Ghost Story: Episode 3 “At the Cradle Foot”

Don McDougall started his directing career in 1951 and worked on everything there was to make on TV. Cowboys shows like Cowboy G-Men, Rawhide, BonanzaBuffalo Bill Jr. and The Roy Rogers Show. Adventure like Jungle Jim and Mod Squad. Pop culture milestones like the Planet of the ApesSpider-ManKolchak and Star Trek. Even The Dukes of Hazzard and The Fall Guy.

For this episode of the stories of Winston Essex, he’s directing from a script by The Phoenix creator Anthony Lawrence and master of horror Richard Matheson.

Paul Dover (James Franciscus) has the worst dreams. The worst is the one where his daughter Emily gets murdered when she grows up. So he follows the clues of his dream and ends up in the city where he believes she’ll die. His mission takes a backseat to the love he finds with Julie (Meg Foster!), who runs the boardinghouse he’s living in and is engaged to the man who murders Emily in Paul’s nightmares.

These dreams have already cost Paul his marriage to Karen (Elizabeth Ashley, Windows) and left him with darkness hanging over him after he doesn’t follow those psychic warnings when he believed his father’s life was in danger. So when he sees a vision of Emily getting shot on a carousel by a man not yet born, then you understand why he wants to break up Julie and Ed, who will one day give birth to that killer.

This is one of the better episodes of this show and, as always, Sebastian Cabot is perfect as the storyteller.

You can watch this on YouTube.

CURTIS HARRINGTON WEEK: Devil Dog: Hound of Hell (1978)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This occult-heavy made for TV movie first was on our site on February 1, 2020. Beware man’s best friend who walks the left hand path.

Curtis Harrington knew all about the occult, thanks to his friendships with Marjorie Cameron and Kenneth Anger. This made-for-TV movie, which originally aired on CBS on October 31, 1978, is all about a suburban family who just wants to have a nice dog and ends up with a Satanic pooch.

Ah man, made-for-TV movies are where it’s at. Seriously, what a magical time to be alive, when these movies just blasted their way into your home via network TV.

As featured in our Ten Horror Movie Dogs article, this movie tells the story of the Barry family — Mike (Richard Crenna!), Betty (Yvette Mimieux, Jackson County JailThe Black Hole) and their kids Bonnie and Charlie (played by aunt of Paris Hilton Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, who were in the Witch Mountain movies) — get a new German Shepherd from a fruit vendor after theirs dies in an accident.

Sired in a Satanic ceremony to make the world think that evil will triumph, this lil’ mutt is soon killing maids and making Mike try to stick his hand into a lawnmower, which seems like small potatoes for the hound of Hell. Somehow, the dog also makes a shrine to the First of the Fallen in the basement and shrugs off some gunshots.

Mike goes the whole way to Ecuador — as you do — where Victor Jory, the voice of Peter Pan records, teaches him how to imprison the canine’s soul for a thousand years.

Ken Kercheval — Cliff Barnes from Dallas — is in here, as are R. G. Armstrong (who was also menaced by the Devil in The CarRace With the Devil and Evilspeak, which is some kind of record), Martine Beswick (who catfought with Racquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., played Bond girls in From Russia With Love and Thunderball, played Xaviera Hollander in The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington and was Sister Hyde in Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde) and Warren Munson, who played an admiral in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and Uncle Bill in Ed and His Dead Mother.

CURTIS HARRINGTON WEEK: The Killer Bees (1974)

When I was a kid in the 70s, killer bees were all we heard of. They were obviously going to get us and a story on the news every night for years and then, well…nothing ever happened.

The ABC Movie of the Week on February 26, 1974, The Killer Bees, directed by Curtis Harrington and written by former lawyer John William Corrington and his wife Joyce Hooper, who teamed to write the scripts for  Von Richthofen and Brown, The Omega Man, Boxcar BerthaThe Arena and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, as well as several soap operas and the syndicated show Superior Court.

Edward Van Bohlen (Edward Albert) has stayed away from his wine making family until his girlfriend Victoria Wells (Kate Jackson) asks him to go back home and try to reconnect. We all know that you can’t go home again and when your family uses African bees to make your wine better, well, you really should in no way go back home again.

Madame Van Bohlen (Gloria Swanson) not only runs the family and the winery, but the bees as well. She’s able to command them to kill everyone that she sees as a threat, but when she dies, who will the bees follow?

Bette Davis was originally going to be the star of the movie, but her doctor worried that she’d o into anaphylactic shock if she was stung by a bee. As for Gloria Swanson, she was so game for this movie that she agreed to have bees put all over her body. To create this moment, the bees were placed in a dry ice room to make them tired, then gradually warmed once they were put on Ms. Swanson’s costume.

The wine that got made by the Van Bohlen’s must have been good, because their home is now the place where noted winemaker — and yes, director — Francis Ford Coppola lives.

CURTIS HARRINGTON WEEK: How Awful About Allan (1970)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This made for TV movie was originally on our site on May 19, 2020. As we explore the movies of Curtis Harrington, we’ve brought this article back.

Along with What’s the Matter With Helen?, this movie is one of the two collaborations between writer Henry Farrell and director Curtis Harrington.  It was the ABC Movie of the Week on September 22, 1970 and has stood the test of time as one of the better TV movies. And there’s some stiff competition for that.

Shot in just 12 days, it stars Anthony Perkins as Allan Colleigh, who has psychosomatic blindness after an accident — he left paint cans too close to a fire — that killed his abusive father and scarred his sister Katharine (Julie Harris from the 1963 version of The Haunting).

After Allan returns to their home after time in a mental hospital, he’s convinced that everyone is out to get him, including a new boarder with speaks in a hoarse whisper and one of his sister’s ex-boyfriends on the phone.

Joan Hackett — who was in two great TV movies, Dead of Night and The Possessed — appears as Allan’s former girlfriend. She gets caught up in his mania as rooms of the house explode into flames and he’s kidnapped by that mysterious ex.

How Awful About Allan has plenty of actors as comfortable on the stage as they were on the big or small screen. Perkins agreed to wear special contacts that completely made him blind so that his performance would be more realistic.

This didn’t get great reviews when it came out, but do the movies we love ever do?

You can download this on the Internet Archive, watch it on Amazon Prime or just use this YouTube link:

CURTIS HARRINGTON WEEK: The Cat Creature (1973)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve added some things to this article, which originally appeared on our site on May 22, 2020.  

Originally airing December 11, 1973 on ABC, this Curtis Harrington-directed, Robert Bloch-written take on Cat People was originally planned as a starring vehicle for Diahann Carroll. However, her ABC contract ended and the film needed to be rewritten.

It’s such a tribute to Cat People that Kent Smith, who starred in that film and its sequel, The Curse of the Cat People, appears.

Smith plays an appraiser who finds a sarcophagus in a house that he is surveying. Inside is a mummy wearing a solid gold cat’s head amulet that has a curse attached to it. Just then, he’s killed by a cat creature and a thief played by Keye Luke steals the amulet.

David Hedison — who played Felix Leiter to two different James Bonds — is a cop on his trail. Showing up for support are Meredith Baxter as a salesgirl,  John Carradine as a hotel clerk and Stuart Whitman as a police lieutenant.

Gale Sondergaard, who played Universal’s Spider Woman in two films*, is also here as an occult bookstore owner named Hester Black. It was one of the first movies that she had made since 1949, thanks to the blacklist and her support of her husband Herbert Biberman.

The day after shooting wrapped, she was called back for some closeups. It was all a ruse When she arrived on the set in makeup and costume, Charlton Heston presented her with an Academy gold statuette to replace one that she had won for 1936’s Anthony Adverse.

*Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman and The Spider Woman Strikes Back.

Want to check this out for yourself? Here it is on YouTube:

CURTIS HARRINGTON WEEK: The Dead Don’t Die (1975)

Man, Robert Bloch didn’t like this adaption, saying: “The Dead Don’t Die. Maybe they don’t, but the show did. Despite Curtis’s casting of accomplished character actors, their supporting roles couldn’t prop up the lead. And Ray Milland, who had given such a deftly paced performance in my script for Home Away from Home, merely plodded through his part here like a zombie without a deadline.”

As for me, I loved it. It’s somehow a noir movie, a Poverty Row horror film, a zombie movie and it’s made for TV. More like made for me.

George Hamilton plays Don Drake, a man who comes back from a long trip to learn that his brother fried in the chair for killing his wife, a crime that Drake thinks his brother is innocent of. He tries to clear the name of his sibling, leading him to the Loveland Ballroom, where his brother was involved in a dance marathon run by Jim Moss (Ray Milland).

The problem is, well, the dead don’t die.

Drake soon sees his brother walking the foggy streets, as well as a man he’s already killed once, Perdido (Reggie Nalder, who is in a ton of great movies like Salem’s Lot and Seven). That’s because Moss is also a master of voodoo.

Harrington had to be in heaven with this cast. Joan Blondell and Ralph Meeker may be underappreciated, but he remembered their work.

It’s like a Val Lewton movie made in 1975 and if you know me, you know what kind of praise that is.

Frankenstein: Une histoire d’amour (1974)

AKA Frankenstein 95 and why does Frankenstein have so many movies with years after its name?

Obsessed with creating life, Count Victor Frankenstein starts on animals, moves up to cadavers and freaks everyone out around him — his teachers, the lcoal government and even his own family — as he dreams of getting a real person to try out his experiments on.

Man, this movie is just plain weird and nobody is talking about it, but then I realize that it’s a made for TV French movie from 1974 so adjust your perceptions, Sam.

Also, besides morally disgusting everyone he meets, the other people that Victor knows — his foster sister, a village fool — want to have steamy, sweaty and probably chemically smelling sex with him. He’s also mentally bonded with the creature, giving everyone else in town psychic visions.

Or maybe, just maybe, he’s crazy.

Ghost Story: Episode 2 “The Concrete Captain”

Ed Lucas (Stuart Whitman) has found his wife Kate (Gena Rowlands) the perfect souvenir. The Concrete Captain is a small chunk of concrete with a miniature harpoon in it. Lucky for him — and maybe not so good, really, when you see how it all happens — she loves it.

She’s actually obsessed with it.

The Concrete Captain ends up being real and his ghost thinks that Kate is his long-lost love Katharine. And he’s coming back for her.

This episode of Ghost Story was based on a short story by Elizabeth Walter, whose story “The Spider” was an episode of Night Gallery, “Fear of Spiders.” Three more of her stories would end up in this series: “The New House,” “Pendergast” (which was called “Elegy for a Vampire”) and “Travelling Companion” (which was called “Time of Terror). The story was adapted by JImmy Sangster and Richard Matheson, which if you think about it, is pretty much as good as it gets.

This was made four years — and plenty of TV work — before Richard Donner would make The Omen and show the world just how good he was. Anyone who watched this episode would already know that, as this gothic ghost story wanders the silent and gray shores of a coastal town that’s been shut down.

Dracula Sovereign of the Damned (1980)

If you think there’s censorship in America today, well, let me tell you…after the comic book trials of the 1950s, in which Dr. Fredric Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent led to Congress having trials amidst the belief that comic books caused juvenile delinquency, the Comics Code Authority was born. Every comic needed the code and in order to keep offending comics like E.C. Comics’ Tales from the Crypt from ever rearing their ugly head again, vampires, werewolves, ghouls and zombies were banned. Comics couldn’t even use the words horror or terror in their titles. Even comic book writer Marv Wolfman’s last name was challenged!

It got so ridiculous that when Marvel used zombies in The Avengers, they had to call them zuvembies. They were still undead, they still acted like zombies, yet that spelled got them past the outdated Comics Code.

However, a 1971 provision to the Code stated the following: “Vampires, ghouls and werewolves are allowed when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high calibre literary works written by Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools around the world.”

After the last appearances of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and a werewolf as superheroes in a short-lived line of Dell Comics, comic publishers realized that they could make monster books and as the characters were in the public domain, they could create their own versions of some already beloved characters.

Marvel already had a “living vampire” in Morbius — yes, the same character who is getting his own movie — but the Dracula comic floundered at first with several different writers (Gerry Conway, who went from a Universal-inspired take with major input from editors Roy Thomas and Stan Lee to a Hammer take on the character in the two issues he wrote, followed by two issues by Archie Goodwin and two by Gardener Fox before the aforementioned Marv Wolfman came on board) before gaining traction. Gene Colan was the artist along with Tom Palmer on inks for most of the run, basing his Dracula on Jack Palance, who would end up getting the role in the Dan Curtis TV movie Dracula a year after Colan prophetically started drawing him as the King of the Vampires.

At its height, Tomb of Dracula also had two black and white titles, Dracula Lives! and Tomb of Dracula. Yet even after the series ended in August of 1979, the character would return to battle the X-Men.

Strangely enough, Marvel’s Dracula comic book has more of an honor than just being one of the first Marvel movies. It also introduced the character of Blade, who would be one of the first Marvel film successes in 1998.

In 1980, soon after the end of the series, Marvel’s deal with Toei led to this movie.

The Toei deal began when the CBS Spider-Man series — which only had 13 episodes in America and a few TV movies — became a big success in Japan. Toei, the makers of Kamen Rider, would be the partner to create Marvel-inspired series such as their own Japanese Spider-Man show that gave Japan their own webslinger in Takuya Yamashiro and his giant robot Leopardon.

Marvel also produced the Sentai — think Power Rangers shows Battle Fever J (with characters from multiple countries much like Captain America; Miss America on the show inspired American Chavez — according to this article on Inverse — and the crew even battled a Dracula robot), Denshi Sentai Denziman and Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan, which Stan Lee tried and failed to bring to America. Ironically, former Marvel producer Margaret Loesch ran Fox Kids in the 90s, which led to Marvel shows appearing on Fox, as well as a much later Super Sentai series, which was rebranded exactly as Lee had suggested by Saban Entertainment and called Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

As part of the deal with Toei, two more movies got made: Kyoufu Densetsu Kaiki! Frankenstein and Yami no Teiō: Kyūketsuki Dorakyura orThe Emperor of Darkness: The Vampire Dracula.

In 1983, Harmony Gold released this to American cable as Dracula Sovereign of the Damned. And wow, it’s something else.

The movie starts with no less gravitas than to show us how the universe was formed and the nature of juxtaposition — life and death, heat and cold, light and dark — began. Nowhere is that juxtaposition more felt than in the form of Dracula, who is both alive and dead.

Now making his home in Boston, after being hounded by multiple vampire hunters, Dracula soon interrupts a wedding between a virginal bride and Lucifer, stealing Dolores for his own, yet conflicted as to whether or not he should drink her blood. They end up having a son, Janus, who is killed by the cultists and Satan, but comes back as a being of pure light that also wants to kill his father. Meanwhile, Frank Drake, Hans Harker and Rachel Van Helsing are hunting down the vampire, wanting to end his life for good.

Can you fit more than 40 issues of a comic book into 90 minutes? Well, the makers of this movie sure gave it a try. At one point, Dracula even becomes human and walks the streets of Boston still wearing his cloak, but goes to get a hamburger. It’s also amazing just how much violence, Satanic moments and even nudity that this movie has. It’s also hilariously dubbed and the source material isn’t understood by the people making it, so it’s exactly everything that I want and need it to be.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Ghost Story: Episode 1 “The Dead We Leave Behind”

Originally airing on September 15, 1972, the first episode of Ghost Story has Winston Essex telling us the story of ranger Elliott Brent (Jason Robards).

His wife Joanna (Stelle Stevens) is bored, so he buys her a TV set. But now, all she does is watch her stories and neglects their home. As they argue, Elliot accidentally kills her and buries her behind their cabin. But now, when he turns on that TV, all he sees is her and sees episodes of shows in which she’s been unfaithful to him.

And when the man who she’s been cheating — in video form from beyond the grave — shows up, well, Elliot has to kill him too, right? But after that, when he starts seeing bodies rising from the grave on the screen, things don’t look good at all.

Director Paul Stanley’s career was mainly in television other than the 1959 film Cry Tough, which starred a young John Saxon. This episode came from a story by Robert Sprecht, who created the show The Immortal, and was developed for the TV format by Richard Matheson.

John Kenneth Muir’s Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV has a great theory on this episode and how it influenced numerous Stephen King stories from Pet Sematary and The Shining to the “Something to Tide You Over” segment in Creepshow.

Robards — as always — brings up the level of anything he’s in. And Stella Stevens is great in this too. I kind of love how it starts in the middle of their story, which already seems to be spiraling into darkness.