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Senior Shackster
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
"Night Gallery" was a three season show created by Rod Serling as a follow up to
his brilliant "Twilight Zone" series of the late fifties and early sixties which became
part of the American consciousness. Whenever something weird or unexplained
happens to me I hear the theme music in my head as do many other baby boomers
from my generation. My favorite episode was "Eye of the Beholder" which still creeps
me out.

Serling's talent was not gory horror but psychological terror. He was able to get under
your skin and create stories that at their best were like live action nightmares...often
with some social commentary. He co-wrote the screenplay for "Planet of the Apes"
for instance.

"The Twilight Zone" was shot in black and white in 35mm but had excellent and stylish
'noir' cinematography that stood out from the traditional flat lighting of most TV shows
of the era.

"Night Gallery" which was broadcast from 1971-1974 was shot in color but also featured
dramatic mood lighting with vibrant fleshtones and primaries. The equivalent of 'noir'
cinematography in color. Lionel Lindon ("Around the World in 80 Days") was among the
DPs.

The pilot episode was one of the best in television's history. Using the framework of
a museum gallery, Serling introduced three episodes in his ominous speaking
voice. Roddy McDowall starred in the first one as a black sheep nephew who kills his
wealthy Uncle who was a painter to inherit his fortune. But one of his Uncle's paintings
depicts him coming out of his grave to haunt him every time he looks at it even though
the butler played by Ossie Davis says "It's just hanging there as usual". McDowall has
a field day in his villainous role and I really enjoyed his nasty character and attitude
when he says, "Portifoy...who will tend to my wants". I won't give away the trick ending
but it's lots of fun.

The second episode of the pilot was directed by a very young Steven Spielberg and he
was given his 'trial by fire' trying to work with prima dona Joan Crawford as a blind woman
who has an operation that will give her eyesight. The climax is especially nasty in
this story.

The third episode was also very creepy about a Nazi concentration camp killer played by
Richard Kiley ("Man of La Mancha") hiding in South America who is obsessed with a peaceful
painting in a gallery of a man fishing wishing he could morph himself into that location and
escape his muderous past. It also has a very disturbing but satisfying plot twist.

The pilot was so popular it was released by Universal in syndication and I saw it a number
of times after the first broadcast.

The actual series premiered in 1971 and this DVD contains all of the first season episodes
along with some additional ones that apparently were not originally broadcast as a suppliment.

Here's the problem. The actual series ranged from excellent to silly. The pilot featured
three half hour segments but the network insisted Serling maintain an hour running time. It would've
been much better if it was a half hour show like the "Twilight Zone". Some of the best episodes
stay within that framework but when the two main stories fell short of a full hour Serling was forced to do some ten minute 'quickie' stories that were very campy and throw the mood off kilter.
Stupid nonsense about Dracula going to a blood bank to make a 'withdrawl' and similar
stories.

Fortunately, when the shows are good they are as effective as any "Twilight Zone" episode.
Among my favorites were "Lone Survivor" which I actually recalled seeing back when I
was 14 years old. A ship finds a man floating in a lifeboat dressed as a woman with the "Titanic"
label on it's side years after the disaster. I don't want to ruin the surprise ending but it still gave me the shivers.

Another great show was Patty Duke in "The Diary" which had a similar plot twist as the
current "Shutter Island". A woman receives a diary as a gift which contains what happens
in the future in her handwriting. "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar" was nominated for
an Emmy and featured William Windom ("My World and Welcome To It") as a burned out
executive who sees flashbacks of the past as he tries to survive middle age in the ruthless
corporate world. Sally Field plays a schizophrenic in one story that seems like an audition
for "Sybill".

Serling wrote many of the episodes and he was very effective for this type of material.
The opening credit imagery and theme music are also eerie and imaginative. Bizzare
distorted shots of people's faces stretched out of shape in a series of squares that
zoom into the camera. Watch it on a DLP with the lights off and you'll wonder if
you're awake or dreaming.

The only drawbacks are the price ($60 a season) and the occasional tongue in cheek
10 minute story to fill up the hour running time. Fans of the producer/author won't be
disappointed with his show in general despite the lesser stories. Trying to tie each
episode to a painting also became strained but as long as they were creepy and disturbing
you can overlook it.
 

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My understanding is that the short comedy skits were Rod Serling's response to network demands for traditional monster stories, which Serling maintained was not the point of his program. He deliberately ridiculed the traditional monsters as a means of telling the network what he thought of them.

Richard
 
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