Blog Archives

Serling Re-Framing Efforts: Night Gallery’s “The Doll”

Willie. Caesar. Talky Tina. Yes, when it came to haunted dolls, The Twilight Zone certainly left its mark. But Night Gallery made one notable contribution to this spooky subgenre in its first season: “The Doll.”

That’s right, Gallery fans — the toy that resembles Barbie on meth. Talky Tina liked to talk, but not this little darling. Like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, she prefers to keep quiet (at least when she’s on screen) and let her weapons speak for themselves — said weapons in this case being a set of sharp teeth.

I guess with a calling card like that, you don’t need a name. Here’s how Serling sets it up:

“This little collector’s item here dates back a few hundred years to the British-Indian Colonial period — proving only that sometimes the least likely objects can be filled with the most likely horror. Our painting is called ‘The Doll,’ and this one you’d best not play with.”

This, by the way, is one of the few Gallery intros that fans will often quote to me — that last phrase, anyway — if I share the painting for this episode, or just a pic from it. So this story obviously has had a real impact on most viewers!

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Serling Fest 2021: An All-Star Line-Up Set to Appear in Binghamton Oct. 15-17

It’s been two years since we last had an in-person Serling Fest. Thanks a lot, Covid! 😒

We didn’t go completely without last year, though. Thanks to Nick Parisi, president of the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation (and author of an excellent volume on Rod Serling), we got to enjoy a one-day virtual Fest in August 2020. It was certainly fun, but there’s no substitute for meeting in person, is there?

So I’m happy to share with you the line-up for this year’s in-person (but masked) Serling Fest. It’s a packed agenda, and it includes a special guest: Marc Scott Zicree, author of the indispensable “Twilight Zone Companion.” There’s going to be talks, live performances, games, prizes — even a Kickstarter campaign to get a Rod Serling statue built in Recreation Park. And admission is free.

You may notice a familiar name on Sunday’s dance card. That’s right, yours truly will be there, in a presentation that covers “Rod Serling’s genius in adapting classic short stories by other authors into Night Gallery episodes.”

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Night Gallery Headed for a Blu-ray Release at Last

I remember when I first saw Rod Serling’s Night Gallery in its original form. Not the exact date, no, but the year: 2004. That’s when NBC Universal issued Season 1 on DVD.

Until then, Gallery fans had only one choice: the reruns that aired on Syfy (and elsewhere) in the 1980s and ’90s. They were larded with commercials, of course, but worse, they were part of the Syndication Edit. I have a link at the end to explain what I mean by that, but the upshot is that the Night Gallery I’d been watching until 2004 was a poor substitute for the episodes that first aired between 1969 and 1973.

Season 1 is the shortest, though: only six hour-long episodes. Sure, the DVD set included the pilot movie — and Universal tried to pad it out further by including a couple “bonus” episodes from Seasons 2 and 3 — but we’re still not talking a LOT of entertainment. And it lacked any other extras: no interviews, documentaries, or commentaries. So I was really looking forward to Season 2 coming out.

And it did … four years later, in 2008. Then Season 3 came out … four years after that, in 2012. Eight years to collect them all!

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Serling’s Re-Framing Efforts: Night Gallery’s “The House”

“Ghost story.” The phrase evokes images of a creaky, abandoned house, filled with large cobwebs and banging shutters. A pale moon in a dark sky casts deep shadows. A figure in white glides through dusty ruins.

In other words, the opposite of what we get in Night Gallery‘s “The House.”

Oh, it’s about a ghost, but this tale of a haunting is set in bright daylight. The titular abode looks like a real-estate agent’s dream. And the apparition lurking inside isn’t a foreboding phantom under a sheet.

Sounds very modern, doesn’t it? And yet to bring viewers this unconventional twist on a familiar trope, Rod Serling adapted a story written many years earlier by a French writer named André Maurois. It’s truly a short short story — only about 800 words.

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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:

Scott Skelton

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.

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“Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: The Art of Darkness” Now Available to Order

“These aren’t your ordinary canvases. You don’t find Monet in a mausoleum or van Gogh in a graveyard.” — Rod Serling, introducing an episode of Night Gallery

There’s some serious Serling understatement. The paintings shown before each story on Night Gallery were anything but ordinary. This was no school trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, believe me.

Even when the segment was so-so, the canvases were cool. What a treat it would’ve been to take a personal tour, the way our self-described “little ol’ curator” did each week.

That isn’t possible, unfortunately, but you can enjoy the next best thing by getting a copy of the forthcoming book I described in a post last May: “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: The Art of Darkness”.

I wish I could say this was something you can order for $30 or so on Amazon. I can’t. It’s a bit pricier than that. I’ll tell you that right up front. But considering the incredible amount of work that went into it, as the authors painstakingly tracked down the many paintings that had been lost, to photograph and reproduce them in the highest-quality detail imaginable, it’s hard to deny that the higher cost is justified.

As co-author Scott Skelton put in on the book’s official Facebook page: Read the rest of this entry

Twilight Zone Streaming: Going with the Flow or Headed for the Rocks?

If you’re a fan of vintage TV shows and you subscribe to a streaming service, life is a bit like being in a “Friday the 13th” movie: You know just about everyone is going to get it — the only question is when.

“The New Exhibit”

Still, it hurts when your favorites leave. In the last week alone, I’ve seen The Outer Limits (the original and the ‘90s reboot) depart Hulu, while The Andy Griffith Show has disappeared from Netflix.

Both are included in Amazon Prime, fortunately, so I have a fallback. But even Prime has disappointed me lately. It was carrying the first season of Night Gallery (all three seasons of which used to be on Hulu until early 2019), but now even that’s gone.

A couple of other favorites, meanwhile, have gone from being free for Prime members to being something you have to pay extra for.

There are still some great old shows streaming on all three services, particularly on Hulu and Prime. And of course The Twilight Zone is on all three.

“A Thing About Machines”

The question is, how long will it remain? I don’t know the answer to that, so I’m writing today to say that if you enjoy TZ on any streaming service, don’t take it for granted. Read the rest of this entry

Night Gallery’s “Class of ’99”: Serling’s Chilling Examination of Prejudice

You don’t have to be the world’s greatest writer to pen an effective script about the evils of prejudice. But to do it in a witty, inventive way? To create a story that really makes you think, that stays with you long after it’s over?

Leave that to Rod Serling. Exhibit A: Night Gallery’s “Class of ‘99”. It’s a shame this story isn’t better known, because it’s one of his best works. And I don’t say that lightly.

If you haven’t seen it before, I’d fix that ASAP. It’s not long — only about 18 minutes. If you have the Season 2 DVDs, it’s the third segment of the second episode. Or you can click this link and watch it on NBC.com (with a couple of ad breaks, but at least it’s uncut). Spoilers ahead, as always.

The story begins simply enough. We see college students filing into a classroom — a rather Spartan, amphitheater-type setting, rather than the usual desks — to take their final exam. The professor (Vincent Price, in the first of two Night Gallery roles) cordially wishes them good luck as they field oral questions from him.

The first few deal with the physical sciences. The students are right on top of it, supplying names and formulas with no hesitation. Then a student named Johnson is asked to name four leading experts in the last 300 years in the field of propulsion. He falters, though, on the fourth name. The professor is clearly unimpressed, but before he can ask another student for the answer, Johnson objects. Read the rest of this entry

Night Gallery Paintings Will Soon Be Showcased in a Special “Art Gallery” Book

Even if you’re not a big fan of “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery”, you have to admit: The gallery concept was pretty cool.

Watching our host walk among these bizarre canvases and shadowed sculptures as he introduces each story is a great framing device. It’s enough to make you wish there really was such a place.

There isn’t, of course, but I’m happy to tell you that we’ll soon be able to enjoy the next best thing: a glossy, hard-cover volume with high-quality reproductions of every painting that appeared on the show (and even a few that didn’t).

Titled “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery — The Art of Darkness”, it’s coming to us from Scott Skelton and Jim Benson, the same duo who over 20 years ago brought us the definitive behind-the-scenes book on the series, “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: An After-Hours Tour“. Every work that artists Tom Wright and Jeroslav Gebr created is included. Read the rest of this entry

Night Gallery’s “The Devil is Not Mocked”

Where would the horror genre be without vampires and werewolves? And where would World War II stories be without Nazis? They’re staples of many chilling accounts.

Ah, but what if you could combine them all in one story? It wouldn’t have to be anything too ambitious or sprawling. One tight little tale might do the trick.

Perhaps that thought is what prompted American writer Manly Wade Wellman (1903-1986) to pen a story called “The Devil is Not Mocked”. Night Gallery fans will likely recognize the name, as it was adapted during the second season into one of the show’s more memorable short segments.

(If you don’t want the story spoiled, maybe bookmark this page before checking it out on NBC.com or on DVD? I’ll be here when you come back.)

Wellman opens with a Nazi commander, General von Grunn (played by Helmut Dantine), being driven along a road in the Balkan countryside, en route to a castle that he’s been told is the headquarters of a secret resistance movement. (I love some of the cars they had in the late 1930s/early 1940s. The godforsaken Nazis did NOT deserve such fine automobiles.) He and his troops plan to take over the castle and convince the inhabitants that their rebellion is futile.

The television version begins with a different scene entirely. Gallery scribe Gene Kearney starts with a man (played by Francis Lederer) talking to his grandson. He tells the boy he’s going to relate what he did during the great world war: “For while many are the terrible charges made against our ancestors, let no man deny our patriotism.” The scene shifts, and we’re with von Grunn, moving along the road. Read the rest of this entry