Category Archives: Night Gallery
Long before “Jaws”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” made him a household name, Steven Spielberg was just another unknown director with hopes for fame and fortune. And the first step toward that goal took him through a shadowy museum known as … Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.
The pilot movie, to be specific. The 21-year-old director would helm the middle segment of three dark-edged tales written by Serling himself. It premiered on November 8, 1969, and was a ratings success, leading to the Night Gallery series a year later.
While Spielberg was a novice, however, his star was anything but. The part of Claudia Menlo, the predatory blind dowager in “Eyes,” was to be played by none other than Joan Crawford.
Crawford, then 65, had already starred in more than 90 feature films, dating back to the silent era. “Directing Joan Crawford was like pitching to Hank Aaron your first time in the game,” Spielberg later remarked. Read the rest of this entry
Want to see a good scary movie? Skip the multiplex. I have something better. Spend the evening playing with dolls.
Before you chuckle TOO loudly, perhaps I’d better introduce them. You really don’t want them to hear you.
First up is Willie. Yes, a ventriloquist … well, I hesitate to say “dummy,” but that’s what these wooden sidekicks are usually called. He’s been known to resist whenever his owner suggests changes to the act. How can a stick of wood object, you ask? Oh, he has ways. And they don’t end well for people who oppose him. Just ask Goofy Goggles. Not that he can give you much of an answer. Goofy’s part of the pavement now, thanks to Willie’s little games.
Next to him: Talky Tina. Quite a smile on that one! Here’s a tip, though: when she says anything other than “I love you”? RUN. Trust me. Don’t bother arguing with her, and for pity’s sake, don’t drag her to the garage and try to use your circular saw to decapitate her. (Note the word “try”.) Just steer clear, or you might take an unscheduled trip down the stairs in the middle of the night. Read the rest of this entry
It’s been 40 years since the last painting was hung in the darkened display known as Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. But for those who enjoy a good campfire story — something light on gore and heavy on shivers — the doors have never closed. The cobwebbed corridors still beckon.
But be careful. You never know who might be looking over your shoulder.
So let’s take a look around. Alas, Mr. Serling can’t be here, so I hope you don’t mind if I serve as your tour guide today. I’d like to show you some of my favorites … Read the rest of this entry
I might as well be upfront about it. This isn’t the usual post. I’m not here to highlight some behind-the-scenes details about the filming of a Twilight Zone, or to drill down into some little-noticed aspect of Rod Serling’s work.
Nope. I’m here to brag.
Many of you know that months before I started this blog, I was hosting what I immodestly call “the ultimate marathon” on Twitter. It began as a whim. My goal was simple: to create more awareness of the Twilight Zone’s underappreciated step brother: Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, a horror/suspense series that ran for three seasons on NBC in the early 1970s.
Before long, though, I found it impossible to ignore Serling’s other works — books, teleplays, movies, and a little thing called The Twilight Zone. Read the rest of this entry
On Sept. 22, 1971, NBC aired the second episode of Night Gallery’s second season. It was a strong hour for the series, anchored by two very effective tales scripted by Rod Serling: “A Death in the Family” with E.G. Marshall, and “Class of ’99” with Vincent Price.
Each deserves its own blog post, so I’ll use this one to highlight a particular aspect of the Marshall segment. If you haven’t watched it before, try the link below. And if you want to avoid spoilers, stop here, and then come back when you’re done.
Marshall plays an unusual undertaker named Jared Soames. Like many of us, he pities the cast-off members of society who come through his door for a charity funeral. But unlike many of us, he goes a macabre step further. He adopts those who have no family into his “family” — of corpses. Lovingly preserved, they populate a specially kept room in his basement. Read the rest of this entry
Being an unabashed fan of “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery,” I should be thrilled that it’s joining Me-TV’s regular fall schedule. And I am — with one reservation.
Simply put: The Night Gallery that the network will be showing is not the version that originally aired. It’s been edited, in some cases quite severely.
Here’s why. Night Gallery ran for three seasons. During the first two, each episode was an hour long. Only in its third season (when it was cancelled after 15 episodes) did it go to 30 minutes. By the end of its run, there were fewer than 50 episodes. Read the rest of this entry
“Good evening, and welcome to a private showing of three paintings, displayed here for the first time. Each is a collector’s item in its own way — not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures on a canvas, suspends in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare.
“Our initial offering: a small gothic item in blacks and grays. A piece of the past known as the family crypt. This one we call simply The Cemetery. Offered to you now, six feet of earth and all that it contains. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Night Gallery.”
And with those words, Rod Serling gave TV viewers their first glimpse of a unique art display — designed not to be edifying, but to be eerie. Read the rest of this entry
“You’re most welcome in this particular museum. There’s no admission, no requirement of membership, only a strong and abiding belief in the dark at the top of the stairs, or things that go bump in the night.”
And with those promising words from Rod Serling, Night Gallery’s second season got underway on Sept. 15, 1971. It featured no fewer than four segments, only one of which really deserves solid praise. (In saying that, I don’t want to discourage anyone who’s never sampled Night Gallery; it’s simply that better episodes lay ahead, although even some of the best could be bit uneven.)
That segment, “The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes,” is the lead-off story. Serling scripted it from the short story of the same name by Margaret St. Clair. It concerns a boy with a weekly TV show — a forum for his remarkable ability to prophesy. For reasons unknown, he can “see” into the near future, enabling him to warn about impending disasters, crimes, discoveries, etc.
Because of his unerring accuracy, he naturally attracts a huge audience. For the sake of those who haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s an intriguing one, and it demonstrates Night Gallery’s laudable effort to stage frightening stories that didn’t rely on monsters, vampires and other conventional staples of the genre.
Being a young, impressionable Night Gallery fan is no guarantee that you’ll grow up to become a successful filmmaker. But it can’t hurt. Just ask Guillermo del Toro.
The director of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy” has noted in several interviews the strong mark that the series left on him as a boy. And when his 1993 film “Cronos” was released on DVD and Blu-ray, he singled out one Gallery segment in particular: Season 1’s “The Doll.”
According to the Los Angeles Times blog “Hero Complex”:
Del Toro also discussed his long-time love affair with the horror genre, vividly recalling the 1970s macabre television series “Night Gallery,” which he watched alone, at night, when he was just a child. Read the rest of this entry
Occasionally someone will notice the location I have listed on my Twitter page, “Tim Riley’s Bar,” and ask if Tim Riley is my real name.
It’s not. It’s a reference to one of the most powerful stories to appear on Night Gallery, “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.” In fact, it’s one of the best things Serling ever wrote — something that even he, his own harshest critic, didn’t bother to deny.
In his last interview, Serling was asked which of his works he particularly liked. He named three: 1) his 1956 Emmy-award winning teleplay “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” 2) one he had just written (“A Stop Along the Way”) and 3) “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.” He was clearly proud of it — and justifiably so.
If you’ve ever seen Twilight Zone‘s “Walking Distance,” then you have some idea of the territory that Serling mines here. A middle-aged salesman named Randy Lane, played to perfection by William Windom, is marking his 25th anniversary at the plastics company he works for — and trying desperately to battle both loneliness (he’s a widower) and the young, brash assistant who’s gunning for his job. He longs for the old days, when he, his wife and his friends would gather for drinks, music and laughs at Tim Riley’s Bar. Read the rest of this entry