Who among us out there will remember Karen Black? Last night 10-strong of us at our Classic Horror Film Club gathered to watch a little-known film from the heyday of the made-for-TV era called Trilogy of Terror. Just as happened last night, some of you reading this will go, “Never heard of it”, others “Made-for-TV? Those all sucked.”, then some of us will go, “Oh, man, I remember that. That’s the one that had that little African Zuni doll, the one with all the teeth”.
Yup, it’s a made-for-TV movie, one of the finest from that era. The first recognized made-for-TV (mfTV), See How They Run, hit the airwaves on 10/7/64. I don’t remember that one, but starting somewhere in the mid-to-late 60’s my folks and I watched a batch of mfTV movies. They all had catchy titles like ABC Tuesday Movie of the Week or NBC Sunday Night at the Movies, that sort of thing. It was great. From 7 to 9 or 7:30 to 9 we could watch some really good stuff or some really schlocky stuff, depending on which way the wind blew. They ran the gamut from the schmaltzy Seven in Darkness (1969) to the nine-time Emmy Award winner, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974).
I remember they cranked out a whole bunch of supernatural and psychological horror flicks, and Trilogy was one of my all-time favorites. Yeah, it’s definitely a time-trip back to 1970’s-ville, full of leisure suits, fluffy/puffy hair, land yachts, and interior decoration that could make you blind. But each one of the three segments, although a bit clichéd nowadays, really fires up the suspense. Ms. Black is the star of each of the three stories, playing a total of four characters, ranging from mousy to darkly evil. Each of the three stories is titled after her characters’ first names, and, although each story is less than 30 minutes each, a lot is packed in there.
I’d forgotten just how much fun Trilogy was to watch. I was 19 when it first aired on March 4th, 1975, and all three stories are good, but the third one, Amelia, is mine (and most everyone’s who watched last night) favorite, the one with the little nasty-looking Zuni doll. I can watch a lot of really rough horror, but in the hands of the three masters (Ms. Black as Amelia, Richard Matheson’s writing, and Dan Curtis’s direction), my palms were sweating watching it.
The three segments are, in order, “Julie”, the story of a quiet English lit college teacher who’s stalked by one of her male students; “Millicent and Therese”, two opposite-as-yin-and-yang sisters living in the same house, and “Amelia”, a first-time apartment dweller who buys the doll I mentioned. The last one, “Amelia”, is most certainly my favorite, with a high creep factor. I’m generally not superstitious, but if someone made a gift to me of that little Zuni doll, I’d probably have to say thanks but no thanks.
That’s about all the time I have for this go-round.
‘til next time… Adios.