Veteran director Dan Curtis returns to one of his best-known works, 1975’s Trilogy of Terror, with a follow-up sequel bearing the requisite “II” in the title.
When I first saw the VHS box in West Coast Video in 1997 for Trilogy of Terror II, I groaned with disgust. Why on earth would anyone make a follow-up to one of the best and scariest TV-movies of all-time? How could they hope to improve upon a film that was so effective and ahead of its time? I was even more shocked to see that it was directed by Dan Curtis who helmed the first film. Twenty-three years later, I finally caught up with it and I am happy to say that the film is actually pretty good! Like its predecessor, there are three short stories (you already know that from the title), with the best again being saved for last.
British actress Lysette Anthony appears in all three stories and bears a passing resemblance to French actress Emmanuelle Béart. Story One, The Graveyard Rats, is based on the short story of the same name by Henry Kutter which was published the March 1936 issue of Weird Tales.
It was adapted by Mr. Curtis and William F. Nolan of the Logan’s Run stories and Burnt Offerings (1976) fame for this film and it features veteran character actor Matt Clark (Heather Locklear’s father on Dynasty, if you can believe that) as Roger Ansford, a wealthy, wheelchair-bound curmudgeon married to Laura (Lysette Anthony) who is 27 years his junior.
She is carrying on an affair with the handsome Ben (Geraint Wyn Davies) who has a fascination with Richard Widmark’s performance as Tommy Udo in the 1946 film Kiss of Death and she reluctantly acquiesces with him to kill Roger so that they can be together. Unbeknownst to Laura, or at least she acts as though she doesn’t know, Roger has put the keys to his fortune in his coffin so that no one gets it. What unfolds is a pretty decent horror outing, with Geoffrey Lewis whom horror fans will remember from Salem’s Lot (1979) here as a gravedigger/robber and the silliest oversized rats since Robert Clouse’s Deadly Eyes (1982). It’s a fun ride and the ending is memorable.
Story Two is Bobby, a Richard Matheson-penned vignette and remake of the same short from director Curtis’s own 1977 story that was featured his TV-movie Dead of Night. The original version was very creepy and starred Lee Harcourt Montgomery in the title role and was the standout of Dead of Night and was, unsurprisingly, the final story in that production.
I wish that they had adapted Mr. Matheson’s The Children of Noah instead of remaking this story as this time around the action is a little over the top and tends to be usually loud. Lysette Anthony stars again, this time as a mother whose dead son Bobby (Blake Heron) comes back to her following his accidental drowning, but since her negligence lead to his death, and there is an intimation that his parents were neglectful of him during his childhood, Bobby becomes evil and forces a macabre game on her. This isn’t surprising as the house this woman lives in is enormous and overlooks the ocean. The ending is the same, but this time it’s a little schlocky.
Story Three is He Who Kills and is a direct sequel to Amelia, the final story which starred Karen Black in the original Trilogy of Terror and was based upon the Richard Matheson short story Prey originally published in the April 1969 issue of Playboy Magazine.
Police are summoned to find Amelia and her mother dead in the apartment, with the macabre doll covered in soot from the oven it was thrown into. Of course, since the original film was shot in Los Angeles, and this one was shot in Toronto, the apartment looks very different despite obvious attempts to make it look like the one in the original. A large staircase connects two floors that one wasn’t privy to the first time around.
The police are baffled by this double homicide and enlist the aid of a doctor (Lysette Anthony) who finds herself battling the demon doll after cleaning it off. The ending is predictable and uninspired, as I would have liked to have seen the doctor turn into a life-sized version of the doll just to differentiate itself from the original. I also would have liked the film to have been titled Another Trilogy of Terror, just to be different. However, overall, the episode is a fun ride. There is even a reference that a security guard in Story Three makes to the Dark Shadows comic book.
Prey as seen in Playboy Magazine, April 1969
The new Blu-ray of the film is framed at 1.33:1 since it was shot for television and originally aired on the USA Network on Wednesday, October 30, 1996.
Kino Lorber brings their usual excellent work to the film restoring it, and although there is a disclaimer at the start of the film explaining that while the presentation is in high definition, there were certain shots and scenes that were only available in standard definition, I was hard-pressed to see the difference. It’s a stellar presentation.
The disc has some nice extras:
Audio Commentary by Film Historian Troy Howarth – I love Troy’s commentaries and this one is another excellent entry as he proves himself to be extremely knowledgeable and well-prepared to discuss the onscreen action at hand. He is a fountain of knowledge, leaving no stone unturned when discussing the backgrounds of the performers onscreen.
Interview with Second Unit Director Eric Allard and Special Makeup Effects Artist Rick Stratton – this is a roughly 17-minute interview regarding the making of the film.
My Days with Dan is an interview with Actress Lysette Anthony wherein she discusses how she came to be involved with the film. She becomes sweetly emotional towards the end of the interview when discussing the late Dan Curtis and how they worked together.
Trailers: Burnt Offerings (1976), Parasite (1983), Zoltan…Hound of Dracula / Dracula’s Dog (1977), Night Angel (1990), and Rawhead Rex (1986)
For those of you die-hard aficionados of the first film, here is a blurb about one of the original Zuni Fetish Doll props from the 1975 film selling for just over $200K at an auction.