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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Night Gallery: Season Two
Night Gallery: Season Two
Universal // Unrated // November 11, 2008
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted November 11, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:


This is one of those season sets that I never thought would make its
way to DVD.  The first season of Night Gallery was released
way back on 2004, and when the following seasons weren't announced soon
after, I figured that this would be one of those series that never gets
finished, like Malcolm in the Middle, All in the Family, etc. etc. 
I was pleasantly surprised when season two was announced since, even though
I wasn't a huge fan of the first season, I did enjoy watching it. While
there are some great stories in this season, and it's generally better
than the first season, the show still suffers from some of the problems
that plagued the first year's worth of shows:  poor plotting and some
obnoxious over acting.




Five years after the ground breaking TV show The Twilight Zone
ended, creator Rod Serling was back on the air with a new anthology show,
The Night Gallery.  As where The Twilight Zone mainly
concerned itself with science fiction, The Night Gallery was firmly
routed in the macabre.   It was a show of suspense that had an
eerie feel to it.  The stories concerned themselves with hauntings,
being buried alive and ESP rather than the space ships and aliens.




One of The Night Gallery's greatest strengths, as well as its
greatest weakness, is its multi-story anthology format.  Each hour
long show would present a few tales.  This gave the creators the freedom
to make each section as long as it needed to be.  They didn't have
to make it fit into a half hour or hour time slot.  Some stories were
very short, like With Apologies to Mr. Hyde which runs only a couple
of minutes, while others were over half an hour long like The Caterpillar
(which is an excellent story and my favorite from this season.)  While
this generally is good for the longer shows (though ironically they do
fell padded some times) the shorts were often predictable and lame. 
Junior, where a father gets up to feed his cranky son in the middle of
the night, is one-joke short that's just not funny, and A Midnight Visit
to the Neighborhood Blood Bank,
where a vampire tries to open an account
at a blood bank, is the type of joke that you'd find on a Bazooka Bubblegum
wrapper.  There were some fine shorts however.  The Merciful,
where a lady apologizes to her husband as she builds a brick wall sealing
off the room that he's in was cute, and Hell's Bells where a hippie
(John Astin - Gomez Addams on The Addams Family) dies and is sent
to Hell, a rather sedate Hell is great fun.  It's only too bad that
these are the exception rather than the rule.  (Apparently Serling
hated these shorts too.)




One of the best stories in this season is the first one, The Boy
Who Predicted Earthquakes
.  After correctly forecasting an earthquake
and where a missing girl would be found, Herbie Bittman (Clint Howard)
gets his own TV show that becomes incredibly popular.  On the show
he talks about what he's learning in school, what he does with his friends,
and tosses in a prediction every now and then.   One day as the
show is just about to begin Herbie gets nervous and doesn't want to go
on.  Pushed into doing the show by the slimy producer, the boy reveals
that tomorrow would be the start of a new era, where war would no longer
exist.  People across the world would treat each other with kindness
and respect and starvation and famine would be totally eliminated. 
But if everything is going to be so wonderful, why didn't he want to go
on the air?

There are a couple of good adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft stories in
this season, Pickman's Model and Cool Air.  Both have
been changed from the original short stories, female roles were added and
the structure was changed, but the plots are fairly close to the original. 
In Pickman's Model, the whole tale is told as a flashback 70 years
after the fact.  Like Lovecraft's story, it concerns an artist, Richard
Pickman, who is very talented but ostracized by the art community because
of the horrific, ghoul-filled canvases he paints.  In the Night
Gallery
version however, he's a teacher who repeatedly tells his students
to "paint what they see."  Unfortunately the hammering of this adage
over and over again telegraphs the ending, which Lovecraft was wise enough
not to do.  They also show the monster in full view, something that
doesn't happen in the story, but in this case it actually works rather
well.  Cool Air is also a good entry, with a strange mystery
and an ending that is fairly shocking.




Unfortunately the productions don't have the high quality that Twilight
Zone
boasted.  The budgets were fairly large, they were able to
have several stories take place in the past with convincing sets and costumes,
but there just wasn't enough attention paid to details.  In A Death
in the Family
for example, in one scene it's a dark, rainy night, and
then the characters walk into another room and it's daytime and the rain
is gone.   The show was plagued by careless errors like that.

The incidental music was also pretty bad. In Hell's Bells for example
they have some (bad) generic peppy rock song playing while the main character's
car tumbles down a cliff causing his death.  More often than not,
the music really ruins the mood of the show.




While some of the stories still come across very well, on the whole
this season doesn't hold up well.  It seems rather dated when viewed
today. They tamed the odd direction style that marred the first season,
for the most part, but the stories aren't crafted as well as they could
be.  Most of the installments are adaptations from short stories,
but they're often changed significantly.  The tales are not tightly
constructed, with a lot of extra scenes that aren't necessary.  (Which
is odd given the format of the show.)  Oftentimes the story will not
end where it should.  After the twist ending is revealed in The
Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes
, the story will goes on for a minute
or two longer.  It doesn't wrap anything up, just restates what has
already been revealed.

In addition to plots, I really had a problem with a lot of the dialog. 
It is often excessively flowery and verbose.  The lines that the actors
are speaking don't sound natural at all.  The people in these shows
just don't talk the way real people communicate.

That said, I still had fun watching this set and reliving moments from
my childhood.  Night Gallery never had the consistent quality
that Twilight Zone had, but there are some solid shows that are enjoyable viewing in this season.


The DVD:




This five DVD set comes in a fold out case with two over lapping DVDs
on each page (with the exception of the first DVD which is on a page of
its own.

 

Audio:

The two channel mono soundtrack was adequate, but not outstanding. 
There was some hiss in the background in some scenes, but this wasn't very
audible in most scenes at normal levels.  Unfortunately distortion
is fairly plentiful.  Screams and yells distort drastically through
much of the show, but that's probably on the master tapes.  Aside
from that the dialog was clear, but the music was a little flat, which
is natural for a 70's TV show.

Video:

The full frame video image was actually very good.  Like the first
season the video hasn't been restored, but it doesn't look all that bad. 
If anything it's even a step up from the first season's appearance. 
The colors were bright and full, and the definition was very good. 
The image was sharp and the picture clear.  While I was surprised
at how good the picture looked, it is not perfect.  Every episode
has moments when white spots will flick across the image for just a second
or two.  They are distracting, but only last a quick moment. 
Luckily they are not to frequent. There is a little grain to the picture
and some edge enhancement that was a little heavy handed at times. 
Still, the picture looked good, and no one should avoid buying this set
because of the image quality.

 

Extras:

 

Unlike the first season, which only had extra episodes from the later
seasons as extras, this set includes some real honest-to-goodness bonus
material.  First off there are audio commentaries by Night Gallery
historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton for three episodes (4, 12, and
16.)  These are informative and fun to listen to.  The pair certainly
knows a lot about the show and share behind the scenes trivia and point
out some interesting things about the shows they comment on.  Director
Guillermo Del Toro also provides a trio of commentaries (episodes 5, 13,
and 16) and while I thought he gave Serling a bit too much credit in some
areas his comments were very informed and well thought out.

On the featurette side we get Revisiting the Gallery: A Look Back
that interviews some of the people who worked on the show and they talk
about Serling and producer/director/writer Jack Laird and what it was like
working for the two men.  Art Gallery: The Paintings in Rod Serling's
Night Gallery
interviews Tom Wright, the artist who did all of the
paintings used for the show.  He talks about the process of getting
the paintings done for each story and who he used as models.  That's
followed by The Night Gallery, a series of some of the paintings
used in this season with audio commentary by artist Wright.  Finally
there are also a selection of promo spots for the shows.

Final Thoughts:

Night Gallery hasn't aged as well as The Twilight Zone has.  When
viewed today this show looks a little tired and dated, but its still a
fun program.  Overall I thought this season held together better than
the first one.  There was a higher concentration of good stories including
some that I've remembered for decades.  If you are a fan of the show,
but sure to pick it up.  Recommended.

 

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