Sunday, October 21, 2012
Cult-TV Blogging: Circle of Fear: "The Ghost of Potter's Field" (March 23, 1973)
In some ways, this week’s episode of the 1973 anthology Circle of Fear, “The Ghost of Potter’s Field,” plays like a remake of the extraordinary Ghost Story episode “Alter Ego,” by Dorothy Fontana.
In that installment, as you may recall, a young boy was faced with a devilish doppelganger, one who wanted to steal his very life from him. As the boy grew weaker, his malevolent opposite grew stronger and stronger…
“The Ghost of Potter’s Field” re-establishes the doppelganger concept, and the dynamic wherein only one individual can hold onto his life, with the counterpart facing oblivion. Here, an investigative journalist named Bob Herrick, played by Tab Hunter, goes to visit a grave yard in Potter’s Field. He believes the little-known cemetery might make a good story, because buried there are several men and women whose identity was not known at the time of death.
On his first visit, Herrick is surprised to see what looks like an exact double watching him from afar. Before long, this sinister counterpart insinuates himself into the journalist’s life, attempting to kill his friends and ruin his professional reputation.
The journalist and his girlfriend, Nisa King (Louise Sorel), realize that to destroy the doppelganger, they must learn his identity in real life. They soon learn the doppelganger was once a gangster, and a man murdered by another gangster. When they finally confront the spirit at Potter’s Field, they urge it to go after that murderer, not the journalist. It seems to do so.
The concept of a writer battling an evil alter-ego is one that later found life in the 1990s, in Stephen King’s novel The Dark Half. Here, the story is competently told, but all the horror elements do feel lifted from “Alter Ego.” That story -- one of Ghost Story’s undisputed best -- succeeded so admirably because it featured a battle between the devil doppelganger and a kindly old teacher (Helen Hayes).
That episode really put the audience in her court, as the evil child kept tormenting her. “The Ghost of Potter’s Field” doesn’t find any story hook or character nearly as interesting. Tab Hunter isn’t especially expressive, but Louise Sorel shines as his more-knowledgeable and helpful girlfriend.
Next week, we reach the last Ghost Story/Circle of Fear episode, a masterpiece called “The Phantom of Herald Square.”