Air Date: Nov 5, 1971 (The CBS Friday Night Movies)
Production Companies: Andrew J. Fenady Productions, Screen Gems Television
Running Time: 74 min.
Available on: YouTube
Written by: Andrew J. Fenady
Directed by: Bernard L. Kowalski
Cast: Roy Thinnes, Yvette Mimieux, Ray Milland, Gloria Grahame, Lynn Loring, Henry Silve, Hank Worden
The cat in Black Noon (1971) is yellow, not black, matching the blonde witch in the film, Deliverance, played by the lovely Yvette Mimieux. This isn’t a spoiler; we see her in a pre-opening credits scene in which she strokes the cat as she watches a church burn. Granted, we don’t exactly know her role at that point, but she’s soon sculpting a voodoo doll out of candle wax and massaging its head to inflict pain on a living human being. We can assume she’s a witch.
Said human being is Lorna Keyes (Lynn Loring), wife of Reverend John Keyes (Roy Thinnes.) The couple find themselves in San Melas when their buggy loses a wheel on a dusty road. This is a good time to mention that Black Noon is an occult western, supposedly the first TV movie of the kind, according to David Deal in his book, Television Fright Films of the 1970s. Deliverance sets her sights on the good reverend early in the proceedings.
Attempting to circumvent a challenge about San Melas from Lorna, Caleb Hobbs (Ray Milland) mentions during their first meeting that it’s a community that settled from New England; you know, in case they seem a little strange. And it’s been hit hard recently with a series of misfortunes. In particular, their mines have run out of gold, which doesn’t please the mysterious man in black, Moon (Henry Silva), who rides into town to collect his share.
While it’s no surprise that Deliverance and Moon are representations of evil, we’re not sure if other townspeople are involved, although the closer the movie gets to its end credits, all that becomes more clear. It also becomes clear that the town wants Rev. Keyes to remain in San Melas to preach at the church they rebuild from the ashes of the one that burned. As Lorna becomes more sick, she grows more adamant that she and her husband leave.
This then is the reason Deliverance is practicing voodoo with Lorna: to keep her so sick that she can’t travel. But she also awakens lust in Rev. Keyes’s heart, justifying Lorna’s jealousy from the first time she saw Deliverance. Did I mention that Deliverance can’t speak? When Keyes seemingly cures a boy who cannot walk during an animated sermon, she asks (via facial expressions and body movements) if he can also cure her.
This gives you the set-up and there are additional scary, soapy developments present in Black Noon. All is explained, if a little suddenly and succinctly, reducing the suspense of its twisty climax. The overall sense of creepiness is consistent, though, and feels original in its old west setting. Black Noon really cries for an official home video release. The print on YouTube didn’t do it any favors.