Ritual of Evil – USA, 1970

Ritual of Evil is a 1970 American made-for-television horror feature film directed by Robert Day (The Initiation of SarahFear No EvilGrip of the Strangler) from a screenplay by Robert Presnell Jr., based on characters created by Richard Alan Simmons. Produced by David Levinson, the Universal movie stars Louis Jourdan, Anne Baxter, Diana Hyland andWilfrid Hyde-White.

Plot:

Psychiatrist Dr. David Sorrell (Louis Jourdan) treats young heiress Loey Wiley (Belinda Montgomery), whose parents have died under mysterious circumstances. His investigation uncovers a cult, led by a powerful witch, Leila Barton (Diana Hyland). Things grow complicated as Sorrell and the witch begin to fall in love…

Review:

While lacking the feverish Dutch-angled scenes, creepy cinematography, and phantasmal script of director Paul Wendkos’ Fear No Evil, as well as the substantially sinister performance of Carroll O’Connor as Myles Donovan, director Robert Day’s Ritual of Evil still packs a punch, benefitting from composer Billy Goldenberg’s unearthly ethereal score and Anne Baxter’s eccentric channeling of Phyllis Diller in her portrayal of a stewed Jolene Wiley, mother to Loey Wiley (Belinda Montgomery) and Aline Wiley (Carla Borelli).

Its plot of occult detective battling a woozy jumble of sinister forces at the root of multiple deaths is typical of American TV horror film production of the time, and appropriately so, considering the silly ballyhoo of marketing mountebanks like Anton LaVey, Carlos Castaneda, and Timothy Leary; with them, witchcraft mingles with satanism which, in turn, becomes indistinguishable from ESP, reincarnation, ghostly communications, and paganism.

The main thrust, if you will, of Ritual of Evil is that a coven of satanic witches is performing sacrifices to Priapus, an ancient Greek fertility god who would normally be depicted with an enormously erect phallus, but in this case, is limited to representation by a vaguely sensual and smolderingly malevolent Satyr-like statue which could easily be passed off as one half of a set of macabre bookends. The sterilisation, of course, was due to the Federal Communications Commission’s regulation and definition of unacceptable content at the time, which has fluctuated along with common opinion since its inception.

Ben Spurling, HORRORPEDIA

Other reviews:

“The music (again by Billy Goldenberg) is highly reminiscent of the themes used in Fear No Evil, heavily borrowing the sonic tone and mood of the first film. Sadly, editor Byron Chudnow did not return for the sequel, as it could have used his master touch. The film commits the gravest sin (no pun intended) for a horror film, feature or TV-wise: it’s just plain not scary.” Conjure Cinema

“The story touches on a few themes pertinent to the time period but in ham-fisted fashion with laboured speeches. Day stages the spooky moments with a similar bludgeoning lack of subtlety. The protagonists are also far less interesting this time around: shrill, self-absorbed soap opera types straight out of an Aaron Spelling production about whiny rich people.” Andrew Pragasm, The Spinning Image

Cast and characters:

  • Louis Jourdan … David Sorell – Swamp ThingCount Dracula 1977; Daughter of the Mind
  • Anne Baxter … Jolene Wiley
  • Diana Hyland … Leila Barton
  • John McMartin … Edward Bolander
  • Wilfrid Hyde-White … Harry Snowden – The Cat and the Canary; Fear No Evil; Chamber of Horrors
  • Belinda Montgomery … Loey Wiley – Phantom Town; Silent Madness; The Devil’s Daughter
  • Carla Borelli … Aline Wiley
  • Georg Stanford Brown … Larry Richmond
  • Regis Cordic … The Sheriff
  • Dehl Berti … Mora
  • Richard Alan Knox … Hippie
  • Johnny Williams … Newscaster
  • Jimmy Joyce … 1st Reporter
  • James LaSane … 2nd Reporter
  • Clarke Lindsley … Chris [uncredited]

First broadcast:

February 23, 1970, on NBC.

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When a Stranger Calls Back – USA, 1993

‘Guess who’s back? The nightmare continues…’

When a Stranger Calls Back is a 1993 American made-for-cable-television psychological horror feature film written and directed by Fred Walton, based on characters he created with Steve Feke for the 1979 cult film, When a Stranger Calls. Carol Kane and Charles Durning reprise their roles in this sequel which also stars Jill Schoelen and Gene Lythgow.

The soundtrack score was again provided by Dana Kaproff (The Amityville Murders; Chiller; Empire of the Ants).

The original movie was remade for a new generation in 2006.

Plot:

Julia Jenz (Jill Schoelen) is babysitting for Dr. Schifrin and his wife.  A mysterious man knocks on the door. He tells Julia that his car is broken down and asks to come inside to use the phone. Julia refuses but agrees to call his auto club. The phone is dead. The man returns continuously to ask for help. Meanwhile, around the house, Julia notices things turning up out of place. Soon, it becomes obvious that someone is moving in and out of the house, and Julia discovers the children have been abducted. The intruder comes for her but she narrowly escapes. The children are never found…

Five years later, Julia is a college student, still traumatised by the incident. Seemingly, objects are being moved in her apartment, and Julia believes that the intruder is once again stalking her. Jill Johnson (Carol Kane), now a counsellor at the college Julia attends, offers to help. Jill contacts John Clifford (Charles Durning) to come to Julia’s aid and help figure out who is stalking her…

Review:

Bizarrely, writer-director Fred Walton opts to repeat the unsatisfying imbalanced format of his original 1979 movie for this belated cable TV follow-up. Thus, there’s a fairly suspenseful opening sequence involving beleaguered babysitter Julia, competently played by Jill Schoelen, followed by a long stretch of investigative work by Charles Durning’s stolid character, then a suitably gripping climax involving a twitchy Jill (Carol Kane) fending off the oddly camouflaged killer.

The slower section is enlivened by revelations about the killer’s chosen (and failed) occupation which, for spoiler reasons, it would be unfair to dwell upon here. The nightclub scenes also involve some nudity on the part of the female performers which may come as a surprise until the movie’s Showtime background is considered.

Unfortunately, there are some head-scratching lapses in continuity (perhaps the movie was reduced from a longer format so exposition scenes are mssing?). Elsewhere, some supposedly creepy cat-and-mouse moments, such as the killer adding a bottle of cheap vodka to Jill’s shopping trolley when she’s not looking, merely come across as mildly amusing rather than unsettling.

Perhaps it’s Carol Kane’s attempts to be angsty that don’t come across as well as they might, or maybe the fact that her subsequent career, involving many comedy roles, reveal her true talents obviously lies with making audiences laugh? That said, the shadowy showdown in her apartment at the end is worth the wait and this is a suspenseful sequel that all fan’s of the original should seek out.

Adrian J Smith, HORRORPEDIA

Other reviews:

“Kane’s character seems to have been written as a tough-as-nails survivor. But the actress plays her with such absurd gravity that she lapses into grim self-parody. That’s a good thing, because the plot of When a Stranger Calls Back is full of holes. At times, it feels like important scenes were left unshot or on the cutting-room floor; explanations arrive half an hour late, or not at all.” Brian J. Dillard,  AllMovie

When a Stranger Calls Back suffers from the same problem that it’s predecessor does. It falls too short of the standard it created in the opening sequence. As stated previously, that level of intensity would have been impossible for any director to maintain, however, the audience is still left with a feeling that they were “teased” with the first 20 minutes.” Jenn Duglos, Classic Horror

“It’s a decent nail-biter that plays on the tension it builds up, despite its gaps in logic. The pic is great until it falls apart when it shows the killer at work on his night job, after the halfway point. Though it recovers for a scary climax, the pic has nevertheless lost its momentum and never fully recovers.” Dennis Schwartz” Ozus’ World Movie Reviews

“Walton’s script works up plenty of the requisite fright tactics, and David Geddes’ prowling camera probes into obscure areas or catches Julia standing in mid-fright after her tormenter leaves a memento. The telefilm is a good rattler, despite some logic dropouts.” Tony Scott, Variety

Cast and characters:

  • Carol Kane … Jill Johnson – Ghost LightVampirina TV series; Ava’s PossessionsOffice KillerAddams Family ValuesPandemoniumWhen a Stranger Calls; The Mafu Cage
  • Charles Durning … John Clifford – Dark Night of the Scarecrow; When a Stranger Calls; The Fury
  • Jill Schoelen … Julia Jenz – Popcorn; Curse II: The BiteThe Phantom of the Opera: The Motion Picture
  • Gene Lythgow … William Landis aka The Great Landis
  • Karen Elizabeth Austin … Skid Row Woman (as Karen Austin)
  • Babs Chula … Agent
  • John Destry … Detective 1 (as John Blackwell Destry)
  • Duncan Fraser … Club Owner
  • Jenn Griffin … Club Girl 1 (as Jennifer Griffin)
  • Gary Jones … X-Ray Technician
  • Terence Kelly … Medical Examiner
  • Michèle Lonsdale Smith … Center Woman 1 (as Michele Lonsdale-Smith)
  • Kevin McNulty … Dr. Schifrin
  • Sheelah Megill … Center Woman 2 (as Sheelagh Megill)
  • Rebeccah Mullen … Club Girl 2 (as Rebecca Mullen)
  • Bobby Stewart … Detective 2
  • Jerry Wasserman … Detective Brauer
  • Cheryl Wilson … Mrs. Schifrin
  • Meredith Bain Woodward … Realtor

Running time:

94 minutes

Release:

When a Stranger Calls Back was originally broadcast on Showtime on April 4, 1993. In the US, it was released on DVD by Good Times Video on May 15, 2001.

On December 3, 2018, Second Sight issued the film in the UK on Blu-ray as part of a Special Edition release with the original 1979 movie.

Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com

  • Brand new scan and restoration
  • The sequel When a Stranger Calls Back in HD
  • New interview with director Fred Walton
  • New interview with actor Rutanya Alda
  • New interview with composer Dana Kaproff
  • Reversible sleeve with new artwork by Obviously Creative and original poster artwork
  • English subtitles for the hearing impaired for both films
  • Original Soundtrack CD
  • 40 page perfect bound booklet with new essay by Kevin Lyons
  • Reversible poster with new and original artwork
  • Rigid slipcase packaging

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Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell – USA, 1978

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell is a 1978 American made-for-television supernatural horror feature film directed by Curtis Harrington (Ruby; The Dead Don’t Die; The Cat Creature; Night Tide; et al) from a screenplay by Stephen and Elinor Karpf (Gargoyles). The movie stars Richard Crenna, Yvette Mimieux, Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann.

Artie Kane (Eyes of Laura Mars; The Bat People) composed the soundtrack score.

Married couple Mike (Richard Crenna) and Betty (Yvette Mimeaux) decide to buy their kids (Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann) a cute little puppy to replace their recently deceased dog. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to them, they adopt a hound from the local satanic cult that turns out to be a fuzzy demon from Hell.

Before her mysterious death, the maid is the first to suspect the pup is possessed. When the wife and kids start performing strange occult rituals, dad Mike suspects the dog has demonic powers and flies to Ecuador to seek the advice of a Shaman about exorcism rituals…

On July 26, 2011, Shriek Show released the movie on Blu-ray disc in a high-definition restoration from the original negative. Extras include:

  • Audio interview with Curtis Harrington
  • To the Devil a Dog featurette
  • Promotional trailer
  • Martine Beswick photo gallery
  • Martine Beswick text interview

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“If you have the patience, you’ll be rewarded with a fast peek at the (admittedly cool) hellhound when it eventually shows up, some mild terror and brightly colored outrage as the kids become enchanted and evil, mom gets horny, and the house goes mad.” DF Dresden, Are You in the House Alone?, Headpress, 2016

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“This is the sort of Val Lewton approach that Harrington put to good use in Night Tide… Best of all is the jokey casting of (Kim) Richards and (Ike) Eisenmann, previously seen as psychic siblings in (Disney’s) Escape to Witch Mountain…” Cinefantastique

“It was solid cheesy fun throughout. If you like 70s styles and décor, the Witch Mountain kids, young adult horror, made-for-TV horror [in which bad things might happen or be implied, but it’s never going to be really, really scary], and enjoy a current of true silliness peppered with some surprisingly suspenseful stuff… this may be for you!” Cinema de Merde

“A cute puppy with Village of the Damned style glowing eyes and a dog that just stares at people are not exactly the stuff of nightmares, unless you have some really f*cked up nightmares. I still think it’s worth a watch and it’s pretty entertaining for a 70s TV movie but one thing’s for certain: The wallpaper in the Barry household is far more frightening that anything conjured up by Devil Dog.” Crustacean Hate!

“Director Harrington does an outstanding job of keeping what could be a seriously bad, cheesy B-movie on track, and the cast sports two of this reviewer’s personal favorite TV-movie regulars from the era: Richard Crenna and Yvette Mimieux.” Debi Moore, Dread Central

” …suffers immensely through a cut-rate budget, halfheartedly implied shocks, laughable special effects, and uninspired direction by Harrington who was obviously going through the motions here. But perhaps this is what has given this cheesy little TV film such an undeserved following through the years?”  George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

“Putting aside the whole “Hound of Hell” idea and its inherent retardedness for a moment, this movie really does not deliver the goods. I mean, I’m not trying to tell Satan’s minions how to do their job or anything, but the damn dog doesn’t even bite anyone! Come on! All he does is stare. Stare stare stare and pant.” Final Girl

“The score holds up very well and manages to impress, creating a sense of doom and foreboding each and every time Lucky starts working her magic. The score alone can’t carry this movie, however. Thankfully with the help of some veteran actors, above average performances are given by the entire cast.” Horror Digital

“Despite the dense amount of action packed into its 95 minute running time, Devil Dog falls short in the special effects department. After the laughable final showdown between Mike and Lucky, the family becomes un-possessed and son Charlie reminds all that there were at least nine other puppies in the litter.” Kindertrauma

“” …tries to pretend a story about good white upper-class people being driven to evil by the family dog is somehow frightening […] Barely a scene goes by that does not feature something sublimely ridiculous. Especially the death by hypnotism scenes…” The Horror!?

” …this is pulp horror nonsense at its most oddly compelling. Harrington marshals some suspenseful sequences […] those who caught this as youngsters have never forgotten the delirious finale where the devil dog manifests in a ball of flames as a hideous horned goblin with frilly neckwear.” Andrew Pragasm, The Spinning Image

“Implausible but fun TV terror with decent performances from Crenna and Mimieux. Best scene: the weird ‘mirror while sleeping’ trick Mike uses to reveal his wife and children as possessed devils.” The Terror Trap

Choice dialogue:

Betty Barry: “Well, it’s the American way isn’t it? Since when aren’t we rewarded for being best?”

Buy with Day of the Animals + Grizzly via Amazon.com

Cast and characters:

  • Richard Crenna … Mike Barry – Leviathan; Death Ship; The Evil; Wait Until Dark
  • Yvette Mimieux … Betty Barry – Snowbeast: Bell, Book and Candle (1976); Black Noon; The Time Machine
  • Kim Richards … Bonnie Barry – Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!The Blair Witch Mountain Project; The Car; Escape to Witch Mountain; The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Ike Eisenmann … Charlie Barry [as Ike Eisenman]
  • Lou Frizzell … George [as Lou Frizzel]
  • Ken Kercheval … Miles Amore
  • Martine Beswick … Red Haired Lady – From a Whisper to a Scream; SeizureDr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde; Slave Girls
  • R.G. Armstrong … Dunworth – The Waking; Warlock: The Armageddon; Children of the Corn; Evilspeak; The Pack; Race with the Devil; et al
  • Tina Menard … Maria
  • Gertrude Flynn
  • Bill Zuckert … Mr. Lomax, Dog Breeder
  • Jerry Fogel … Doctor Norm
  • Lois Ursone … Gloria Hadley
  • Fredrick Franklin
  • Bob Navarro … Newscaster
  • Jack Carol … Scottie the Gate Guard
  • James Reynolds … Policeman
  • Victor Jory … Shaman – Kolchak: The Night Stalker TV series

Image credits: Horror Digital

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Cruise Into Terror – USA, 1978

Cruise Into Terror – aka Voyage Into Evil – is a 1978 American made-for-television horror feature film directed by Bruce Kessler (Deathmoon; Kolchak: The Night Stalker; Simon, King of the Witches) from a screenplay by Michael Braverman. The movie stars Dirk Benedict, Frank Converse, John Forsythe and Christopher George.

Gerald Fried (Maneaters Are Loose!; Survive!; The Baby) contributed a suitably strident score.

 

An Egyptian sarcophagus, recovered from the sea in the Gulf of Mexico, contains the son of Satan, and its effects start to make the passengers of a small ship behave strangely…

Reviews:

“Thanks to its low budget, most of the shenanigans are filmed at the dock or on threadbare sets that seldom resemble the location that they cut to, and padded out with fog, flashing lights, hammy dialog, mismatched stock footage of lagoons, sharks, wavy horizons and a coral reef – all of which do nothing but add silly charm to the laughably plotted goings-on.” DF Dresden, Are You in the House Alone?, Headpress, 2016

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“Amid much eye-rolling, mumble-mouthed dialogue and really terrible acting (Christopher George, as a business man who wants to sell the artifacts for big bucks, is the worst), my all-time favourite moment is when the sarcophagus starts to breath like an inflating/deflating balloon whenever it is threatened or trying to influence somebody (such as the repressed/horny Meriwether).” David Churchill, Critics At Large

“A bunch of past their prime actors bicker over what to do with a Sarcophagus (sell it, throw it offboard, burn it?). Occasionally someone dies, and later we learn the devil’s son is on board. I’ve seen my share of 70’s made for TV horror and this is certainly above average when it comes to entertainment value even if its entirely in a so bad it’s good manner.” Fulci 420, Letterboxd

“The cast has a whale of a time with the subject matter and while the jolts are few, this one is not nearly as bad as you may have heard. Any contrived chiller with the likes of both Georges, Stella Stevens and Ray Milland can’t be all bad…” The Terror Trap

Cast and characters:

  • Dirk Benedict … Simon McLane – Demon KeeperSssssss
  • Frank Converse … Matt Lazarus – The Haunting of RosalindDr. Cook’s Garden
  • John Forsythe … Reverend Charles Mather – Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles TV series
  • Christopher George … Neal Barry
  • Lynda Day George … Sandra Barry – Mortuary; It Happened at Lakewood Manor; Day of the Animals; et al
  • Jo Ann Harris … Judy Haines – Deadly Games; Goober and the Ghost Chasers; The Beguiled
  • Lee Meriwether … Lil Mather – Hell’s Kitty; The Munsters Today4D Man
  • Ray Milland … Dr. Isiah Bakkun – The Attic; Frogs; The Premature Burial; The Uninvited; et al
  • Roger E. Mosley … Nathan
  • Hugh O’Brian … Captain Andrews – Ten Little Indians; Rocketship X-M
  • Stella Stevens … Marilyn Magnesun – Megaconda; Little Devils: The BirthWacko; The Manitou
  • Hilarie Thompson … Debbie Porter – Killer’s Delight; The Fury; Hex
  • Marshall Thompson … Bennett – Bog; First Man Into Space; Fiend Without a FaceCult of the Cobra; et al
  • Ruben Moreno … Emanuel

Release:

Cruise Into Terror was shown on the ABC network on February 3, 1978

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