TV Terror Guide: Last Bride of Salem (1974)


Air Date: May 8, 1974 (The ABC Afternoon Playbreak)

Production Companies: 20th Century Fox Television, R.L. Square

Running Time: 85 min.

Available on: YouTube

Written by: Rita Lakin

Created by: Ken Johnson, Justin Edgerton

Directed by: Tom Donovan

Cast: Lois Nettleton, Bradford Dillman, Joni Bick, Paul Harding, Murray Westgate

Last Bride of Salem (1974) first aired during the day on The ABC Afternoon Playbreak but was so popular that it later got a primetime broadcast. Shot on video, it seems a good substitute for Dark Shadows, which had ended three years earlier. The quality and budget are about the same, but so are the thrills and chills.

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The music is also reminiscent of the late, great Dark Shadows. I had to double-check to make sure it wasn’t written by Bob Cobert. I can’t tell that it was, but guess what? The “music supervisor” was Sybil Weinberger, who had the same job on… Dark Shadows.

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Dan Curtis had nothing to do with the production that included witches, children in peril, and demonic possession. However, director Tom Donovan was no stranger to daytime television. He produced hundreds of episodes of soaps such as A World Apart, Where the Heart Is, and Love is a Many Splendored Thing. He directed TV going as far back at 1954 (Danger.)

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The print I watched on YouTube was horrible. I assume it was from an old VHS recording. Characters reactions and other fine details were indistinguishable. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Jennifer Clifton (Lois Nettleton) is frantic as she begins losing her family to Satan.

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Her husband, Matt (Bradford Dillman), prefers spending time in his attic studio painting the same picture over and over again. Her daughter, Kelly (Joni Bick), prefers playing with an imaginary friend that we don’t see until he’s later revelaed to be the head of a coven in Salem, where the family has recently located.

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There’s a fun, but familiar, backstory about witches and warlocks from 1691 and a curse on descendants of the man that put an end to their shenanigans. Kelly dreams of a ceremony, but rather than a memory from the past, it seems to be a glimpse into the future.

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You have no doubt that the good Rev. Hiram Fletcher (Murray Westgate) will come to harm when he attempts to learn the truth, and that the prominent Sebastian Mayhew (Paul Harding), who orchestrated the family’s move to Salem, is one of the bad guys. However, the detail that ties it all together, if not completely original, is at least a partially successful attempt at a twist.

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

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