The sixties and seventies were not only great eras for classic horror films in movie theatres but also spawned numerous iconic television shows with a supernatural slant. One of the most famous was The Twilight Zone which began in 1959 which was followed by a lesser known sequel anthology series called Night Gallery, also written and created by Rod Serling. The pilot movie which introduced Night Gallery to television viewers in 1969 was comprised of three tales of terror, all featuring paintings by artist Jaroslav Gebr. For the series which followed in 1970, the paintings were created by Tom Wright who is now a successful tv director.
The first story was The Cemetery, starring Roddy McDowall as a selfish man who kills his uncle in order to inherit his fortune. In a plot reminiscent of classic Tales From the Crypt and similar comic books, McDowall’s uncle seemingly gets his revenge, but there’s a twist in the tale. A cliche but fun story slightly hampered by Roddy McDowall’s appalling attempt at a Southern accent but ultimately a satisfying nugget of nostalgia.
Story number two is called Eyes and stars Joan Crawford as a not very nice wealthy blind woman who pays a desperate man for his eyes in order to use them for an operation which will enable her to see for twelve hours. Directed by Steven Spielberg, this really is a visual tour-de-force with a grand performance from Hollywood icon Crawford. The twist in the tale is maybe not quite so unexpected but it really is amazing to see what a decent writer, director and performer can achieve without having to rely on tedious and over the top CGI special effects.
The final story is Escape Route starring Richard Kiley. It starts slowly and takes its time to get going but gradually draws you into its tale of a Nazi war criminal hiding out in Italy and being pursued for his crimes against the Jews at a concentration camp during the war. This is really disturbing and hard-hitting stuff and you would be hard pushed to find much on television in this day and age with the same level of intelligence and imagination. The twist ending really makes this one and leaves the viewer with an extremely disturbing image that could give you nightmares…
Review by Richard Gladman
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