2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 22: Circle of Fear “Dark Vengeance” (1973)

22. BEASTS OF BURDEN: One where a horse/donkey/mule/ox etc is doing some serious work.

This was supposed to be Devil Story but I got so excited after I watched it that I jumped the gun and posted it, thinking that surely I’d find another movie to fit the bill.

I spent almost this entire month trying to find another one.

This is an episode of the show Ghost Story, which changed its name to Circle of Fear midway through its one season. Executive produced by William Castle, the original idea for the show was to have Sebastian Cabot play Winston Essex, the owner of a mysterious hotel called Mansfield House, which was really San Diego’s Hotel del Coronado where Wicked Wicked was filmed.

By episode 14 of 22, the show was retitled and Cabot was out and the show still suffered poor ratings, despite featuring writers like Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, D.C. Fontana and Jimmy Sangster.

Episode 15 was Dark Vengeance, which was written by Peter Dixon (whose career was all over the place in TV, working on everything from the Superman 1950s TV series to the Masters of the Universe cartoon) and directed by Herschel Daugherty (The Victim).

While working at a construction site, Frank (an incredibly, near imposible young Martin Sheen) finds a box that can;t be opened. He becomes obsessed with it and finally is able to break into it, revealing only a broken mirror and a toy horse that upsets his wife Cindy (KIm Darby, queen of the TV movie supernatural heroines) to increasing mania.

Of course Cindy would have a past with the horse. But how do you get it back in the box or even destroy it when it can even survive being set ablaze?

There’s no way a goofy wooden horse should be so damned frightening, but everyone is beyond committed to making this happen. Man, after seeing this episode, now I have an entire series to devour. This show suffered comparisons to Night Gallery, but after all, shouldn’t every anthology show made ever after Serling’s masterwork suffer that fate?

You can watch this on YouTube.

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