Tag Archives: Dan Curtis

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

trilogy of terror 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Menaced by a doll.

Interesting made-for-TV movie that first aired on ABC on the night of March 4, 1975. The film is broken up into three different horror stories all of which star Karen Black in different roles and all based on short stories written by Richard Matheson. Dan Curtis famous for producing the horror soap opera ‘Dark Shadows’ directs all three segments and even employs two actors from that series John Karlen and Jim Storm in small supporting roles.

The first segment is entitled Julie and features Black as a prim-and-proper college professor who gains the attention of Chad (Robert Burton) who is one of her students. Chad asks Julie out on a date and then drugs her drink, which knocks her out. When she is unconscious he takes revealing pictures of her and then uses these to blackmail her into continuing to have sex with him.

The ‘surprise’ twist on this one isn’t too interesting and full of a few loopholes. This also falls into the typical Hollywood treatment where an otherwise attractive woman with a great figure is labeled as ‘homely’ simply because she wears glasses and has her hair tied up into a bun. Although the storyline is surprisingly smarmy for the time period I still thought it was hooky that when he takes those ‘revealing’ pictures of her she is still wearing her clothes when most likely in reality he would have taken them off. The only intriguing element of this segment is the fact that Burton was married to Black at the time that this was filmed, so it was interesting to see them perform together especially since their union was brief and barely even lasted a year.

The second segment is entitled ‘Millicent and Therese’ and is the story of two feuding sisters both played by Black and their diametrically opposite personalities. It is interesting to see Black play such contrasting characters, but otherwise the story is weak and I had figured out the rather obvious twist of this long before it occurred and most others will too.

The final and most famous segment is entitled ‘Amelia’ and is about a woman who buys an African Tribal doll for her boyfriend. The doll is a miniaturized replica of an ancient hunter complete with a spear and outfit. A gold chain which is around the doll supposedly holds in its evil spirit, but when that chain falls off it begins attacking Amelia who then desperately tries fighting him off while all alone her apartment.

trilogy of terror 1

While the idea of such a small doll with its tiny little arms being able to stab someone let alone turn doorknobs or bend the bolt of her door so she can’t get out seems a bit silly and absurd the action is still effective. Curtis’s use of dolly shots showing the camera zooming through the apartment at knee level in an attempt at displaying the point-of-view of the attacking doll is excellent. Despite the simple special effects they still work and the scariest thing about the doll is the weird chanting, hissing sound that it makes. The final image of this segment is quite possibly the most memorable of the entire film.

The only real suggestion I would have with this story is that it would have been nice to have shown the scene where the Amelia character goes to the shop and actually purchases the doll and shown more of a reason, or motivation for wanting to buy such a strange object in the first place.

21 years later Curtis made a sequel called ‘Trilogy of Terror II’ although that was not as well received. This film though is still enjoyable and well above average for TV-movie fare.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 4, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 12Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Dan Curtis

Studio: ABC Circle Films

Available: VHS, DVD, YouTube

Burnt Offerings (1976)

burnt offerings 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Evil house menaces family.

Marian and Ben (Karen Black, Oliver Reed) are a couple who takeover for the summer as caretakers for an old gothic-like mansion.  They bring along their son Davey (Lee Montgomery) and Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis). Soon there are strange occurrences as well as a transformation of their personalities, which makes them believe that the place is haunted.

The attempt at going back to an old-fashioned type of horror movie doesn’t work. Dan Curtis’s direction is too restrained and most likely will be a turn-off to even those that like these types of films. The pace is slow and the film takes way too much time telling a story that in the end adds up to nothing. The scares are non-existent and I didn’t even find it to be the slightest bit creepy. The only impressive scene involves a body flying out of an upstairs window and crashing head first into the windshield of a car, but that doesn’t occur until the very end. There is also a potentially interesting subplot involving Ben’s reoccurring nightmares about a traumatic childhood experience with a chauffeur, but it is never fully explained what this is about, which ultimately makes this more frustrating instead.

The soft lighting approach is another mistake as it makes the whole thing look like a shampoo commercial and adds nothing to the atmosphere. There is also the backyard pool that was clearly shot at another location from the summer house one that they reside.

Probably the only fun element of this otherwise blah film is the eclectic cast. Burgess Meredith, who shows up at the beginning, should’ve won an award for campy performance of the decade. Black plays another one of her flaky characters with her usual flaky style and Montgomery is good as the no-nonsense kid. Reed is outstanding as he ends up showing the widest array of emotions.

However, it is Davis whose latter day presence gives the film its broadest appeal. She spent a career playing strong-willed women with electrifying performances and yet here her character is downright ordinary. The change of pace is interesting especially the scene where she gets shouted down by Black. She also has a pretty good deathbed sequence and there is even a moment where Reed pats her on her rear. Depending on one’s point-of-view you will either find this to be amazing, amusing, or really gross.

On the whole though I found this to be a pretty hopeless excuse for a horror film with the most horrifying thing about it being having to sit through it.

burnt offerings 2

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: October 18, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Dan Curtis

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD