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"First Blood" may be my favorite of the original "action-adventure" pictures featuring the lone anti-hero against the mob. We've all seen "First Blood," but Sylvester Stallone (who plays John Rambo) draws an interesting parallel between "Rambo" and "Frankenstein": From Amazon X-Ray: "Stallone compares John Rambo to the monster of Doctor Frankenstein, and Colonel Trautman to The Doctor, in the respect that Rambo is a war machine monster created by America [Sam Trautman is named after Uncle Sam] to do its bidding, but then he escapes and runs amok, but also wants to fit into a society who shuns him, and Colonel Trautman was basically instrumental in making Rambo into what he is and feels remorse for how he turned out and does what he can to help make things right." *** SPOILER ALERT *** Don't click on either of these if you haven't seen "First Blood" or "Mulholland Drive" It's startling how much Rambo's jump-scare knife attack against Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) appears to be a direct, visual influence for David Lynch's "jump-scare diner scene" in "Mulholland Drive." If you have the fortitude, and haven't yet seen the films, I urge you not to click on these thumbnails, although I've tried not to give too much away. More than anything else, even the darkened skin, it's the demonic grins that link these shots together.
Listen Up! I'm writing this comment two weeks after beginning this post (on December 7, 2014). If anyone has any ambition to go through the entire series of "Night Gallery," do yourselves a favor and buy "Rod Serling's Night Gallery: An After-Hours Tour" by Scott Skelton and Jim Benson before you start - I'm ordering my copy today after having already gone through more than an entire season (I didn't know it existed before), and I can pretty much tell that it is indispensable, and *the definitive* reference guide - this is nearly an exact parallel to what I wrote about "The Twilight Zone Companion" (so much so that I cut-and-paste the paragraph from that link, and made only slight modifications to write this). I wouldn't have stumbled upon this book had they not had a sample review of "Class of 99" online (scroll down to Season 2, Episode 3c for more information). Buy this book before beginning. Cheers, Rocks Night Gallery - Season One I know, I know, but I crave cheap escapism. Note that for other series that I've gone through, the primary link (for the title) was for the Wikipedia entry; for "Night Gallery," Wikipedia's entries are inadequate, so I'm linking to the writer David Juhl who also went through the entire series, and wrote much more detailed reviews than I will be attempting - I suggest you turn to his blog for your supplemental material, and also purchase his Kindle Edition as your second reference (if you're going to traverse the entire series, you'll want both - I've never used Kindle, so I got my information from his website). David and I have written each other several times, and from what I've gleaned, I think quite highly of him, both as a reviewer of Night Gallery, and as a nice guy in general. *** (Spoilers Abound, Of Course, Throughout The Discussions. For All Seasons - Please Watch The Episodes Before Reading Anything) *** 1a. "The Dead Man" - Dec 16, 1970: [Notes: Written and Directed by Douglas Heyes (for each episode, I'll be listing the Writer and the Director. For those numerous cases where someone (often Rod Serling) wrote a teleplay based on an original story, I'm citing the author of the story).There is already a clear difference between "Night Gallery" and "Twilight Zone," as Night Gallery is going for straight horror, and Twilight Zone is clearly more of the science fiction genre with "cosmic-revenge" style plot twists. After only one episode, this is scarier (in terms of sheer horror) than anything The Twilight Zone ever put out. Still, it's nice to see Rod Serling give his narrations before the episodes, this time in the setting of a macabre art gallery (the "Night Gallery"). I have little doubt that, although the quality of episodes might be more consistent in Night Gallery, Serling's heart probably belonged to the Zone. Each of these episodes - at least for now - is one hour, divided into two thirty-minute shorts, so I will be labeling them 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, etc. with the production dates being the same for both the "a" and the "b" episodes. I saw the ending of "The Dead Man" coming well in advance, and it wasn't nearly as difficult to watch as I feared it might have been - it could have been *really* tough to swallow, but it might not have gotten past the television censors. The stunningly beautiful Louise Sorel (as the doctor's much younger wife) gives us a fine moment with an expression of genuine horror (Sorel playes Methuselah's mate as Rayna Kapec in "Star Trek's" "Requiem for Methselah" in which she was constructed to be the most beautiful possible woman - and makes a very credible case for being so.) Michael Blodgett, the handsome gentleman who portrays the condemned patient, does so in convincing fashion. Indeed, these are two very lovely people. 1b. "The Housekeeper" - Dec 16, 1970: [Notes: Written by Matthew Howard (a pseudonum for Douglas Heyes (2) <--- these numbers, going forward, will be how many episodes the person wrote or directed up until this point), directed by John Meredyth Lucas. Unlike The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery had many writers and directors (it's not nearly as Serling-concentrated), and I plan to credit them all in these Notes - such is the level of importance I place upon writing and direction, ergo the level of greatness - despite all its silliness and shortcomings - that I place on The Twilight Zone and Rod Serling. Larry Hagman (playing homeowner Cedric Acton) looks odd but somehow quite natural and even distinguished in a beard - I rather like it on him, perhaps because it helps to mask all the innocent, All-American, comic roles he's played over the years. Hagman is married to a beautiful shrew, and brings on a housekeeper who is her exact opposite - lovely on the inside, not so much on the outside. You can probably see where this is going, especially given that Hagman experiements with "personality transfer" ... or not: As many times as I've seen "this ending," I was not expecting it here, at all (and if you deconstruct it, it logically doesn't work).] 2a. "Room With A View" - Dec 23, 1970: [Notes: Written by Hal Dresner, directed by Jerrold Freedman. The extended, opening dialogue between Joseph Wiseman (who, by the way, played Dr. No) and Diane Keaton is wonderful, never looking more lovely. This twenty-minute short was simple, straightforward, and made by the interplay between Wiseman and the unwitting Keaton - it was great fun, in the most diabolical of ways. Think how clever this is: The viewer likes both of the perpetrators, and dislikes both of the victims.] 2b. "The Little Black Bag" - Dec 23, 1970: [Notes: Written by Rod Serling, directed by Jeannot Szwarc. A marvelous episode, clearly Rod Serling at his best, involving time travel, heros, plot twists, and an unexpected ending. It's amazing Burgess Meridith and Chill WIlls, both in fantastic performances, could have done so much in just twenty short minutes. Highly recommended for both Twilight Zone and Night Gallery fans - this is a terrific little vignette that doesn't seem so little.] 2c. "The Nature Of The Enemy" - Dec 23, 1970: [Notes: Written by Rod Serling (2), directed by Allen Reisner. After two such fine tales in this episode, they're entitled to a clunker for the third, right? Right? Well, maybe "clunker" isn't a strong enough word - how about disaster? Catastrophe? Pick whichever term you like, and it won't be adequate to describe how laughably *bad* the ending of "The Nature Of The Enemy" is - seriously, you can scarcely believe it. I could have written this when I was five years old, and if you see it, you might just agree with me, or at least understand why I say this.] 3a. "The House" - Dec 30, 1970: [Notes: Written by Rod Serling (3), directed by John Astin (Gomez on The Addams Family!). This was a good, deeply reaching episode for the first 90%, but then ended with something of a fizzle - a fizzle because the ending just doesn't make that much sense no matter how you slice or dice it. Still, the overall dreaminess of the direction was enchanting, and really drew the viewer in. So, are you okay with a long, enjoyable ride, only to have it end with a shoulder shrug? If so, then "The House" won't bother you at all; if you need a *finish*, then think twice about watching it.] 3b. "Certain Shadows On The Wall" - Dec 30, 1970: [Notes: Written by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, directed by Jeff Corey. Although I didn't remember the details of this tale, I remember being *very* creeped out by it as a child; much less so as an adult now that I've seen many a 1970s British horror piece (which this follows in spirit). Agnes Moorehead, bless her heart, is excellent at playing a soul in torment - probably one of the reasons I was so frightened by this as a child. The shadow is very scary for a child, but the adults' reaction to it makes it a whole lot less scary as an adult.] 4a. "Make Me Laugh" - Jan 6, 1971: [Notes: Written by Rod Serling (4), directed by Steven Spielberg. I knew ten minutes into this that it "felt" like a Twilight Zone, so I figured it might have been written by Rod Serling, but wow, I was surprised to see it was directed by Steven Spielberg - not because it was bad, mind you; just because I was surprised. Godfrey Cambridge is a talentless comedian with Tom Bosley as his agent who runs into miracle-worker Jackie Vernon in a bar, and all Cambridge wants is to make people laugh. Given that this is Night Gallery, you can probably guess at least part of the rest. A typical episode for Serling, although I thought it could have - and should have - ended immediately after the first changeover, before any of the aftereffects were seen, but something of a letdown for Spielberg, even early Spielberg, as this episode was merely average as a whole and Cambridge's annoying aspects were equal to his pathos - it didn't have to be that way.] 4b. "Clean Kills And Other Trophies" - Jan 6, 1971: [Notes: Written by Rod Serling (5), directed by Walter Doniger. Very much of Serling's signature is on "Clean Kills And Other Trophies," as he strongly believed against sport hunting, i.e., hunting merely for "trophies" instead of for actual food. Raymond Massey is excellent as Colonel Archie Dittman, a macho trophy collector holding an inheritance over his mild-mannered son, Archie Jr. (Barry Brown), until he kills an animal with a gun (when he clearly doesn't wish to) - this, over the protests of the lawyer, Pierce, played by Tom Troupe. Dittman will be receiving fitting justice for his attitudes about a lifetime of trophy collecting, and for forcing his son, a meek young man, to follow in his footsteps against his will - all this, thanks to the house servant, Tom Mboya, expertly played by Herb Jefferson, Jr.] 5a. "Pamela's Voice" - Jan 13, 1971: [Notes: Written by Rod Serling (6), directed by Richard Benedict. Wow! This episode was only 8 1/2-minutes long, but what an unsettling moment in time it was. Shot in one setting, and featuring only two people: John Astin (who directed episode 3a) and Phyllis Diller. For anyone who doesn't want to invest much time in a "starter" Night Gallery episode, this is a good choice, and most guys will have nightmares after seeing it. Take a close look at the painting (all paintings were done by Thomas J. Wright): While many of Night Gallery's paintings are obviously dashed off (well, I suppose they all were), this is one example where the painting matches the episode just about perfectly, with minimal thought required by the viewer.] 5b. "Lone Survivor" - Jan 13, 1971: [Notes; Written by Rod Serling (7), directed by Gene Levitt (creator of Fantasy Island). I remember loving this as a child, and I still love it as an adult - I'd like to say it's because I have a broader, deeper sense of history, but the reason is that this story is just good, creepy fun. A bit overacted by John Colicos (pictured) as the survivor, but then again, how should you expect him to act, having a foreknowledge of his fate?] 5c. "The Doll" - Jan 13, 1971: [Notes: Written by Algernon Blackwood, directed by Rudi Dorn. This completes a trilogy that comprised an entire three-part episode of quality - "The Doll" is flat-out scary: Compared to the two ventriloquist episodes, and the "Talking Tina" episode on "The Twilight Zone," *this* doll is truly something from the bowels of Hell. It's an interesting story involving revenge, mistaken identity, a plot twist at the end, horror, and a fair amount of complexity, and makes Season 1, Episode 5, an excellent introductory Night Gallery hour for the first-time viewer. How can a doll be so scary? This episode starred John Williams (pictured) who played William Shakespeare in Twilight Zone's "The Bard," and also a few episodes as Nigel French (Mr. French's brother) in "Family Affair."] 6a. "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar" - Jan 20, 1971: [Notes: Written by Rod Serling (8), directed by Don Taylor (who directed "Escape From The Planet Of The Apes" and "Damien: Omen II", as well as co-starred in "Stalag 17" and "Father Of The Bride"). This is a rather shameful admission, but it's the truth. I first began writing that this was a long, ponderous episode - it's about 40 minutes long, I watched it late at night when I was exhausted, and I was hoping for some cheap escapism (refer to "Pamela's Voice"). When I was about three sentences into my writing, I got even more tired, and didn't feel like writing, so I looked up some other reviews of the episode online. To a person, people raved about it, and in fact, it was nominated for a 1971 Emmy Award - either I was right in my late-night fatigue and the rest of the world was wrong, or the rest of the world was right and I was wrong. No doubt about it: I needed to watch this through again on a fresh mind, so the next day I watched it a second time, and I'm glad I did because I was wrong, wrong, wrong, due in large part to my previous fatigue and impatience. "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar" is an excellent episode, and I'm embarrassed to say I was "talked into" liking it by reading other critics - but like it I do, very much. The acting is impeccable across the board, and the story - while very un-Night Gallery like, is fine drama and a wonderful exploration of humanity. I was dead wrong, and I had my eyes opened by the opinions of others. One other, very important thing: They sing, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" to Randy Lane (William Windom) in this episode, and that's *exactly* the song they sing to Windom in "All in the Family" in the episode, "Success Story," which aired about six months later."] 6b. "The Last Laurel" - Jan 20, 1971: [Notes: Written by Davis Grubb, directed by Daryl Duke. Now this is what I had in mind the first time I saw "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar" - about a ten minute episode with minimal complexity. Jack Cassidy plays a jealous man who has lost the use of his legs, and finds himself in a situation where his lovely wife and his handsome doctor are both spending the night in his house. Naturally he expects the worst, and he has developed the skill to "leave his body" (and in this case commit a murder). The lights go out, and he enters the wrong room and kills the wrong person ... himself. Nothing too complex here, and the perfect episode for late-night, tired TV watching at 1:15 AM. This would never win any awards, but it was good, cheap melodrama bordering on horror.]