Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Ed Begley, Jr., Patrick Macnee, Anjanette Corner, Joan Hackett
Directed by Dan Curtis
Released by Dark Sky Films
Dan Curtis was a legend; I seriously doubt anyone would refute that fact. In an age where television was just becoming widespread but had not yet become the idiotic and vapid medium it would morph into, he put his all into bringing horror to the small screen. Of course the primary result of this was “Dark Shadows”, the long-running Gothic soap opera Curtis created early in his career, but that certainly wasn’t the end of his horror output.
So I was curious to see what he could do with a bigger budget and scripts penned by horror luminary Richard Matheson in an anthology format. Of course he did very well with Trilogy of Terror two years previous, but very little attention had been given to Dead of Night in the years since its debut thanks to its rarity. Dark Sky has fixed that with this cleaned-up DVD release, and man, I really wish I could say it was worth the wait.
The first story, “A Second Chance”, has zero horror elements; it’s about a man (Begley) who is passionate about an old car that he buys off a farmer for $100. He restores it and ends up being transported back in time to the age when the car was brand new, where he unknowingly prevents the death of the car’s previous owner.
“No Such Thing as a Vampire” is a little more fun; Patrick Macnee (best known to fans as Sir Wilfred from Waxwork) stars as the patriarch of Romanian household in 1869. His wife believes she is the nightly victim of a vampire, waking up every morning with more and more blood missing via holes in her neck. Macnee does his best to allay her fears, not believing in vampires, until eventually he relents that it must be the undead. But tables are turned and the truth is revealed when a handsome man shows up at the house promising to help.
Finally there’s “Bobby”, the story of a grief-stricken mother (Hackett) who does some kind of voodoo to bring her drowned son back from the dead. And come back he does, though of course he’s not the same little boy he was before the accident; now he’s got a homicidal streak that he’s not ashamed to act upon.
Of all the stories “Bobby” is the most effective, but even so it takes far too long to get where it’s going, padded by scenes of Bobby stalking his mother through the house repeating the same thing over and over. The other two stories are so-so, more like forgettable “Twilight Zone” episodes than anything else, but if nothing else all the acting is great and “No Such Thing…” at least has a nice twist.
On the features side, there’s the unaired pilot for a show Curtis tried to launch in 1969, also called “Dead of Night”, in which a team of psychic investigators would go around and solve mysteries. The pilot, “Darkness at Blaisedon”, sees the team investigating a haunted house. It looks almost exactly like “Dark Shadows”, from production values to locations, and it’s really not surprising it didn’t get picked up.
There’s also a still gallery underneath some score highlights by Robert Corbert and a collection of extended/deleted scenes from both “No Such Thing as a Vampire” and the show’s opening. This last bit is amusing because it features about 10 different people delivering the same intro dialogue for the show, including Curtis himself doing his best Rod Serling impression.
Dead of Night isn’t terrible, but really it’s only something Curtis or Matheson completists should pursue. There’s just not a helluva lot to recommend here, unfortunately, but Dark Sky did do a great job with cleaning up the shows and soundtrack, so I guess there is that…
2 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5
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