Night Gallery

Movie Information

In Brief: Anthology film comprised of three stories — one of which was directed by a young Steven Spielberg — that was the pilot for the subsequent TV series. The quality varies from story to story and the production values are pure TV level. Not bad at all, but neither is it anything all that special.
Genre: TV Horror Fantasy
Director: Boris Sagal, Steven Spielberg, Barry Shear
Starring: Joan Crawford, Ossie Davis, Richard Kiley, Roddy McDowall, Barry Sullivan
Rated: NR

This is the 1969 TV movie that served as the pilot for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery TV series. It’s probably best known today for the “Eyes” episode — simply because it stars Joan Crawford and was made by a then-unknown director named Steven Spielberg. I’m not exactly one of Spielberg’s most ardent admirers, but there’s no denying that he brought more directorial flair to his episode than did the other two directors to theirs. That said, I really prefer Boris Sagal’s “The Cemetery,” which benefits from the campy villainy of Roddy McDowall (wearing some prime 1960s fashions) and the commanding dignity of Ossie Davis. Overall though, the three films are going to rise or fall on your fondness — or lack thereof — for the particular writing style of Rod Serling. Though these shows lack the sometimes cringe-worthy morals of Serling’s Twilight Zone episodes, these are very much of a piece as concerns their facile use of irony and “surprise” endings that you can see coming from a mile away. It’s largely a matter of taste, but these things just never seem nearly as clever as they apparently believe themselves to be — and there were better episodes in the series than this first set of three. But it does capture the essence of the show for the uninitiated.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Night Gallery Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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