N is for Night Gallery
Reviewed by Kerry E.B. Black
With his customary charm, Rod Serling welcomed viewers to his intriguing art gallery. He unveiled a special painting by artist Tom Wright, a frozen moment capturing a nightmare which captured the theme of the episode. The Night Gallery boasted a multi-story format, sometimes with mini-vignettes between. Many of the dark stories were adaptations of classic stories by such greats as H.P. Lovecraft, but the majority were penned by Rod Serling himself.
“The Night Gallery” began with a pilot movie that aired in November, 1969, the directorial debut of Stephen Spielberg. The television series ran three seasons, from 1970 until 1973. Episodes from the first two seasons ran about fifty minutes, whereas the length of the third season’s installments lasted about 25 minutes each. For syndication, all were formatted to fit the half hour, and when boxed for sale, a series called “The Sixth Sense” starring Gary Collins as Dr. Rhodes was cut, edited, and marketed as part of “The Night Gallery” series.
Guest stars, including Leonard Nemoy, Burgess Meredith, Leslie Nielson, Joan Crawford, Diane Keaton, and Vincent Price added their considerable talents to the scripts which included explorations of such heavy subjects as shell shock, murder, and abandonment. Criminals attempted to escape their consciences, only to find themselves staring into their own fates. Be they filled with dark humor or sentimental explorations of the human condition, “The Night Gallery” reached into the deeper aspects of universal fears. Witches, things in walls, witches and sorcerers, and a seriously creepy doll all featured in the story lines. The effectiveness of the stories varied. Some left wonderful, thought-provoking impressions, while others missed their marks.
Rod Serling’s final television series, “The Night Gallery,” bore some resemblance to his better-known “The Twilight Zone.” However, the story lines of “The Night Gallery” focused on darker horror, whereas “The Twilight Zone” had a stronger basis in science fiction. Mr. Serling hadn’t the same creative control over “The Night Gallery,” and it was the last project he worked on before his untimely death.
*art by Tom Wright; second image from Season 2 episode 1 of “The Night Gallery.”