Monday, August 1, 2022

Rod Serling and HPL

Last month, I mentioned that Clark Ashton Smith's "The Return of the Sorcerer" had been adapted for Rod Serling's Night Gallery television series in 1972. As some of you likely already know, that wasn't the only time that a story by one the greats of Weird Tales appeared on the program. At the end of the previous year – December 1, 1971, to be exact – there was an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model."

Like the adaptation of "The Return of the Sorcerer," this one isn't a particularly faithful to its literary forebear. For one, the episode introduces the framing device of a man in the 1970s who's bought an old home in Boston that was once owned by the 19th century artist, Richard Upton Pickman. Pickman, we're told, disappeared mysteriously seventy-five years prior and most of his macabre artwork was lost along with him. The new owner of the place discovers some canvases hidden in the building that he assumes must have belonged to Pickman, including the one featured above. His friend is the owner of an art gallery and assures him that, were these paintings to truly be those of Pickman, they'd be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

We then flashback to the end of the previous century, where Pickman is giving art lessons to young women of well to do families, one of whom takes a romantic interest in him. Though he begs her to leave him be and not try to get too close to him, she persists, eventually following him to his home in the North End of the city.
Once there, Pickman again tries to convince her to leave, but she will not, eventually encountering the model he'd been using for some of his most horrific paintings. 
The episode isn't awful and, much like the adaptation of "The Return of the Sorcerer," it doesn't lack charm in certain respects. The tale as presented on screen is a lot more melodramatic than Lovecraft's own take on it and the framing device is a bit silly, especially at the end, when it's shown that the monster – it's never called a ghoul or indeed anything – still exists in the tunnels beneath Pickman's old home and lies waiting for the chance to be loosed upon the world once more.

If you're interested in watching the episode, it can be found on the Internet Archive site, at least for the moment. It's short and, despite its flaws, worth the twenty-two minutes or so it'd take to see it in its entirety.

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