TV Terror Guide: Dead of Night (1977)


Air Date: March 29, 1977 (NBC)

Production Companies: Dan Curtis Productions

Running Time: 76 min.

Available on: DVD (MPI Home Video)

Written by: Richard Matheson

From stories by Jack Finney (Second Chance) and Richard Matheson (No Such Thing as a Vampire)

Directed by: Dan Curtis

Cast: Ed Begley Jr., Patrick Macnee, Anjanette Comer, Elisha Cook Jr., Joan Hackett, Lee Montgomery

Rating: 7 vintage televisions (out of 10)

 

Airing almost exactly two years after Trilogy of Terror, Dan Curtis and Richard Matheson reunited for another anthology, Dead of Night (1977.) None of the three stories matches the former’s, Amelia, but the latter’s, Bobby, might come close. It’s the other two stories of Dead of Night that I like a little bit better than the other two stories of Trilogy of Terror.

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After a very familiar musical cue by Bob Cobert, the film opens with Twilight Zone-like narration stating that the “dead of night” is not a time, but a state of mind that exists in all of us…

…that dark, unfathomed region of the human consciousness from which all the unknown terrors of our lives emerge.

The narrator continues to promise us “three tales: one of mystery, one of imagination, and one of terror.”

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The first, Second Chance, is the story of imagination. Frank (Ed Begley Jr.) restores an old Jordan Playboy automobile that literally takes him into the past. If you like your Twilight Zone stories sweet and thoughtful (think Kick the Can from the 1983 movie), you’ll enjoy Second Chance. It’s not as heavy-handed or emotional, but it makes you think.

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The second, No Such Thing as a Vampire, is the story of mystery. What, the vampire story is not the story of terror? Well, think about the title. Spoiler alert: in a twist of a familiar formula, everything supernatural is not what is seems, as Alexis (Anjanette Comer) and her husband, Dr. Gheria (Patrick Macnee) learn when she seems to be afflicted by a creature of the night.

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The third, Bobby, is the story of terror. It’s like Amelia, except with a resurrected boy (Lee Montgomery) hunting his mother (Joan Hackett) instead of a Zuni fetish doll hunting Karen Black. The segment has all the trappings of 1970s gothic horror: a pentagram on the floor, a stormy night, and calls on a telephone for which the cord has been cut.

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It’s a shame that the money shot for Bobby, is spoiled in everything you see and read about Dead of Night (except here; I didn’t want to do that.) However, it’s understandable, because it’s horrific. As far as something tangible to grasp, it’s the most memorable thing about the anthology. Even though the other stories are good, they just don’t stand out.

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For one thing, they’re very simple. With the exception of the one from No Such Thing as a Vampire, missing are the big plot twists like the ones in every story of Trilogy of Terror. On the other hand, each one is a brisk tale with no fat to trim. So, while I’d argue that Dead of Night might be better in whole, it just doesn’t make the same impact.

 

Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch Dead of Night and other great movies from this series...

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