Originally airing on October 24, 1981, Dark Night of the Scarecrow was directed by Frank De Felitta, who wrote Audrey Rose and The Entity. It was originally intended to be an independent film, but was bought by CBS.
Somewhere in the Deep South, a mentally challenged giant named Charles Eliot “Bubba” Ritter (Larry Drake) becomes friends with a young girl named Marylee Williams. This being a small town, people start to talk, with postman Otis Hazelrigg (Charles Durning) being the loudest of them.
When Bubba saves Marylee from a dog attack, Otis believes that the simple man really caused the damage. He gathers a posse to hunt him down, but Bubba’s mom has hidden him in the field as a scarecrow. But that doesn’t stop bloodhounds from finding him and the four men form a firing squad, killing the man with no trial.
Of course, Marylee is alive and Bubba should be the hero, but the four men lie in court, claiming he tried to kill them with a pitchfork. Marylee refuses to believe her friend is gone and slowly, the rest of town discovers that she might be right, as the scarecrow keeps showing up to frighten the guilty men.
Otis knows he’s guilty and believes that Bubba’s mom is behind all of this, so he tries to intimidate her. She is so shocked by him that she has a heart attack and he sets her home on fire. He starts wiping out everyone who could connect him of the crime before finally coming after Marylee.
I love how this film ends, with Otis running from a plowing machine and the very tool that he used to blame Bubba being part of his demise. Does Bubba return? I also really love that the film kind of leaves that decision up to you.
Made for TV movies used to be a real source of great horror. You’d do well to track down this movie — it’s available for free on Tubi — as well as others.
Bonus: You can listen to us discuss this on our podcast.
Excellent choice. Incredible flick. Certainly a lost era when the big three networks produced TV movies that rivaled the major studios theatrical features.
In the Line of Duty: The F.B.I. Murders from 1988 is one of them. If this had been a theatrical, David Soul and Micheal Gross would have been nomiated for Oscars. They’re incredible. Same goes for The Jericho Mile, which Peter Strauss won an Emmy. Incredible; it’s a Micheal Mann movie, but should have been theatrical, as was his awsome Thief. The Case of the Hillside Stranglers with Richard Crenna is another top-notch TV movie.
I could go on and on. . . .
Now what do we have: that drek on Lifetime that can’t hold a candle.
Larry Drake will always be Durant and Dr. Giggles for me. We miss you, Larry.
I remember seeing this as a very young kid. I loved it when the dude suffocates in the corn silo. That actually haunted me for a very long time.