Original Air Date: March 29th, 1977
With the release of Dark Night of the Scarecrow later this year (fingers crossed!), and this release of Dead of Night on DVD today, the made for TV movie genre is getting some well deserved love. These choices are stellar. Dark Night is arguably one of the greatest achievements in the history of TV horror movies. Dead of Night might not ever receive as heady of an honor, but it is a wonderful anthology film that is both fun and terrifying. And if that ain’t some kind of icing on your cake, the DVD also comes with a second bonus feature, the pilot Dead of Night: Darkness at Blaisedon. YAY!
Dead of Night is an unofficial sequel to Trilogy of Terror, which we all know is not only one of the best made for TV horror films of the 70s, but also features one of the scariest mofos this side of, uh, Bubba from Dark Night of the Scarecrow (funny how that film keeps popping up)! Dan Curtis handled the direction for both anthologies, and he brought back Matheson, who penned the Zuni Fetish doll segment Amelia in Trilogy. Let's face it, Curtis and Matheson are like peanut butter and chocolate. Yeah, you know it – two great tastes that taste great together!
Like Trilogy, Dead of Night features two good - but not great - stories, with the third bringing on a gut-punch of a finale. This time, instead of a crazed, possessed voodoo doll, we’ve got an innocent child named Bobby. Uh, OK, maybe not so innocent, as we will soon find out!
But what of the first two films, you ask? Well, Second Chance stars Ed Begley Jr. as a fan of old roadsters who fixes up an antique car so good, it takes him back to the year the automobile was first manufactured – 1926! Now that’s a grand restoration! This is a non-horror fantasy tale about fate and it’s clever, if not overly memorable.
The second story, titled There’s No Such Thing as Vampires features a scared-witless Anjanette Comer as a possible buffet for the local bloodsucker. Her husband (Patrick Macnee) is a man of science trying to solve a mystery that is surely most un-scientific before his wife completely succumbs to this vamp. He calls upon one of his colleagues and things turn deadly. Besides Macnee and Comer, this short also features the wonderful character actor Elisha Cook. Also, this segment is an adaptation Matheson did from his own short story. Another fun, slightly flamboyant short.
Then we hit Bobby, or rather Bobby hits us! With his brass knuckles! Bobby stars the incredible Joan Hackett as a grieving mother who raises her child from the dead, only to find that he’s not exactly the same. Two actors, one set, minimal special effects and a wow-bang-punch finale! Awesomeness ensues. To say more would ruin what is sure to be an amazing discovery if you haven’t already seen this terrifying short.
The coup de grace of the DVD though is the spectacular extra feature, which was co-written by Mr. Curtis. A fun shot-on-video pilot which originally aired on ABC on August 26th, 1969, Dead of Night: Darkness at Blaisedon has some great Dark Shadows vibing along with a few truly suspenseful moments. Marj Dusay is Angela, the lovely lady who inherits a haunted mansion and who also finds out that she’s a medium. She hires two parapsychologists, the studly Seth (Thayer David) and his partner Sajid (Cal Bellini), and together they uncover the dark secrets of Blaisedon. Damn, I love this stuff!
Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you are already aware of and are a fan of Dan Curtis’ work. If you’re not and this is all new to you – well, first of all I’m jealous – Dead of Night is a great way to discover the master at work.
Read another review of Dead of Night at Kindertrauma
Read more about Dan Curtis at Kindertrauma
Also, check out the latest issue of Rue Morgue magazine which features a great look back at Curtis’ career as told by his fellow friend and cohort, William F. Nolan