A collection of reviews by newspaper critics published during the show’s initial broadcast run.
(From Datebook, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, July 16, 1972)
DOES GALLERY HAVE THE SERLING ZING?
By John Stanley
Rod Serling may have written some classic drama in the days of live television, but it was The Twilight Zone that brought him to the attention of the masses, and which forever earned him a reputation as a specialist in the field of the macabre and the bizarre with an object lesson attached. A moral, if you will.
Serling cashed in on his newfound fame as writer–TV personality with collections of short stories, some based on Twilight Zone scripts, others based on his own original stories.
One such collection in 1968, The Season to Be Wary, served as the source for a TV movie in late 1969 that was filled with walking corpses, escaping Nazi war criminals, and one blind woman who would stop at nothing to regain her sight. NBC was suddenly reminded of Serling’s popularity when the ratings were tallied and decided perhaps the time was right for the son of Twilight Zone.
And that, all things being cyclical, gave birth to Night Gallery, which premiered in December 1970 with a chiller called “The Dead Man.” The series, now in its second season, can be seen in reruns Wednesday at 10:00 p.m. on channels 4, 3, 8. Naturally, everyone’s first inclination was to compare Night Gallery to The Twilight Zone. Did the new show have that same Serling zing? Could a color series yield the same low-key, stark mood and atmosphere of a black-and-white series? etc., etc.
It seemed then, and does now, superfluous to compare the two, for each was designed with a particular end result. While Twilight Zone was almost exclusively the work of one man (Serling, anyway, takes credit for producing and writing most of the shows), and therefore took on an auteur quality, Night Gallery is a network offering by committee, with different producers and writers striving for an anthology effect—not unlike reading a British edition of the Pan Book of Horror, as one critic put it. The emphasis is on good old-fashioned kicks in the head. (Some have argued this approach has failed to give Night Gallery any central viewpoint, that its fluctuations are as erratic as you can imagine.)
Rod Serling has returned once again as host, although now his introductory monologues (“Welcome to this morbid mortuary of oddities in oil … where things creak and stalk …”) are ersatz in the extreme. While in The Twilight Zone he impressed his presence on things, in Night Gallery he doesn’t seem to be taking his assignment that seriously, and he falls flat.
* * *
All of which has been judged sacrilegious criticism by the fans, who look upon Night Gallery as just about the only good horror show in town. Where else, short of turning to Bob Wilkins and Creature Features, can you find science fiction mixed with a good old-fashioned horror story?
A tongue-in-cheek flavor, it would seem, has been the want of Gallery producers, who apparently feel a mass audience won’t always sit still for the kind of thrills Night of the Living Dead or Tales from the Crypt offers at your neighborhood theater. Many of the stories are nothing more than horrific blackouts—quivering quickies with punch lines. Such as the time Adam West, in the garb of Dr. Jekyll, watched his Igor mix a singular brew of bubbling liquids and steaming gases. “You fool,” he roared, smacking his lips over a beaker of foaming fluid. “I told you to go easy on the vermouth.” End of sketch.
But Night Gallery has had its share of heavy moments. Such as the time a subterranean monstrosity rose from the sewers of a decaying suburb of Boston to carry away a screaming heroine—not quite what H. P. Lovecraft had in mind with “Pickman’s Model,” but a thrilling adaptation nonetheless. “The Caterpillar” was a terrifying account of how Laurence Harvey was driven mad by an earwig that was slowly eating its way through the center of his brain. Mermaids, witches, warlocks, alien beasts, werewolves, and the Devil himself have all trod the Night Gallery boards, many from stories by writers who are quite famous in the horror genre.
And what of Serling the Famous TV Writer? We are glad to report he is still scripting for the series with regularity—and in his best tradition. The recent “Waiting Room” once again epitomized his ability to write allegories enwrapped in enigmas entwined in morality lessons in a compelling, taut style: Gunfighters gather in a frontier saloon and wait for their moment of death—and keep living that moment over and over without mercy. This was the kind of stuff The Twilight Zone was made of, and it is rewarding to see that Serling is still being given full opportunity to present the macabre and bizarre as only he knows how.
(From Oakland Tribune, September 26, 1972)
GHOSTS AND LITTLE PEOPLE
By Robert MacKenzie
Weird . . . inexplicable . . . mysterious. No, I’m not describing Ghost Story, an amazingly placid new series on NBC. What is weird and mystifying is the mental process of network executives who decided to cut Rod Serling’s Night Gallery down to a half hour while blowing a weekly hour on something as supernaturally lifeless and pale as Ghost Story.
Night Gallery, in its hour form, has made more viewers squirm than anything since television’s My Little Margie. Some of its creepy encounters are uncomfortably hard to forget, such as David McCallum being introduced to a family of werewolves, Laurence Harvey’s experience with a worm that crawled into his ear, and a half dozen other segments last season that passed that real test of supernatural stuff—they really scared people. More than that, the segments were handsomely produced, with superb makeup and special effects. There were good original stories and many adapted from the best of supernatural short literature.
Other TV viewing has prevented me from seeing any of this season’s Night Gallery episodes. But it will probably be as witty and vivid as ever in spite of the network grave robber who stole half of its life. And where Night Gallery holds its effect only as long as they are effective (and sometimes that is only for 60 seconds), the new Ghost Story seems determined to spin a long-winded yarn about tracking spooks for a full hour. And their ghosts are dreary old sots, who are self-pitying and repetitive. Give me a vampire any day! Ghosts are the show’s main attraction, [but] the proper behavior for a spook show is to frighten its watchers—at least a little!
(From Daily Variety, November 10, 1969)
(Wednesday, 9:00–11:00 p.m., NBC-TV)
Rod Serling’s Night Gallery is a suspenseful, eerie trilogy of tales, two of which are highly imaginative and gripping while the other is not particularly good. But for the most part of the two hours, Serling’s scripts provide some offbeat and superior drama.
Paintings are the connective link in the stories which dwell on a common theme—a search for what seems unobtainable, with unsavory characters and greed involved. Serling has blended the world of reality with fantasy, and his characters moved through a mixture of illusion and delusion. His principals are a young and greedy man who conveniently arranges for his rich uncle’s death; a wealthy femme who is blind and seeks to see again; and a Nazi running from Israeli agents.
All these melodramatic mirrors serve as bases for Serling’s trio. Unfortunately they opened with the weakest link, the one in which a young man (Roddy McDowall) expedites the death of his uncle (George Macready) so he can have his fortune. There wasn’t a faintly likable character in this yarn, and it took a long time to go nowhere, ending on a contrived note.
Joan Crawford was superb as the rich femme who literally buys a man’s eyes for a transplant so she can see for a few hours. She ruthlessly utilizes blackmail and any other device necessary to achieve her goal, but it all turns out differently from what she has calculated. Tom Bosley turns in a jewel of a performance as the miserable failure in life who sells his eyes. Barry Sullivan was very good as the surgeon.
Richard Kiley was excellent as the onetime Nazi on the lam, contributing an indelibly realistic performance. Israeli agents closing in on him, he is fearful of past and present as he tries desperately to evade them. Denouement is ironic and fitting. Sam Jaffe was confident in support, while Norma Crane delivered an arresting and poignant portrait of a prostie.
Performances by McDowall and Ossie Davis were okay in opening vignette, but vehicle was n.s.g.
Different directors were utilized on each yarn. Barry Shear’s work in the Kiley tale was easily the best, sensitive and perceptive. Steve Spielberg’s direction of Crawford seg was topnotch. Work of Boris Sagal in McDowall story was satisfactory.
Serling hosted. Producer William Sackheim invested Gallery with top production values.
(From Daily Variety, December 17, 1970)
FOUR-IN-ONE: ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY
(The Dead Man; The Housekeeper)
Wednesday, 10:00–11:00 p.m., NBC-TV
Opening chapter of Four-In-One: Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, sextet of hours dedicated to the bizarre and supernatural, dished up pair of tales with obvious antecedents but produced with imagination and style designed to entertain. If the next five programs sustain last night’s style, Night Gallery is strong NBC bid in ratings race.
“The Dead Man,” with Carl Betz, doctor who can cause psychosomatic illness in Michael Blodgett, carries talent one step too far when he suspends life and, because of jealousy over his wife Louise Sorel, unconsciously fails to return young man to the living. Twist on “Monkey’s Paw” is that the corpse is allowed to appear, which affords director Douglas Heyes, who adapted story by Fritz Lieber, great chance to dwell on the macabre. Heyes doesn’t miss his opportunity, and Betz, Miss Sorel, Blodgett, and Jeff Corey as family friend-witness all use appropriate pull-out-all-stops style of acting to show off gothic-type yarn which ends in graveyard.
“The Housekeeper,” by Matthew Howard, is witty vignette about husband Larry Hagman replacing chilly personality of wealthy wife Suzy Parker with goody-two-shoes spirit of elderly new housekeeper Jeanette Nolan so he can have inner as well as outer beauty. Happily eschewing sci-fi for incantations, herbs, and a frog, he performs his “turnabout” feat, with Miss Nolan’s voice used on Miss Parker. Miss Nolan, suddenly the wealthy beauty, opts for divorce, but Hagman has frog at hand and new housekeeper at the ready.
Director John Meredyth Lucas keeps it light. Hagman, employing an Orson Welles style, plays for fun. Miss Nolan treads airily through her part. Miss Parker looks lovely.
Production values in both plays are topflight. Camerawork by William Margulies was excellent. Joseph Alves Jr.’s art direction was superior. Music by Robert Prince was an asset in both stories.
Jack Laird produced. Rod Serling intro’d stories in gallery set in front of interesting abstracts by Tom Wright. Theme music was by Gil Mellé.
Universal produced in association with NBC-TV.
(From Variety, December 23, 1970)
ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY
With Rod Serling, host
Producer: Jack Laird
60 minutes, Wednesday, 10:00 p.m.
Rod Serling’s two-in-one entry (and sometimes three) in NBC’s Four-in-One series offers some complex numerology for a concept that has been tried with mixed results previously. Apparently the web has been giving ear to the McLuhan creed that video is a non-linear medium and programming should be more free-form and less blocked-out. Whether the great telemajority is ready to leave the security of traditional schedules for the brave new world of an anthology of gothic suspense playlets is to be told in the Nielsens.
Serling’s operators were dandies of the chiller genre. “The Dead Man” was a nifty thespic pas de deux for Carl Betz and Jeff Corey. In it, Betz, as a partly mad doctor, teaches a patient how to simulate and recover from the symptoms of serious diseases. The acid test, of course, is to recover from the ultimate disease—death—a test complicated by the fact that the patient is having an affair with the doc’s wife.
“The Housekeeper” was an even better actors’ showcase, this one for Larry Hagman and Jeanette Nolan, the latter a character portrayal that was one of the acting highlights of this season. It was a virtuoso thespic display, and Hagman was an excellent counterfoil. The effort was somewhat marred by Suzy Parker’s stiff portrayal of a cold-hearted socialite, but there were enough plot twists and turns to overcome even that handicap.
Both segments were highly polished. Douglas Heyes and John Meredyth Lucas understand the rhythm of suspense in their direction, and William Margulies photography alternately brooded or jumped out at viewers as it should.
(From Daily Variety, February 11, 1972)
ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY
Wednesday, 10:00–11:00 p.m., NBC-TV
Latest trilogy of spookers chalked up for Rod Serling’s Grand Guignol are galley bows to O. Henry and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in its flirtations with the macabre and the snappy ending. Devotees got their kick from latest edition expertly acted and directed. It’s a thesp’s field day; everyone got into the gory act.
“Deliveries in the Rear,” which Serling wrote and which, directed with finesse by Jeff Corey, starred Cornel Wilde as late-19th-century surgeon-teacher instructing an anatomy class with aid of a corpse. Cadaver’s widow, suspecting her late husband was grabbed by grave robbers, sends detective to investigate. Wilde’s body snatchers pick up a woman’s body to throw law off the track. Since Wilde has been courting Rosemary Forsyth, the clincher, when he unwittingly unveils the lady cadaver, is predictable.
Wilde, in a rare TV appearance, turns in neatly tuned performance, balancing the cold-as-steel lecturer-scientist and the romantic-but-pragmatic suitor. Miss Forsyth, Kent Smith, Walter Burke were definite assets.
Producer Jack Laird’s “Stop Killing Me,” from short story by Hal Dresner, featured Geraldine Page asking help from police sergeant James Gregory. Miss Page, in tour de force, works herself up over threats by her hubby to do her in, and director Jeannot Szwarc beautifully catches the edge of madness.
Laird also wrote “Dead Weight,” based on story by Jeffry Scott, with Bobby Darin as gangster paying exporter Jack Albertson to get him out of the country. Instead, Darin ends up going to the dogs in slight, light Hitchcockian bit. Timothy Galfas directed briskly.