Night Gallery is considered Rod Serling’s lesser series when compared with his legendary Twilight Zone. This anthology series didn’t have the cultural impact of its predecessor since the stories didn’t always go for the big twist ending. Many of the stories displayed in Night Gallery created an atmosphere of the macabre and grotesque that revealed a major shock. The macabre and grotesque action weren’t too severe since this was broadcasted on TV back in 1971. But it was creepy enough to scar small kids with images of demons, devil dolls and brain-eating worms. Night Gallery: Season Two contains the series at its peak.
Serling curated the Night Gallery. Inside a dark museum filled with spooky paintings and creepy sculptures, Serling introduced the work and guided us to look deep into the oil paint. You’d think Rod Serling was behind this series since it was called Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. But Jack Laird controlled the production. His oversight of the scripts that were adapted from short stories wasn’t as tight as Rod’s work on The Twilight Zone. Many of the best segments had one thing in common, they were written by Rod Serling.
“The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes” is an uncomfortable masterpiece starring Clint Howard. A network executive (Love Boat‘s Bernie Kopell) swears Clint can see the future and gives him a show. The boy doesn’t come out and give predictions. He rambles about stuff he’s doing and the prediction leaks out. His vision of the future proves to be uncannily accurate. His only problem is that he hates to tell people extremely bad news. The finale is Clint’s finest moment of screen work.
“The Messiah on Mott Street” is one of Edward G. Robinson final performances. The star of Little Caesar is dying during the Christmas holidays. He fears for the care of his grandson. He predicts a Messiah will arrive at his ghetto apartment. His doctor (Annie Hall‘s Tony Roberts) doesn’t hold out much hope for this miracle visitation. He wants the kid in foster care. The son goes down to the street to discover his salvation. Joseph Ruskin plays a nutty end of the world preacher that frightens the kid. In the midst of his panic, the child declares Yaphet Kotto (Alien) as the Messiah. Yaphet has no clue what the kid wants, but plays along in the Christmas spirit. Or does he know more than he’s letting on? You can tell the show is supernatural since it has a postman working on Christmas day. “The Caterpillar” lets jealousy go overboard. Laurence Harvey falls for Joanna Pettet. He hires outside help to off her husband. Instead of the usual bullet, he employees an earwig. Once a worm gets in a victim’s ear, it will eat through the brain until it gets to the other ear. Ouch. Things go really wrong and you feel the pain from the screen. This could have made a really good Amicus horror feature film.
“Silent Snow, Secret Snow” is a moody tone poem about a young boy who keeps sensing snow is all around him. Orson Welles’s narration heightens this piece into a pure poetry. H.P. Lovecraft received quite a bit of love in the series. His “Pickman’s Model” tells of an artist who appears to be haunted by the image of a demon. However one of his students learns that it’s not all just his imagination when she probes too deeply into his studio space. There’s also a bad short sketch about a babysitter arriving at a vampire’s house called “Miss Lovecraft Sent Me.”
The series injected a little humor into the dark stories. “The Painted Mirror” answers the question of who would win in a battle between Zsa Zsa Gabor and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. “House – with a Ghost” depicts a husband (Bob Crane) plot to kill his wife (Jo Anne Worley) while vacationing in England. When she’s dead, he’ll be having a swinging time with his mistress on the life insurance check. Instead of pushing his wife off Buckingham Palace, the husband rents a house with a ghost that enjoys killing wives. Can the spirit do the living’s dirty work? The doctor is played by Alan Napier (Alfred the Butler on Batman) There’s even a cameo from Bernard Fox (Bewitched‘s Dr. Bombay). This plays like a really dark segment from Love American Style.
However, sometimes Laird let the humor destroy the tone of the series. He kept sticking in lame comic sketches that featured punchlines you’d read on the back of “You’ll Die Laughing” trading cards. “Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator” is a tense ghost story about a medicine man in the Wild West. Forrest Tucker (F Troop) plays the role extremely straight. Because a joke sketch about a vampire making a withdrawal from a blood bank preceded it, Tucker’s performance is undercut. You keep expecting him to go for the funny when it isn’t there. You need to skip over the joke sketches to truly appreciate the finer elements of Night Gallery.
The second season was the only complete season of Night Gallery. The first season was only the pilot movie and 6 episodes. The third (and final) season would have the show reduced to 30 minutes and was canned after 15 episodes. When it came time to syndicate the series, they sliced the hour-long episodes in half. The longer stories like “The Caterpillar” were slashed down to 22 minutes. They also threw in Gary Collins’ The Sixth Sense series with new introductions featuring Rod in the gallery. The show was a diced up witches brew. It’s no wonder that Night Gallery has always been treated as the poor cousin to The Twilight Zone. But there are quite a few shorts that equal the quality found in the best Twilight episodes. Night Gallery: Season Two is a worthy followup when Serling was in full effect.
“The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes,” “Miss Lovecraft Sent Me,” “The Hand of Borgus Weems,” “Phantom of What Opera?,” “A Death in the Family,” “The Merciful,” “Class of ’99,” “Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay,” “With Apologies to Mr. Hyde,” “The Flip-Side of Satan,” “A Fear of Spiders,” “Junior,” “Marmalade Wine,” “The Academy,” “The Phantom Farmhouse,” “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” “A Question of Fear,” “The Devil Is Not Mocked,” “Midnight Never Ends,” “Brenda,” “The Diary,” “A Matter of Semantics,” “Big Surprise,” “Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture,” “House – with Ghost,” “A Midnight Visit to the Neighborhood Blood Bank,” “Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator,” “Hell’s Bells,” “The Dark Boy,” “Keep in Touch – We’ll Think of Something,” “Pickman’s Model,” “The Dear Departed,” “An Act of Chivalry,” “Cool Air,” “Camera Obscura,” “Quoth the Raven,” “The Messiah on Mott Street,” “The Painted Mirror,” “The Different Ones,” “Tell David…,” “Logoda’s Heads,” “Green Fingers,” “The Funeral,” “The Tune in Dan’s Cafe,” “Lindemann’s Catch,” “A Feast of Blood,” “The Late Mr. Peddington,” “The Miracle at Camafeo,” “The Ghost of Sorworth Place,” “The Waiting Room,” “Last Rites for a Dead Druid,” “Deliveries in the Rear,” “Stop Killing Me,” “Dead Weight,” “I’ll Never Leave You – Ever,” “There Aren’t Any More MacBanes,” “You Can’t Get Help like That Anymore,” “The Sins of the Fathers,” “The Caterpillar,” “Little Girl Lost” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The image transfer is good. There are specks on the screen. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. A few episodes have commentary tracks from Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy) and historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson. All are passionate about the series. The episodes feature English subtitles.
Revisiting the Gallery: A Look Back (29:55) has folks involved with the show discuss the spooky anthology series. They have Pat Boone interviewed.
Art Gallery: The Paintings in “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery” (3:27) lets Tom Wright explain how he ended up creating the creepy artwork. He lets us know about his creative process. This is followed up by gallery tour where you can click on the art to get the story behind the painting from Wright.
NBC Night Gallery TV Promos (12:50) contains several of the commercials that pushed the series. They highlight the freaky moments.
Night Gallery: Season Two still packs creeps and shocks. You’ll never let a worm near your ear. A special thanks is owed Del Toro who championed the release. Fans feared the series had been abandoned after season one came out four years ago. Forgive the lame joke moments. There are so many great segments worthy of your attention in the Night Gallery.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Night Gallery: Season Two. Starring Rod Serling. Running time: 18 hours 40 minutes. Released on DVD: Nov 11, 2008. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Alien, Hellboy, Rod Serling