Séances and Surrealism: Another Night Gallery Tour
Come in, everyone. Glad you could make it. Ready to see some lovely, flower-filled meadows? Contemplate a few peaceful, rustic landscapes?
Sorry to hear that. Because you’ve entered … the Night Gallery.
As founder Rod Serling once said, “In this particular salon, we choose our paintings with an eye more towards terror than technique.” That explains the dark, dusty halls. The chilly drafts that whistle down the corridors. The long shadows that offer numerous hiding places for … well, let’s get started. The night won’t last forever.
Perhaps you joined us on our first tour of the Night Gallery. You may have even tagged along for round two. If so, I can understand why you’re glancing around nervously. But remember, fright doesn’t always take a familiar form. Tonight’s selections prove that there is as much to dread in the brightest day as in the darkest night.
So without further ado, here are 10 more sinister selections for your enjoyment (click on any title to watch the episode it’s part of on Hulu):
THE LITTLE BLACK BAG (December 23, 1970)
Dr. William Fall (Burgess Meredith) is well-named: This once-respected physician is now a skid-row bum, his days filled with nothing nobler than a quest for cheap booze. Then one day he discovers a unique medical bag, erroneously sent back in time from 2098, filled with tools that appear miraculous by 1970 standards. Too bad Dr. Fall’s malicious companion doesn’t share his desire to use it for good … or that the people from 2098 decide to retrieve their advanced technology at a most inopportune time.
CLASS OF ’99 (September 22, 1971)
A college professor (Vincent Price) is administering final exams to a room full of young people. Pretty boring, right? Until the questions turn to racial attitudes, and the scene takes on a decidedly sinister tone. Wait, the professor wants the students to adopt a prejudicial mindset — indeed, will fail them if they don’t view other people as “the enemy”? And he’s urging them to be violent? What’s going on here? A Rod Serling original that’s as thought-provoking today as it was in 1971.
SILENT SNOW, SECRET SNOW (October 20, 1971)
Isolation was a recurring theme on The Twilight Zone, and it resurfaces here with a unique spin. Orson Welles narrates a hauntingly beautiful tale of a boy (who appears autistic, although the word is never used) gradually withdrawing from the outside world. Based on a 1934 short story by Conrad Aiken, this segment proved Serling’s contention that a “horror series” such as Night Gallery didn’t need a non-stop parade of shambling corpses to provide compelling TV.
THE DIARY (November 10, 1971)
A diary is certainly an appropriate New Year’s gift, but gossip columnist Holly Schaeffer (Patty Duke) wasn’t expecting anything from Carrie Crain (Virginia Mayo), an aging Hollywood star targeted by Holly’s poison pen. So when Holly finds the diary predicting dire events that later come true, her psychiatrist (TZ alum David Wayne) tries to help her make sense of it all. Another Serling original, it features one of my favorite twist endings.
DR. STRINGFELLOW’S REJUVENATOR (November 17, 1971)
Anyone who’s seen the Twilight Zone episodes “One for the Angels” and “What You Need” knows that Serling enjoyed writing about pitchmen. But Dr. Ernest Stringfellow (Forrest Tucker), a traveling salesman in Old West times who sells a worthless tonic he touts as a miraculous cure-all to gullible townspeople, merits no sympathy. Murray Hamilton (who played Death in “One for the Angels”) is an alcoholic doctor who tries to awaken his conscience. Poetic justice, served up Serling-style.
THE DARK BOY (November 24, 1971)
When a new schoolteacher named Mrs. Timm joins a Montana frontier community, she finds one more student than she bargained for: a shy young boy who shows up at the schoolhouse only at night and never says a word. Yet when she asks the townsfolk about him, they’re reluctant to even admit he exists. Can she figure out who he is and why he keeps coming back? John “Gomez Addams” Astin directs this gentle yet intriguing tale of regret and redemption.
THE MESSIAH ON MOTT STREET (December 15, 1971)
Christmas is hardly Christmas for me without Serling’s heartfelt Twilight Zone episode “Night of the Meek“. But this touching holiday story of an elderly Jewish man, his faith in the Messiah, and the grandson he loves, is a close second. Abraham Goldman (Edward G. Robinson) is determined to keep the Angel of Death at bay so that he can ensure young Mikey is taken care of. But when Abraham’s health deteriorates, Mikey goes searching for the Messiah. Serling felt that this sentimental tale merited an Emmy nod, and it’s easy to see why.
THE TUNE IN DAN’S CAFÉ (January 5, 1972)
A couple stops in a quiet diner one night and feeds some coins into the jukebox. It plays only one song no matter what they pick, starts skipping halfway through at the same spot, and turns off. What gives? That’s where the record was one fateful evening when the diner erupted in gunfire, the owner explains, after the police cornered a lawless man who’d been betrayed by his beautiful femme fatale. A cleverly directed story of romance and revenge.
THE SINS OF THE FATHERS (February 23, 1972)
If you think of Richard Thomas only as John-Boy Walton, this pre-Waltons episode will be quite an eye-opener. Here he plays Ian, the son of a sin-eater who lives in an old Welsh village. When his father falls ill, Ian’s mother pressures him to take dear old dad’s place. It’s nice to be well-paid, but to feast by a corpse in a symbolic cleansing rite so you can bring food to your family? Poor Ian. Horror queen Barbara Steele was reportedly reluctant to make one of her rare TV appearances … until she read the script and was suitably impressed. I think you’ll be, too.
SOMETHING IN THE WOODWORK (January 14, 1973)
Getting back at your ex-spouse? That’s something that happens practically every day. Trying to use the ghost in your attic to do it? Now, there’s a Gallery-esque twist. Not that Molly Wheatland (three-time NG star Geraldine Page) is having an easy time of it. The ghost in this case isn’t all that eager to do the job. It isn’t long before Molly is having one of Serling’s recurring be-careful-what-you-wish-for moments … and wishing that she’d never gotten into the, ahem, spirit of things.
We hope you’ve enjoyed your time in this special museum, where, as Serling once said, “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.”
Of course, I can see from your apprehensive expressions that it’s been a successful tour. Excellent! The next time you feel a chill up your spine, be sure and think of us. Until your next visit …
Night Gallery Tour #1: Cobwebs and Canvases
Night Gallery Tour #2: Brushstrokes and Broomsticks
For more on Night Gallery, try this amazing book. 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!
Posted on 11/05/2015, in Night Gallery and tagged Burgess Meredith, Class of ‘99, David Wayne, Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator, Edward G. Robinson, Forrest Tucker, Geraldine Page, John Astin, Murray Hamilton, Night Gallery, Orson Welles, Patty Duke, Richard Thomas, Rod Serling, Silent Snow Secret Snow, Something in the Woodwork, The Dark Boy, The Diary, The Little Black Bag, The Messiah on Mott Street, The Sins of the Fathers, The Tune in Dan’s Café, Vincent Price. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.