Night Gallery Tale :: Brenda

I just caught another NIGHT GALLERY segment that I found just as intriguing as the brilliant “Silent Snow, Secret Snow.” It’s not particularly scary but it ended up building a little nest of perplexed disquiet in my head anyway. It’s called “Brenda” and it is the second half of the seventh episode of season two. It’s based on a short story by female sci-fi author MARGARET ST. CLAIR. I point out her gender because during a time when most female genre writers hid behind gender neutral pen names, Margaret was all like, “Aw hells no!”

is about a fruit loop named Brenda who could write a book called “How to Lose Friends and Aggravate People.” The girl is a brat, such a brat that she purposely destroys a sandcastle and not just any sandcastle, mind you, but a sand castle constructed by America’s sweetheart PAMELYN FERDIN. Who the hell is obnoxious enough to do that? Brenda is, that’s who! Although I somewhat hate Brenda, her zero concern about popularity and the perceptions of others I find absolutely thrilling to behold. Actress LAURIE PRANGE is way too old to be playing the part but that just makes her behavior appear more outrageously asinine and underlines the aggravated arrested development that fuels the tale.

One day while strolling in the woods and basking in her own awfulness, Brenda bumps into a creature more horrific than herself, is frightened and then profoundly captivated. In fact, she meets my all time favorite type of monster, a shambling pile of mossy tethers who skulks around like Bigfoot. I love swamp monsters! I’m not sure if it stems from the KOLCHAK “Spanish Moss Murders” episode, D&D, or SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT but my admiration is such that I have painted many a portrait of these amorphous archetypal beasts. In other words, Brenda and I are remarkably on the same page at this point of the story. At first Brenda traps the creature in a giant hole and sparks a realization that everything going on here kind of resembles the Kinder-fave movie entitled THE PIT (1981). Eventually she aids in its escape and devilishly leaves her front door open so that the weird thing can follow her home and terrorize her parents in the middle of the night. Hey, I’m starting to like this girl!

After a night of wreaking somewhat passive havoc across the island community Brenda and her parents are vacationing in, the monster goes back to the pit, covers itself in a stony cocoon and hits the hay. Brenda is heartbroken by the creature’s retreat and the knowledge that her family will be splitting soon and may never return. Seasons come and go, a year passes and Brenda returns more mature and less impish and scampy. You’ll find no shocker twist here, just Brenda hugging the stones that represent her once animated friend and declaring her eternal love and affection. I don’t know what to think except that the monster is a physical representation of the self-alienated Brenda’s charged relationship with her own crazy imagination. It goes into hibernation as she becomes more adult but she is thankful and secure in the knowledge that it lies waiting if needed.

In a way I feel this entry is a perfect companion piece to the previously mentioned “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”; I can’t be 100% sure about the address of its final destination but I know it’s on the corner of Lonely Lane and Insanity Street. I love this type of horror/fantasy storytelling; it backs up my theory that if you want to learn what it means to be human, your best source of information is a monster.

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K.r. Seward
11 years ago

Thanks for posting about Brenda.

Saw the latter 2/3rds of this back in the day. Dragged home late by the parents, I came into the story when creature and Brenda were already acquainted.

Was thinking about it pre-YouTube and sought out the original St. Clair story (different, but still mysterious, refusing to be pinned down). Then got to see the whole episode. Which made it that much more of a brain breaker. My fave NG. Thanks again.

K.r. Seward
11 years ago

Yeah, read the companion (I think, selection of stories that NG episodes were based upon?–a cool book overall). Dunno how easy otherwise that story would be to get. ” Silent Snow, Secret Snow” is in there, I think.

The rockpile is an incredible thing. It’s a burial pile. A monument. An iconic stand-in. And the shambler more or less occupies most of that pile as a weakened but dormant presence. It’s a mark of loss, devotion and possibility. And it’s still the damn shambler. And Brenda loves it.

As the parents are somehow disengaged from & highhanded with the girl, however perverse Brenda may seem, it’s always about exacting attention from others (like a 5th grader punch in the shoulder). The shambler is the only one who responds to her without turning away in anger or disgust. Def. monsters are our tutors in being human.

Thanks again.

11 years ago

Everytime when i see this girl i’m freaking ouot, she has something in her apparence that she is somehow scary.

8 years ago

Thanks for the write-up. I was just thinking of this story in tandem with Silent Snow, Secret Snow as I woke up this morning (having just watched the former last evening.) A prime example of the bizarre other-worldly feel that many NG stories feature. The program Lost frequently reminded me of that Night Gallery vibe.
I assumed the adults (the real villains of this piece) are the ones who covered the creature in stones after they herded it to the pit with their torches (rather than the creature somehow covering itself.) Remember Jim stating he didn’t think it could be killed. I loved Brenda’s father freaking out and yelling JIM!! repeatedly.
The girl did an admirable job in that final soliloquy, managing to produce a tear or two in her performance.

5 years ago

Another great NG episode, Silent snow featuring incredible performances, and Orsin Welles narration, and Brenda, a story I didn’t love at first, but have grown to really enjoy. Laurie Prange was excellent. For all the original stories NG used, go to Scott Skelton runs the site and it is wonderful.

1 year ago

The men placed the rocks on top of the creature in an attempt to contain it. Brenda confirms this by asking her father what they “were doing out all night?” Today, Brenda would just be diagnosed with autism or ADHD, and medicated.