27 May 2002 | cchase
Creepy chills and grisly gems on display for your perusal...
Caught a few episodes of this once again, as part of a Memorial Day marathon on Encore's MYSTERY! Channel. In spite of the fact that it was mostly reviled by critics and not a few viewers, when it originally ran on NBC back in the early '70's, it now has garnered a cult following and I can definitely see why.
GALLERY in its own way, did for horror anthologies what TWILIGHT ZONE did for science fiction and fantasy. It's not as good as ZONE was in most respects, and I don't think that Rod Serling intended it to be. Free of the pressure of topping himself, which was something damn near impossible to do, GALLERY could be wildly uneven in the way the stories were featured, as it has been mentioned before, in terms of both quantity and quality. One story could take up an entire hour, while a half-hour tale could be accompanied by much shorter vignettes, some of them no more than LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE-quality blackouts, albeit it with endings that feature mayhem rather than marriage, though just as hokey.
A lot of the clothes, the special effects, the skewed photographic angles and lighting are positively outdated by today's standards, but that is a big part of the charm of revisiting a lot of the episodes, many which are all too familiar to the generation that grew up with GALLERY and its peer programs from this particular era.
Even more fascinating, however, is the chance to see movie and TV veterans rubbing elbows and sharing scenes with many "newbies," a lot of whom are established stars today, and the chance to see them cutting their teeth on '70's material is an interesting and sometimes enlightening experience. For example, one episode I viewed featured Kim Hunter, Harry Morgan and a very young Randy Quaid; another starred an up-and-coming actor named Bill Bixby, with Carol Lynley, Ned Glass and Donna Douglas (yes, as in "Ellie Mae Clampett," but without most of her corn-pone accent.)
Based on classic short stories by everyone from August Derleth and H.P. Lovecraft ("Pickman's Model"), to Charles Beaumont and Ray Bradbury, the adaptations varied in quality, but usually never suffered as much as the original stories. Even so, there were scripts, directing and acting that are still every bit as good as anything produced today, better even, since anthology shows such as this are in woefully short supply (though the revamped THE OUTER LIMITS is in reruns, and I've heard a new version of THE TWILIGHT ZONE is in the works.)
Case in point, is one of the episodes I saw in the marathon, called THE WAITING ROOM. From an original Rod Serling story, directed by one of the resident GALLERY helmers, Jeannot Szwarc, this was a masterfully dark Old West tale with a twist, and a Who's-Who of a cast that would put any character actor buff or fan of Western potboilers into High Noon Heaven: Steve Forrest, Buddy Ebsen, Lex Barker, Albert Salmi, Jim Davis and Gilbert Roland. This tale brought to mind a movie TNT did not so long ago called PURGATORY, but where that film needed ninety minutes, this episode delivered a similar punch in thirty.
Of course, there is the now-legendary work done in both the pilot movie and the series by some young, green, but talented kid with the unlikely last name of Spielberg, but if you should happen to catch this while channel-surfing, look beyond those prejudicial impressions, stop and give it a chance, especially if you haven't seen it in quite a while. There are plenty of misses that were made during GALLERY'S three-season run, but the hits, which can still leave trails of cranberry-sized goosebumps down the back of your spine, are definitely worth it. Don't believe me? Well, you'll know whether or not NIGHT GALLERY can still have an effect on you, if you still shudder when you read my closing sentence...
"...and the FEMALE LAYS EGGS...."