Night Gallery (film)
Night Gallery is a 1969 American made-for-television anthology supernatural horror film starring Joan Crawford, Roddy McDowall and Richard Kiley. Directed by Boris Sagal, Steven Spielberg and Barry Shear, the film consists of three supernatural tales that served as the pilot for the anthology series of the same name, written and hosted by Rod Serling. The film originally premiered on NBC on November 8, 1969.
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Presented by||Rod Serling|
|Music by||William Goldenberg|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||95 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Universal Television|
|Original release||November 8, 1969|
|Related shows||Night Gallery|
Rod Serling appears in a dark art gallery setting and introduces a trilogy of supernatural tales by unveiling paintings that depicts each segment. The three canvases produced for the pilot were painted by Jaroslav "Jerry" Gebr (who was head of the Scenic Arts Department at Universal Studios). The original pilot theme was composed by William Goldenberg (who also did the pilot's background music).
The first segment is directed by Boris Sagal with the opening narration by Serling:
Good evening, and welcome to a private showing of three paintings, displayed here for the first time. Each is a collector's item in its own way—not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures on a canvas, suspends in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare. Our initial offering: a small gothic item in blacks and grays, a piece of the past known as the family crypt. This one we call, simply, "The Cemetery." Offered to you now, six feet of earth and all that it contains. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Night Gallery...
Jeremy Evans is a despicable selfish young man who murders his wealthy uncle in order to inherit his estate, both much to the detriment of his uncle's loyal butler, Osmond Portifoy. Shortly afterwards, Jeremy notices that a painting of the family graveyard has changed – a fresh, empty grave appears in it and soon after a coffin standing upright appears in the grave. Little by little, the painting depicts the return of his uncle from his burial site, moving closer and closer – or so it seems to Jeremy.
The second segment is directed by Steven Spielberg with the opening narration:
Objet d'art number two: a portrait. Its subject, Miss Claudia Menlo, a blind queen who reigns in a carpeted penthouse on Fifth Avenue—an imperious, predatory dowager who will soon find a darkness blacker than blindness. This is her story...
Claudia Menlo is a heartless wealthy blind woman who desperately wants to be able to see. A hapless gambler owing money to loan sharks agrees to donate his eyes to her for the grand sum of $9,000 (approximately $63,700 in 2019 dollars). Her doctor, whom she blackmails into performing the illegal surgery, warns her that her vision will only last for about eleven hours. After the surgery, Claudia removes the bandages from her eyes, and by a quirk of fate, there is a blackout seconds later. She awakens the next day to see the sunrise, but she panics when her sight quickly begins to fade.
"The Escape Route"
The third and final segment is directed by Barry Shear with the opening narration:
And now, the final painting. The last of our exhibit has to do with one Joseph Strobe, a Nazi war criminal hiding in South America—a monster who wanted to be a fisherman. This is his story...
Joseph Strobe is a Nazi fugitive constantly on the run from the authorities and his nightmares about the past. One day, while fleeing from imaginary pursuers, he finds himself in a museum where he meets Bleum, a survivor of the same concentration camp where Strobe made the decisions about who would live or die. Bleum does not initially recognize him, but points out a painting that depicts a man being crucified in a concentration camp. Strobe turns away; he is drawn to a painting of a fisherman, and imagines himself in the painting. When Strobe returns to the art gallery the next day, Bleum recognizes him as a Nazi, and later, Strobe kills him to ensure his own anonymity. Once again, Strobe must hide from authorities. In a state of desperation he returns to the museum and prays to become the fisherman in the painting, but dire consequences loom.
Since its original broadcast and later re-airings, "Eyes" has remained the most popular segment among the three Night Gallery entries, most notably because it featured the directorial debut of a 22-year-old Steven Spielberg, as well as one of the last acting performances by screen legend Joan Crawford. Upon learning that the young Spielberg would be directing her, Crawford reportedly called up Sid Sheinberg, then vice president of production for Universal Television, to demand that he be replaced by someone more experienced. Sheinberg talked Crawford into giving Spielberg a chance and she agreed.
Prior to production, Crawford met with Spielberg at her Los Angeles apartment. Upon arrival, Spielberg was greeted by the star wearing a mask over her eyes as she was demonstrating her practice to maneuvering around a room like a blind person. The "Eyes" segment was filmed in ten days (February 3–12, 1969) at Universal Studios in Universal City, California and, despite her early reservations, Crawford and Spielberg got along famously, even so far as keeping in touch until her death in 1977.
During the filming, Crawford and her co-star Barry Sullivan had difficulty reciting their lines mainly due to the verbosity of the dialogue, and Spielberg eventually placed cue-cards around the set to meet the tight shooting schedule. The actress later recalled her experience on Night Gallery to a reporter saying that although she adored Rod Serling and his writing, "his dialogue was the hardest to memorize. There's a rhythm to his words and if you change one of them, the rhythm is off and you can't remember".
Home media releases
- Night Gallery: The Pilot, nightgallery.net; accessed February 10, 2017.
- Night Gallery: The Paintings at nightgallery.net.
- The Directors Series: Steven Spielberg: Rod Serling's Night Gallery: "Eyes" (1969).
- The Concluding Chapter of Crawford.