Quite often in the world of television, opportunities are missed, seemingly for no good reason at all. When searching for examples of this, look no further than the horror/suspense anthology, The Veil. Why did it never officially air on television? The series had a lot going for it, including having the horror icon Boris Karloff (Frankenstein 1930) not only hosting it but acting in all but one of the episodes! Still, the series was never broadcast on any television networks and was basically left to rot on the proverbial vine. So, what’s the big deal?
Here’s a full episode of The Veil (and my personal favorite):
The Veil is not all doom and gloom, however. As you can see, anyone can actually watch the series online nowadays, and Amazon has the show on DVD for those who still adhere to physical media. Some of the episodes are actually pretty good, too. Each one is less than 30 minutes long, which makes it easier to watch as a brief intermission to your day, requiring less time commitment than many other current series.
Did I mention that these half-hour installments were produced in 1958 by Hal Roach Studios? That might be why this show went unaired, as Hal Roach, Jr. wasn’t quite as good at handling the company as his father. The studio went bankrupt in 1959.
The Veil Episodes
I’m not going to go into every episode, but I will mention a few highlights from the series. Interestingly, the episode, “The Vestris,” is the only one that aired on regular television, but as a backdoor pilot for the series, Telephone Time. It stars Boris Karloff, Torin Thatcher (Sabotage 1936), and Rita Lynn (Inner Sanctum 1954)
“Girl on the Road” is somewhat interesting for at least one reason. Eve Brent, who plays the character, Elaine Connelly, here, might also be recognized as playing Elaine Connelly in The Green Mile. She also appeared in the Tales from the Crypt episode, “The Man Who Was Death.” Both happen to also feature actor William Sadler… although she doesn’t appear in The Shawshank Redemption.
“Food on the Table” is a reasonably entertaining episode. It’s a weird melodrama involving poisonous snakes aboard a ship and an illness. Also, a ghost gets mad at the food on the table! It’s a unique blending of themes, being alternately silly and serious at times.
“Summer Heat” has a Rear Window-like vibe. You’ll wonder if Mr. Paige (Harry Bartell: Thriller; 1957) actually witnessed a murder across the street, Or is he suffering hallucinations from the heat, and the crime is merely a crazy coincidence? There’s a mean-spirited (yet still funny) statement that Mrs. Foley (Gretchen Thomas: I Was a Teenage Frankenstein – 1957) is always looking awful. Poor woman!
What’s possibly the worst episode of The Veil? One episode, “The Return of Madame Vernoy,” comes across as well-meaning enough, but would no doubt be dismissed as racist by modern standards. The reason has mostly to do with the casting: Quite simply, nobody would ever think George Hamilton (Love at First Bite; 1979) could play a convincing boy from India. That’s right. This episode is brimming with white people playing non-white characters.
That being said, the story itself actually has some heart to it, if you can look past that initial iffiness. Well, okay, it’s still no masterpiece, even putting such controversy aside.
Best Episode of The Veil?
Finally, I should again mention what, to my mind, must be the biggest episode from The Veil: “Jack the Ripper.” Whereas shockingly few Jack the Ripper episodes or films are compelling, this one actually pretty much nails it. Yes, there’s a bit of the ol’ psychic schtick, where a character (Niall MacGinnis: Island of Terror; 1966) has visions of murders. However, his performance lends a little weight to the story, and it’s simply a well-done story. In fact, if I was to recommend only one Jack the Ripper-themed tale in pop culture, this would be a strong candidate.
Each episode was narrated by Actor Boris Karloff, so that’s a reason alone to check out The Veil. For the most part, the stories are very simple in appearance and greatly focused on the atmosphere, cast, and pacing of each segment. Had Hal Roach been better managed at the time, I suspect this show’s journey might have continued along with avid viewers just waiting for the next episode.
Key cultural motifs such as conspiracy, crime, and spirituality were frequently explored through the series, all in the search of an answer to a mysterious phenomenon that affected the lives of the characters. You, the viewer, are left to scoff or attribute strange/unexplainable events to supernatural forces. If you are easily startled by depictions of unexplainable events, ghosts, freaky coincidences, and psychic phenomena, The Veil could potentially freak you out. As stated already, you can always test the waters by finding episodes online.
What are your thoughts on The Veil? Reveal your thoughts in the comments!