Enjoy an Exclusive Tour of the New “Art of Darkness” Night Gallery Book with Co-Author Scott Skelton
It’s been a long time coming, Night Gallery fans, but “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: The Art of Darkness” — an oversized volume containing high-quality reproductions of all the show’s paintings — is finally here.
Regular readers of this blog have heard me talk about it before, both in a preview post last May, and in a post about how it was available to order a few months later. The book finally started rolling off the presses late last year. It took a while for it to get out — the pandemic did no one any favors, of course — but as anyone who’s received their copy can tell you, it was well worth the wait.
I recently asked co-author and Night Gallery expert Scott Skelton if he could join me for a short Q&A about the book. Scott, you may recall, joined me for a presentation at the 2019 Serling Fest, where we marked the 50th anniversary of the original Night Gallery movie. Here’s our conversation:
Paul: So the book is out and in just about everyone’s hands at last. Are you happy with how it turned out? From the outside, it looks like it was a bigger success than you were anticipating.
Scott: We’re all very pleased with the quality of the book, how well-designed it is, how respectful it is of the artistry that went into the making of these paintings. It surpasses many coffee-table art books I’ve seen in its savvy design and high publishing standards. Then again, almost all of us involved were die-hard fans of the show and its artwork, and Taylor White, the publisher, was the biggest fan of all. He spared no expense in creating this volume.
I can’t say I’m surprised at the enthusiasm shown by the buyers and fans. I’ve been writing about this show since the mid-1990s, and spearheaded the first social-network fan groups for the show. Over time, I became acutely aware of how many people out there had been pining for this type of book for decades, and still sought out the rare and hard-to-locate art prints that still existed on the second-hand market.
The success of this sort of book is always a gamble, I suppose, and if our reach to alert the fans was ineffectual, poorly planned, or fell short, we could have shot ourselves in the foot — no doubt about it. But that didn’t happen.
Paul: One of the reasons I’ve been particularly looking forward to talking about the book on my Twitter page and my blog is that the paintings tend to be popular with everyone, even people who don’t really like Night Gallery as a show. Has that been your experience too — that the paintings are something that even non-NG fans can appreciate?
Scott: It has always been the aspect of the show (outside of respect for Serling) that fans still agree on the most — how intensely some of these artworks affected them when they were younger. But there are fans of “dark art,” of paintings with subject matter on the disturbing side, who love these paintings without being fans of the show.
Paul: I get the impression that the idea for this book goes back a long ways — to the publication of your After-Hours book, in fact. How long was it from idea to realization? Were there any notable bumps along the way that threatened to derail the project?
Scott: More bumps than can be listed here. Taylor and I had been discussing this project since the late 1990s. We’ve tried more than once since then to make this project happen, but we kept hitting a wall at the studio. But the times have changed, studios are now far more aware of the rise of the memorabilia market, and, lucky for us, the technology to bring these images to the page has finally been developed to a very high level of sophistication.
There were problems in the last few years that had to be surmounted, too, make no mistake. But Taylor could not be stopped and never let a few road blocks get in his way.
Paul: I know it took a lot of work, planning, and patience to make the book happen. Can you describe briefly what was involved in bringing this together?
Scott: Finding the paintings that still existed in collectors’ hands was always the primary issue: locating who had them and getting their permission to photograph them. We were lucky, really, in that some of the information just came about casually, through conversations. Jim Benson and I had kept track of some of the sales over the years, so we at least had a place to start to hunt them down. The secondary issue was persuading Universal to deliver screen grabs directly from the celluloid in the cases of those paintings that had been lost to time and distance. That process was time-consuming, expensive, and took a lot of bargaining at Taylor’s end.
Paul: What are your favorite paintings?
Scott: Naturally, I would be ecstatic to own any of the original pieces. But do I have favorites? Sure. The list runs to about half of the entire lot, so I’ll try to restrain myself a bit. My top picks in broadcast order:
The Cemetery, The Dead Man, The Nature of the Enemy, The House, Clean Kills and Other Trophies, Pamela’s Voice, Lone Survivor, The Doll, The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes, Phantom of What Opera? The Flip-Side of Satan, A Fear of Spiders, The Phantom Farmhouse, Silent Snow, Secret Snow, A Question of Fear, Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator, Pickman’s Model, Cool Air, The Messiah on Mott Street, Logoda’s Heads, The Funeral, Lindemann’s Catch, The Late Mr. Peddington, A Feast of Blood, The Waiting Room, Last Rites for a Dead Druid, Deliveries in the Rear, There Aren’t Any More MacBanes, The Sins of the Fathers, The Caterpillar, The Return of the Sorcerer, The Other Way Out, and Death on a Barge.
Paul: You named a lot of my favorites, too! I nearly always bring up Lone Survivor and The Funeral, for example. But I’ve also found that some paintings I really like are from segments I’m not necessarily a big fan of, while there are some episodes I absolutely love, but the painting doesn’t move me. A good example of the latter: They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar. The segment is one of Serling’s finest works, in my opinion, while the painting … well, I get what Tom was going for in the shattered-glass effect, but I can’t say I love it. Do you find that to be the case for you too?
Scott: Yes. Some of the canvases for the idiotic comic blackouts are very striking, and at least one of them can be counted among my favorites. But there are a few classic episodes that elicited a less-than-inspired effort, at least in my opinion. It’s entirely subjective, as you know. There’s no yardstick for beauty in art, only occasional consensus.
Paul: I’m noticing details in some of the paintings that I never noticed in all of my years of watching the show. What are some of things that came to light even for a bona fide Night Gallery expert as yourself?
Scott: I find those telling details in some of these reproductions, sure, but nothing like I experienced when in the actual, physical presence of these masterworks. Texture and color, brush strokes and palette smears, can only be truly seen when you get close to them physically. And that is the best way to see them. But this book gets awfully close to matching that experience.
Copies of “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: The Art of Darkness” can be ordered at CreatureFeatures.com.
To order the definitive book about the series, “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: An After-Hours Tour” (for only about $26 US!), click here. To read a spoiler-free overview of my favorite episodes, click here.
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!