Sinister Cinema: Derleth and The Tube

Not to be left out of the Derleth Anniversary action thundering around the internet, Brian Leno sends in some start-of-the-day thoughts.

Take it, Brian:


The other night I watched Night Gallery and the episode was “The Doll” by Algernon Blackwood, teleplay by Rod Serling. After reading all the blogs lately about Derleth I started to wonder where Serling might have read the story, then thought it would be kind of cool to tie him into the Arkham House The Doll and One Other.

While the Arkham volume is from 1946, Derleth reprinted the story in The Sleeping and the Dead: Thirty Uncanny Tales a year later. Blackwood had his own Tales of the Uncanny and the Supernatural follow in 1949 — must have liked Derleth’s use of the word “Uncanny.”

Blackwood’s collection was reprinted a few times before Serling adapted his story in 1970-71. The show aired January 13, 1971. While Night Gallery had quite a few dogs, “The Doll” is one of the better episodes.

One reprint fell in 1969, so that’s close. But even if Serling didn’t get the tale direct from Derleth and Arkham House, he did come to it in a roundabout way because of the Wisconsin storyteller.

Quite a few Arkham authors appeared on Night Gallery. Derleth himself a few times. Donald Wandrei, Clark Ashton Smith and of course Lovecraft with “Pickman’s Model” and “Cool Air.”

An actor even portrayed Derleth, wearing his habitual sweater, in “Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture.”

Obviously Derleth — in addition to preserving the stories in print through Arkham House — had something to do with getting these tales onto the small screen. Someone had to okay the rights.

(I know the show Thriller took a lot of stories from Weird Tales, adapting Derleth, Robert Bloch and of course Robert E. Howard’s “Pigeons from Hell.” I wonder how many realize that “Pigeons” never appeared in book form until two years after the Thriller televised play — in Arkham’s The Dark Man and Others.)

If Derleth had a hand in getting these tales to the television market, and I’m certain he did, that’s where many thousands of people got their first look at Lovecraft and the rest.

Who knows how many of these viewers became Arkham collectors?

I wonder if Rod Serling was an Arkham collector. At the very least, it’s a safe guess that he opened up a volume here and there to spice up the horror in his anthology series.

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