From 1970’s House of Dark Shadows:
From 1970’s House of Dark Shadows:
4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.
This October, we’ve been using 4 Shots from 4 Films to pay tribute to some of our favorite horror filmmakers! Today, we honor the one and only Dan Curtis!
4 Shots From 4 Dan Curtis Films
For today’s horror on the lens, we’re very happy to present to you, Dead of Night!
From 1977, this television film is a horror anthology, made up of three stories directed by Dan Curtis and written by Richard Matheson. In the first story, a youngish Ed Begley, Jr. travels through time. In the 2nd story, Patrick Macnee plays a man whose wife is apparently being menaced by a vampire. And in the third story, Joan Hackett plays a mother who brings her dead son back to life, just to discover that sometimes it’s best to just let sleeping corpses lies.
The entire anthology is good, though the third story is clearly the best and the most frightening. Not only is it scary but it’s got a great twist ending.
Since I reviewed Burnt Offerings earlier today, it just makes sense that today’s scene of the day should be the only emotionally rewarding scene from that film.
In this scene below — which does count as a spoiler, in case you’re one of those annoying toaduckers who complains about stuff like that — the House finally gets its revenge on the obnoxious family that’s been living inside of it. Now, taken out of context, it may seem a bit harsh to describe the scene as being a crowd pleaser but, if you’ve sat through the entire film, it’s hard not to cheer a little when the chimney comes down.
Seriously, what an obnoxious little brat.
4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!
This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!
4 Shots From 4 1970 Horror Films
When the great American novelist Herman Wouk passed away earlier this month at the age of 103, he left behind a rich and varied literary legacy. From 1947, the year that his first novel was published to 2016, the year that he published his memoirs, Wouk wrote about religion, history, science, and even the movies. However, Wouk will probably always be best remembered for the three novels that he wrote about World War II.
Based on his own Naval service during World War II, The Caine Mutiny was published in 1951 and was later adapted into both a successful stage play and an Oscar-nominated film. It also won Wouk a Pulitzer Prize and established him as a major American writer. Nearly 20 years later, Wouk would return to the history of the Second World War with two of his greatest literary works, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. (Originally, Wouk was only planning on writing one book about the entire war but when it took him nearly a thousand pages to reach Pearl Harbor, he decided to split the story in two.) Beginning in 1939 and proceeding all the way through to the end of the war, the two books followed two families, the Henrys and the Jastrows, as they watched the world descend into war. Along the way, the book’s fictional characters rub shoulders with historical characters like Hitler, Churchill, FDR, and even Stalin. Carefully researched and meticulously detailed, the books were both critically acclaimed and popular with readers and, despite some soapy elements, they both hold up well today.
Given their success, it’s not a surprise that both The Winds of War and War and Remembrance were adapted for television. Today, HBO would probably give the books the Game of Thrones treatment, with 8 seasons of war, tragedy, romance, and Emmys. However, this was the 1980s. This was the age of of the big-budget, all-star cast network miniseries. Wouk’s epic history of World War II was coming to prime time.
With a total running times of 15 hours, The Winds of War originally aired over seven evenings in 1983. Produced and directed for ABC by Dan Curtis, The Winds of War had a 962-page script, a 200-day shooting schedule, 285 speaking parts, and a then-record budget of $35,000,000. It also had Robert Mitchum, starring as Victor “Pug” Henry, an ambitious naval officer who somehow always managed to be in the right place to witness almost all of the events leading up to America’s entry into World War II. Jan-Michael Vincent played Pug’s son, Byron, while John Houseman took on the pivotal role Aaron Jastrow, a Jewish scholar though whose eyes the home audience would witness the rise of fascism in Europe. Terribly miscast as Natalie, Aaron’s niece and Byron’s lover, was 44 year-old Ali MacGraw. Among those playing historical figures were Ralph Bellamy as FDR, Howard Lang as Churchill, and Gunter Meisner as Hitler.
I recently watched The Winds of War on DVD and, despite some glaring flaws that I’ll get to later, it holds up well as both a history of World War II and a tribute to those who battled Hitler’s evil. Like Wouk’s novels, the miniseries does a good job of breaking down not only how Hitler came to power but also why the rest of the world was often in denial about what was happening. Watching the entire miniseries in one setting can be overwhelming. It’s a big production and it is also unmistakably a product of a time when the major networks didn’t have to worry about competition from cable. It takes its time but, in the end, you’re glad that it did. All of the little details can get exhausting but they’re important to understanding just how Hitler was able to catch the world off-guard.
The miniseries does suffer due to the miscasting of some key roles. Both Jan-Michael Vincent and Ali MacGraw were far too old for their roles. Vincent was 38 and MacGraw was 44 when they were cast as naive and idealistic lovers trying to find themselves in Europe. It’s perhaps less of a problem for Vincent, who had yet to lose his looks to alcoholism and who looked enough like Robert Mitchum that he could pass as Mitchum’s son. But MacGraw is simply terrible in her role, flatly delivering her lines and looking more like Vincent’s mother than his lover. It’s particularly jarring when she mockingly calls diplomat Leslie Sloat “Old Sloat,” because Sloat was played by David Dukes, who was six years younger than MacGraw.
67 year-old Robert Mitchum was also much too old to play an ambitious junior officer, one whose main goal in life is still to ultimately become an admiral. When he ends up having an affair with a younger British journalist played by 30ish Victoria Tennant, the difference in their ages is even more pronounced than in Wouk’s novel. (Pug was in his 40s in The Winds of War.) However, Mitchum overcomes his miscasting by virtue of his natural gravitas. With his weary presence and authoritative voice, Mitchum simply is Pug.
A ratings hit and a multiple Emmy nominee, The Winds of War was followed up five years later by War and Remembrance. Like its predecessor, War and Remembrance set records. The script ran 1,492 pages and featured 356 speaking parts. The production employed 44,000 extras and filming took nearly two years, from January of 1986 to September of 1987. With a budget of $104 million, it was the most expensive television production to date. The final miniseries had a 30-hour running time, which was divided over 12 nights. War and Remembrance not only made history because of its cost and length but also as the first major production to be allowed to film on location at the Auschwitz concentration camp. For many members of the generation born after the end of World War II, War and Remembrance would serve as their first introduction to the horrors of the Holocaust.
Director Dan Curtis returned and with him came Robert Mitchum, now in his 70s and still playing a junior naval officer. David Dukes once again played the hapless diplomat, Leslie Sloat. Ralph Bellamy also returned as FDR as did Victoria Tennant as Mitchum’s lover, Polly Bergen as Mitchum’s wife, and Peter Graves as Bergen’s lover. However, they were the exception. The majority of the original cast was replaced for the sequel, in most cases for the better. With John Houseman too ill to reprise his role, John Gielgud took over the role of Aaron Jastrow while Hart Bochner replaced the famously troubled Jan-Michael Vincent. Robert Hardy took over the role of Churchill while Hitler was recast with Steven Berkoff. Best of all, Jane Seymour replaced Ali MacGraw in the role of Natalie and gave the best performance of her career. Other characters were played by a mix of up-and-comers to tv veterans, with the cast eventually including everyone from Barry Bostwick and Sharon Stone to E.G. Marshall and Ian McShane.
With a stronger cast and (ironically, considering the running length) a more focused storyline, War and Remembrance is superior to The Winds of War in every way. That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect, of course. The scenes featuring Barry Bostwick as a submarine commander feel as if they go on forever and Robert Mitchum still seems like he should be preparing for retirement instead of angling for a promotion. But none of that matters when the miniseries focuses on Aaron and Natalie Jastrow and their struggle to survive life in the Theresienstadt Ghetto and eventually Auschwitz. At the time that War and Remembrance was initially broadcast, the concentration camp scenes were considered to be highly controversial and many viewers complained that they were so disturbing that they should not have been aired during prime time. (This was four years before Schindler’s List.) Seen today, those scenes are the most important part of the film. Not only do they show why the war had to be fought but they also demand that the world never allow such a thing to happen again.
Though it was considered by a rating disappointment when compared to its predecessor, War and Remembrance was still a multiple-Emmy nominee. Controversially, it defeated Lonesome Dove for Best Miniseries. Both Winds of War and War and Remembrance have been released on DVD and, like the books that inspired them, they both hold up well. They pay tribute to not only those who fought the Nazis but also to the humanistic vision of Herman Wouk.
For today’s horror on the lens, we have 1973’s The Night Strangler.
This is the sequel to The Night Stalker and it features journalist Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) in Seattle. (After all the stuff that happened during the previous movie, Kolchak was kicked out of Las Vegas.) When Kolchak investigates yet another series of murders, he discovers that paranormal murders don’t just occur in Las Vegas and aren’t just committed by vampires.
I actually prefer this movie to The Night Stalker. The Night Strangler features a truly creepy villain, as well as a trip down to an “underground city.” It’s full of ominous atmosphere and, as always, Darren McGavin is a lot of fun to watch in the role in Kolchak.
For today’s horror on the lens, how about a little werwolf action?
In the 1974 made-for-TV movie, Scream of the Wolf, Peter Graves is a writer who is asked to help solve a series of mysterious murders. The fact that both human footprints and wolf tracks have been found at each murder scene has led some people to assume that the killer must be a werewolf! Will Graves be able to prove them wrong or will it turn out that they are right? Graves calls in a famous hunter (Clint Walker) to help track down the killer but it turns out that the hunter has secrets of his own.
I’m going to guess that, like Baffled!, Scream of the Wolf was a pilot disguised a movie. I assume that the hope was that the movie would lead to a series where Peter Graves would solve a different paranormal mystery every week.
Well, that series never materialized by Scream of the Wolf is still an enjoyable film. The screenplay was by none other than Richard Matheson while made-for-TV horror specialist Dan Curtis sat in the director’s chair.
In the end, Scream of the Wolf is only 72 minutes long and I know for a fact that you don’t have anything better to do right now. I watched this movie two months ago with Patrick Smith and the Late Night Movie Gang and we had a blast.
Halloween has come and gone, though most people have plenty of leftovers on hand, including your Cracked Rear Viewer. Here are some treats (and a few tricks) that didn’t quite make the cut this year:
ISLE OF THE DEAD (RKO 1945, D: Mark Robson)
Typically atmospheric Val Lewton production stars Boris Karloff as a Greek general trapped on a plague-ridden island along with a young girl (Ellen Drew) who may or may not be a vorvolaka (vampire-like spirit). This film features one of Lewton’s patented tropes, as Drew wanders through the woods alone, with the howling wind and ominous sounds of the creatures of the night. Very creepy, with another excellent Karloff performance and strong support from Lewton regulars Alan Napier, Jason Robards Sr, and Skelton Knaggs. Fun Fact: Like BEDLAM , this was inspired by a painting, Arnold Bocklin’s “Isle of the Dead”.
THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS (Allied Artists 1954, D: Edward…
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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 productions.
Reporter David Norliss (Roy Thinnes) has disappeared. His friend and publisher, Stanford Evans (Don Porter), listens to the tapes that Norliss recorded before vanishing. 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.