TV Review: Night Gallery 2.1 “The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes/Miss Lovecraft Sent Me/The Hand of Borgus Weems/Phantom of What Opera?”


The second season of Night Gallery premiered on September 15th, 1971.  Once again, Rod Serling led viewers through a darkened museum, inviting them to look upon macabre paintings and imagine the story behind image.

The first episode had four — that’s right, four! — different stories!  Apparently, the show’s producers demanded that, for the 2nd season, each episode feature shorter stories along with some light-heated segments.  From what I’ve read, Rod Serling was not particularly happy with the directive and it’s perhaps significant that, after writing every story featured in Night Gallery‘s first season, he only wrote one of the stories featured in the second season premiere.

The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes (dir by John Badham, written by Rod Serling)

Herbie (played by 12 year-old Clint Howard, younger brother of Ron) is a little boy with a very special gift.  He can see the future.  He seems like a normal child, the type who rambles about random subjects except that, at random, he’ll suddenly stop and ominously predict the future.  After Herbie correctly predicts both the rescue of a missing girl and an earthquake, Herbie is given his own TV show.  For a year, Herbie makes predictions, all of which come true.  Then, suddenly, Herbie refuses to shares his latest prediction and says that he doesn’t want to do the show anymore.  What has Herbie seen and is it a good thing or a bad thing?

The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes gets the second season of Night Gallery off to a good start.  Centered by a natural performance from Clint Howard, The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes is an intelligently written and thought-provoking story.  Not only does it examine the burden of being able to see the future but it’s also a provocative look at how society exploits the gifted.  With the exception of Herbie’s grandfather (William Hansen), the people around Herbie are less concerned with what he predicts than that people keep watching.  The segment ends on an appropriately dark note, one that will keep the viewer thinking.

Miss Lovecraft Sent Me (dir by Gene Kearney, written by Jack Laird)

A gum-chewing babysitter (Sue Lyon) show up for her latest job.  It’s at a castle!  And the owner of the castle (played by Joseph Campanella) has gray skin, is wearing a cape, and has a Transylvanian accent!  What could it all mean?

This is a short comedic segment.  Apparently, the producer of Night Gallery, Jack Laird, had the idea to liven things up with sketches like this one.  Serling was apparently not a fan of the idea but Miss Lovecraft Sent Me isn’t that bad.  It’s silly and insubstantial because Joseph Campanella and Sue Lyon handled their roles well.  It’s impossible not to laugh when the babysitter reads aloud the names of the books that Campanella has sitting on his bookshelf.

The Hand of Borgus Weems (dir by John M. Lucas, written by Alvin Sapinsley)

Peter Lacland (George Maharis) sits in a doctor’s office and asks Dr. Ravadon (Ray Milland) to remoe his right hand.  Peter explains that his right hand has a mind of its own and that it keeps trying to kill everyone who Peter comes into contact with.  Peter explains that his hand has been possessed!

There’s a surprisingly large number of stories out there about possessed hands.  The Hand of Borgus Weems doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the genre and it gets a bit bogged down with its flashback structure but it’s still an enjoyably creepy little segment, featuring good performances from George Maharis and Ray Milland.  Possessed hands are also creepy, no matter what.  Like The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes, it also has an effective ending, which is quite a contrast to the often insubstantial conclusions of Night Gallery’s first season.

Phantom Of What Opera?  (written and dir by Gene Kearney)

This is a short, 4-minute comedic story — a skit really — featuring Leslie Nielsen as the Phantom of the Opera and Mary Ann Beck as Christine. This version starts out like a typical Phantom segment, with the Phantom kidnapping Christine, taking her down to the dungeon, and telling her never to remove his mask.  Christine, of course, removes his mask while he’s playing the organ just for him to then discover that she’s also wearing a mask.  It all leads to love and a happy ending!  It’s kind of a sweet segment, actually.

So the 2nd season of Night Gallery got off to a pretty good start!  Would future episodes continue the trend?  We’ll find out soon as I continue to watch Night Gallery.

Previous Night Gallery Reviews:

  1. The Pilot
  2. The Dead Man/The Housekeeper
  3. Room With A View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy
  4. The House/Certain Shadows on the Wall
  5. Make Me Laugh/Clean Kills And Other Trophies
  6. Pamela’s Voice/Lone Survivor/The Doll
  7. They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar/The Last Laurel

TV Review: Night Gallery 1.6 “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar/The Last Laurel)


The first season of Night Gallery came to a conclusion on January 20th, 1971.  Though the first season was undoubtedly uneven, it did end on a high point.  The first segment in the 6th episode, They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar, is widely considered to be the best episode of Night Gallery and one of Rod Serling’s best teleplays.  It also brought Night Gallery one of it’s few Emmy nominations when it was nominated for Outstanding Single Program of the year.  (It lost to The Andersonville Trial, a theatrical adaptation that was produced for PBS.)

They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar (dir by Don Taylor, written by Rod Serling)

They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar tells the story of Randy Lane (William Windom).  In 1945, Sgt. Randy Lane returned home from serving in World War II, a war hero who had a wonderful future ahead of him.  He had just gotten married.  He had just gotten a good job at an up-and-coming company called Pritzker Plastics.  When he came home, the first place he went was Tim Riley’s Bar, where his father and the other bar patrons toasted him and told him to look forward to the future.

Twenty-five years later, the middle-aged Randy Lane is looking at his life and asking, “Is this as good as it gets?”  He’s now a sales director at Pritzker Plastics but his boss (John Randolph) doesn’t appreciate him, his assistant (Bert Convy) is plotting to steal his job, and the only person who seems to care about him is his sympathetic secretary (Diane Baker).  Randy’s wife died in 1952, while Randy was out of a sales call.  Randy now lives alone.  Even his neighborhood bar — Tim Riley’s Bar — has closed and been abandoned.  With the bar schedule to be torn down, Randy wonder what happened to all of the promise and happiness of the past.

When Randy goes by the deserted bar and looks through the front window, he’s shocked to see all of his old friends and his father waving at him.  But when Randy rushes into the bar to join them, he discovers the bar is deserted.  Later, Randy is at work when suddenly, he sees Pritzker Plastics the way it was back in 1948.  Even later, when he enters his house, he finds himself standing in a hospital hallway in 1952, once again getting the news that his wife has died.

In many ways, They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar is an atypical Night Gallery segment.  Though there are hints of the supernatural throughout the story, it’s hardly a work of horror.  Instead, it’s a rather melancholy meditation on aging, disappointment, and regret.  Is the past forever lost?  Can things ever be as good as they once were?  These are the questions that are raised in this well-directed and well-acted segment.

The Last Laurel (dir by Daryl Duke, written by Rod Serling)

Clocking in at 8 minutes, The Last Laurel is yet another segment about a bitter man (in this case, Jack Cassidy) who suspects that his wife (in the case, Martine Beswick) is cheating on him with his doctor (in this case, Martin E. Brooks) so he teaches himself a supernatural skill in order to get revenge.  In this case, it involves astral projection.  Not surprisingly, it ends with a twist that’s pretty much dependent on one of the characters doing something extremely stupid.

The Last Laurel is well-acted but predictable.  It’s not bad but, especially when compared to something like They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar, it feels rather insubstantial.  It feels like filler.

The first season of Night Gallery came to an end with an excellent episode.  Starting tomorrow — season 2!

Previous Night Gallery Reviews:

  1. The Pilot
  2. The Dead Man/The Housekeeper
  3. Room With A View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy
  4. The House/Certain Shadows on the Wall
  5. Make Me Laugh/Clean Kills And Other Trophies
  6. Pamela’s Voice/Lone Survivor/The Doll

TV Review: Night Gallery 1.5 “Pamela’s Voice/Lone Survivor/The Doll”


The fifth episode of Night Gallery originally aired on January 13th, 1971.  It featured three stories, each one of which was introduced by Rod Serling walking through a darkened museum.

Pamela’s Voice (dir by Richard Benedict, written by Rod Serling)

Jonathan (John Astin) kills his wife, Pamela (Phyllis Diller), because he’s sick of listening to her shrill voice.  However, it turns out that not even death can stop Pamela.  While Jonathan is staring at a coffin, he starts to hear Pamela’s voice.

At first, you might think that this is going to be one of those stories where it’s going to turn out that the murderer has been driven made by his crimes and he’s imagining being taunted by his victim.  But then Pamela makes an post-death appearance herself and the story reveals it’s final twist.

For the most part, Pamela’s Voice is entertaining.  Both John Astin and Phyllis Diller give such eccentric performances that their fun to watch even if the majority of the audience will be able to guess this segment’s big twist.

Lone Survivor (dir by Gene Levitt, written by Rod Serling)

This wonderfully atmospheric story opens in 1915, with the crew of the Lusitania discovering a man (John Colicos) floating in a lifeboat.  The lifeboat is from the Titanic and the man, who claims to be a crewmember of that doomed ship, is wearing a dress, leading the ship’s doctor to assume that the man survived the sinking of the Titanic by pretending to be a woman and stealing someone else’s rightful spot in the lifeboat.

At first, his rescuers are skeptical.  If the man was indeed a survivor of the Titanic, that would mean that he had spent the past three years floating in that lifeboat?  How could the man have survived?  And, assuming that he is telling the truth about the ship that he came from, what has now brought him to the Lusitania?  Could the man possibly be a German spy?  After all, World War I has just broken out and the sea is no longer as safe as it once was….

Lone Survivor is an example of this often uneven show at its best.  It’s a genuinely creepy short film, one that ends on a frightening and rather sad note.  Lone Survivor is the tale of man trying to escape both his own guilt and the whims of fate and discovering that neither can be easily conquered.  In the main role, John Colicos gives a wonderfully intense and haunted performance.

The Doll (dir by Rudi Dorn, written by Rod Serling)

“Our painting is called The Doll,” Rod Serling says as he introduces this one, “and it’s one that you better not play with.”  Truer words were never spoken!

In this one, British Col. Hymber Masters (John Williams) returns home from India and discovers that his niece (Jewel Branch) has a new doll.  Someone mailed the doll to her.  Everyone assumed that Col. Masters sent the doll but he actually had nothing to do with it.  Masters is not happy to see his niece carrying around that doll and it makes sense when you consider just how ugly the doll is.  I mean, this is one creepy doll!

It turns out that the Masters was correct to be concerned because the doll was sent by Pandit Chola (Henry Silva), who holds Masters responsible for the death of his brother.  The doll has been sent to take revenge….

The Doll is another triumph, largely because the doll itself is so creepy that it looks like something that sprung straight out of a nightmare.  John Williams does a good job playing the well-meaning if somewhat stuffy colonel and Henry Silva is well-cast as the villain of the piece.  This segment deserves a lot of credit for taking a fanciful story and playing it totally straight.

The fifth episode of Night Gallery is a triumph.  After a run of uneven episodes, this episode is consistently creepy and entertaining.  For this episode, at least, Night Gallery lived up to its potential.

Previous Night Gallery Reviews:

  1. The Pilot
  2. The Dead Man/The Housekeeper
  3. Room With A View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy
  4. The House/Certain Shadows on the Wall
  5. Make Me Laugh/Clean Kills And Other Trophies

Night Gallery 1.4 “Make Me Laugh/Clean Kills And Other Trophies”


The fourth episode of Night Gallery originally aired on January 6th, 1971.  It was the first episode of the new year and it continued to open with Rod Serling walking through a most curious museum, inviting us to take a look at the macabre paintings on display and consider the stories behind them.

This episode featured two stories.

Make Me Laugh (dir. by Steven Spielberg, written by Rod Serling)

Jackie Slater (Godfrey Cambridge) is a comedian who can’t make anyone laugh.  He’s just been fired from his latest job and even his loyal agent (Tom Bosley) is suggesting that it might be time to throw in the proverbial towel.  While Jackie drowns his sorrows at a bar, he’s approached by a man named Catterje (Jackie Vernon).  Chatterje explains that he can cast miracles but, because he’s not very good at his job, the miracles often have unintended consequences.  “I don’t care!”  Jackie says, “I’ll take the risk!”  Jackie wants people to laugh at him.  Jackie gets his wish but it turns out that he should have listened to Chatterje’s warning.

This segment was directed by Steven Spielberg, back when he was just starting his career and he was largely working in television.  Spielberg also directed Eyes, which was a highlight of the Night Gallery pilot.  Unfortunately, his direction of Make Me Laugh is a bit less successful than his work on Eyes.  Spielberg’s direction features none of the inspired touches that made Eyes so successful.  Part of the problem may be that this story takes place in the word of comedy and comedy has never been a topic for which Spielberg has shown much affinity.

Make Me Laugh does feature a good lead performance from Godfrey Cambridge.  Otherwise, this segment is largely forgettable.

Cleans Kills And Other Trophies (dir by Walter Doniger, written by Rod Serling)

Raymond Massey plays Col. Archie Dittman, a wealthy racist who is obsessed with hunting and killing.  He even has a study full of the mounted heads of all of the animals that he’s killed.  Archie’s son, Archie, Jr. (Barry Brown), has just graduated from college and has no interest in hunting.  Col. Dittman demands that his son go on a hunt or risk being disinherited.  What the colonel fails to take into consideration is that both his bloodlust and his racism has offended his butler (Herbert Jefferson, Jr.) and that his butler has a magic-related revenge in mind.

Clean Kills and Other Trophies is hardly subtle but it does create and maintain a properly ominous atmopshere.  Raymond Massey gives a wonderfully villainous performance and it’s hard not to be amused by the fact that his son is wearing a peace signal prominently on his lapel, as if the segment’s director took one look at it and said, “What’s one thing that we can do to make the themes of this segment even more heavy-handed?”  The segment ends on a note that is so entertainingly over-the-top that it’s hard not to love it.

This episode was uneven.  Make Me Laugh does’t quite work but Cleans Kills and other Trophies is good enough to make up for the disappointing segment that precedes it.

Previous Night Gallery Reviews:

  1. The Pilot
  2. The Dead Man/The Housekeeper
  3. Room With A View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy
  4. The House/Certain Shadows on the Wall

TV Review: Night Gallery 1.3 “The House/Certain Shadows on the Wall”


The third episode of Night Gallery aired on December 30th, 1970.  While Americans were undoubtedly finalizing their plans for a wild New Year’s Eve (because, after all, Nixon was president and every day was a party), NBC and Rod Serling invited viewers to take a tour through a darkened museum, one where every painting told a story.

This episode of Night Gallery featured two stories:

The House (dir by John Astin, written by Rod Serling)

The House opens with Elaine Latimer (Joanna Pettet) talking about a recurring dream.  She’s driving her car through the countryside when she comes across a large house.  Though she’s never seen the house, she finds herself drawn to it, as if she somehow belongs in the house.  As Elaine describes her dream, we come to realize that she’s talking to a psychiatrist (Steve Franken) and that Elaine is recovering from mental breakdown.  Her doctor tells Elaine that the dream is nothing to worry about.

However, when Elaine is driving home, she realizes that the countryside looks familiar.  Soon, she’s pulling up in front of the house from her dreams!  When Elaine gets out of the car, she’s greeted by a real estate named Peugeot (Paul Richards) who asks her if she’s interested in buying the house.  As Peugeot gives her a tour of the estate, he mentions that the house is thought to be haunted….

I liked The House.  It was an atmospheric little tale and, from the minute that Elaine started talking about her dream, the story captured my attention.  (I should admit that I also have recurring dreams about a house that I’ve never actually seen before.)  Admittedly, the story does play out at a very deliberate pace and requires a bit of patience but the dream sequences are effectively surreal and Joanna Pettet gives an empathetic performance in the lead role.

Certain Shadows On The Wall (dir by Corey Allen, written by Rod Serling)

This segment features Agnes Moorehead as the sickly Emma, who is poisoned by her own brother, the despicable Stephen (Louis Hayward).  After Emma’s death, Stephen is shocked to discover that, even though Emma is gone, her shadow remains on the wall.  While Stephen is trying to make sense of that, his other two sisters (played by Grayson Hall and Rachel Roberts) have plans of their own for how to deal with their duplicitous brother.

Like The House, Certain Shadows On The Wall is appropriately atmospheric.  The ending is a bit weak as Stephen gets what he deserves but the shadow itself doesn’t have much to do with his actual fate.  Just when you’re waiting for Agnes Moorehead to make a sudden, ghostly appearance, the story comes to an end.  Still, this is an effective segment and it features excellent work from its ensemble.  I especially liked the performance of Grayson Hall, which features one of the most frightening glares that I’ve ever seen.

The third episode of Night Gallery was a definite improvement over the two that came before it.  Both segments tell intriguing stories, though it’s obvious that the show was still better at coming up with good premises than effective endings.

Previous Night Gallery Reviews:

  1. The Pilot
  2. The Dead Man/The Housekeeper
  3. Room With A View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy

TV Review: Night Gallery 1.2 “Room With A View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy”


The second episode of Night Gallery originally aired on December 23rd, 1970 and it featured three stories, two of which were written by Rod Serling.  Serling, himself, introduced all three of the stories by inviting us to look at the paintings that may or may not have been inspired from them.

Room With A View (dir by Jerrold Freedman, written by Hal Dresner)

When a cranky, bed-bound man (Joseph Wiseman) discovers this his wife (Angel Tompkins) is cheating on him, he comes up with an elaborate scheme to get revenge.  It all hinges on his somewhat nervous nurse (Diane Keaton), who has no idea that she’s being manipulated.

This short segment is well-done but it doesn’t really feel like it belongs on an episode of Night Gallery.  There’s no elements of horror or science fiction to be found in this story.  Instead, it’s just about a manipulative man seeking revenge on his wife.  It’s actually easy to imagine this segment as being a flashback on a Monk-style detective show.  You just need a detective saying, “I finally figured out how you did it!”

For most viewers, probably the most interesting thing about this segment will be the presence of a young Diane Keaton, playing the nurse and laughing nervously at her patient’s rather intrusive questions.

The Little Black Bag (dir by Jeannot Szwarc, written by Rod Serling)

In the 30th Century, a careless accident at a time travel station sends a black medical bag into the past.  It arrives in 1971, where it’s discovered by two homeless gentlemen.  One of the men is a disgraced former doctor named William Fall (Burgess Meredith).  The other, Hepplewhite (Chill Wills), has no medical experience but he does have a greedy spirit.  Fall wants to use the bag to do good,  Hepplewhite wants to use the bag to make money.  Meanwhile, in the future, poor put-upon Gillings (George Furth) is just trying to figure out what to do about the missing bag.

The Little Black Bag is this episode’s high point, featuring good performances from Meredith, Wills, and Furth and also ending with properly macabre twist.  This is another Rod Serling story about how terrible, at heart, most people are but Jeannot Szwarc’s direction is fast-paced and he never allows things to get too heavy-handed.

The Nature of the Enemy (dir by Allen Reisner, written by Rod Serling)

NASA’s latest expedition to the Moon has run into trouble.  The astronauts have discovered that there is something living on the lunar surface.  On Earth, the director of NASA (Joseph Campanella) tries to keep everyone calm while also figuring out the nature of the enemy.

This segment has an intriguing premise but it’s let down by a so-so execution.  Like a lot of less-than-effective Night Gallery segments, this one features a story that doesn’t so much conclude as it just stops after a somewhat weak punchline.

So, the second episode of Night Gallery was not an improvement on the first and it was nowhere close to matching the pilot.  Watching this episode, it was hard not to feel that the show had a few growing pains.  Did it want to be a horror anthology or a collection of short skits?  The 2nd episode reveals a show that was still trying to find it’s voice.

Previous Night Gallery Reviews:

  1. The Pilot
  2. The Dead Man/The Housekeeper

 

TV Review: Night Gallery 1.1 “The Dead Man/The Housekeeper” (dir by Douglas Heyes and John Meredyth Lucas)


As I wrote yesterday, I recently decided to sit down and watch every episode of the horror anthology series, Night Gallery.  Yesterday, I watched and reviewed the pilot movie.  Tonight, I watched the first episode of the weekly series.

Though the pilot originally aired in 1969, Night Gallery did not start to air as a regular series until December of 1970.  The first episode of season one was broadcast on December 16th, 1970.  As all of the episodes did, it stated with Rod Serling walking through a dimly lit museum and inviting the audience to look at a macabre painting.  Each painting was inspired by a different story.  Or were the stories inspired by the paintings?  To be honest, I don’t think the show ever made that clear.

The first episode featured two stories, both of which dealt with mad scientists.

The Dead Man (written and directed by Douglas Heyes)

The first segment was The Dead Man, an enjoyably atmospheric if somewhat difficult-to-follow story about a scientist, a young man with an amazing ability, and the woman who is torn between the two of them.

Carl Betz plays Max Redford, a doctor who has discovered that, under hypnotic suggestion, John Michael Fearing (Michael Blodgett) can simulate any medical condition, no matter how severe.  When Max reveals his discovery to his associate, Dr. Talmadge (Jeff Corey), Talmadge is concerned that Fearing will suffer permanent damage as a result of Max’s experiments.  Nonsense! Max explains.  All he has to do is give Fearing the proper signal and he’ll pop right out of his condition, as good as new.

Max decides to put Fearing to the ultimate test by having him simulate death.  However, when Fearing goes under, he dies for real.  Was it just an accident or did Max — who suspects that Fearing was having an affair with his wife (Louise Sorel) — secretly mean for Fearing to die?

The Dead Man raises some intriguing questions about life, death, and medical ethics.  It also has a quartet of good performances with Carl Betz doing an especially good job as Max.  Michael Blodgett showed up in a lot of early 70s films and TV shows and he was always convincing as a decadent hedonist.  The entire segment is full of creepy atmosphere but the ending is a bit of a let down.  After a great set-up, the segment just kind of fizzles out.

The Housekeeper (written by Heyes, directed by John Meredyth Lucas)

In the second segment, our mad scientist is named Cedric Acton (Larry Hagman).  Whereas Max Redford, in the previous segment, was misguided, Cedric Acton is just crazy.  Through the use of black magic (it involves a frog), Cedric has been experimenting with soul and brain transference.  (There’s an oinking chicken and a clucking pig in his laboratory, just in case anyone’s wondering how the experiments are going.)

Because Cedric loves his wife’s body but hates her personality, he wants to put the soul of his kindly housekeeper (Jeanette Nolan) into the body of his wife, Carlotta (Suzy Parker).  At first, the experiment is a success but things get complicated and …. well, I’m not really sure what it all leads to because this is one of those stories that just kind of ends without really offering up any type of resolution.

The Housekeeper is meant to be a comedy but it’s a bit too mean-spirited to really work.  This segment really calls out for karma to intervene and for Cedric’s soul to end up in something else’s body but instead it just ends with Cedric continuing his experiments.  It’s more than a little dissatisfying.  Larry Hagman does a good job playing Cedric, though.  He’s convincingly crazy.

Especially after the pilot, it’s hard not to be disappointed by the first episode of Night Gallery.  Both stories had potential but they were let down by weak endings.  Oh well.  Hopefully, tomorrow’s episode will be an improvement!

Film Review: Night Gallery (dir by Boris Sagal, Barry Shear, and Steven Spielberg)


Night Gallery was a horror anthology series that aired on NBC in the early 70s.  Each episode featured Rod Serling, of Twilight Zone fame, serving as the curator of a museum where all of the paintings have a somewhat macabre theme.  (One could even say that the museum was a …. wait for it …. night gallery!)  Serling would give each painting a properly pithy introduction and then the audience would see the story behind the artwork.  It was a bit like the Twilight Zone, except the Night Gallery episodes were in color, they were all horror-themed, and, for the most part, they steered away from social commentary.  The series ran from 1970 and 1973 and it still airs in syndication and on some of the retro stations.  (I believe it currently airs on Comet TV.)  Even if it wasn’t as consistently good as Twilight Zone, it’s still a pretty fun little series.

Two Christmases ago, I was gifted  Night Gallery: The Complete Series on DVD.  Though I’ve watched several episodes from the DVD, I recently realized that I have never actually sat down and watched every episode in order.  With the world currently shut down due to the pandemic (a development that, if we’re going to be honest, sounds like something Rod Serling would have used on the Twilight Zone), I figured what better time to watch the entire series then now?

I started out by watching the Night Gallery pilot film.  This originally aired on November 8th, 1969, a full year before Night Gallery became a weekly series.  It features three different stories (all written by Rod Serling) of the macabre.  As with every episode of the subsequent series, each story is introduced by Serling standing in front of a painting.  In the pilot, though, the museum is rather bare and the painting’s are a bit minimalist.  I have to admit that, as a lover of the baroque, I was a bit disappointed in that aspect of the pilot.

But what about the stories themselves?  Read on!

The Cemetery (dir by Boris Sagal)

The first story was The Cemetery, a cheerfully gruesome little tale that featured Roddy McDowall and Ossie Davis.  McDowall plays Jeremy, a spoiled young man who murders his uncle so that he might inherit the dead man’s estate.  At first, it looks like McDowall’s plot is a complete success but then McDowall notices a painting of the family graveyard hanging above a staircase.  (To be honest, it seems odd to hang a painting of a graveyard in the foyer but I guess that’s something old rich people do.)  The painting keeps changing.  One minute, the painting looks normal.  The next minute, it features a newly dug grave.  And then something emerging grave.  And then something heading towards the house….

Is Jeremy losing his mind or is the painting warning him that his uncle has risen from the dead and is seeking revenge!?  You’ll probably be able to guess the answer long before poor Jeremy but no matter.  This is a fun little horror story and it benefits from two enjoyably arch performances, from McDowall and, in the role of a butler who may have an agenda of his own, Ossie Davis.

Eyes (dir by Steven Spielberg)

Of the three stories presented in the pilot, Eyes probably gets the most attention from critics because it not only stars Joan Crawford in one of her final performances but it was the professional directorial debut (if you don’t count Amblin’) of 22 year-old Steven Spielberg.  Spielberg apparently had some issues dealing with the veteran crew members, many of whom didn’t like the idea of taking orders from a 22 year-old.  (It probably didn’t help that pictures from that era suggest that Spielberg looked several years younger than his age.  Let’s just say that it’s easy to understand why he eventually grew that beard.)  I’d like to think that Joan Crawford yelled at everyone and defended Spielberg and maybe even Rod Serling came down with Luca Brasi and said, “You’re going to the give this kid the respect he deserves or your brains are going to be all over that union contract.”  I don’t know if that’s true but it’s a nice thought.

That said, Eyes is pretty good.  Even if the crew doubted him, Spielberg proved himself as a director with this story.  It’s about a hateful and selfish woman (Joan Crawford) who happens to be both rich and blind.  She has manipulated a doctor into performing an experimental operation that will allow her to see.  The only catch is that the operation will only be good for 22 hours and a donor (Tom Bosley, as a bookie who is in trouble with the mob) will be required to give up his eyes so that Crawford can have those 22 hours.

On the one hand, this is very-much a Rod Serling-type tale.  It’s easy to imagine Eyes, with its belief in karma and its final macabre twist, as a Twilight Zone episode.  At the same time, Spielberg very much brings his own signature style to the film, livening up dialogue-heavy scenes with interesting camera angles and getting good performances from Crawford, Barry Sullivan, and Tom Bosley.  Eyes is a clever story but, for modern viewers, the most interesting thing about it will be discovering that, even at the age of 22, Spielberg already had a clear directorial style.

The Escape Route (dir by Barry Shear)

The Escape Route is about an Nazi war criminal named Joseph Strobe (played by Richard Kiley) who is hiding out in South America and spending all of his time nervously looking over his shoulder.  One day, he enters a museum where he finds himself drawn to two paintings.  One painting features a man who has been crucified in a concentration camp, which we learn was Strobe’s trademark back when he, himself, was a camp commandant.  The other painting features a fisherman in a peaceful setting.  Even though Strobe imagines himself as the peaceful fisherman, his attention keeps getting redirected to the painting of the concentration camp.  Soon, Strobe realizes that a survivor of the camp (played by Sam Jaffe) is also in the museum and that he is studying the painting as well.

Compared to Eyes and especially The Cemetery, The Escape Route may seem like a rather low-key story but it has a power that sneaks up on you.  Hiding out (as many real-life Nazi war criminals did) in South America, Strobe is full of excuses for his past and he may indeed be sincere in his wish that he had just become a fisherman as opposed to a brutal Nazi.  But, in the end, Strobe can neither escape his past nor his final punishment.  Justice cannot be escaped, no matter how hard Strobe tries to outrun it.  In the end, there is no escape for the wicked.  Richard Kiley and Sam Jaffe both give excellent performances.  The Escape Route will stick with you.

As a series, Night Gallery was a bit uneven but the pilot stands as a classic of its type, featuring three short films that all deserve to be remembered.

As for me, I’m going to try to watch an episode or two a day.  I may review a few more Night Gallery episodes here on the Shattered Lens.  As I said, the series itself was a bit uneven and not every episode is as good as the pilot.  Still, there’s definitely some gems to be found in the Night Gallery and I’ll share them as I come across them.

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 3.4 “The Hare Moon” (dir by Viet Nguyen)


I have to admit that I groaned a bit when I discovered that the fourth episode of part 3 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was going to center around yet another holiday.  Seriously, how many holidays do these witches have to celebrate over the course of year?  This time, the holiday was the Hare Moon, which involves everyone dressing in white, going on a picnic, and not killing a rabbit.  The holiday itself doesn’t make much sense and, to the show’s credit, this episode opens with Sabrina telling her aunts that it doesn’t make much sense.

So, I wasn’t expecting much from The Hare Moon but, to my surprise, it actually turned out to be a pretty good episode.  At the very least, it held my interest and that’s more than I can say for the episode that came immediately before this one.  I think it helped that a good deal of this episode took place in the woods during the day, which meant that I could, for once, actually see what was happening without having to strain my eyes.  I know that I spend a lot of time complaining about how underlit and dark the majority of Sabrina‘s interior scenes are but I think this episode proved my point.  When I could actually see who was talking, it was a lot easier for me to actually care about what they were talking about.

The highlight of this episode came when, during the Hare Moon ceremony, the witches ran into the pagan carnival people, who were all celebrating a holiday of their own.  The interaction between the two groups was wonderfully awkward and, even more importantly, the carnival people seem like worthy adversaries to the witches.  The carnival people worship the Green Man and, by the end of the episode, they had delivered an ultimatum to the witches.  The witches can either worship the Green Man or they can die.  Since the covens powers have been weakened by a petulant Satan, the witches are momentarily at a disadvantage.

In other developments, Harvey and Roz decided to investigate the carnival on their own, which led to Roz getting turned into a statue and …. well, I mean, it’s Harvey and Roz.  If either one of them had a personality beyond Harvey being amiably stupid and Roz having an overprotective father, it might be interesting but they don’t so who cares?  Nick also ended up setting Satan free because Nick’s main reason for being on the show is to do stuff like that.  Of course, the Spellmans were going to free Satan anyway so that they could get back their powers but Nick decided to go ahead and do it so now the Spellmans are still weak and even more screwed than before.  Way to go, Nick!

Anyway, this was actually a pretty entertaining episode.  The carnival people are wonderfully sinister and Will Swenson was well-cast as their leader. Kiernan Shipka remains the show’s greatest strength and even Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis got a few good lines in this episode.  There was still a bit too much filler but all in all, this was one of the better episodes.  If only every episode was this good.

TV Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 3.3 “Chapter Twenty-Three: Heavy Is The Crown” (dir by Alex Pillai)


What’s this?, you ask.  Just now, you’re finally getting around to reviewing Chapter 23 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?

Admittedly, it has taken me a while.  The third season or third part or whatever the Hell you want to call it of this show was released on Netflix all the way back in January.  That’s a long time ago even by normal standards.  In May of 2020 (this is May, right?), January seems as if it might as well have been a decade ago.  You remember what the world was like in January — Iowa caucuses, open movie theaters, strong economy, and no social distancing — and it feels like some sort of lost age.  Case reviewed the first two episodes of Sabrina‘s third season back in February.  I was supposed to review episodes three and four as soon as I got back from my vacation in March.  Of course, as soon as I got back, the entire world went into lockdown and it was easy to get distracted from the latest Greendale drama.

Plus, I have to be honest.  So far, for the most part, I just haven’t enjoyed Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  There have been a few tolerable episodes and Kiernan Shipka deserves to be a bigger star but the show itself often feels like a dead end.  The pace is often maddeningly slow and, other than Sabrina, almost all of the characters are rather flat and dull.  With the exception of Sabrina, everyone gets one defining trait and the show tends to beat viewers over the head with that trait.  As such, Aunt Zelda is always going to be arch and dismissive.  Hilda is always going to be naive and neurotic.  Ambrose is always going to decadent in the most boring ways possible.  Harvey is always going to be a dullard.  Roz is always going to be boring.  Beyond the one-dimensional characters, the whole look of the show bugs me.  Why does no one in Greendale ever turn on a light?  Why do I always have to strain my eyes trying to see what’s happening?  It gets frustrating.  Working up any enthusiasm to sit through another one of Sabrina’s adventures can be a struggle.

And yet, I will continue to watch the show because I do think that it has potential.  Now, to be honest, some of that is because the show is often so bad that it has nowhere to go but up.  But occasionally, there will be an interesting twist or a line of dialogue that doesn’t crash to the ground with a thud.  It doesn’t happen often but it does happen enough that I keep hoping Chilling Adventures will get things together.  My main hope is that, someday, the show will actually be worthy of Kiernan Shipka’s consistently excellent lead performance.

Just take the third episode of Part Three for example.  On the plus side, this episode features a trip to a wonderfully creepy carnival.  And even though the carnival itself is pretty obviously borrowed from Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, it’s still a lot of fun and effectively surreal and ominous.  However, to get to the carnival, we have to suffer through a lot of underlit drama featuring one-note characters.  We have to sit through Roz and Harvey having the least interesting relationship ever to appear in a Netflix drama.  We have to deal with Nick and his PSTD.  We have to deal with Miranda Otto delivering all of her lines in the same monotonous style.  We also have to sit through yet another quest.  In this case, Sabrina has to find three artifacts to hold onto the title of the ruler of Hell.  She manages to find Herod’s Crown but she still loses it to her rival for the throne, Prince Caliban.  So, I guess Sabrina is going to have to find the other two artifacts over the course of the season. I’d probably care more if Hell, as presented on this show, wasn’t so damn boring.  Presenting witchcraft as being tedious might make for an effective short film but making an entire series out of it is another thing all together.

And yet, Kiernan Shipka gives such a good performance in the lead role that you can almost overlook how annoying the show itself tends to be.  Shipka brings so much sincerity to her role that you want Sabrina to succeed.  I just wish the show was more often worthy of the talents of its star.

Oh well.  Fear not!  I actually liked the episode that came after this one.  I’ll be rewatching and reviewing it soon!