Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Night Gallery

"Night Gallery" was a show released by Universal Studios in the 1970's featuring short horror and science fiction stories in an anthology format. It was hosted by the legendary Rod Serling creator of the Twilight Zone who submitted scripts for the show but didn't have any real creative control which is why the show has kind of a bizarre humorous tone. The show has been forgotten by most but remembered by some like me who grew up on it. The Twilight Zone is as close to a masterpiece as a show can get (even though not all episodes were classics) but because of the host association "Night Gallery" had always been unfairly compared to that show. It also only had 3 seasons unfortunately. For me this show is almost the perfect balance between shows like "The Twilight Zone" and "Tales From the Crypt" it has that perfect edge of bizarre morality plays with a flair for very theatrical sets and set pieces but it does dabble in a little darker subject matter and plays with humor much more and some of the episodes feel down right like films which gets more into the vibe of 'Crypt' but it's that mixture of feeling that has caused me to fall in love with it. That and unlike 'Zone' and 'Crypt' where each episode seems to follow a similar style "Night Gallery" was allowed much more creative room to experiment, some episodes flopped, some were gems, and others I'd consider television masterpieces…but "Night Gallery" did something different it dared to experiment with style. 

The show is set up by introducing a painting that segues into a story and most episodes have 3 segments: 2 evenly lengthened episodes and maybe bridged or ended with 1 incredibly short one.  So I've divided my list into 3 branches. My Top 5 paintings…My top 3 Shot Subjects…and my Top 10 longer episodes. 

Top 5 Paintings 

5. Linndeman's Catch (This is a good episode, not a great one, but it's no wear near as beautiful as this painting.) 

4. The Ring with the Velvet Ropes (One of my favorite episodes of the show and a particularly intriguing painting.) 
3. You Can't Get Help Like that Anymore (One of the very few science fiction episodes and a beautifully tragic painting that practically spells out the entire episode.)  
2. A Question of Fear (My number 1 favorite episode. I love the simplicity of the imagery and unlike other Night Gallery episodes and paintings this one is mainly to give you the idea of the theme and not meant to be something literally derived from the episode.)
1. The Other Way Out (One of my favorite episodes but I absolutely love the tragedy of this painting.)
Top 3 Short Subjects - Since these are all extremely short subjects I'll let them speak for themselves. The show used to button segments sometimes with these incredibly short and bizarre humorous segments. According to the history Serling hated but I find rather charming like an appetizer in between meals, just to cleanse the psychological palette with humor. Only one of these 3 has a painting associated with it that I know about. 

1. Room for One Less (Lost episode) 
2. Satisfaction Guaranteed (This one is silly as hell) 
3. The Merciful 

Top 10 Favorite Episodes
10. The Cemetery 

The Cemetery is the very first episode in the pilot T.V. movie that preceded the series. And it stands on it's own as one of the best in my opinion due to the brilliant performances. Also this short actually utilizes paintings in the story which is a touch I extremely enjoy.

9. The Other Way Out (I cannot find this episode online) 
This episode is rather cliched from nowadays. It plays in a familiar vein of a revenge tale but because of it's rather dark ending even with it's simple set-up it's a flavor of mystery and intrigue I rather enjoy. Though I do love the creepy house with trap door genre.

8. Cool Air (One of my least favorite paintings) 
Based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft (One of two in the "NIght Gallery" the other is "Pickman's Model" a basic simple premise with a punch and a beautifully gothic book end. I wouldn't want to spoil this one.   

7. Marmalade Wine 

                 (It's the middle segment of this episode)

Possibly the most unique and bizarre entry into the entire series…and on of my favorites because of it's unique dreamlike, german expressionist look and bizarre style of acting. I can't imagine this one being on most people's favorites list but it's on mine because I respect the unique qualities of it, there aren't any other episodes like the feel of it. And I dig it for being that quirky, unique with just a level of bizarre dark humor. Even the painting that goes with it looks nothing like any other Night Gallery painting.  

6.The Sins of the Father (One of my least favorite paintings, I kinda get what it's supposed to represent but it's 3 sectioned and there is no need for it, I think he could have thought of one image to sum this idea up, however it is a fantastic episode.)  

              (I cannot find this episode online)

This is possibly the biggest episode with the most lavish outdoor sets though for me most of the drama takes place in a doorway and two different rooms. It's sad to say that some of the bizarre rituals of the past have been long forgotten by time but the ritual of a sin-eater is one you don't see to often in basically any form of fiction and this story tackling that subject makes it unique to fiction but not just the simple premise of a sin-eater it's the punch at the end that even though I don't believe in the concept (I doubt many do or really ever did) it still shocks me to empathize with a character who might fully believe in the concept of eating the sins of another. The ending packs such a punch in this regard it's not even funny even with they slowly show it coming and if you're sharp enough you can predict it…but when it comes I found it truly shocking. 


(This episode is on Hulu and well worth the check out) 
5. Class of 99

This episode just has balls. I knew the ending long before I saw this episode but it ropes across like an ensemble short play that takes place in one room…a class room with an extremely unique set of curriculum. The societal and racial overtones are what really pinned me to my seat. Rod Serling said this was one of his all time favorite scripts and I can 100% see why.

4. The Ring with the Velvet Ropes 

This episode echos almost completely the themes of an old Twilight Zone episode titled "A Game of Pool" only this time it's that sweet science known as boxing. The twist I saw coming a mile away, the setup feels extremely Twilight Zone, also one of my favorite paintings but somehow this one just gets me I think it's mainly for how well the actor playing the hidden champion is or how the idea of a champion no one knows about that seems to well exist in his own universe (when you see the episode it'll make sense) completely intrigues me. I guess from a script standpoint maybe there are better episodes out there but this one just gets me. Even though I saw the end coming I was bowled over. Maybe because it's a really good boxing story in the midst of all this Sci Fi and horror. 

3. A Feast of Blood 

This is possibly one of the most ridiculous episodes and it mainly holds my attention because of the very strong almost play quality script. The beautiful pale blond woman in a very unsubtle blood red dress and the hypnotic quality of the lead actor…yes the punchline or final twist is possibly the cheesiest thing I've ever seen…but the build-up to it is so exquisitely written and when the punch finally does come I sincerely was beside myself laughing I can't help not put this on my all time favorites. The actors play the absurdity with utter conviction and I just love it.

2. Silent Snow, Secret Snow (Probably my 6th favorite painting.)
This show doesn't even belong in the Night Gallery. It isn't science fiction, it isn't a ghost story, a horror story, a story about dreams, or a short macabre one-note-story about death, Dracula, or the like…"Silent Snow, Secret Snow" feels like a classic short film and in my opinion should be remembered with such love and fondness as Raymond Burr's "The Snowman" accept this isn't a loving tale about Christmas but more like a beautiful poem about a child's psychosis…with much a richness of depth than ever. The great Orson Wells narrates this episode and it adds to the layers of richness and the juxtaposition of the snow shots and the mundane life are what makes this episode a classic hopefully to be discovered for future generations.

(There is also a 1966 movie based on this story.)


1. A Question of Fear 
This episode is absolutely superb. If you like old haunted house stories, Leslie Nelson with an eye patch and as a villain and twists and turns at every corner than this episode is for you. It starts with one of the oldest cliches…I bet you can't spend a night in this haunted house…but the episode goes to darker, richer, and deeper places than the cheesy special effects and the overly cliche premise should allow, with an ending that is truly bizarre for the 1970's and would still be considered bizarre for 2012. The acting is superb. The effects are cheesy as hell, but it makes sense. And the level of detail to the ending punchline has been set up so brilliantly it is one of the few types of television drama's that may require a second viewing. + As an added bonus one of my all time favorite paintings. I think this episode gets overlooked in the cannon of the show.


Copy and Past the above code* I believe all the episodes are on Hulu. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

There is no riddle to life

Deep down human beings despite the society built up around them telling them to behave 'properly' we still love to act like animals & maybe just a step up like wild tribal men if you doubt this, go to a club, concert, or just a wild party, & see how with a certain set of tunes, notes, and maybe drugs & alcohol ordinary men and women will dance like fools and shout to gods that don't exist & wild men will try to make sense of it all...& eventually give up when all you can do is laugh at the true simplicity of human nature, peppered for flavor with some semblance of complexity but just enough to taste. The only certainty in life, is there is no certainty and the moment you think there is you start to kid yourself and cease to fully enjoy it.