A short review of the pilot for “Night Gallery” (1969)

In some ways, I’m a poor excuse for a horror fan.  I haven’t seen any episodes of some of the classic anthology series that my friends regard as biblically important.  Such was the case with “Night Gallery” — at least until a couple of nights ago.  (You can find it online, if you look hard enough.)

I checked out the 1969 feature-length pilot for the series, and I’m glad I did.  It was good stuff, despite the now lamentable 1960’s music and camera effects that were occasionally distracting.  I’d rate it an 8 out of 10.

There were three half-hour tales comprising the made-for-television movie: “The Cemetery,” “Eyes,” and “The Escape Route.”  “Eyes” was by far and away the best written and performed, but they were all quite good.  The twists for all three tales were quite satisfactory, and the tone was nice and macabre.  And the cast was terrific — Roddy McDowall and Ossie Davis starred in the first segment; Joan Crawford and Tom Bosley appeared in the second.  It was weird seeing such youthful versions of actors that were familiar to me in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

The format, along with Rod Serling’s unique narration, was engaging, if a little quaint.  It’s easy to see how this went on to become such a popular television show.

Here’s an odd trivium -in the establishing shots for the second segment, which takes place in New York City, the Twin Towers are missing.  That’s because construction had only just begun on the first tower in 1969, when this pilot was released.  The entire World Trade Center was completed three years later.

 

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9-11 Memorial in Salem, Virginia

Salem has its own 9-11 Memorial, beside Fire Station No. 1 at the corner of Calhoun and Market Streets.  (I am sorry that my photography skills here are quite poor.)  What you see below are two steel beams from the 33rd to 36th Floors of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

I’ve seen several of these memorials in New York; I was surprised to find one so far south.

 

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Throwback Thursday: “King Kong” trading cards (1976)

I figure this is probably a very obscure Throwback Thursday post, even for my niche demographic of weirdo 40ish horror-sci-fi nerds.  Believe it or not, I actually can remember receiving a pack of these “King Kong” trading cards in 1976 or 1977 or so.

I mentioned the 1976 “King Kong” remake here at the blog not too long ago.  Wikipedia tells me that it was a huge commercial success despite its campy approach compared to the 1933 classic.  I can only imagine that the film would strike a strange emotional chord today; in this version, the title monster climbs not the Empire State Building, but the World Trade Center.  I actually hadn’t seen the movie by the time I’d gotten the trading cards — these would have been made available in 1976 or a year later, I think …  I only saw this version of King Kong when it hit broadcast television years later.  I remember watching it with my older sister and being frustrated by it … it seemed to take a very long time to get to the giant gorilla.

I would have been four or five years old, I guess, but I remember riding in the back of my Dad’s car on a hot summer’s day while my pal David Darling and I eagerly thumbed through the pack my father had bought for each of us.

David was my best friend at the time; he lived in the house on the corner.   His family had an incredibly cool housekeeper who gave us fruit, without exception, every time we asked for it.  I tasted a pear for the first time after she handed them to us through the side screen door of that corner house.  She’d been in a hurry; Jan rushed around a lot … she seemed to have a lot of responsibilities.  I didn’t know what a pear was, having never seen one.  It looked … wrong to me, like a maybe a defective apple.  David talked me into taking a bite, chomping down into his first and reassuring me that it was good.  I followed suit and I loved it.

Anyway, I don’t know where David was going that day with me and my father … that wasn’t something that happened a lot.  (Had he come to church with us?  Or the beach?)

I can’t remember.  I’m impressed with myself that I can even vaguely recall an afternoon when I was four.  Those King Kong cards made a big impression on me.

 

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Throwback Thursday: H.G. Toys’ 1976 “King Kong” jigsaw puzzle

I can’t believe I actually remember this — the 1976 “King Kong” jigsaw puzzle produced by H.G. Toys.  I received it during a backyard birthday party on a hot summer day … either that year or 1977?  I guess that would have made me four or five years old.

I mostly remember the box occupying the disastrous floor of the bedroom closet that I shared with my older brother.  I’m pretty sure the pieces fell out; I never assembled it.  The target demographic for this 150-piece puzzle was well beyond my age group.  That didn’t bother me.  I had no interest in jigsaw puzzles — as a tot, I just liked examining the illustration on the box.

That is indeed a version of King Kong straddling the World Trade Center.  It depicts a movie poster from the truly forgettable, 70’s-awful version of the classic monster story — the one starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange.  The 1933 original, so beloved by my father and me, was far better than this version.  It even had better special effects.  (Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion photography is still fun to watch; this stinker gave us a man in a gorilla suit.)

That illustration is still pretty cool, though, even if the fate of that bomber clutched in Kong’s hand is somewhat confusing.  (Is is just disintegrating?  Was it made of Legos?)

I never saw this “King Kong” in the theater.  My family didn’t do that much.  But I remember being excited to see the movie on broadcast television a few years later.

As I’ve noted before on this blog, jigsaw puzzles for kids were kind of a thing in the 1970’s and maybe early 1980’s.  (I have since never seen or heard of a child older than a tot playing with one.) Some of the 70’s puzzles, just before my time, were bizarrely sold in cardboard cans.  (I remember seeing those among my older brother’s possessions.)

 

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