Night Gallery: Season One

Night Gallery

Night Gallery: Season One may be tame by today’s standards but the tales of horror are classics

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As with most Americans I have always enjoyed a good old fashion spooky story. Whether it is a ghost story around the glow of a camp fire or the glow of a television set we like to be frightened. In late 1969 Rod Serling followed up on his success with the Twilight Zone with Night Gallery. This anthology series may be tame by today’s standards but the tales of horror are classics. For one thing Serling had not only the talent of being able to pen these stories but he also surrounded himself with the best around for writers, directors and actors. While most of the screenplays were written by Serling himself the stories where often based on the classic works of such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, A.E. van Vogt and Richard Matheson to name just a few. He also managed to get a young, novice director, Steven Spielberg, to take the helm of a few episodes. The thrills and chills here are rarely overt; most of the terror is forged on a more psychological level. The stories bring out the darkest aspects of the human personality and twist it until the audience receives a nice little turn of events.

In one classic episode a wealthy woman, Joan Crawford, is blind. Her despair and anger are only exceeded by her complete lack of any feelings for her fellow man. She manages to convince a down on his luck fellow, Tom Bosley that he can pay off his $9,000 debt by selling his eyes to her. As heinous as this seems so far the fact is the surgery will only bring her a few hours at the most of sight. For a few hours of sight she is willing to blind this poor man forever. After blackmailing her doctor the surgery goes well and the eyes are replaced but as the bandages are removed a large scale blackout plunges the city into darkness. It is twists like this that not only provide a morality play but adds to how special this series was.

These little unexpected turns in the story make each episode a gem. While watching them again on this DVD most of the episodes where as fresh as the first time I viewed them. Serling knew instinctively that horror is better left to the mind rather than paraded in front of the eyes. Today, the genre of horror has degraded into a spectacle of special effects, mayhem and gallons of fake blood. With these stories the intelligence of the audience is not only respected but required. The recipe that Serling used in the Twilight Zone is not so much repeated here as it was taken in a different direction. While Twilight Zone was geared more towards science fiction here Serling takes on terror. What he didn’t change was the commitment to excellence in production values. Younger viewers are well advised to be open minded with this series. Throw away your usual expectations and let each episode take you on a ride, you will not be disappointed.

The cast of each episode of Night Gallery is naturally different but always more than up to the task. Talents such as Diane Keaton, Agnes Moorehead, Raymond Massey and Sally Field bring the masterful words to life. Now some of these actors came from the stage or film others where at the start of what would become stellar careers. In all cases the shared in giving the audience of Night Gallery the best they have to offer.

Steven Spielberg was not the only talented direct to be attached to Night Gallery. Each direct, whether his name is familiar or not possessed the talent necessary to make every story one to remember. One benefit of the anthology format is it enables Night Gallery to provide a varied point of view. In the case of Night Gallery each change in cast and crew never compromised the over all quality.

Since I grew up reading many of the original stories I always loved Night Gallery. It managed to capture the imagination and somewhat twisted minds of the original authors. Rod Serling provided much of the screenplays here but he was not shy about letting writers get the praise they deserve. Each episode of Night Gallery contained usually two to three stories providing a good deal of variety for the viewer. With each one the approach many change but the quality never fails. For a change in pace there are some stories that are definitely played tongue in cheek, there is nothing like a little black comedy to add variety to the mix.

The Night Gallery DVD is extremely well done. The full screen color video does show some slight signs of age, mostly little flecks here and there, but overall it is good. The color balance is somewhat muted in most episodes which is typical of many television shows of the time. The sound is two channel mono but is clear, the dialogue is never difficult to understand at all. The overall quality is definitely better than what is typically shown as reruns during the rare times they are shown.

Universal gives you some extra for the money. Not only do you get all the Night Gallery first season’s episodes, fourteen in all, but you also get the three vignettes of the pilot and an additional six episodes from the second and third seasons of Night Gallery. Hopefully this does not mean Universal has no plans for other seasons, Night Gallery deserves to be fully available of DVD.

In all I was extremely pleased with the Night Gallery box set. Not only did it provide one of my all time favorite television shows but it presented them in an excellent fashion. One thing I would have liked is if the menus permitted you to select individual stories within an episode. Well, that is a small problem since most of the stories are placed within a single DVD chapter so you can to the one you want to see fairly easily.

For people of my generation Night Gallery is a stroll down memory lane. For those younger viewers, find out how horror should be done; learn that you don’t need a team of special effects people and a large budget to satisfy our innate desire for a good old fashion scary story.

Movie Review of Night Gallery: Season One by Doug MacLean of

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