For a period of about four years of my life, Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m. found me in a rut. I was always doing the same thing – watching The Night Gallery. Oh, I missed a few here and there, particularly when I was in labor and delivery, but always managed to catch up with re-runs. Night Gallery ran on NBC from 1969 to 1973, and it seemed to be famous for three things: (1) many episodes that ran the gamut from outstanding to adequate; (2) many episodes that ran the gamut from tolerable to totally lame; and (3) constant comparison to Serling’s groundbreaking and masterful classic TV series The Twilight Zone.
I never thought comparison to Twilight Zone gave a fair shake to Night Gallery. Such a horror anthology series can only be original once, and Zone had that claim to fame. Zone was, in my mind, consistently better in story and filmmaking. I could name ten times the number of Zone stories that were unforgettable than I could Gallery episodes of the same category. However, out of both of these series, there is one episode I believe to be the best and most beautiful. It has haunted me since the first time I saw it.
October 20, 1971 -- I had returned from my honeymoon and was "making my nest,” as my Mom used to call it. The nest still needed some work, but it was Wednesday, and Night Gallery was on. I missed much of the show, but was on the couch with my husband, the lights off and a candle burning, when a commercial ended and Rod Serling walked into the gallery to introduce this exceptional story.
|"For our last offering in the Night Gallery...a painting that brings |
to life a legendary classic from the pen of Conrad Aiken. Fragile,
lovely, haunting. It's titled Silent Snow, Secret Snow." (Rod Serling)
Although I usually like to discuss the makers of a film, history behind it and trivia, it is not my intention to do so with this story. As Serling described, it is a fragile story, and I do not believe will bear too much discussion. It is significant in three aspects: the brilliant writing by American poet and novelist Conrad Aiken; the poignant and spine-chilling music by Paul Glass and Oliver Nelson, absolutely essential in creating the mood of this unusual story; and the mesmerizing narration by Orson Welles. The protagonist of the story, Paul, is played by young actor Radames Pera, who must also be mentioned for his fine portrayal of a boy descending into madness.
The music sets the stage for the truly hypnotic narration by Welles. Only a few lines are spoken by characters -- otherwise, the story is told by Welles, the music and the snow. Without these, this fragile story of a young boy's disturbing fate could have been just a typical pedestrian episode of a TV series. With Welles’ narration and the marvelous music, the quietly horrifying journey of young Paul is presented with delicacy and beauty.
(Welles) “The snow was waiting. Out of sight, with a voice that said, "Wait, Paul. Just wait till we're alone together. I will tell you something new, something cold, something sleepy, something of cease and peace, and the long bright curve of space…I will be waiting for you.”
I can say no more than I have without spoiling the sense of disquiet and oncoming dread. The story’s ending is as poetic as it is horrifying. For me, quiet horror is the most frightening, and that kind of fright gives me the nightmares that I cannot forget. That Wednesday night in 1971, I was very glad that I did not live alone. It was not only that I was glad for the comforting presence of another person, but also that I was not alone to think and really take in the reality of the fate of the young boy.
Silent Snow, Secret Snow is available to view for free on Hulu. Look up Night Gallery, go to the show page, and find Season 2, Episode 5. It is the last piece for that show’s episode, and is approximately 20 minutes long. (Youtube also has the show, but the clip is blurry and thus loses the artistry – I do not recommend it.)