Rod Serling is probably more well known for being the creator of The Twilight Zone. From 1969-1973, his other show, Night Gallery ran on NBC. Definitely darker in tone, this anthology series was ahead of its time. It featured stories that were horror based or macabre in nature.
The pilot was a television movie featuring Joan Crawford, Roddy McDowall and Ossie Davis. Ms. Crawford’s particular segment “Eyes” was directed by a young Steven Spielberg. Each part of the show, was introduced with a painting that would prove very integral to the storyline.
A particularly disturbing episode happened to be part of the aforementioned movie. I remember it to this day. “The Cemetery” was about a nefarious young man (Roddy McDowall) that murders his uncle for the inheritance. What made this story extremely creepy was the picture on the wall in the house.
The picture’s subject was the family’s cemetery. You could see McDowall’s uncle rising from the grave in the picture. When I saw it, I was very young and it distressed me. I knew what the outcome was going to be but I couldn’t look away.
Originally, Night Gallery was part of a rotating anthology series with McCloud, SFX, and the Psychiatrist. It was called Four in One. Most of the teleplays were based on classic author works from such literary giants as HP Lovecraft, Bernard Malamud and Robert Bloch.
In 1971 and 1972, the show was nominated for Emmys. For the pilot episode, Serling received an Edgar Allan Poe Award. Ultimately, Night Gallery was cancelled because Universal Studios demanded that the episodes be cut to a half hour. As a result, the story quality suffered.
Rod Serling passed away shortly after the show’s demise in 1975. He never really forgave Universal for the way that they treated him. If you are interested in revisiting this classic program, it is available on DVD.