Wednesday, October 13, 2021

living doll.

Today our 31 Days of Horror debacle takes on the small screen because TeeVee can be scary too.

Can you tell I've no idea what to put for the intros?

Trilogy of Terror (1975).
Dir: Dan Curtis.
Cast: Karen Black, Robert Burton, James Storm, Gregory Harrison, John Karlen and George Gaynes.

'You've drugged me!'
 "No dear, I've killed you".

Welcome one and all to a pesky portmanteau horror consisting of three unconnected tales of terror from the pen (tho' it was most likely a typewriter) of horror-miester Richard Matheson and starring the late, great Karen Black, sit back and relax as we first meet the dowdy, bespectacled English teacher named....


Creepy college stud Chad Foster (As the World Turns, Vega$ and Lassie actor plus former Mr Karen Black, Burton), reckoning that all his female classmates are worthless whores and not worthy of his mighty man bulge (as you do) decides to instead stalk his librarian-like English teacher, Julie Eldridge (the aforementioned Black) in the hope of seeing what she looks like "underneath all those clothes".

Yup he really does say that to his catalogue model-type pal Eddie (Ex Fantastic Four member Storm) and even manages to keep a straight face as he does.

Eddie just tussles his luxurious hair whilst informing his friend that Julie is ugly before walking away to find a mirror to make love to.

Tho' by the look of him he'd probably just spunk over his (fantastically ironed) jeans before he'd even gotten his cock fully out.


The next day during class, Chad is distracted by a flash of Julie's American Tan tighted thigh as she sits on her desk and begins daydreaming about her, promising himself there and then that he will have his wicked way with teacher.

Which isn't at all uncomfortable, honest.

Later that evening (well it is a short film) when Julie is undressing in her room, Chad watches her from behind a bush erotically fingering his massive collars as he does so.

Easy tiger.

Fired up - and still slightly sticky - our sinister student asks Julie out on a date to see a 'french vampire film'* at the local drive-in which she initially knocks back, until that is she discovers that they're showing Le Frisson Des Vampires and having a thing for Marie-Pierre Tricot (but then again who doesn't?) excitedly accepts.

But as we've gathered Chad is a bad man (or an 'un méchant homme' as the French say) as, during the movie, he spikes Julie's root beer and renders her unconscious before driving her to a motel and taking loads of photos of her in a variety of more and more sexually provocative poses.

Well it's a TV movie so basically he lifts her skirt to expose her thigh but you get the idea.

And to think that if he'd have taken Eddie's suggestion he'd have just popped his penis in the bottom of the popcorn box and waited for her to grab it.

Still can't believe how many times I fell for hat, my dad was such a joker.


Julie awakes to find herself in Chad's car as he drives her home, explaining that she had fallen asleep during the film and he's been driving around in the hope that the fresh air would wake her up.

Seems legit.

After retreating to his darkroom to see what develops, creepy Chad smugly shows Julie the photographs and blackmails her into all manner of sexy stuff, threatening to call the police if she refuses, leaving the timid teacher no choice but to go along with his perverted plan.

Spooky dissolves and Julie looking more and more shot to fuck and we're several weeks into the sordid situation, Julie is shuffling around her abuser's pad in an oversized housecoat as Chad clicks his fingers and demands a drink.

As Julie hands over the glass she suddenly switches off the stereo/radiogram she mysteriously announces that "The game is over." and stares intently at a by now confused Chad.

As she sips her drink the tricky teacher admits that she was the one to manipulate the whole situation, planting the lustful seed in Chad's head.

"Did you really think that dull, little mind of yours could possibly have conceived any of the rather dramatic experiences we've shared? She asks.

And with that she begins to laugh as Chad slowly chokes on his poisoned beverage.

As he breathes his last,  Julie drags his body into the darkroom where she sets fire to both it and the saucy snaps.


As Julie's flatmate sits on the edge of her bed offering sympathy and support Julie holds back the tears as she leafs thru' the local paper reports on Chad's tragic demise but as her pal leaves for work Julie jumps up and cuts out the headline, adding it to a scrapbook of articles about students who all met similar fates.

As she pops the book in her drawer there's a knock at the door as yet another  student (Small screen Logan's Run star Harrison) in need of some extra-curriculum help introduces himself.....


And with that we're off to meet 'Millicent and Therese'.

Mousy Millicent is convinced that her sister Therese is evil.

And by evil she doesn't just mean in a steal her make-up/boyfriend/not do the washing up kind of way but actually evil.

As in she worships the Devil.

Oh yeah, and she forced herself on her boyfriend whilst wearing a huge studded leather strap-on.

And she fucked her dad.

The last one tho' is fairly understandable as he was quite handsome according to the family photo on the piano.

When Therese is out gallivanting one eve Millicent invites the aforementioned beau, local butcher and part-time hand model Thomas Amman (Karlen - Harvey from Cagney and Lacey as well as the brutish Stefan from Harry Kümel's classic Daughters Of Darkness) round for tea, biscuits and a plea to dump her sister.

Amman is dubious about Millicent's mad claims, until that is she asks him how his bum is feeling and with that he realises that everything he's been told about Therese is true and with a slamming of his cup he storms out of the house.

Collar and cuffs.

With her work done Millicent phones the family GP, the shock-haired Dr. Gordon Ramsey (Police Academy's Commandant Eric Lassard himself Gaynes) for her weekly bitchfest regarding her wayward sibling.

But this time it's different as she thinks she may have a way of dealing with Therese once and for all.

Millicent bids the doctor farewell before taking a tiny doll from a box, laying it next to a book that's entitled Voodoo Curses.

Or something.

Worried by this news Ramsey quickly drives to their house where he is greeted not by Millicent but by the vampish Terese - all bleached hair, pushed up boobs and clad in what looks like a tiny red belt.

As Ramsey attempts to show her the error of her ways the narrow hipped vixen just giggles and strokes her thigh provocatively.

Which if I'm honest works for me.

The doc is having none of it tho' and storms off to cries of "Don't you like girls?" as Therese throws herself onto the sofa and smokes a fag (well it is a very nice sofa) before heading off upstairs to bang on her sisters door whilst hurling abuse at her thru the keyhole.


Later that night Ramsey receives another call from Millicent, this time to inform him that she wont be needing his help in future as she knows what to do.

And again Ramsey runs out to his car and heads to the house only this time to find  Therese dead on her bedroom floor with the tiny doll next to her and Millicent nowhere to be found.

With a sigh Dr. Ramsey phones an ambulance.

Explaining the situation to the newly arrived ambulancemen Ramsey reveals that he is the family doctor and - in a twist so obvious it would be scarier if it were any other explanation - that Therese and Millicent are in fact the same person.

You see, the Therese personality did indeed sleep with her dad and quite possibly murdered her mum and the Millicent personality appeared in an attempt to repress the all the sexiness or something and that her sisters murder was actually a bizarre suicide.

Look I'm not a doctor but it seemed to make sense whilst I was watching.

Tho' I may have been distracted by George Gaynes' tie.


We're onto the final stretch now where we're about to meet Amelia, a quiet, unassuming lady who lives alone in a swanky high-rise apartment building that she's house sitting for some unnamed couple.

Well obviously they have names it's just that the script doesn't give them.

Returning home after a busy day shopping for her 'man friends' birthday present she kicks off her shoes and excitedly opens a large box she's just taken out of her Asda bag for life. laying its contents on the table.

But not in that way obviously.

And what, pray, has she purchased for him?

Well it's a wooden fetish of a Zuni warrior and not a melted, bootleg Rick James action figure as I originally thought.

Equipped with razor sharp teeth and a dangerous looking spear, the statue comes with a scroll proclaiming that the doll contains the actual spirit of the infamous Zuni hunter Brian "He Who Kills" Waterhouse and that the gold chain fastened around its waist keeps the spirit trapped within and therefore stops it from going on a killing spree.

You can see where this is going can't you?


As Amelia makes a phone call to her overbearing mother she struggles to cancel their weekly meet-up in order to meet her beau, becoming more and more nervous and frigidity as her mother's complaints intensify.

Fiddling with the doll as she becomes even more anxious she doesn't notice when the gold chain becomes lose and eventually falls off.


Later that evening, after phoning her friend to cancel then sucking up to her mum, Amelia decides to defrost a fantastic meal for one and prepare herself for a lonely night in front of the TV fiddling with herself whilst ogling Henry Clavill on Graham Norton but as she's checking the instructions on the Asda Meals for One chicken korma she notices a strange noise emanating from the living room so goes to investigate.

Entering the darkened living room she soon realizes that the Zuni doll has disappeared from the coffee table and, on returning to the kitchen that the knife is missing too.



As she frantically searches for the knife (it's called 'acting' darling) the Zuni doll suddenly appears from nowhere and attempts to bite her ankles sending poor Amelia into a screaming frenzy.

As she attempts to flee the doll gives chase in a scene that in no way influenced Sam Raimi when he made Evil Dead 2  which culminates in our heroine holed up in the bathroom whilst the Zuni doll tries to stab her under the door like dolls normally don't.

Hilarity and Looney Tunes style chase scenes ensue and after attempting to drown it in the bath and then lock it in a suitcase, Amelia finally manages to trap the doll in the oven where it catches fire, holding the door shut as its howls and screams fill the room as it burns.


Waiting till the screaming has stopped Amelia sheepishly opens the oven to make sure that the doll is dead only to be struck by a billowing black smoke that envelopes her as she herself let's out a blood-curdling scream....

Time passes and the next thing we see is Amelia calming calling her mother to apologise for cancelling their meet-up and inviting her to come for dinner.

But as the phone call ends Amelia crouches down and begins to stab  the floor with a carving knife, her scary grin revealing the pointy teeth of the Zuni doll whose spirit now lives within her.

After teaming up to give the world the hero it deserved in Carl Kolchak from The Night Stalker, the diabolical dream team of director Dan (Dark Shadows, The Norliss Tapes and Burnt Offerings) Curtis and writer Richard (The Incredible Shrinking Man, I Am Legend and all the really good The Twilight Zone episodes) Matheson decided to try their hand with the pesky anthology genre - basing each of the tales on one of Matheson's short story and casting a single actress to play all the lead roles.

Enter (not like that you sick puppy) the frankly fantastic Karen Black, famous for her stand out performances in the Jack Nicholson starrers Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider as well as The Great Gatsby and disaster porn epic Airport ‘75 alongside Charlton Heston - who may or may not have had a vest on.

But is it any good?

In a word, yes.

And although "Amelia" is the story that everyone remembers (it was even remade by RuPaul back in the 80s**) it's actually "Julie" with it's plot about toxic masculinity that resonates the most to a modern viewer - watching it in a post #MeToo world the story takes on a more serious and disturbing tone that makes for incredibly uncomfortable viewing.

And remember that due to censorship constraints when it came to what could or couldn't be broadcast on TV this is in no small part down to the performances and really is a case of less being more.


 "Millicent and Therese" on the other hand couldn't be more obvious from the minute it starts tho' is worth it again just for Black's performance.

And her clumpy white shoes obviously.

But it's “Amelia” that everyone seems to remember.

With Matheson adapting his own stage play - which also starred Black - 'Prey' for the film (the first two segments were adapted by William F. Nolan) and Black herself rewriting some of the dialogue, the story is lean and mean with the Zuni doll coming across like the Tasmanian Devils smarter brother and inspiring everyone from the aforementioned Sam Raimi to Joe Dante along the way.

But it's the segments final shot that's the killer.

Well worth a watch.

* Which is, in fact, clips from Curtis and Matheson’s previous collaboration - the classic 1972 TV movie The Night Stalker.

**Way back in 1984 and long before RuPaul became a household name, he appeared in Jon Witherspoon's 12-minute lo-fi remake/homage to “Amelia” that replaces the originals fear quota with various shots of the star taking a bath and lingering looks at his - albeit peachy - arse.

Which if I'm honest kinda works.

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