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Night Gallery (1969)

A seemingly haunted painting drives a greedy man insane. A rich blind woman gets a new pair of eyes that allow her to see for only one brief ironic moment. An idyllic painting gives a Nazi war criminal in hiding some fleeting comfort.


Rod Serling

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Joan Crawford ... Miss Claudia Menlo
Ossie Davis ... Osmund Portifoy
Richard Kiley ... SS-Gruppenführer Helmut Arndt / Josef Strobe
Roddy McDowall ... Jeremy Evans
Barry Sullivan ... Dr. Frank Heatherton
Tom Bosley ... Sidney Resnick
George Macready ... William Hendricks
Sam Jaffe ... Bleum
Norma Crane ... Gretchen
Barry Atwater ... Carson
George Murdock ... 1st Agent
Tom Basham Tom Basham ... Gibbons
Byron Morrow ... George J. Packer
Garry Goodrow Garry Goodrow ... Louis
Shannon Farnon ... 1st Nurse


In the pilot of the television series Night Gallery (1970), Rod Serling introduces three separate paintings, each with its own story of uncanny vengeance against evil to tell. The first, "The Cemetery", involves a black sheep nephew (Roddy McDowall) who murders his rich uncle to inherit his fortune - both much to the detriment of the uncle's butler (Ossie Davis) - only to find that vengeance extends beyond the grave. In the second story, "Eyes", a rich, heartless woman (Joan Crawford) who has been blind from birth blackmails an aspiring surgeon and a man who desperately needs money to give her a pair of eyes which will allow her to see for the first time - even though for only half a day's time - only to have the plan backfire on her in ways she never imagined. In the third story, "The Escape Route", a Nazi war criminal (Richard Kiley) is hiding from the authorities in South America, where he is confronted with his past demons and a curious Holocaust survivor (Sam Jaffe) and finds ... Written by Curly Q. Link

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Release Date:

8 November 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

L'envers du tableau See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Did You Know?


Rod Serling's introduction for the pilot episode is different to that of the regular television series. Each canvas is covered with a sheet and there are no other paintings on display. See more »


During the "Escape Route" segment, Israeli agents hold a photo of wanted war criminal SS-Gruppenfuhrer (Major General) Helmuth Arndt. However, the photograph shows Kiley wearing the one-of-a-kind uniform worn by Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler. See more »


Rod Serling - Host: [Third segment narration] And now, the final painting. The last of our exibit has to do with one Josef Strobe, a Nazi war criminal hiding in South America. A monster who wanted to be a fisherman. This is his story.
See more »


Featured in Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) See more »


Cielito Lindo
Music by Quirino Mendoza
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User Reviews

I agree with those who said that this pilot is much better than most of the subsequent series--it's better written and more interesting.
19 March 2011 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

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.

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