Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dead of Night (1977)

NetFlix 2.8/5
IMDB 65./10
My Rating: 6/10

A Made-for-TV movie from 1977 that is composed of three stories - A young man restores a vintage car which takes him back in time, a wealthy couple are being terrorized by an apparent vampire, and a grieving mother uses black magic to resurrect her dead son.

The 1970's were a golden era for made-for-TV horror, with all sorts of wild flicks running that would never be touched by the major networks today.  Night Stalker, Norliss Tapes, Trilogy of Terror, Don't be Afraid of the Dark...  It seems so strange now to think that these were being produced by networks like ABC as Friday night movies.  The only horror movie-producing network I can think of today is Syfy, and their output is pretty dire compared to the writing and mood of these older features.

Dead of Night was a pleasant discovery for me.  I'd never seen it before!  Granted, after watching it, it was apparent why it hasn't lodged in a generational memory quite as vividly as Karen Black fighting the Zuni doll, as it's a fairly middling movie.  Still, it's worth seeing just to enjoy the pairing of TV horror veteran Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, Night Stalker) and horror writer/screenwriter Richard Matheson (I am Legend, Hell House).  It's possible the reason I missed it the first time is just that it isn't really horror, at least except for the final story.

It opens with an enjoyable Ray Bradbury-esque tale about a young man restoring a 20's roadster, which promptly takes him back into 1926.  It's a romantic fantasy story, nostalgic and warm, and not at all spooky, which makes me question why it was included in this package.  It was better than the second story, though, which sees Patrick MacNee wasted as a village aristocrat trying to protect his wife from the nightly visitations of a vampire.  While it has the trappings of a gothic scare story, it's really a bit more Twilight Zone, with a twist ending that is fun but doesn't exactly zing.

The real prize of the package is story #3, titled "Bobby", about a grieving mother who uses magic to bring back her drowned son.  To very ill effect.  You'd think she'd have read "The Monkey's Paw" in school, but alas...  And the meat of this story is what takes place after the dead son returns.  To quote from the Book of Wallace, "He's gone wrong, Gromit!"  The prolonged stalk-and-hide struggle between mother and son takes place all in one dark house, and the tension is really well developed and palpable.  Overall, the Bobby story is just plain spooky - An unnerving combination of "Monkey's Paw", Halloween, and The Shining.

Special mention must go to the Netflix DVD, which is loaded with special features, soundtrack music, and an entire 52 minute pilot for another Dan Curtis horror series from 1969.  Given how some studios have begun stripping out all the special features from their Netflix discs, it's nice to get some extra goodies with this one.  (And no, Big Studios, removing the Making Of feature on your latest summer movie DVD for Netflix is not going to spur me to go out and buy the DVD instead.  If it's a movie I want to own, I will buy it anyway, whether the special features are on the renatl disc or not.  Stripping out extras just makes me hate YOU, Big Studio, it does not manipulate my purchasing decisions.)

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