61 Days of Halloween: Dead of Night (1977)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, and a list of previously featured films, please go here.

Dead of Night (1977)

I can’t say I’m a Dark Shadows fanatic, but I can say I’ve seen enough to know that I love what it was on TV and that I really dig Dan Curtis’ style. That was reinforced when I saw Burnt Offerings a few years ago and it made My Favorite Older Movies First Seen in 2011 list. I purchased it soon after that rental, and if I forced myself to rank that list it would’ve come out on top.

Yet, due mostly to my very split interests, I have scarcely gone back to Curtis’ filmography since, although this title did intrigue me. Ironically, as I was recently mentioning that I was on an anthology kick and hadn’t seen one in a while; the kick is now back, as this film is one also.

Another huge name attached to this film, this time as writer, is Richard Matheson. When Matheson recently passed away I noted that though I had not read him I had at the very least been influenced by his work in film and on television.

This is a TV movie that tells three tales, and the opening monologue does not lie, each tale works in a bit of a different milieu: the first, regarding a very odd time traveling incident is a fantasy, a work of imagination, that is not bereft of eeriness. The second is a mystery tale though also with a decidedly horror slant, as in this one Matheson is working off his own short story about vampires. The grand finale, and it is grand, is the truest horror tale of them all, titled simply “Bobby” deals with the horrific results of a grieving mother getting what she wished for: the return of her deceased son.

It is a taut tale, it runs 72 minutes for the three tales, so each is roughly the equivalent of an episode of a half-hour TV show; which is a perfect vessel for drama. There is a tenor of seriousness and an undertone of tension throughout the film, which culminates in rather narrative film fashion in the last tale, which is absolutely pitch perfect. Joan Hackett and Lee Montgomery are the only actors in the tale, barring a voice-over husband away on business, and they are frequently in singles and could not be more flawless in their commitment and delivery.

Dead of Night is a great anthology and one that really gives me an impetus to move Curtis further up my queue, as this is masterfully done.

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