"Night Drive" has two plot elements that make it a typical Suspense episode. First, it involves driving on a lonely road at night while a killer is on the loose. Second, the passenger going along for the ride may or may not be the killer. In those respects, it has some things in common with the famous Suspense radio episode "On a Country Road." "Night Drive" isn't as scary as "On a Country Road," but it does accidentally create a couple of scary moments.
Neva Patterson plays the central character, Mrs. Haley, and it is her performance that prevents this episode from being total garbage. We don't want Mrs. Haley to get hurt, and as long as she is in danger, we are compelled to keep watching, no matter how silly things get.
This episode opens with our substitute host, Terry O'Sullivan. Where is Rex Marshall? They don't tell us. Well, just bear with Terry while he reads his lines off the cue cards and looks terrified. It will be difficult to focus on his words because you will be so transfixed by his eyes, as he reads his lines.
Then, "Night Drive" begins with a slow pan across the shirtless body of Bob the blacksmith. The credits role across his shoulders and are then displayed on his glistening back. He is shoeing a horse for Mrs. Haley because she has to take her carriage on a long drive that night. She has to pick up her husband in the neighboring town of Calumet... ten miles away...at night. She has to drive her carriage through the dark woods alone. So, she will need lots of kerosene in the carriage lamps...because she will be traveling alone at night. Did everyone catch that?
When we next see Mrs. Haley, she is at home with her two young boys. They are having fun making faces in the mirror while their mom is trying to get ready to leave. One of them mentions that she got a phone call while she was out. It was from "the man with the wife that was killed." Well, that was what that their granny told them.
"Oh, that must be Dr. Taber..." says their mother. Someone killed Mrs. Taber when she was driving alone to Calumet. Apparently, Dr. Taber wants a ride to Calumet, but Mrs. Haley doesn't want to spend two hours driving with someone she doesn't know well.
Then, the phone rings. She leaves the room while the boys play with mommy's hats. The call is from Dr. Taber, but he isn't the one who needs a ride, it is his sister. Mrs. Haley agrees to pick her in fifteen minutes.
Mrs. Haley then picks up Dr. Taber's sister, Miss Taber. Wow! She looks a lot like her brother! The similarity is really, really...strong. The two of them start driving and the camera pans across a dark desolate landscape.
Soon, they reach the cut-off. Mrs. Haley hesitates to go into the woods. Dr. Taber's wife was killed in those woods. Mrs. Haley thinks that is creepy, but she should really take a good look at her passenger.
Finally, Mrs. Haley gets around to asking her passenger some questions. Miss Taber says that she never used to come to town, but now that her brother is so "baffled and broody" she has to come more often. "Baffled and broody" about the death of his wife? Yes, he hasn't been the same since.
When they stop to turn up the lamps, Mrs. Haley starts talking about the other woman who was murdered in the woods. That stranger who was just passing through town but ended up being murdered in just the same way as Mrs. Taber. Obviously, it was the same person who killed both!
Well, you have to watch the rest for yourself. Is Miss Taber the killer, or is the killer in the woods waiting for them? Will Mrs. Haley ever get to Calumet to pick up her husband? You'll find out in the second half of the episode. In between, there is an epic commercial for the DeSoto Fire-Dome Eight.
"Night Drive" was based on a story by W.F. Jenkins and written for television Halsted Welles. Neva Patterson, Robert H. Harris, and Brian Keith starred. Robert Stevens produced and directed. This episode aired on February 26, 1952. It is available on disc 2 of Suspense: The Lost Episodes Collection Three.