Today’s Horror on the Lens is The Norliss Tapes, a 1973 made-for-TV movie that was also a pilot for a television series that, unfortunately, was never put into production.
Reporter David Norliss (Roy Thinnes) has disappeared. His friend and publisher, Stanford Evans (Don Porter), listens to the tapes that Norliss recorded before vanishing. (Stanford Evans, it must be said, is a great name for an editor.) Each tape details yet another paranormal investigation. (Presumably, had the series been picked up, each tape would have been a different episode.) The first tape tells how Norliss investigated the mysterious death of an artist who apparently returned from the grave.
For a made-for-TV movie, The Norliss Tapes is pretty good. It’s full of atmosphere and features a genuinely menaching yellow-eyed zombie monster. The film was directed by Dan Curtis, who was responsible for several made-for-TV horror films and who also created the deathless TV show, Dark Shadows. Curtis also directed a few feature films. Burnt Offerings, for instance, will be forever beloved for its scene of annoying little Lee Montgomery getting crushed by a chimney. If you ever get a chance to listen to the director’s commentary that Dan Curtis recorded for the Burnt Offerings DVD release, you must do so. Curtis comes across as the crankiest man on the planet and it’s actually kind of fascinating to listen to. His irritation when Karen Black keeps asking him if he knows the name of the actor who played the ghostly chauffeur is truly an amazing thing to here. (For the record, the actor’s name was Anthony James, he also had important supporting roles in two best picture winners — In The Heat of the Night and Unforgiven — and yes, he was one of the best things about Burnt Offerings. Karen Black knew what she was talking about.)
But back to The Norliss Tapes!
Admittedly, this is not the first Halloween in which I’ve shared The Norliss Tapes with our readers. Back in 2015, The Norliss Tapes was one of our “horrors on the lens.” Unfortunately, there’s only so many good quality, public domain horror films available on YouTube so, occasionally, a movie is going to show up more than once over the years. But, as long as it’s good film, who cares?
Enjoy The Norliss Tapes!