The Howling Man
David Ellington – H.M. Wynant
Brother Jerome – John Carradine
Howling Man – Robin Hughes
Brother Christophorus – Friedrich von Ledebur
Housekeeper – Ezelle Poule
We open with thunder, lightning and a very sweaty man telling us that it’s an incredible story. It must be to make you sweat so, dear. Whatever it is we wont believe it until he tells us the whole thing. Then we’ll believe him for sure because…we must. Well, I’m convinced. After World War I our sweaty man was on a walking trip through Europe but one evening got lost in a storm. We zoomy out the window, through the rain and back into the past.
A very tweedy looking man is staggering through the rain and knocks on some really big wooden doors. His coat looks awfully dry for having been wandering about in a storm. A monk who looks like a Planet of the Apes extra opens the door for him. Ellington tells the monk(ey) that he’s been lost in the rain and can he please com in? The monk tells Ellington that they don’t allow visitors. Ellington says that he’s not a visitor. He’s a stranger to the area and he’s lost. He tries to walk around the monk but the monk cane-blocks him. Apparently, saying he’s lost the third time is really the charm because the monk lets him in.
It looks like it might be a bit drier inside but the hall they walk through looks like it’s just as cold. As they walk through the hall all the monks come out to check out the new guy. Ellington can barely walk and gives a very dramatic cough and clutch at a rail/banister/divider/thing. Even though the monk doesn’t seem all that concerned Ellington reassures him that he’ll be all right once he’s dried out. Brother Christophorus tells Ellington to wait there. Ellington takes a minute to dramatically catch his breath. While he’s doing so he hears an ungodly howling noise that startles him. Immediately after Brother Chris comes out to tell Ellington that Brother Jerome will see him now. Ellington asks what the noise is. Brother Chris says it’s the wind.
Brother Chris leads Ellington into a room to talk to Brother Jerome. Who looks a lot like Moses. Brother Moses wants to know why Ellington came there. Ellington explains that he was on a walking trip and got lost in the storm. He gives another little cough. Brother Moses wants to know what Ellington wants from them. Ellington says some shelter and maybe food. I get that he got lost but did he really bring no extra food at all? That doesn’t seem very smart. Either way Brother Moses says they’re all out of that stuff and tells Ellington to leave. Like now. Ellington looks surprised but turns to go. Luckily for him, he faints.
The prostrate form of Mr. David Ellington. Scholar, seeker of truth and, regrettably, finder of truth. A man who will shortly arise from his exhaustion to confront a problem that has tormented mankind since the beginning of time. A man who knocked on a door seeking sanctuary and found, instead, the outer edges of the Twilight Zone.
Ellington is pacing around the hall, holding his head. I guess they just left him lying there? He hears the howling noise again. He finds the source of the howling just a few doors down. He peeks in to see a dirty, bearded man dressed in raggedy clothes. The man in the cell comes to the bars and grabs Ellington’s shoulder, begging for help. The man in the cell says that Ellington isn’t one of them. Ellington says that he’s an American. The man tells him to come closer, they only have a few minutes. Although I’m not sure how much closer Ellington could be unless he gets in the cell with the guy.
The Howling Man tells Ellington that the monks are mad. They’re all stark, raving mad. Well, they might be mad but they looked pretty calm. Nary a rave to be seen. The man then goes on to tell Ellington that he lived in the village of Schwarzwald. While walking with his honey one day they paused for a kiss. He stops here to ask Ellington if it’s wrong to kiss. Ellington (who still looks either wet from the rain or sweaty) says no, he doesn’t think so. The man agrees. Ok, everyone agrees that kissing is a-ok. The man then calls someone a lecherous old fool. As the man and his woman were smooching he looked up to see someone watching. Before he could say anything the guy watching them beat him down with the big heavy staff. Ah. They’re talking about Brother Moses.
Ellington asks why would Brother Moses do that. The Howling Man claims that his woman rejected the advances of Brother Moses. Ellington says he finds it hard to believe. The Howling Man says of course it is, that’s how convincing and powerful Brother Moses is. Which would make more sense if Ellington had talked to Brother Moses for more than two seconds. The Howling Man says that Brother Moses seems like a harmless madman. Just your ordinary religious zealot. Then goes on to say that it’s not a religious order. He says that they’re cast out of the world because the world doesn’t want them. He does speak very eloquently. The man in the cell says that they’re not evil…just mad. The man in the cell has some pretty buff-looking arms. Ellington starts to walk away and The Howling Man asks where he’s going. Ellington says he’s going to speak to Brother Moses. The Howling Man freaks out and says that Brother Moses is the maddest of them all. Ellington asks how he’s supposed to help him then. From the door Brother Jerome calls Ellington. Uh-oh, busted.
Brother Moses tells Ellington to come with him. Once they’re in a different room Brother Moses tells Ellington that he’ll have to leave immediately, they don’t have the facilities to care for the ill. So monks never get sick? Brother Moses starts to say that arrangements can be made in Schwarzwald but Ellington interrupts him. Ellington gets pissy and says he’s not leaving until they explain what’s going on. I don’t really think they have to. You barged into their monk hangout, talked to a random guy for two seconds and now you’re demanding answers. Bit presumptuous, no?
Brother Moses says that Ellington doesn’t understand. Ellington wants to know why Brother Jerome wants him out so bad. He’s already seen The Howling Dude. Brother Moses wants to know what Ellington thinks he’s talking about. Ellington says he doesn’t know anything about their order, what’s permitted and what’s not. But he doubts that they have the authority to keep a man unlawfully locked up. Brother Jerome agrees that they don’t have that authority. Brother Jerome dances around the truth for a bit by saying that no man has ever been imprisoned in the hermitage. Ellington is like “I just talked to him!” Brother Jerome tries to tell Ellington that he’s been ill, intimating that Ellington is delusional, but right then another howl is heard. Ellington tells Brother Jerome that “honest men make unconvincing liars”.
Ellington tells Brother Jerome that eventually he’ll find out what’s going on and the police will be very interested in knowing they have a man locked up there. Brother Jerome insists that there is no man locked up there. Ellington says forget it and starts to walk out. Brother Jerome stops him and asks Ellington if he’d really go to the police. Ellington asks Brother Jerome wouldn’t he in his place. Brother Jerome gives in. He tells Ellington that he told him the truth but not all of it. He tells Ellington to come back inside and he’ll tell him. As Ellington comes back in the howling starts again and Brother Jerome covers his ears. Ellington says, “Aha! You hear it, too!”Brother Jerome says he’s heard it every hour of every day for the last five years. And then he does such a great eye-roll.
Ellington wants to know why Jerome lied. He says that he didn’t lie when he said no man howled there. He tells Ellington that what he spoke to was not a man. It is The Devil himself..
Just after a perfectly timed thunder crash Jerome continues. What is in that cell is Satan. Ellington believes him doesn’t he? Ellington’s all “Suuure, I believe you!” Brother Jerome can see that Ellington’s full of it, though. He says that Ellington thinks he’s mad. Then he tells him to have a seat (he might as well, Jerome backed him into a chair). Jerome tells Ellington that he’ll explain it all then we’ll just see who’s mad and who’s not. It’s ok. We all go a little mad sometimes. Sorry.
Brother Jerome tells Ellington that he supposes Ellington thinks of himself sophisticated and they primitive because they live in solitude. Ellington starts to interrupt and say he doesn’t think that but Brother Jerome just gives him a “bitch, please, I know you do” and continues his story. Jerome says he lived in the “real world” for forty years with the best schooling, a degree in philosophy and a job that took him to the ends of the earth. I’m wondering what job he got with a philosophy degree. He says the beard, the staff and the faith are merely the results of a differing point of view. Never underestimate the beard. Another howl interrupts. Jerome goes on to say that five years ago there wasn’t any howlin’ in the monastery. It was just a bombed out ruin belonging to Wolfen. The Baron gave the Brothers the monastery in exchange for tending the vineyards.
Ellington asks if it’s a legit religious order. Brother Jerome dances around it a bit by saying that they feel that they are recognized by God. Truth is their dogma, believing it to be the ultimate weapon against The Devil, The Father of Lies. Brother Jerome says that after The Great War everywhere was in chaos, except the little town of Schwarzwald. They were happy and God-fearing and resistant to despair. Of course, the Devil can’t resist destroying happy so he popped in for a little corruption campaign. The Mighty Brother Moses stopped him though.
The Devil thought he would be easy to tempt but Brother Moses chucked him in a cell. Makes me wonder how he tempted Brother Moses? And now Ellington looks like he is thinking Brother Moses might be a crayon or two short of a rainbow. He asks Brother Moses how he keeps The Devil in a cell and Brother Jerome answers with The Stick (Staff) of Truth. And “He Shall Not Pass!”
Ellington wants to know how Brother Jerome recognized him as Satan and Jerome says he’s seen him literally all over the world. Sin, strife, corruption…boom, The Devil was there. Well, yeah, that’s kind of his thing. Ellington is getting dizzy again and the camera is tilting again. Ellington says he doesn’t doubt Brother Jerome but is it possible he might have made a mistake. Nope, uh-uh. Brother Jerome is sure. There has been peace for the last five years. Um, I’m going to call b.s. on that one. Ellington points out that there’s still murders and robberies and general bad shit still happening. Basically that’s just your normal, everyday human suffering. It’s just the really bad stuff like unnatural catastrophes, wars and whatnot that putting The Devil away stopped.
Ellington says he believes Brother Jerome. He didn’t at first but Brother Jerome has him convinced. Uh-huh. Sure. Ellington promises to keep their secret. Brother Jerome thanks him and then says that Ellington may leave the next day if he’s feeling well enough. What’s with this “you may leave”? They were trying to kick him out the door a minute ago. Jerome tells Ellington to go straight to Brother Christophorus’ room.
Ellington makes his way down the hall, passing The Devil’s cell. Maybe if they don’t want people to know about The Devil being there they shouldn’t keep him in the main hall. Ellington just can’t resist one more peek at The Devil. The Devil instantly says that Brother Jerome lied to him, he can see it on Ellington’s face. Ellington tells him that Jerome said he was The Devil. The Howling Man thinks it’s funny and laughs a bit. But stops when he sees Ellington’s face. He asks if Ellington believed Jerome. Ellington says he guesses not. The Howling Man asks Ellington to help him again and Ellington is kind of wiffly about it. He says he’ll come back with the authorities. The Howling Man says that he’ll be dead and disappeared by the time Ellington comes back. At this a very large hand falls on Ellington’s shoulder and Ellington turns to see Brother Chris. Brother Chris came to escort Ellington to his room. Ellington follows Brother Chris into the room but freaks out a little when Brother Chris locks the door.
The key is on an extremely long necklace, just right for gently lifting off over the head. Which Ellington proceeds to do as soon as Brother Chris is asleep. Ellington overacts his way to The Devil’s cell. Ellington asks what does he need to do to help the man get out. The Howling Man tells him to lift the bar off the door. That’s one mighty big Stick of Truth. Ellington asks why hasn’t the man done it himself? Which is a valid question. It’s within arms reach and easily grabbable. I think I would start wondering a bit, myself. The man tells Ellington that if he doesn’t do it they’ll kill them both. Well then why haven’t they? They’ve had him there for five years and Ellington’s been there for several hours. If the monks were that crazy they could have killed him years ago. If Ellington weren’t sick (and his thinking skills ill as well) he’d probably realize this. Right about now Brother Chris wakes up and realizes that his key is missing. Ellington has locked him in so he yells at Ellington to stop. Ellington goes to grab the staff but it looks like it burns his hands at first? I’m not sure but he grabs it, drops it and then wipes his hands on his shirt. The second time goes fine and Ellington frees the man. Ellington hands him his coat as protection from the storm.
The man throws it on then does some magic whammy at Ellington that makes him drop like he’s a rag doll. Well, now we know he’s The Devil because he evilly strokes his goatee before heading for the door. He turns Ellington’s coat into some pretty snazzy demonic threads and poofs away in a puff of smoke (and presumably brimstone or sulfur). Ellington watches him then face plants back onto the floor. Brother Jerome and Brother Chris come in. Jerome kneels down by Ellington and says he feels sorry for him because he’ll remember tonight for the rest of his life and he’ll know exactly who he let back into the world. Ellington says he didn’t believe him. He saw him but didn’t recognize him. Well, The Devil’s tricksy like that.
Aaand we’re back to the beginning of the episode. Ellington says he spent the rest of his life tracking down the Evil One. Looks like it took quite awhile because it wasn’t until after the Korean War had happened. Way to go Ellington. Ellington says he finally did it and points to a steel door with a little baby Truth Staff on it. I guess it doesn’t need to be a great big staff. He’s telling all this to his housekeeper, saying she must never, never open the door. Or touch the staff. Dude, I think a “Don’t open this door or you’re fired” would be sufficient. Or clean your own freaking house. He says that he’s taking him back to Brother Jerome. So maybe it’s a freight crate? How would one transport The Devil? He tells the housekeeper that The Devil will howl a bit but just ignore it. I can already tell by the “this guy’s crazy” look on her face that she’s going to open the damn door. Yup, first damn howl and she takes it off. So The Devil gets free again because she can’t keep her hands off the staff (the ladies love the staff) and he can’t clean his own damn house.
Ancient folks say “You can catch The Devil but you can’t hold him long”. Ask Brother Jerome. Ask David Ellington. They know, and they’ll go on knowing to the end of their days and beyond in the Twilight Zone.
Uhh, did Serling just insinuate that Ellington and Jerome are going to Hell for their failure to hold The Devil. It kind of sounded like it to me. A good episode but holy crap. I could do a better job of keeping The Devil than this ijit. Maybe all he needs is an Uncle Bobby. I always wondered though, why does he howl? Just to annoy the hell out of the person keeping him? I thought it was to makethe person keeping him seem crazy but he seems to do it whether or not anyone’s there.
Join us again next week on Twilight Zone Tuesday for – Eye of the Beholder (one of it’s top-rated episodes and an awesome one).