TRILOGY OF TERROR. 1975. DIRECTED BY DAN CURTIS. STARRING KAREN BLACK AND ROBERT BURTON. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©
This little gem of a horror film does exactly what it says on the tin, as we say here in Ireland. It literally comprises three short tales of the grimly macabre, each starring horror icon Karen Black. All three vignettes are based on a short story written by Richard Matheson.
The first one co-stars the beautiful Ms. Black’s then husband, Robert Burton. It tells the story of a handsome and cocky college student- Burton- who gets a whole heck of a lot more than he bargains for when he seduces and then blackmails his bookish and introverted college professor.
I won’t tell you what exactly it is that he gets because that might spoil it for you, but I will say that Karen Black manages to make an ensemble consisting of oversized spectacles and a terrycloth dressing-gown into something sexier than anything I could have conceived of in my own imaginings, and I’m supposed to be a straight female who likes guys. I had to remind myself of that fact a few times, though, while watching this movie. Believe me.
The second vignette is ingeniously plotted. It concerns a young woman who has had sexual relations with her father and then murders her mother. Yep, nothing but the good stuff in this film, haha…! In order to cope with the enormity of her transgressions, the woman retreats into a second personality and becomes, in essence, her own ‘sister.’
When the ‘good sister’ kills the ‘bad sister,’ the woman is actually committing suicide and the family doctor sadly informs the paramedics that it’s ‘the most complex case of dual personality’ he’s ever seen.
I was utterly charmed to note the presence in this second part of the Trilogy of John Karlin, who later went on to star in brilliant 80’s detective drama, CAGNEY AND LACEY. Watching him on-screen with his blonde (!) hair and trimmer figure, I had the strongest urge to yell at him: ‘Hey, Harvey! How’s Mary-Beth and the kids? How’s Harvey Junior doing? How’s Christine? How’s the apartment and your money problems and your job and Mary-Beth’s job and all the other little niggles you entertained us with in the Eighties…?’ Ah, the Eighties. Happy days.
It is the final vignette in the Trilogy, however, that you will remember till your dying day. Karen Black is the only player in this particular drama. She buys a ‘Zuni fetish doll’ for her boyfriend’s birthday. Yeah, I know. Whatever happened to good old aftershave or socks…?
The hideous-looking thing, an Aboriginal-style warrior about a foot in height with razor-sharp teeth and a spear, is meant to contain the spirit of a Zuni hunter named ‘He Who Kills.’ He Who Kills…? Nice present to give someone you allegedly love, don’t you think?
It’s when the doll’s little gold chain, the one that’s meant to keep its spirit safely trapped inside, accidentally falls off that the real fun starts. Well, that’s if you consider a poor traumatised woman being chased all through her apartment by an evil doll with a knife fun, that is.
That’s right, you didn’t misunderstand me. The doll comes to life and attacks Amelia/Karen Black in some of the scariest scenes I’ve come across in a made-for-TV movie. When she finally manages to get the better of the monstrous creature, we heave a sigh of relief and think it’s all over, but is it…?
In the final scenes- the dying scenes, you might say- we see Amelia, battered and bloody in the wreckage of her ruined apartment, telephoning her mother in her sweetest tones. Nothing wrong with a girl phoning her mum, is there? The thing is, though, Amelia’s Mumsie is a controlling old biddy who’s made her daughter’s life a misery. Also, there’s something a little… um, shall we say different?… about Amelia now. The post-Zuni doll Amelia, that is.
Again, I’m not going to spoil it for you by telling you what that is. I don’t need to, really. Not when the picture that I’m choosing to accompany this review will do a perfectly adequate job of that, all by itself…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal.
She is addicted to buying books and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia, and would be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: