Five years after The Twilight Zone went off the air, Rod Serling returned with another genre anthology show. There were many similarities, not the least being Serling hosting, and also writing many of the episodes.
The quality did not match that of The Twilight Zone, and it lasted only 3 years. Its first airing was in the form of a 2-hour movie with three distinct stories, all written by Serling. This first installment was The Cemetery.
Although only 5 years removed from TZ, the change in production values is huge, and evidenced from the very first shot. Not only is the series shot in color, it opens with a sweeping shot of a decaying mansion, panning over to the titular cemetery, all the while leaves are blowing wildly through the frame. TZ frequently did amazing things with its limited budget and technology of the day, but it seems that Night Gallery benefited from advances in both areas.
Ossie Davis is caretaker to Mr. Hendricks, an elderly artist who has had a stroke and is in a wheelchair, mostly mute. 70’s go-to Brit Roddy McDowall is the ne’er-do-well nephew who discovered that he was next in the old man’s will after his mother died.
Roddy parks his uncle in front of an open window against doctor’s orders. There is a nice single-shot pull back from a close-up of the old man shivering in the window, ending in the cemetery. That night, he falls into a coma and passes away. McDowall doesn’t even pretend to be upset, only inquiring about the money.
He is, however, disturbed by one of his uncles paintings which seems to change each time he looks at it, accusing him like The Tell-Tale Art. First it just shows a cemetery, then an open grave, then a coffin appears.
McDowall burns the painting, but it stubbornly reappears on the wall. This time with the coffin open, showing his uncle, causing him to scream in terror. That night McDowall hears noises and gets up to investigate. The painting now shows his uncle walking out of the cemetery gates.
The door opens, but the person is shown only from the knees down. The identity is pretty well telegraphed as there is no creepy music to indicate the dead uncle, there is no uniform to indicate the police, and — oh yeah — the person reaching down to check on McDowall has black hands. Surprise, it is Ossie Davis!
All is explained, and that could have been the end of the story. However, there is an epilogue that throws another twist into the story. This is more like a Tales from the Crypt story than one of the old Twilight Zones. It does, however, do a great job of setting the tone for the series which will be more horror than sci-fi.
The disc itself is not Blu-Ray but is a very sharp transfer despite the occasional artifacts.
- Just as with Tales from the Crypt, kudos to the marketing department for selling the “Complete First Season” and not mentioning on the package that it was only 6 episodes long.
- For some bizarre reason, the 8th episode of season 2 is also included in the 1st season collection. Maybe marketers felt guilty.
- It was a little disturbing in the beginning as I thought McDowall was calling Davis porter-boy rather than his name Portifoy.
- Director Boris Sagal was the father of Peg Bundy. He died after walking into the rotor blade of a helicopter.