Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1969-1973) | You’re invited to a hanging in the museum of the macabre
Having rattled us with his twisted monochrome terror tales in The Twilight Zone in the early-1960s, Rod Serling took one step beyond in the 1970s with his weird and colourful Night Gallery, an anthology series set in a ‘shadowy museum of the outré’, where he unveiled a collection of artworks which all told stories of horror, the supernatural and the fantastic.
‘Good evening, and welcome to a private showing of three paintings, displayed here for the first time. Each is a collector’s item in its own way- not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures on a canvas, suspends in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare.’
Following a knockout TV movie in 1969, which gave Hollywood grand dame Joan Crawford a fitting swansong to her acting career and marked the directorial debut of Steven Spielberg (check out the interview below), the series kicked off proper in December 1970, and ran for three seasons before closing its doors in May 1973, but not before earning itself an Emmy with the first season episode They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.
While the majority of the teleplays were written by Serling and producer Jack Laird, many were adapted from the works of HP Lovecraft, August Derleth, Seabury Quinn, Clark Ashton Smith, Fritz Leiber, and George Langelaan (best known for The Fly), which gave the series a darker, scarier tone than that of The Twilight Zone.
But the show also had its whimsical side, with a number of comedic shorts running under 10 minutes. While these were a bit hit or miss, the some of the stories really do make your hair stand on end like Certain Shadows on the Wall with Agnes Moorhead (Betwitched) and Grayson Hall (Dark Shadows), The Return of the Sorcerer with Bill Bixby and Vincent Price, and The Doll, which caused a very very young Guillermo del Toro to wet himself as a child (you can hear about it from the man himself in the extras).
But like The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery also featured a fantastic roll call of big-name stars, who all got to show their dark side over the 43 episodes (and pilot), and these have now all been collected in one big DVD box-set, complete with a host of extras, including the once lost episode, Witches Feast, and the uncut original version of Little Girl Lost. Plus, there’s audio commentaries from Scott Skelton and Jim Benson, the authors of the must-have companion book.
Amongst the familiar faces are a number who also played guest villains in Batman, including Cesar Romero (The Joker), Burgess Meredith (Penguin), Victor Buono (King Tut), Roddy McDowall (Bookworm) and Vincent Price (Egghead), plus a host of TV stars including a pre-Dallas/post I Dream of Jeannie Larry Hagman, Bob Crane (Hogan’s Heroes), John Astin (The Addams Family) and Forest Tucker (F-Troop).
The macabre artworks were also the show’s other big feature, and these were conceived by Thomas J Wright (who went on to become a TV director on shows like Supernatural and NCIS), while Jaroslav ‘Jerry’ Gebr did the ones for the pilot. These now collectable pieces are also explored in the extras.
So, who is up for a hanging in the Night Gallery…?
Rod Serling’s Night Gallery is available on DVD in the UK from Fabulous Films
• CLICK HERE to check out the fantastic website devoted to the series, who also were responsible for the fab montages you see on this page
Posted on January 13, 2016, in Cult TV News, Horror, Must See, Must See, Must-See, Sci-Fi and tagged 1970s TV, Fabulous Films, Horror, Must-See, Night Gallery, Rod Serling, Sci-Fi, Thomas J Wright, TV anthology series. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.