Vic’s Review – “Trilogy Of Terror” (1975)

What’s it About?

Three bizarre horror stories all of which star Karen Black in four different roles playing tormented women.

“Trilogy Of Terror”

Directed by Dan Curtis

8 out of 10

Dammit, they don’t make these like they used to. Where are our Moon of the Wolf’s? Or our Don’t be Afraid of the Dark’s? Remember when even TV shows were frightening? I do and I miss those old days of cheesy “Monster Movie of the Week” airings of ghosts, goblins and even weird funky “Zuni” dolls. Trilogy of Terror is the brain child of Dan Curtis.  The same Dan Curtis that brought us Dark Shadows, Burnt Offerings and Dracula with Jack Palance.

Trilogy of Terror stars Karen Black in a brilliant TV performance. Black manages to star in the three segments of this neat little horror gem from 1975. Curtis had shot the movie as a pilot for an anthology series ala Night Gallery but it never saw the light of day. No loss though. What we end up with is a ghoulish and entertaining TV horror flick that still manages to creep out even the most jaded horror movie fan.

The brilliant writer Richard Matheson (Twilight Zone, Duel, I Am Legend) wrote 2 of the 3 installments while scribe William F Nolan (Logan’s Run, Burnt Offerings) handles the first and co-writes the second.  The film consists of stories that are not at all related and the titles are the names of the 3 different characters or protagonists that Black plays. The first story in Trilogy of Terror is “Julie” which is about a College English Teacher played by Black who has caught the eye of Chad (Robert Burton) a student of hers. He dotes on her and has daydreams during class about having a fling with Julie. After he tells his friend and he tells him never to get mixed up with teachers he eventually works up enough nerve to ask her out and after some time she decides to accept.

Chad turns out to be a douche bag and he spikes her drink while at a drive in. He knocks her out and at a motel takes some provocative photos of her. After she wakes and is shown the photos he blackmails her in order for her to continue dating him, But in typical Dan Curtis fashion the shoe seems to be on the other foot regarding Chad and Julie. Is Julie really the one manipulating Chad or does Chad have his hooks in her? Black turns out to be a balls to the wall Femme Fatale in this entry that has a great twist at the end, much to Chad’s chagrin…

The Second installment is the great “Millicent and Therese” where we get Black playing 2 roles here. A pair of Sisters with a twisted case of sibling rivalry. Millicent is quaint, unassuming and a bit uptight and prude while her sister, Therese, is a outspoken, brash and saucy. They are total opposites. Millicent seems to think that Therese is wantonly evil and she dislikes her sister so much that she plants a funky voodoo talisman to put a curse on her and kill her. After it succeeds Therese is found dead but Millicent can’t be found anywhere and eventually we find out from a friend of Millicent what the truth behind this twisted murder really is. It’s a shocker right out of a Robert Bloch novel.

The last installment is the wildly popular “Amelia’ which Matheson wrote based on a short story of his called “Prey” It is a fan favorite because it contains a murderous little son of a bitch called a “Zuni” Doll. Amelia brings it home and reads a small scroll that came with it that claims that the gold chain it’s adorned with holds the spirit of “He Who Kills”  at bay. So after she blows her pain in the ass  Mother off from a get together the Zuni doll’s chain becomes unhinged and falls off. uh oh. That isn’t good.

What happens next is probably why the movie has retained such a huge cult following. An intense and very scary showdown between this little Zuni Fetish doll and Amelia. The doll is loose and it’s now brandishing a knife that he uses to cut up Amelia’s ankle. The fight moves into the bathroom and then eventually the kitchen where she succeeds in pitching it into the oven and setting it on fire.

That Zuni doll, which looks so damn spooky and has huge sharp teeth seems like it’s been overpowered. Or has it? The ending is of course very appropriate and classic. Black wraps it up with a broad evil smile that is sure to give some newcomers nightmares. She does it  all while holding a very big and sharp knife that she repeatedly stabs into the floor.  It seems like that date with Mother is on after all…

So, if you have never seen this classic anthology TV movie, do so, quickly. It has tension, mood, a scary score by TV music icon Bob Cobert who brought us Dark Shadows and The Night Stalker. The real reason to watch this though, is Karen Black. She owns this movie and her performances in all 3 episodes is just insanely fierce and full of energy. Look out for a very youthful Gregory Harrison and “Dark Shadows” alum John Karlen in bit roles. The camera work is astounding to watch as well. We get lost in dark corridors and tight spaces especially in “Amelia” It rivals some very well crafted photography from other horror films of that era. All around a great scary TV movie that holds up well and still retains a creepy as shit terror factor. Enjoy the full movie below or over @ You Tube.

18 comments

  1. Another great write up Vic, I actually don’t believe I have seen this. If I did it was years ago. Wasn’t there also a sequel?????

    What reviews do you have planned next? Or are you just posting what you feel? On my end no idea yet. I’ll have something tomorrow and through the weekend probably, then take a day or 2 so I can rewrite a few reviews.

    • Yes. there was a sequel in the early 90’s. I’ll be reviewing that one as well. I have a Werewolf flick lined up and possibly a horror comic by tomorrow or Saturday possibly. Also 2 old BBC shorts based on the gothic horror stories by M.R, James. I do sometimes just get a movie in my head and out of left field just write up a review, so sometimes it is spontaneous. Thanks for reading bro!

  2. Don’t think I saw the sequel either. Well I saw a few minutes on cable I think.

    Awesome look forward to your other reviews. I’m debating on what I will go with, so far both my reviews for October have been negative and the 2 I got lined up are negative lol. So I’ll have to go I to my files to find a review for something I liked lol

    • Yeah you should change it up a bit. I have 2 negatives coming, well maybe not so negative but certainly not that good either. If I can suggest something – go with a flick that you really like and that your readers will definitely like too. That’ll break it up and then you can do 1 or 2 negatives after that.

  3. Well I think if I go with a negative review it will work, because its a bit comedic in how I wrote the review. The review is meant to be light and fun so even if negative it’s different.

    Might save those for next week. I have a fairly good idea on what to post for a more positive review. Just gotta proof read it. Some of my reviews need to be touched up and I just don’t have the inspiration right now.

    By the way within the next day or so I will shoot over that email with the idea I have. I think you will dig it.

  4. “Amelia” might be the scariest 20 minutes ever shown on television. I still remember going to school the day after this came on with everybody talking about it! It scared the shiz outta me then & it still scares the shiz outta me now. As a matter of fact I haven’t been able to watch it since (True story)!
    The first two segments were predictable but ok. The sequel was just meh, it could never work again without Karen Black.
    Another great write up Vic! And still scarier than the precipitous tumble my beloved METS took in the second half of the season this year!
    Yeeah…I bleed blue & orange bro!

    • Still creeps me out till this day too. Amelia is hands down the strongest entry. I have yet to watch the sequel. I’d like to soon so I can review it as well. Thanks for swinging Black Saint!

  5. Wow this is something I definitely need to check out! Great write up, you’ve made me itch to find it. Love a good creepy doll film and Amelia sounds like an excellent entry into the canon!

    • You won’t be disappointed. It is certainly a lot of fun. They did save the best for last. The first 2 entries aren’t too bad but like you said, gotta love creepy dolls. Enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Got this a while back on DVD. That little zuni fetish still scares the crap out of me. Karen Black is excellent in all the parts. The other stories were great too, but get overshadowed by Amelia!

    • Curtis saved the best for last. It is the strongest entry but I love Black in the second installment, “Millicent and Therese” I think that damn Zuni doll will give me the creeps till I’m an old man and beyond. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Ha! Awesome. You will really dig it. It builds up with each segment and Karen Black is just stunning in all of them. Enjoy. 😀

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