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Very well made TV movie, with 3 different stories. the first stars Roddy
McDowall as a bastard nephew who kills his uncle to take his money, then
haunted by the ghost of the uncle (or so he thinks) to death. Ossie Davis
also stars in this episode, and he's wonderful. This is my personal
favorite of the three. Roddy is snide and sly as the nephew, and when he
starts to come unhinged he's marvelous. The second stars Richard Kiel as
WWII concentration camp captain hiding in some South American city, where
becomes strangely fixated with an idyllic painting of a man fishing in a
mountain lake. The painting hangs in a museum, and he spends day after
in there just staring at it and eventually feels himself drawn into the
painting. It's a relief to be hounded no longer by the war crimes police
when he's in the painting. But back in reality he's recognized as a Nazi
who was condemned after the war, and a former camp inmate tells the police
about him. Kiel runs to the museum, intent on going into the life in the
painting for good. But he makes a big, big mistake and will spend
paying for it and his crimes against humanity. The last episode stars
Crawford in a pretty much one-woman play. She's a blind rich woman,
in a huge penthouse apartment in NYC, who pays a loser for his corneas so
that she can have them transplanted in her eyes. The kicker is that she
will only be able to see for about 8 hours, and she doesn't care a bit
the man she takes the corneas from will be blind forever. She has the
operation, and when the time comes to take the bandages off, the instant
does the city is plunged into a blackout. She spends the 8 hours trying
get out of the apartment building in the dark stairwells, and finally
it back to her apartment when the sun comes up. She finally sees the sun,
but it's the last thing she does.
I love this movie; and I also loved Night Gallery, but this film has 3 different viewpoints and would appeal to a large audience. All the performances are excellent. Steven Spielberg directed the Joan Crawford segment, "Eyes"; it was one of his first director assignments.
Serling performs a refining act on the "Tales from the Crypt"-brand of horror with this grim triptych. Each story is a little morality tale in the style of "The Twilight Zone," but instead of that series' sense of surreal wonder, the focus is now firmly on the macabre. The plotlines follow the model of the 1950s horror pulp comics, with characters spoiling for their comeuppance: a black-sheep nephew suffers a revenge beyond the grave after murdering his rich uncle; a ruthless blind woman blackmails a surgeon into performing a transplant using the eyes of a desperate bum; a war criminal finds what he thinks is respite from his pursuers when he is miraculously transported into a museum painting. The rest is pure Serling, though, with sharply drawn characters, stylish dialogue, and his characteristic final twist of irony. The execution is first rate, with a terrific cast, good production values (music, editing, photography), and inventive visuals from directors Boris ("The Omega Man") Sagal, Barry ("Across 110th Street") Shear, and Steven Spielberg (in his maiden effort).
This remarkable trio of spooky stories served as a pilot to the
not-quite-so remarkable TV series of the same name, though now it is
just as likely remembered as the point where two screen legends passed
at opposite trajectories of their careers. Steven Spielberg's first
professional directing job was segment two of this anthology, which
also proved to be one of Joan Crawford's last acting efforts, certainly
her last worth noting.
Conceived by another legend, the brilliant Rod Serling, the concept of the film and subsequent series was meant to be a variation on his classic "Twilight Zone" series, varying tales of supernatural horror, each tied to a grotesque painting and each introduced by Serling, acting as the gallery's curator. It was an excellent start, though the resulting series proved to be a pale imitation of "The Twilight Zone," a peculiar hodgepodge of styles and concepts, some classics and some just plain silly.
The TV movie itself stands alone, though the trio of tales unfold in descending order. The first and best is "The Cemetery," a variation on the classic ghost story. In this southern Gothic creeper, Roddy McDowall murders his wealthy uncle, but finds that enjoying his newfound inheritance is a bit difficult since a painting on the wall seems to suggest that Uncle is buried, but not dead. The story is slight, even silly, but boy, oh boy, does Roddy know how to chew the scenery. I can think of no other actor who so obviously loved to act more than McDowall and here he plays evil to the hilt. Roddy was undoubtedly one of the most intrinsically likable stars there ever was, so much so that he could play the most despicably evil characters and still make the character a delight. "The Cemetery" is nicely written by Serling and tightly directed by Boris Segal, but it is Roddy's one-man show.
But if Roddy McDowall could make loathsome characters inexplicably likable, than Joan Crawford had the knack for negating any trace of sympathy that her characters might possess. In Spielberg's "Eyes," Joan plays a ruthless millionairess who happens to be blind, but has the chance to briefly see again by buying the eyes of a living person who is in desperate need of money. It is a nice performance; hard and demanding, Crawford never asks for pity, but nevertheless earns it with the story's nifty twist ending. More a clever idea than a solid story, the tale is not particularly suspenseful; bit it does displays a cool sense of cynical irony. And never is it apparent that it is Spielberg's first crack at professional film-making, so sure is his use of the camera and setting of mood.
The third tale of the trilogy, "Escape Route," is probably the most like the classic "Twilight Zone," dark and brooding; yet least successful as a thriller. Richard Kiley is a war criminal who thinks he can escape his past by literally throwing himself into art. Rod Serling has other ideas. As the trilogy's closing act, I guess it was suppose to be the one with the most impact, the one to show off Serling's penchant for moralizing. It doesn't quite come off. I think part of the problem is that Kiley, a good actor, lacks a powerful screen presence. The best episodes of "Night Gallery," and for that matter "The Twilight Zone," featured actors with strong personalities who were not only talented, but adept at pushing their performances to the edge, flirting with going over the top, just as McDowall and Crawford do. Any short form fiction, be it on the page or on the screen, needs that heightened sense of drama, that admission that reality has been left behind.
Though it had some strong episodes at first, the "Night Gallery" TV series fell out of Serling's control and eventually became sort of a ghost story version of "Love, American Style," a crude mix of cheap jokes and heavy-handed suspense. It's a pity that it didn't stay true to this pilot; it could have been another "Twilight Zone."
Any film fan knows that this is where Steven Spielberg got his start,
directing the second vignette "Eyes". But NIGHT GALLERY deserves more
respect and attention because of its overall creepiness than for the debut
of a young "genius".
Rod Serling, creator of "The Twilight Zone", hosts this anthology TV movie that later spawned the TV series of the same name. Both the film and the series feature a multitude of guest stars that keep things interesting. Part 1: An obnoxious southern man (superbly played by Roddy McDowall) kills his uncle (George Macready) for his fortune and is later haunted by a painting of the family cemetery. Part 2: A blind woman (Joan Crawford) arranges to use a gambler's eyes (Tom Bosley) so she can see for a few hours, but things don't turn out the way she planned. Part 3: A Nazi war criminal living in South America is enchanted by a beautiful painting that reminds me of his happier past.
Of the three stories, Part 3 is easily the weakest. Part 1 and Part 2 are both amazing pieces of cinema and leave lingering memories to haunt you. But the plot and execution of Part 3 is rather boring and never really provides the viewer with memorable images or even a few chills here and there. Joan Crawford and Roddy McDowall easily take the cake as the best actors in the movie. Having always been a fan of both, I may be a bit biased, but most fans will agree with me that the two play wonderful villains, yet evoke a certain pity when they get theirs. The music in the movie is brilliant, by the way.
NIGHT GALLERY is an above-average TV movie that should be out on DVD already. The VHS is out of print, I believe, but try looking for it. My advice: watch the first two, then stop, rewind, and eject. Avoid the third installment as it will positively ruin the viewing experience.
It's curious, but when you look at the page for this pilot for "Night
Gallery", it reads as follows:
"Directors: Boris Sagal, Barry Shear, and 1 more credit » "
You have to click on the '1 more credit' tag to learn that Steven Spieberg himself was this other director--and this was his first professional job as a director! This is more than enough reason to watch the show's first episode and interesting that unless you click this link you might never know about his involvement.
In some ways, this pilot is quite typical of a regular episode of "The Night Gallery". It consists of three separate stories (this often varied) and each is a story about horror and irony. The main difference, however, is that most of episodes of the series were NOT written by Rod Serling--despite him being the host of the shows. Here, he writes all three segments and so it's not surprising that they are very high quality--he was a heck of a writer and the execs at the network were idiots to hire him essentially as a host and begrudgingly let him contribute a few scripts. Duh.
The first segment, "The Cemetery", stars Roddy McDowell as a scum-bag nephew waiting for his disabled disabled Uncle (George Macready) to die. You can't help but hate McDowell's character--he is 100% awful and delights in anticipating the old man's death. In fact, he tries his best to 'simplify things'--by putting Macready by an open window on a cold day when his butler (Ossie Davis) has his day off from work. Not surprisingly, when the old man soon dies, McDowell is ecstatic--unseemly so. However, his joy at is cut short when strange things start to happen to a creepy painting in his house...what, exactly, it is and why is something you'll have to find out for yourself. While I would not consider this a great segment, it is very good and a welcome introduction to the series. Plus it's humorously black ending is worth waiting for--although not entirely unexpected. I'd rate this one an 8..nearly a 9.
The second segment, "Eyes", has the distinction of starring Joan Crawford. Oddly, despite her fame, the directing job was given to young Spielberg--an untried professional to say the least. Crawford plays a horrid lady who can get whatever she likes simply because she's rich and wicked. She shows this by her trying to get her doctor (Barry Sullivan) to arrange for an evil surgery--to transplant a poor living donor's eyes into Crawford!! Sick, yes, but even sicker because she knows that IF the surgery works, she'll only be able to see for a few hours at most!! As she says, "My single abiding interest is MYSELF"! Naturally the doctor refuses, so she blackmails him to get his cooperation. Nice lady, huh?! And, based on Christina Crawford's book "Mommy, Dearest", perhaps not unlike Crawford in real life!! Regardless of whether or not this is true, Crawford was wonderfully wicked in this show--it's one of her best performances late in her career. And who is this pathetic donor? None other than Tom Bosley (who, incidentally, was also surprisingly good)! Naturally there is an ironic twist--and it's one of the best episodes of the series. I'd give this one a 9--though I will admit there were a few plot holes with this one that other reviewers have also noticed. Still, it's a winner.
The third, "Escape Route", stars Richard Kiley--a very good actor who most would not recognize despite his many appearances on TV, movies and on stage. Kiley plays a man who is a Nazi war criminal living in South America. He becomes fixated on a painting in a museum--a painting with WEIRD qualities. And, a man at the museum (Sam Jaffe) recognizes him as an evil officer from Auschwitz. What happens next has a lot to do with a creepy painting of the man being crucified that's in the same art gallery in "Escape Route"--wow, is that spooky! However, despite this, the final segment is not especially scary, though it is a nice story about Karma. I'd give this one 7.
Overall, this pilot is quite a bit better than the subsequent series. Much of this, I am sure, has to do with Serling's continually diminishing involvement with the scripts. However, on occasion, the show did manage some incredibly effective episodes. I'd give this pilot an overall score of 7.
As far as TV pilot films go, this one is stellar. While the "Night Gallery"
TV series, which resulted from this, had a number of classic, unforgettable
stories, it's often this opening feature that most people remember the
Of the three segments, I've always enjoyed the middle one with Joan Crawford, best. She does a great job. Super script too...such irony! The final segment is great as well, with Richard Kiley giving a powerful performance. Another classic ending. Roddy McDowell is also fine in the first segment, although aside from the creepy cemetery painting (I like how it keeps changing), this one was the least interesting to me, of the three stories.
A fine, fine production all-around. Great acting, awesome scripts, and terrific production levels for a TV special of the time. It's too bad the series itself, has not been remembered so well through the years, but this was a superb kick-off for it. Rod Serling is wonderful as usual, giving his characteristic dry, eerie delivery for each of the proceedings. Highly recommended!
First shown on NBC-TV in November 1969, NIGHT GALLERY, the pilot to the
1970-73 TV anthology show of the same name, was the last major work of Rod
Serling, creator of what may still rank as the best TV series ever, "The
Twilight Zone." Although, when the series started, Serling wasn't given the
kind of creative control he felt he needed to make the series work (and not
surprisingly, it was mercilessly compared to "The Twilight Zone"), on this
pilot film, he was firmly in control. Adapting three stories from his 1967
collection "The Season To Be Wary", Serling came up with a thoroughly
engaging anthology film that combined morality, melodrama, suspense, and the
supernatural into a stunning brew not seen on television
Segment 1, "The Cemetery", directed by Boris Sagal, features Roddy McDowall as an unscrupulous nephew who causes the death of his uncle by exposing him to a cold wind in order to grab his hands on the old man's fortune. But as he soon learns, one of the paintings his uncle created in his last days--that of the family cemetery--keeps changing on him every time he looks at it. And soon, it seems to show his uncle coming back from the grave.
Segment 2, "Eyes", stars Joan Crawford as a ruthless, imperious blind woman who blackmails a prominent surgeon (Barry Sullivan) into giving her an ocular transplant so that she may enjoy roughly twelve hours of sight before going blind again. The operation, done with the help of an eye donation from a petty gambler, turns out to be a success--until a blackout causes Crawford to think otherwise. This episode is noted as the professional maiden directing effort for Steven Spielberg.
Segment 3, "Escape", directed by Barry Shear, stars Richard Kiley as a Nazi fugitive hiding out in Buenos Aires who becomes captivated by a painting of a fisherman in the local art museum. He dreams of becoming that fisherman and escaping from hiding, but a chance encounter with a Holocaust survivor (Sam Jaffe) will deny him that in a chilling conclusion.
Although Serling's moralizing sometimes gets a bit on the heavy-handed side, NIGHT GALLERY is still superbly conceived, with the case giving excellent and often chilling performances. The first segment is appropriately spooky; the second ingenious and unconventional (for TV); and the third, even though it is the weakest, a worthy capper on this film. Spielberg, of course, got the glory for his segment, but Sagal's and Shear's segments are nothing to sneeze at either. All in all, NIGHT GALLERY comes highly recommended.
This was Joan Crawford's second to last film (actually a TV movie) that was the pilot to the famous show created by Rod Sterling. There are three segments all which evolve around a painting and have very good morals. The first two are the best. Crawford's segment (the second) directed by Steven Spielberg (his directorial debut) is about a vicious, blind Park Avenue millionaire who undergoes an eye transplant just so she could see for a few hours, but everything does not go the way she plans. "Night Gallery" is a masterpiece, and I highly recommend it to anyone, especially Crawford fans or Twilight Zone fans.
I was there when Night Gallery first appeared, in my early teens. And I was into Theatre at the time and knew a few things about production. Nihgt Gallery was instantly a classic. Rod Serling would introduce the segments with paintings which led into the plot. One had Roddy McDowell playing his usual malevolent character to the max, in an ordinary tale made better by acting and production. Another segment dealt with the rich buying happiness in a very unique and creative way. It wasn't a mind blower, but the most reminiscent of the Twilight Zone series. The third was the true classic, with Richard Kiley giving a masterfully performance of a vicious horrible creature, a Nazi war criminal who thinks he merits leniency after years on the run. He feels he can escape into a picture at a gallery in which men are fishing at a serene lake. This episode alone is better than any Twilight Zone series, and that is not easy to do. This was easily the creme de la creme, the Mona Lisa of Rod Serling's career, undeniably. If you haven't seen it, you must watch it! You will be enthralled! There were later episodes that also had great suspense, and terror that modern gore films can only fantasize about producing. The famous "Earwick" episode, the super scary "Robert the Bruce" episode. It's easy to see why studios won't release these again, for the same reason they don't release the other great classics of the past (Bronco, Sugarfoot, Laredo, The Untouchables-it's even hard to find some everyone knows about-Gilligan, the Hillbillies, Big Valley), because they want to make audiences think the old classics were the ho hum shows they air today so they won't lose audiences from new show. You will be pleasantly surprised by NIGHT GALLERY
Rod Serling effectively presents three tales of the supernatural, shown
first as eerie paintings.
First story, 'The Cemetery' is a creepy yarn about wretched nephew Roddy McDowell, who inherits his uncle's estate, only to be plagued by sinister paintings of his uncle rising from his grave to seek revenge. Ossie Davis is also good as a disrespected butler who is far more cunning than he seems, much to their regret...
Second story, 'Eyes', stars Joan Crawford as a spoiled, rich, but blind woman who tries to literally purchase another man's eyesight, even for a short time. Highly ironic ending is most effective. Steven Spielberg directs this memorably.
Third tale, 'The Escape Route', stars Richard Kiley as a Nazi on the run in South America, who tries to escape justice inside a much-loved painting of a fisherman...things don't go as planned, with a chilling ending indeed.
Led to the TV series, which only on occasion lived up to this quality, but was still mostly enjoyable.
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