I’ve brought up Dan Curtis on the Night Owl before. The man was almost single-handedly responsible for the made-for-TV horror boom of the 1970s. His defining flick of that era was TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975), and for better or worse it solidified Karen Black’s position at the top of the scream queen heap.
As the title suggests, TRILOGY OF TERROR is an anthology movie based off three short stories written by the great Richard Matheson. All three star Karen Black in various roles. The first has her as a naive literature professor. A cruel student sets out to seduce her, despite her objections. Without giving too much away, rest assured that justice is eventually served.
The center story is the darkest. This time Black plays sisters, one a spinster who is haunted by the actions of her sibling who, as a teenager, was involved in a dark family secret that culminated in matricide. Black really got to show off her chops as two very different sisters and more layers of secrets than it seemed.
The third is the most famous of the three. This time Black is a woman pulled between her new lover and her possessive, oppressive mother. Her mother is demanding they meet for their weekly get-together. Black wants just one week off to give the unseen boyfriend a special gift for his birthday. He’s an archaeologist and she located a rare Zuni Fetish Doll for him. While she’s looking away, the doll comes to life and starts hunting Black who must now learn to fight for herself.
The first two scripts were adapted by William F. Nolan, himself famous for writing Logan’s Run. Matheson adapted his own story for the third. Both men had years of experience writing for THE TWILIGHT ZONE, so they were masters of television terror. Karen Black, though, dominated this movie. She was in the majority of scenes and never once dropped the ball. It takes an incredible range to play four very different characters and she nailed it. Whether fortunately or unfortunately this led to her being typecast and her career since has been mostly horror films.
Question of the night: what’s the oddest birthday gift you’ve either given or received?