Trilogy of Terror
The anthology is a great way to tell a series of stories, particularly for the medium of television. The diversity inherent in utilizing different writers, directors, and actors affords the audience a wide variety of entertaining experience. During the dawn of television, all three networks heavily depended on the format as the backbone of their programming lineups. In recent years the anthology has experienced a revival with the wild popularity of series such as ‘American Horror Story’ has demonstrated the viability of the format with the current generation. With Halloween approaching, it seems to be the ideal time to reinforce how well the format fits with the horror genre. KL Studio Classics has gained a reputation for releasing classic movies and television series, often remastered in high definition Blu-ray. Among the most recent is a classic made for television movie from 1975, ‘Trilogy of Terror.’ In the vein of such classic shows as ‘Night Gallery,’ this anthology presents three tales of horror featuring the Academy Award-nominated actress, Karen Black. All three stories are independent of each other and suitable scary considering the venue of the year. On a personal note, the third installment had a conclusion that created such a visual impact that it remained high on my list of great horror moments.
The anthology format experienced a revival in the mid-seventies assuming the format of the weekly, made for television movie. The three networks each made slight variations on the format with ABC opting for movies embracing a broad selection of genres. This outing, directed by Dan Curtis, a man whose talents were expressed through an impressive list of credits. That creativity was expressed with such memorable series as ‘Night Stalker,’ ‘War and Remembrance,’ and the cult classic horror/soap opera, ‘Dark Shadows.’ Each of the three individual segments explores a different, popular means of horrifying expression. As with any anthology, it is certain that individual preferences will dictate which of the stories will most appeal to you. In any case, they all live up to the title, terror.
Julie Eldridge (Karen Black) is an English teacher in a college. As an attractive, young woman, Julie is understandably the object of infatuation among her male students. The young man currently attending her class is Chad (Robert Burton), who has developed a crush on his teacher. The audience is introduced to the situation during a class where Chad’s attention is drawn to her thigh as her skirt rode up while sitting on the edge of her desk. This incidental flash of flesh induced Chad’s imagination to fantasize about a relationship with Julie. Chad confides in his friend, Eddie (James Storm). Unexpectedly, Eddie’s reaction is not what Chad expected, his friend describes Julie as ‘ugly,’ strongly discouraging Chad pursue the teacher. Predictably, the driving force of a young man’s hormones easily overrides the sage advice offered by his friend. As the story progresses it is revealed that Chad is more than a hormonally driven young man, he is a full-scale creep, a predator of women. Wearing down Julie’s initial objections, he takes her out to a drive-in, spiking her drink which renders her unconscious. While defenseless he takes several photographs in sexually comprising photographs. Afterward, he attempts to blackmail Julie into submitting to his amorous intentions. Events turn dark and quite deadly, but the roles of predator and prey are completely and fatally reversed.
Millicent and Therese
In this segment, Ms. Black showcases her considerable talents by portraying twin sisters, the eponymous Millicent and Therese. Mildred is pressed, especially in expressing any modicum of sexuality. The modest brunette is the opposite of the aggressively boisterous Therese. When Mildred can no longer bear the constant barrage of criticism and humiliation from her twin, she deceives that becoming an only child is the only way to proceed. Her attempt at sororicide backfires in a macabre twist on the usual twin-oriented tropes.
Of the three segments comprising this anthology, this one generally is considered the most memorable; it is certainly my personal favorite. There are many contributing factors to the commonly held consensus. Arguably at the top of the list is the author of the original story, Richard Matheson. He was a fellow nativity son of Brooklyn, Mr. Matheson was one of the prolific founding fathers of the modern hybrid genre of horror and science fiction. His most famous opus is ‘I Am Legend,’ which has been made a novel that has been adapted for the screen four times. ‘Amelia’ was taken from his story, ‘Prey,’ retaining his trademark blend of horror and fantasy, largely a result of being the only one to write the teleplay for these stories. The titular character lives alone in a high-rise apartment building. After a shopping trip, Amelia’s eclectic tastes are expressed by her purchase of a strange doll. It is a misshapen human figure, a simulation of an aboriginal warrior. It came with a scroll stating containing the trapped soul of a Zuni warrior name as "He who Kills." It is a fearsome totem features rows of razor-sharp teeth, holding a primitive spear. Part of the appeal of this format in a movie is the individual segments are, by necessity, efficiently crafted getting directly to the main theme of the narrative. Much to Amelia’s steadily growing terror, the doll is alive. As if that wasn’t sufficiently horrifying, it is in hiding, and a kitchen knife is gone. The conclusion is iconic, a moment in the annals of horror that was remained secure throughout the decades. If you thought ‘Chucky’ was the most demonic doll, just wait until the end of this segment. You might discover a new contender.
There are certain television shows and movies that seem to follow you throughout your life. Whenever a new, improved format is developed, you find yourself compelled to repurchase it. I have owned several formats of this movie starting with a home-made videotape on VHS, to a store-bought copy and, eventually, a DVD. Finally, KL Studio Classics has added it to their growing slate of iconic, cult classic releases. Some collectors remained convinced that there is little if any, the benefit to purchasing older material on Blu-ray. This misplaced opinion is typically applied to vintage television and black and white TV and movies. While there are a few caveats that apply, in many cases, a significant improvement in the viewing experience is readily achieved. The crucial determining factor is the source material available for the transfer to Blu-ray. Ideally, to achieve the best results with the older material the program of the movie must be recorded on 35mm film stock. The negatives can be scanned with lasers, processed, enhanced as necessary and transfer to the master for disc production. ‘Trilogy of Terror’ was originally made using 35mm film providing an excellent source for this release. The level of discernable detail is amazing. It is close to a modern production in color palette consistency, shading, and details. Of course, watching this Blu-ray on a modern display will far exceed anything you have imagined.