERY was in color. But there was a further difference between the two, exemplified by the introductory billboards.

The TWILIGHT ZONE billboard was unique and sophisticated as it revealed an opening door, a shattering window, an opening eye with Rod Serling’s provocative voice intoning a message about the key of imagination that leads to a crossover into the Twilight Zone.

By the 70’s the networks were in a furious race for ratings, so the billboard for NIGHT GALLERY was by contrast more commercial. Some shows like QM Productions THE FBI started with a scene climaxing in an exciting crime. Other shows like the QM’s THE FUGITIVE started with an exciting scene from late in the drama to hook the viewer into staying tuned. NIGHT GALLERY did neither. By this time Rod Serling was a celebrated television personality. In place of his voice-over as it was used in the TWILIGHT ZONE billboard his name was on the screen in very large type, appearing before the title of the series. This was followed by shots of the evening’s all-star cast, all of this with visuals and background music that introduced NIGHT GALLERY as the latest in horror shows. Was that Rod’s intent, NBC’s, or Universal’s, the studio producing the series? My guess would be to limit the answer to a choice between the two latter contenders.

I saw Rod at the studio the day I started filming. He greeted me warmly. I figured he was there to film some of his openings. Rod Serling along with Paddy Chayefsky, Horton Foote, Tad Mosel, Reginald Rose and Gore Vidal were some of the major writers to emerge from the Golden Age of Television. But when television moved from the small studios in New York to the large soundstages of Hollywood, and when the audience for the small screen entertainment grew, bringing with it increased revenue for the networks, programming changed. Rod was an eternal foe of what he called the dumbing down of American television by sponsors who wanted no controversy in their scripts, nothing that would leave viewers in a downbeat mood that might discourage them from purchasing the sponsor’s product being sold that evening.

THE MIRACLE AT CAMAFEO is the only Rod Serling script I ever directed, and it is a fine example of Rod’s continued reaching for loftier artistic goals as he relates the intense pursuit by an insurance investigator of a man committing what he considers a social crime.

THE MIRACLE AT CAMAFEO was the third and final time I worked with Harry Guardino. Our first collaboration was HASTINGS’ FAREWELL on DR. KILDARE in 1962; the second was NO NAKED LADIES IN FRONT OF GIOVANNI’S HOUSE on NAKED CITY the following spring. As Hasting Harry gave a remarkable performance as an aphasiac, unable to speak. As Giovanni he was delightful as a young reluctant groom on his wedding day, but he had a father problem

THE MIRACLE AT CAMAFEO was in the tradition of the live television dramas of the Golden Age. It had long scenes with no action and loads of dialogue, but the dialogue was very actable. I had only one minor change I wanted in Rod’s scripted staging, for which I didn’t have to seek approval.

bedroom

When Gay returned to the bedroom, the script had Melcor standing by a wall. I thought the introduction to his character should be visually stronger.

During casting Julie Adams was brought in to meet us. We didn’t have her read. I think bringing her in was more for her to decide to accept the role rather than our accepting her. The interesting thing that happened was that Julie asked if the husband had been cast. We told her it had not been. She suggested her husband, Ray Danton, for the role. We jumped at the idea. Our three major roles were cast.

THE MIRACLE AT CAMAFEO was filmed in two days. The bedroom scene you’ve just viewed was filmed the morning of the second day; the bar scene was filmed the afternoon of the second day. The first day’s filming was the Mission on Universal’s backlot.

The interior with the priest was a set on the backlot, which meant there were no pre-mounted overhead hanging lights. Everything was lit from the floor.

THE MIRACLE AT CAMAFEO was the second time I worked with director of photography Charles Straumer. Three years earlier he photographed the episode of THE NAME OF THE GAME that I directed. Charles did something I had seen no other cameraman do. When I started in film, the cameras I worked with had a parallax finder attached to their side. Since it was not possible to look through the camera lens when filming, operators would have to make the adjustment between the view through the lens and the view through the parallax and view through the parallax during filming. I remember Harkness Smith, the cinematographer on DR. KILDARE, constantly telling me when I was checking the shot before filming a sequence, “Look through the lens.” To get back to Charles, he had a detached parallax finder, which he used as a view finder when setting up his shots. Straumer had been one of the major cinematographers on the highly successful THE UNTOUCHABLES, having photographed 111 episodes. I should have held that against him. It was THE UNTOUCHABLES that drove PLAYHOUSE 90 off the air, but he had been in the profession dating back to the 30’s. While still in his 20’s he was an assistant cameraman on Marie Dressler’s TUGBOAT ANNIE; he had been a camera operator on the classic films A STAR IS BORN (the first one), GUNGA DIN, CITIZEN KANE and THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. He was one of the artists trained in what I think was the Golden Age of Film, and in his photography he used the cross lighting and deep shadows that I so admire.

THE MIRACLE AT CAMAFEO aired on January 19, 1972 as the first of two films for that evening. In what was a rare occurrence on NIGHT GALLERY, all of the films presented that evening were directed by the same director. I directed the second film for the evening, THE GHOST OF SORWORTH PLACE.


The journey continues

This entry was posted in Night Gallery. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Miracle At Camafeo

  1. Robert Dahl says:

    Ralph, just a small correction. For the 1970-71 season, NBC devised the FOUR IN ONE concept in order to test four potential TV series, filming just six episodes of each. Each potential series would see its six episodes broadcast CONSECUTIVELY, not once every four weeks.

    The six episodes of MCCLOUD (Dennis Weaver) were broadcast from 16 Sep 1970 to 21 Oct 1970. SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (Lloyd Bridges) ran from 28 Oct 1970 to 02 Dec 1970. The six episodes of NIGHT GALLERY (Rod Serling) were broadcast from 16 Dec 1970 to 20 Jan 1971. THE PSYCHIATRIST (Roy Thinnes) ran from 03 Feb 1971 to 10 Mar 1971.

    Of these four potential series, only MCCLOUD and NIGHT GALLERY received sufficiently high audience ratings to be greenlit as full series for the 1971-72 season. MCCLOUD was teamed with two other series, COLUMBO and MCMILLAN AND WIFE, as part of the umbrella-titled NBC MYSTERY MOVIE (a wheel show, rotating each series every third week). Each of these episodes was 90 minutes long.

    Interestingly, the original six episodes of MCCLOUD (each 60 minutes long) could not fit into the 90-minute time slot of the NBC MYSTERY MOVIE. So, Universal TV decided to cut-and-paste these six episodes, Frankenstein-style, into three TV movies. Each TV movie would show Marshal McCloud apparently working on two cases at once (due to the fact that two TV episodes had been edited together to construct the TV movie).

    For many years, these three Frankensteined movies had been mistakenly listed as Season One of MCCLOUD. Even the US dvd release of MCCLOUD Season One contains these three Frankensteined movies. Universal said that they could not find the original six episodes in their vault. Finally, Grant Taylor of the Australian dvd company MADMAN ENTERTAINMENT was able to track down videotaped copies of the original six episodes at a London TV station. Thus, only the Australian (Region 4) dvd release of MCCLOUD has the original six 60-minute episodes.

    For more info, see the following entry at the excellent CLASSIC TV HISTORY BLOG –
    https://classictvhistory.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/procrustes-comes-to-syndication/

  2. Ralph says:

    Thank you Robert for the clarification!

  3. Phil says:

    Robert’s write-up did not mention that NBC broadcast a TV-movie on Nov. 8, 1969 called “Night Gallery”. It had three separate Serling stories in a two-hour time slot. The directors were Boris Sagal, Barry Shear, and Steven Spielberg.

    • Robert Dahl says:

      Yes, Phil, since my intent was to show that the FOUR IN ONE episodes aired consecutively, I intentionally restricted my comments only to the six episodes of each FOUR IN ONE series. For example, I intentionally did not mention the original SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL tv movie with Pernell Roberts, who was replaced by Lloyd Bridges for the series eps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *