|A malevolent doll from the 5th episode|
ROD SERLING'S NIGHT GALLERY Season 1. 1968.
After the telefilm proved a success, Rod Serling was given the go to turn Night Gallery into a weekly series, but apparently the network wasn't confident enough to order too many episodes, so the first season is pretty short [It was rotated with two other series on Wednesday night]. The series features macabre stories in the genres of horror, fantasy, suspense, and science fiction. Each of the six episodes features two or more stories. First, the good: "The Dead Man" is a Poe-esque tale about a young fellow whose body can instantly develop any illness or condition, including death. The trouble is that he has a yen for his doctor's wife... Carl Betz, Jeff Corey and Lousie Sorel give very good performances in this. "Make Me Laugh" is an amusing black comedy about a mediocre stand up comic who only wants to make people laugh, to his ultimate regret; Godfrey Cambridge is excellent as the comic. "Clean Kills and Other Trophies" features an outstanding performance by Raymond Massey as a truly hateful, racist hunter who goads his more sensitive son (Barry Brown) into hunting deer with him. The wind-up is predictable but satisfying. "Paula's Voice," about a man haunted by his dead wife's shrill voice, is really just a quick gag of an idea, but Phyllis Diller proves surprisingly wonderful as the awful, nagging spouse.
Other segments are well-acted but merely mediocre or worse, stories about sinister dolls (with a fine John Williams performance), a Titanic survivor who is a flying Dutchman (an outstanding John Colicos), and a doctor's black bag from the future, among others [There are no black bags today let alone in the future!]. "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar," which boasts a fine performance by William Windom (and great support from Diane Baker, Burt Convy and John Randolph), is meant to be a poignant study of a man's mid-life crisis, but some of his actions make him unsympathetic and the whole thing just doesn't work. And what to make of "The Nature of the Enemy" in which a lunar expedition is attacked by -- get this! -- giant white mice. There's no point wondering how the mice can breath on the airless moon, as the story, while played straight, is another quick gag [the moon is made of green cheese, remember?] but it certainly is a tale that's not worth the time it takes to present it, as well as one of Serling's all-time most disappointing scripts.
This truncated season was followed by two more full seasons.
Verdict: Truly a mixed bag. **1/2.