Before Kolchak V: A Darkness at Blaisedon

Part of my series on never-made occult detective TV shows.

What it was supposed to be: Dead of Night, a series about a trio of occult/paranormal investigators.
What we got: An extremely low-budget one hour pilot.
Investigator: Jonathan Fletcher (Kerwin Mathews) and Sanjiv Rao (Cal Bellini), joined by Angela Martin (Marj Dusay)
Why the axe: I don’t know the exact reasons, but the pilot did not impress.

Dead of Night: A Darkness at Blaisedon (1969)

A Darkness At Blaisedon (1969)
Source: letterboxd.com

A struggling secretary from San Francisco inherits a spooky old mansion, Blaisedon, on the Hudson. She can’t sell it, because strange phenomena in the house drive off potential buyers. She hires psychic investigators Jonathan Fletcher (Kerwin Mathews) and Sanjiv Rao (Cal Bellini) to find out whether the house is haunted, and by whom.

This plot of this supernatural gothic melodrama has potential. And the show is produced and written (though not directed) by Dan Curtis, who brought us Kolchak (The Night Stalker and Night Strangler TV movies), Dark Shadows, The Norliss Tapes, and that wonderful Karen Black anthology film, Trilogy of Terror. So it has a great supernatural and occult investigation pedigree. Unfortunately, it’s filmed (or to be precise, videotaped), set dressed, scored, and for the most part acted like a soap opera. Judging by the flubs that got left in the final print, I can’t imagine they did more than one or two takes of anything.

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Before Kolchak IV: Fear No Evil/Ritual of Evil

Part of my series on never-made occult detective TV shows.

What it was supposed to be: Bedeviled, a series about a psychiatrist who fights against demonic forces.
What we got: Two TV Movies of the Week: one outstanding, the other not bad.
Investigator: Dr. David Sorell (Louis Jourdan)
Why the axe: A number of reasons, leading to NBC going with Rod Serling’s Night Gallery instead.

Fear No Evil (1969)

RitualOfEvilBluRay
Source: kinolorber.com

Paul Varney spots a strange apparition in a beautiful old mirror that he purchases from an antique shop. When Paul later dies, his fiancee Barbara believes that she can see him in that old mirror — and he’s calling her to join him. Dr. David Sorell must free Barbara from the spell she’s under before what would have been the couple’s wedding day, when Paul has promised to take her away.

Fear No Evil was produced by Universal for NBC, and holds the distinction of being the first US television “Movie of the Week.” It is an excellent movie. Coming out as it did soon after the release of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), a movie that popularized the theme of devil worship, it of course delves into demons and covens, too. But it also has a lot of the qualities of a good, classic, old school ghost story. That puts it right up my alley.

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Before Kolchak III: Chamber of Horrors

Part of my series on never-made occult detective TV shows.

Chamber of Horrors (1966)

What it was supposed to be: House of Wax, a period horror/detective series.
What we got: Chamber of Horrors, the feature film.
Investigator: Anthony Draco (Cesare Danova) and Harold Blount (Wilfrid Hyde White)
Why the axe:  “Too gruesome for TV.”
Source: Shout Factory

Baltimore, late 19th century: wealthy, upper-class Jason Cravette kills his fiancee and marries her corpse. When his crime is discovered, the police capture him with the help of amateur detective and wax museum owner Anthony Draco, who runs House of Wax. Cravette is convicted and condemned; on the way to prison he escapes by chopping off his own handcuffed hand and jumping off the train. He then procures a gruesome collection of hooks and blades to replace his missing hand, and returns to Baltimore to get gory revenge on all who were responsible for his conviction — including Draco.

This isn’t actually occult detection; it’s non-supernatural horror/crime, but it’s similar to the film I covered in the last post, Dark Intruder, in many ways. The two movies are often mentioned together, and it seemed natural to watch it and compare. Chamber of Horrors also has a few things in common with Fear No Evil, one of the subjects of my next post. And it’s a truly fun movie.

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Before Kolchak II: Dark Intruder

Part of my series on never-made occult detective TV shows.

Dark Intruder (1965)

What it was supposed to be: Black Cloak, a period occult investigator series.
What we got: Dark Intruder, the pilot, reframed as a 60 min “movie” packaged as part of as a drive-in double feature.
Investigator: Brett Kingsford (Leslie Nielsen)
Why the axe:  “Too scary for TV.”
Dark Intruder Blu ray Review cover
Source

In public and to his friends, Brett Kingsford (Leslie Nielsen) is a wealthy playboy socialite in late 19th century San Francisco. In private, he investigates cases of the occult. Police Commissioner Harvey Misbach asks for Kingsford’s help with a series of brutal killings. At every murder scene, the killer leaves behind a mysterious carving of a two-headed Sumerian god — and each time, the second head emerges a little further out. At the same time, Kingsford’s friend Evelyn expresses concern about her fiance Robert’s strange mood and erratic behavior.

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Before Kolchak I: The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre

If you are a fan of the occult detective genre, you are are likely familiar with Carl Kolchak, the intrepid journalist who investigated supernatural phenomena in two TV movies (1972 and 1973) and one season of a TV series (1974-75). But Kolchak wasn’t the first attempt to put occult detection on the small screen. I recently indulged in a little binge of television pilots about paranormal investigators that predate Kolchak, but failed to get picked up. After these pilots were rejected, they were extended and given new life as TV, or even theatrical, movies, granting us lucky viewers a glimpse of what might have been, once a week, for a season or so….

The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre (1964)

What it was supposed to be: The Haunted, a series about an architect who consults as a paranormal investigator.
What we got: An 80 minute TV movie, The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre. And now, the 60 minute pilot, too.
Investigator: Nelson Orion (Martin Landau)
Why the axe: “Too scary for TV.” Also, political upheaval at CBS.
Ghost of sierra de cobre
Source

Nelson Orion (Martin Landau) is an architect/building restoration specialist for a living, paranormal investigator by avocation. He looks into the case of a wealthy young man who believes that his dead mother is haunting him — by telephone. The truth turns out to be far more sinister.

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Fährmann Maria

Fährmann Maria (Ferryman Maria) is a 1936 fantasy film that IMDB calls “The last classic German Expressionist film made in Germany before the film industry was swallowed up by the Third Reich.” Deutsche Filmothek calls it “arguably one of the 10 greatest films of the Third Reich and together with the 1935 version of Student von Prag, the last great, dark fantastic film from the German tradition in this genre until the end of the Third Reich.”

It’s a lovely film, directed by Frank Wisbar; a mood piece whose style is an interesting mix of silent and sound film techniques. The atmospheric and sometimes abstract cinematography and lighting design show the clear influence of the Expressionist school. It’s a bit short on story, but the visual design and lead actress Sybille Schmitz’s striking presence make it worth a watch.

Sybille Schmitz in Fahrmann Maria
Sybille Schmitz in Fährmann Maria

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The Ghost and Josephine Leslie

Because I always appreciate a good bit of literary sleuthing.

I’m not sure what got me thinking about The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I haven’t seen it in years, but it’s a movie I remember enjoying, one that’s right up my alley. Wikipedia tells me that it’s based on a short novel by R. A. Dick, the pseudonym of an Irish writer named Josephine Leslie (1898-1979).

The Ghost and Mrs Muir Posters

On an impulse, I bought the novel; and while I was at it, I did a little digging for other work by Ms. Leslie. I got intrigued by the title of a play she wrote, Witch Errant; the only plot information I could find is from an old playbill. I can’t find a copy of the play to read.

But while I was searching, I came across something fun.

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Eastern Vampires and Other Things

Someone said to me the other day, “It’s too bad ghost story (Winter Tales) season is over.” It’s always great to hear that someone enjoys what I post! So here’s another story (and a mini film review). Arjan, this post is for you.

In case any other readers are feeling ghost story withdrawal, here’s where I remind you that all my Dark Tales Sleuth posts also link to a copy of the (usually supernatural) story/stories that I’m discussing, either at the Internet Archive or to a PDF I’ve transcribed myself. And most of my posts to Ephemera are ghost stories, too. Whenever I post to one of those blogs, I eventually post about it here, too, so if you follow Multo, you’ll be up to date on all my blogs.

Anyway, today’s post involves vampires, of sorts. First, the vetala, a ghoul-like Indian revenant that haunts cemeteries and can possess dead bodies. And secondly the jiangshi, or Chinese hopping vampire, which consumes the qi, or life force of their victims, rather than their blood.

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Better than B: A Short and Idiosyncratic List of Films

I’m more of a reader than a movie buff, but there are times (especially this past year, and—whoo-boy!— this past week) when my mind is too unquiet to focus on a book. At times like that, or times when I’m just too tired to attend to a text, I reach for an easy-watch movie. By this I mean a movie that’s not too heavy or weighty or intellectual, that’s fun and light and easy to follow, and preferably one that doesn’t overstimulate the senses: not too much gore or violence, no dizzying action (unless it’s silly), no cacophonic soundscape. A movie I can watch with a bowl of popcorn and my brain turned to “low.”

Popcorn 155602 640

I think everyone has a set of movies or TV shows that they turn to in times of stress; different people find comfort in different genres. I often find that B-movies or “programmers” from the 1950s and 1960s do the trick nicely.

Every so often, though, I’ll turn on a movie that I think is of that type, only to realize — Hey! This movie is actually good! Yes, I have to turn my brain back on, but that’s probably a good thing anyway. These discoveries are always a pleasant surprise.

So here’s a short list of some movies I’ve stumbled on this way. I’m sure film buffs will read the list and say, “Duh!”, but hey—they were delights to discover for me.

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The Booth at the End

What will you do to get what you want? What will you do, for you?

 

I found the short-lived TV series The Booth at the End on Amazon Prime some time back, and finally got around to watching. I’m so glad I did. I clicked on the first episode on a foggy Friday afternoon, meaning just to watch one, and then move on with my day. Instead, I sat curled up on the couch and binged the entire first season (5 episodes, 25 minutes each), enthralled.

A mysterious man (played by Xander Berkeley) sits at the corner booth of an all-night diner, with his notebook. Desperate people come to him with desperate desires: for their son to be cured of cancer, for their husband to be cured of Alzheimers. The Man can grant them anything they ask of him, if they strike a bargain with him. No, not anything so obvious as their soul (well, not exactly). The deal is that they must execute the task that he finds for them in his notebook, and they must come to him regularly to report on their progress, which The Man writes down in the notebook. Once the task is done, the wish is granted.

Sometimes the task is somewhat related to the wish: to see his son cured of cancer, James must kill someone else’s child. Sometimes, it seems arbitrary: in order to become prettier, Jenny must rob a bank of $101,043. And while some of the tasks are horrific, others are difficult but relatively benign.

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