Tuesday, July 11, 2006

TRILOGY OF TERROR

Dark Sky Films is about to re-issue another fondly-remembered classic, with next month’s Special Edition of the Dan Curtis (DARK SHADOWS) television film TRILOGY OF TERROR (1974), starring Karen Black (FIVE EASY PICES, BURNT OFFERINGS).

Based on three short stories by master fantasist Richard Matheson (TWILIGHT ZONE, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE) – two of which were faithfully adapted for the film by Matheson’s friend William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run) while the maestro himself adapted the third – the made-for-television anthology stars the talented Ms. Black in four different roles and was a ratings smash when it aired in 1975.

The first of the three tales, "Julie," stars Black as an uptight college professor who reluctantly goes out on a date with one of her students, who then drugs her, snaps some incriminating photos, and blackmails her. In "Millicent and Therese," Black plays two rival sisters – a repressed spinster and a sleazy tramp – with supernatural secrets.

In the final and most memorable segment, "Amelia," Black portrays a woman who purchases a "Zuni fetish doll" for her boyfriend as a gift. According to a scroll included with the doll, it embodies the spirit of an ancient hunter, "He Who Kills," and if the gold chain around it is removed, the doll will come to life. Of course, the chain falls off and the screeching little monster goes postal, chasing Amelia around her upscale apartment, slashing her ankles with its tiny knife. As one might expect from one of the main writers of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, each of the three stories have twist endings.

Black pretty much carries the entire film, and is impressive in all her roles. As it was a Seventies network television program, there’s no gore to speak of, and while the movie’s not particularly scary, it is occasionally creepy, and the final story is still thrilling, giddy fun, despite the simple "special effects" involved.

Dark Sky’s disc presents the movie in its original, full frame 1.33:1 format, with a surprisingly sharp and clear picture that is a noticeable improvement over the earlier release of this title by Anchor Bay. The Dolby mono track is crystal clear. The disc also includes a very good audio commentary track with star Black and screenwriter Nolan. They seem to enjoy each other’s company, and Nolan discusses the changes made from the original short stories to the televised versions. Black goes into great detail about the third story, and the challenges involved in acting alone with a homicidal wooden doll. This Special Edition also includes two on-camera interview segments: one with star Black, and the other with author Richard Matheson, who discusses not only the film at hand, but some of his other collaborations with the late producer/director Dan Curtis.

TRILOGY OF TERROR is recommended for fans of Matheson, Curtis, Black, or old school horror.

BUY: Trilogy of Terror