WolfmanOz at the Movies #12

So who was Anthony James ?

Movies have a peculiar power to transfix and mesmerise us, planting their images in our sub-conscious that for a variety of reasons remain there in which time does not dim.

We all have movies and/or scenes that for whatever reason frightened us when we were much younger, and have ever since remained in our thoughts.

So this weeks’ focus is something a little bit different and somewhat more obscure as I look back at the 1976 supernatural horror thriller Burnt Offerings, directed by Dan Curtis and starring Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis and Burgess Meredith.

I first saw this on release when I was a teenager, and it has struck a cord with me ever since.

So what’s it all about . . .

A married couple (Oliver Reed and Karen Black) with their 12 year-old-son and the aunt (Bette Davis) of the husband rent a rundown large mansion and estate for the summer whilst they are also required to look after the elderly woman, named Mrs. Allardyce, who lives there. She is the mother of the siblings who rented the place to them.

As the days and weeks go by the family begins to disintegrate as there appears to be supernatural forces at play within the house. In addition, as each person is injured or suffers distress, the house mysteriously begins to restore itself.

So who was Anthony James then ?

Well one of the sub-plots running through the film is that the husband, Ben, is haunted by visions of an eerily, malevolently grinning hearse driver (played without dialogue by the actor Anthony James). It would be fair to say these short scenes scared me quite markedly whilst first seeing the film and even today they still send a chill down my spine whenever I re-watch them again.

As for Anthony James, well he was an American character actor who often played villains mostly in Westerns, in both movies and on TV. His last film role was in Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Oscar-winning Best Picture Unforgiven. He died in 2020 aged 77.


Eventually, the husband decides the family must leave the estate, but his wife says she must inform Mrs. Allardyce that they are leaving . . .


It’s one of these films that still resonates with me to this very day but which I can’t explain why.

It isn’t a masterpiece or even a great horror film but it is still very scary and quite unsettling without the need for incessant gratuitous violence that we so often seen in horror films in the last 50 years – although the climatic ending has its bloody moments.

The performances of the small cast are very effective – I always liked watching Oliver Reed. Whatever you may say about him for one thing he is never dull when on screen, and here is very good as the confused, and at times, quite weak husband.

What other films did Cats find scary or unnerving that they first saw many years ago and which still gives them uncomfortable chills today.

Enjoy.

26 thoughts on “WolfmanOz at the Movies #12”

  1. “What other films did Cats find scary or unnerving that they first saw many years ago and which still gives them uncomfortable chills today.”

    “The Innocents” with Deborah Kerr and Michael Redgrave, made in the early 1960s and largely based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.

    I get the chills even writing it.


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  2. Cassie of Sydney says:
    March 10, 2022 at 8:05 am
    “The Innocents” with Deborah Kerr and Michael Redgrave, made in the early 1960s and largely based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.

    I get the chills even writing it.

    Yes by far the best filmed version of The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James.


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  3. The Legend of Hell House. Gayle Hunnicutt, best nose in the business. Lots of suspense and the really scary moment is when a cat jumps on somebody’ back, digs in it’ claws and slides down. Only a second or two but you never trust a cat after that. 1973 and I still remember her name.
    George Lazenby got canned as 007. Alternative view.


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  4. “The Innocents” with Deborah Kerr and Michael Redgrave, made in the early 1960s and largely based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.

    Must watch it again, Saw it when very young, loved it then.


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  5. Trilogy of Terror scared the bejesus out of me when I was a young fella. A made-for-tv movie it featured three stories all starring Karen Black. I haven’t seen it for 47 years so can’t remember the first two stories, but the third story was a ripper. In what must have been the inspiration for ‘Chucky’, Karen Black is chased around the apartment by an evil looking African doll. She eventually kills it but in the last scene the doll has obviously taken over her body as she crouches with a knife, waiting for her mother.

    Okay, it sounds stupid and may well be, as I haven’t seen it as an adult. Nevertheless, it had the desired effect when I watched it on tele back in the ’70s.


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  6. A few years after that, I took my girlfriend to see The Shining. While it certainly scared the shit out of me, my girlfriend was utterly petrified. Nearly stopped all circulation to my arm she was squeezing it that hard. And that was on the bus on the way home.


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  7. jupes says:
    March 10, 2022 at 11:04 am
    Trilogy of Terror scared the bejesus out of me when I was a young fella. A made-for-tv movie it featured three stories all starring Karen Black. I haven’t seen it for 47 years so can’t remember the first two stories, but the third story was a ripper. In what must have been the inspiration for ‘Chucky’, Karen Black is chased around the apartment by an evil looking African doll. She eventually kills it but in the last scene the doll has obviously taken over her body as she crouches with a knife, waiting for her mother.

    Okay, it sounds stupid and may well be, as I haven’t seen it as an adult. Nevertheless, it had the desired effect when I watched it on tele back in the ’70s.

    Great one Jupes !

    Yes I remember seeing that on TV in the mid-70s.

    The first 2 segments are OKish but the 3rd is an absolute ripper !

    I actually have a clip of that last scene due for release on my YouTube channel in just over a weeks’ time – it was a Zuni doll !


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  8. jupes says:
    March 10, 2022 at 11:07 am
    A few years after that, I took my girlfriend to see The Shining. While it certainly scared the shit out of me, my girlfriend was utterly petrified. Nearly stopped all circulation to my arm she was squeezing it that hard. And that was on the bus on the way home.

    The Shining will definitely have it’s own dedicated post in the not-t00-distant future.


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  9. Two others beat me to it, but I was going to say Trilogy of Terror.

    That scared everyone of a certain age in the seventies *sick* and no one who saw it back then ever forgot it.


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  10. Have to agree about The Innocents. Deborah Kerr was at her best. Got the short story on the bookshelf.

    My parents wouldn’t allow me to watch any TV horror or violence, so I had to wait until I was an older teenager for all that stuff. So…Them, The Blob and all the usual 50’s-60’s sci-fi for a thrill.

    Then came the boyfriend – the Beloved took me to the drive-in to see The Devils (Reed again). I couldn’t watch it, so he took me home. Rosemary’s Baby ditto.

    Then…we arrived late to a screening of Alien when it first appeared, so forced into the second row from the front. Scared the willies out of me.

    He remains a true romantic. 😀


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  11. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) hit the spot for me. I see that there is a later version with Donald Sutherland – don’t know what it’s like.

    The notion of pod people taking over often comes to mind when viewing contemporary political and social trends. 🙂


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  12. calli, I do remember that – used to watch it regularly.

    The movies didn’t scare me though – they were too inept and cartoonish, albeit entertaining.


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  13. As a wee lad back in the very early 60’s – and being allowed to stay up late on Friday nights to watch the telly – the budget horror flick Carnival of Souls scared the sh*t out of me….!


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  14. “Tony Taylorsays:
    March 10, 2022 at 8:59 am
    The Innocents, The Haunting and the TV version of The Woman in Black.”

    Oh yes, The Woman in Black, produced by BBC (I think). Superb…and utterly utterly chilling. I remember watching it in the early 1990s with my mother and we both cowered and shrieked with fear.

    I also thought Rosemary’s Baby was frightening…because it played on your mind.


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  15. starring Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis and Burgess Meredith

    I’ve never watched Burnt Offerings. But those four acting peoples are a fine quartet. Bette Davis is luminous, but Oliver Reed, Karen Black and Burgess Meredith were never quite in the limelight.

    Burgess Meredith was always excellent. I don’t know Karen Black well, although she’d had a lot of roles. Oliver Reed though was quite marvelous when he had a mind for it. Baron Munchausen and Gladiator especially. His dramatic exit would have been a nightmare for Ridley Scott. From wiki:

    Reed died from a heart attack during a break from filming Gladiator in Valletta, Malta, on the afternoon of 2 May 1999.[58] According to witnesses, he drank eight pints of German lager, a dozen shots of rum, half a bottle of whisky and a few shots of Hennessy cognac,[59] in a drinking match against a group of sailors on shore leave from HMS Cumberland at a local pub. His bar bill totalled a little over 270 Maltese lira (almost 450 GBP; about 590 USD). After beating five much younger Royal Navy sailors at arm-wrestling, Reed suddenly collapsed, dying while en route to hospital in an ambulance.[60] He was 61 years old.[60]

    What a way to go, after a life lived large!


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  16. calli says:
    March 10, 2022 at 12:31 pm
    Have to agree about The Innocents. Deborah Kerr was at her best. Got the short story on the bookshelf.

    My parents wouldn’t allow me to watch any TV horror or violence, so I had to wait until I was an older teenager for all that stuff. So…Them, The Blob and all the usual 50’s-60’s sci-fi for a thrill.

    Then came the boyfriend – the Beloved took me to the drive-in to see The Devils (Reed again). I couldn’t watch it, so he took me home. Rosemary’s Baby ditto.

    Then…we arrived late to a screening of Alien when it first appeared, so forced into the second row from the front. Scared the willies out of me.

    He remains a true romantic. ?

    I don’t think I ever took a date out to a movie to see a scary/horror movie . . . although I can see the benefits !

    A pattern that I see with the posts here is that the very best horror/scary films are those without buckets of blood (with one or two scenes excepting) but films that played on our fears.

    The GREAT films of the genre – The Shining, Psycho (1960), The Innocents, Rosemary’s Baby, The Haunting . . . invariably only had 1-2 deaths and very little gore i.e. they were made with great skill and imagination – something we don’t really see anymore.


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  17. Oliver Reed’s performance in Gladiator was like Richard Burton’s in 1984. Both superb and memorable ways to complete an acting career. Vale, guys, loved your stuff.


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  18. Ahaha! Remembered one that scared the tripe out of my kids – The Ring.

    I think is was an English adaptation of a Japanese flick. Real gothic horror.

    As was The Haunting, which really sucked me in. A demonic house. Brrrrrr.


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  19. I don’t think I ever took a date out to a movie to see a scary/horror movie . . . although I can see the benefits !

    That stirred the grey matter! Many years ago I made the smart move to take a young lady to see Blue Velvet (with the stunning Isabella Rossellini and the very creepy Dennis Hopper). I thought the film was great. She not so much. Anyway, the relationship was nice whilst it lasted…lol.


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  20. Old play for the day
    Brimstone and treacle.
    Not the Sting version.

    Really creepy with not a single death.

    The original ring was good.


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  21. I rewatched “Trilogy of Terror” a few weeks ago. That third segment was pure horror gold. I had the pleasure of meeting Karen at a film convention in 2003. She was a doll. (Pun intended.)

    “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” remains one of my all-time faves. That’s one of those films that sticks with you.


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