Night Gallery: Season One (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)1969-1971 (November 23, 2021)
Studio(s)Universal Television/NBC (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
- Overall Grade: A
While Rod Serling will forever be remembered in the eternal zeitgeist as the creator, co-writer, and host of The Twilight Zone, many of his other projects tend to be overlooked to a certain degree. Devoted fans of one of his finest follow-ups, Night Gallery, spent a number of years watching the syndicated versions of the show prior to it being restored to its original length in the late 1990s and early 2000s on both VHS and DVD. Trimmed down and expanded using alternate footage to meet those syndication standards, this macabre-focused anthology series has rarely been seen on TV in its full form since its original broadcast.
The premise revolves around Rod Serling once again performing introductory hosting duties, taking us on a journey through various paintings, each with a story attached to them. Episodes in their original broadcast length featured two to three segments, all involving supernatural elements. Whereas The Twilight Zone was in black and white and had more of a science fiction bent, Night Gallery was shot in color with horror and thriller elements. In Tales from the Crypt fashion, many of the segments revolved around characters getting their comeuppance, or having a change of heart. Vampires, ghosts, and witches were much of its primary emphasis, though some of the episodes also managed to pull off touching stories about people down on their luck.
Night Gallery is also synonymous at this point with a pre-Duel Steven Spielberg directing a couple of the episodes, but other directors of the series included the likes of Jeannot Szwarc, John Badham, Jeff Corey, Leonard Nimoy, and Don Taylor. And in front of the camera, stars of the show (at least in the first season) included Roddy McDowall, Joan Crawford, Diane Keaton, Burgess Meredith, Ossie Davis, Henry Silva, Richard Kiley, Agnes Moorehead, Tom Bosley, John Astin, Martine Beswick, and William Windom, among many others.
Fan favorite segments from the show’s first season include Eyes, featuring Joan Crawford as a rich, conniving woman who will do anything to cure her blindness; The Cemetery, featuring Roddy McDowell as a young man who’s only too happy to see his rich uncle die and leave him an inheritance; The Little Black Bag, featuring Burgess Meredith as a disgraced doctor who finds a medical bag from the future; The Doll, featuring John Williams as a man stalked by a rather frightening-looking doll; and They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar, featuring William Windom as a washed-up drunken salesman who wants nothing more than to live in the past, literally. (The latter episode was nominated for an Emmy in 1971.)
Like all anthology shows, the quality of each segment and the preference point of the viewer is the determining factor in the success of Night Gallery’s entertainment value. The show can be rather compelling for the most part with excellent writing and memorable performances, and the majority of the segments are satisfying. Some of those segments are more enjoyable and effective than others, but more importantly, there’s plenty of good choices to be had.
Night Gallery was shot by various cinematographers on 35 mm film, finished photochemically, and presented on television in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings the first season to Blu-ray for the first time with new 2K masters of the pilot and the six episodes, all from interpositives. Because of the nature of the surviving elements, the quality of the presentations range from good to very good. Grain, speckling, delineation, and minor crush fluctuate from segment to segment, but for the most part, each offers an improved picture over their standard definition counterparts. The color palette is often rich, even vibrant, with good contrast. Shadow detail isn’t always potent, but again, one must chalk that up to the elements and their condition. By and large, the show makes the jump to high definition with mostly pleasing results, and with healthy encodes, it gets the most out of them.
Audio for the show is presented in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. It’s a little more evenly-tempered with good support for dialogue and score, even with minor sibilance and distortion from time to time. It’s relatively narrow, but clean and problem-free.
The 2-Disc Blu-ray release of Night Gallery: Season One sits in a blue amaray case with new artwork and a 4-page insert detailing each episode and segment. The following episodes and extras are included on each disc, all in HD:
DISC ONE (PILOT & EPISODES 1-2)
- Pilot (The Cemetery/Eyes/Escape Route) (98:19)
- The Dead Man/The Housekeeper (50:28)
- Room with a View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy (50:25)
- Audio Commentary on the Pilot by Gary Gerani
- Audio Commentary on The Dead Man/The Housekeeper by Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
- Audio Commentary on Room with a View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy by Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
DISC TWO (EPISODES 3-6)
- The House/Certain Shadows on the Wall (50:44)
- Make Me Laugh/Clean Kills and Other Trophies (50:28)
- Pamela's Voice/Lone Survivor/The Doll (50:28)
- They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar/The Last Laurel (50:26)
- Audio Commentary on The House/Certain Shadows on the Wall by Tim Lucas
- Audio Commentary on The House/Certain Shadows on the Wall by Amanda Reyes
- Audio Commentary on Make Me Laugh/Clean Kills and Other Trophies by Constantine Nasr and Taylor L. White
- Audio Commentary on Pamela's Voice/Lone Survivor/The Doll by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones
- Audio Commentary on They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar/The Last Laurel by Craig Beam
- The Syndication Conundrum: Night Gallery’s Horrific Second Life in Reruns (58:04)
All of the audio commentaries are new additions and each one is jam-packed with information about each episode, the show, and its creators. It features the likes of film critics and authors Tim Lucas, Amanda Reyes, and Kim Newman, among others. All are worth your time. On board as well is film historian Craig Beam, who also provides The Syndication Conundrum, which is perhaps the most fascinating extra of the lot. It not only details the fate of the show when it was cut up and re-purposed for syndication (which still airs to this day), but also shows a full side-by-side comparison of the episode They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar, giving viewers a crystal clear idea of just how much damage was done to the quality of the show and the performances. Interesting also is the fact that those syndicated versions used footage from the shortly-lived science fiction show The Sixth Sense and the original Frankenstein film, among other adjustments.
Kino Lorber’s treatment of Night Gallery not only offers the show in better quality than ever seen before, but adds a bevy of valuable bonus materials to dig through. Although Blu-ray releases of all three seasons are planned, one does have to wonder if a fourth set could be produced that offers the syndicated versions of the show just for posterity, especially since Rod Serling filmed new introductions for those versions. Regardless, it’s just wonderful to have the original broadcast versions in such high quality. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons
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