Cobwebs and Canvases: A Night Gallery Tour

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.

Serling NG pilot

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 …

THE CEMETERY (pilot movie — Nov. 8, 1969)

NG - The Cemetery

The one that started it all. Night Gallery began as a TV movie with three chilling tales, and this one — featuring Roddy McDowell as a greedy man who hastens his rich uncle’s death to claim an inheritance — is good, creepy fun. Especially because the uncle in question won’t stay buried. Aaaaand you can track his progress through a painting of the family crypt that, um, keeps changing. Ossie Davis co-stars. Boris Sagal (father of actress Katie Sagal, and director of the Twilight Zone episode “The Silence”) directs the first in a trio of Serling originals.

***

A FEAR OF SPIDERS (Season 2, Episode 4 — Oct. 6, 1971)

NG - A Fear of Spiders

The title says it all, really. Though I’ll add this: It stars Patrick O’Neal as a misanthropic writer who’s trying to work in peace. That’s not easy when you have to fend off the unwelcome advances of your lovestruck neighbor, as well as a few eight-legged creatures who seem to get bigger every time they show up. You’re going to need more than a can of Raid to fumigate THIS place. Especially the bedroom. Why do spiders always seem to camp out in the bedroom? John Astin (yes, TV’s Gomez Addams) directs.

***

A QUESTION OF FEAR (Season 2, Episode 6 — Oct. 27, 1971)

NG - A Question of Fear

This old plot? Guy takes a $15,000 bet that he won’t spend a night in a haunted house? Ah, the plot’s familiar, but the Night Gallery twist is something you won’t see coming. Leslie Nielsen plays a tough guy who scoffs at the very idea of haunted houses. By the time his stay is over, though, he’s wishing the place was merely haunted. Fritz Weaver (the Chancellor in Twilight Zone’s “The Obsolete Man”) plays a host who plays for keeps. He doesn’t care about the money. He has a more sinister agenda in mind.

***

PICKMAN’S MODEL (Season 2, Episode 11– Dec. 1, 1971)

NG - Pickman's Model

A Victorian-era artist (Bradford Dillman) becomes notorious among Boston’s blue bloods for his blood-curdling portraits of strange, feral creatures. But what of those rumors that he bases them not on an overactive imagination, but on real-life monsters? One of his art students is determined to find out. Think she’ll like what she finds when she prowls around Pickman’s dark, spooky house? An Emmy nominee for best make-up, this is one of two Night Gallery episodes that were based on short stories by the legendary H.P. Lovecraft.

***

THE OTHER WAY OUT (Season 3, Episode 6 — Nov. 19, 1972)

NG - The Other Way Out

Ordinary businessman returns from vacation, rested and refreshed — only to get a disturbing communication from … the hotel where he skipped out on the bill? If only. No, it’s from someone who knows he killed a stripper. Someone who’s demanding that he bring a lot of money to a secluded country house. Someone who … well, watch and see. Twilight Zone veteran Ross Martin and Burl Ives (yes, Burl Ives!) star in a tale of revenge you might have trouble shaking.

***

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY (Season 2, Episode 2, Sept. 22, 1971)

NG - A Death in the Family

E.G.Marshall plays an undertaker who takes special pity on the societal outcasts he’s asked to bury as charity cases. How nice. He even refuses to bury them, instead dressing them in special outfits and adopting them as members of his own unique “family.” How … strange. So you can imagine how a wounded fugitive who’s fleeing the police feels when he stumbles onto Marshall’s secret and is forced to accept the eccentric’s hospitality. Serling’s script gives this macabre tale a surprisingly humane edge.

***

THE DOLL (Season 1, Episode 5 — Jan. 13, 1971)

NG - The Doll2

Think Talky Tina of Twilight Zone’s “Living Doll” is bad? Meet her sister. She’s just as lethal, but lacks Tina’s deceptively sweet smile. This tiny tyrant doesn’t even bother issuing silky-smooth threats; she just kills. A retired British military officer finds her an unwelcome addition to his household when an old adversary sends the doll to his niece, who happily adopts the ugly thing. But there’s a hidden objective behind that homicidal grin. John Williams (who played William Shakespeare in Twilight Zone‘s “The Bard”) stars in a tale that director Guillermo del Toro found particularly terrifying as a child.

***

GREEN FINGERS (Season 2, Episode 15 — Jan. 5, 1972)

NG - Green Fingers

Elsa Lanchester doesn’t have to be dressed up as the bride of Frankenstein to give you a good chill. Here she stars as a grandmotherly sort who has a real penchant for gardening. She also has little patience for those who cross her. So when an unscrupulous land developer tries to run her off her land, he gets a horticultural lesson he won’t soon forget. Oh, you think he’ll wind up planted in the garden? Nothing so obvious. Directed with flair by Night Gallery veteran John Badham (brother of “To Kill a Mockingbird” star Mary Badham).

***

THE CATERPILLAR (Season 2, Episode 22 — March 1, 1972)

NG - Caterpillar (1)

Man sees woman, man wants woman, woman is married to another man. But this particular man is a British exile stuck in a manner house deep in the jungles of Borneo. With the help of a conniving local, he hits upon a unique way of dispatching his rival: an earwig. A tiny insect that can crawl in the ear while you sleep and burrow into your brain. Hey, accidents happen, right? And what could possibly go wrong? Laurence Harvey pursues the telegenic Joanna Pettit (a five-time Night Gallery star) in a wicked tale of lust, desperation and poetic justice.

***

THEY’RE TEARING DOWN TIM RILEY’S BAR (Season 1, Episode 6 — Jan. 20, 1971)

NG - Tim Riley's Bar

A lonely widower who’s spent 25 years at the same company finds himself having to fend off an ambitious young turk who’s gunning for his job. Small wonder he’s hitting the bottle a little too hard and pining for the good old days. Pining so hard, in fact, that whenever he passes his favorite hangout, the empty, soon-to-be demolished Tim Riley’s bar, he hears familiar voices from inside. The voices of his friends, his father, and his wife. He can see them, too. Can his caring secretary (Diane Baker) convince him that the present is worth living in, or will he disappear completely into the past? William Windom (the major in TZ’s “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”) brings one of Serling’s most touching scripts to heart-breaking life. If you’re a fan of Twilight Zone‘s “Walking Distance” or “A Stop at Willoughby”, this one is for you.

***

I hope you’ve enjoyed this all-too-brief tour of our little museum. There are many other excellent exhibits that I haven’t shown you yet, including “Cool Air,” “Camera Obscura,” “Class of ’99,” “The Messiah on Mott Street” … the list goes on, but I’ll save those for another time. Otherwise, we’ll be here all night.

Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. This “mausoleum of the malignant,” as Serling once called it, is a unique gallery, after all. “Anyone can show you a Rembrandt or a Picasso,” he added, “but we dig much deeper with our paintings — frequently six feet underground.”

RS3

[And if you’d like to check out our other exhibits, be sure to look for Night Gallery on Hulu and on DVD. Season 1, Season 2 and Season 3 are all available through Amazon.]

Photo illustrations by Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

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About Paul

Hard-working, hard-playing fan of all pop culture, especially the Twilight Zone. Which led to a Twitter page. And then to a blog. And then to ... stay tuned. Yes, that's a picture of Rod Serling, not me. You can find the real me under the "Your Host" tab on my blog, along with biographical details that, while 100 percent accurate, sound kind of boastful and braggy. Sorry.

Posted on 03/15/2013, in Night Gallery, Rod Serling and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. This is one of your best posts yet, Boss! A great idea, executed beautifully, as always. I haven’t seen many episodes of Night Gallery (only two of the ten you’ve listed here), but you’ve convinced me I need to see more.

    You linked to Night Gallery on Hulu, but allow me to remind your international readers that there are many episodes available on YouTube as well.

    And you’re very welcome for the pics (and the advice). It was fun to make those up for this post. I’m always glad for the opportunity to collaborate with you. Tons of fun and great results guaranteed. ;)

  2. Thanks! I’m inclined to agree, but if it’s one of my best posts, that’s only because it’s a “Paul and Wendy” team effort.

    Your assistance really was invaluable. When I had the idea for doing this post, I remember wondering what I’d use to illustrate it: the paintings, or pics from the episodes? Thanks to you, my dilemma was short-lived. You said you had an idea, and soon I was enjoying the best of both worlds. Thanks to you, the post has a very sharp, eye-catching look.

    Here’s to the next P&W production, which I’m sure will be even better than this one. ;)

  3. Great post, Paul (and Wendy)!

    I’m still working though the Night Gallery collection I received from Christmas, so haven’t seen them all, but “The Cemetery” is one of my favorites (also love the dreamy one with the woman dreaming of meeting herself at the house she later buys…)! Once I work through them all, I may also post my favorites, but it may take a while, since I’m just not as familiar with them as I am with The Twilight Zone….

    • Thanks, Frank! Yes, it’s very appropriate to include the indispensible Wendy. Without her, these posts wouldn’t look nearly as good!

      Glad to hear you’re enjoying Night Gallery. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check out https://thenightgallery.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/a-private-showing/ and the other NG posts that I linked to in this piece. It’s no TZ, but NG is still very rewarding. After you’ve seen them all, I look forward to hearing what your favorites are. I appreciate the comment!

  4. It’s always interesting to see what someone thought were the best episodes. I’m still waiting for someone who shares my awe of “The Waiting Room,” or my new favorite, “The Black Bag.” Whereas the popular “Tim Riley” strikes me as about the most pedestrian, off the shelf, and just plain terrible thing Rod ever wrote. That’s what makes horse races, I guess. Totally with you on “A Question Of Fear.”

    • Yes, I always find it interesting to hear from people on my TZ Twitter page about what their favorite episodes are. Each one has its rabid fans and its passionate detractors.

      I’m with you on “The Waiting Room” and “The Little Black Bag,” but I’m amazed to hear anyone trash “Tim Riley”! Serling himself was quite proud of it, and justifiably so. That was HIM in the character of Randy Lane, whose dilemma he clearly identified with.

      But hey, if everyone’s tastes were the same, what a boring world it would be. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Greg! Stay tuned for more about “Night Gallery.” I’m sure to blog about the episodes you named at some point!

  5. Thanks so much for this! I have fond memories of sitting up on Saturday nights (when our station aired N.G. around ’71-’72) when I was about 11! I would compare this favorably not only to the original and ’80’s revivals of Twilight Zone, but to the ’90’s series “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”, another neglected gem. And N.G. inspired me to write my own horror and fantasy stories all these years later. Thank you, Mr. Serling and Mr. Laird.

    • You’re welcome, Jeff! Glad you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. NG inspired quite a few writers, from what I can tell. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I need to find a way to watch one of these. Oh, the guy with the cone hat made me think of the poor soul (was it Dan?) that Anthony turned into a jumping Jack. One of the most frightening scenes ever. Wish that into the cornfield, bro. Thanks for another great post.

    • My pleasure, sir! You can watch any of them online by clicking the titles above. They’re live links to Hulu, where you can see them free of charge. Enjoy — and feel free to come back and tell me what you thought!

  7. I have been a collector of these paintings and statuary for over 20 years. Thanks for giving them a little street cred.

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