Following 1975's TRILOGY OF TERROR, producer-director Dan Curtis teamed up once again with writer Richard Matheson for another multi-story endeavor in DEAD OF NIGHT. In the first story, a man restores an old car and finds himself transported back to the past. In the second, a vampire is on the loose in a castle, and in the final tale, a woman uses the black arts to conjure her son back from the dead. But while TRILOGY OF TERROR was a great little ditty, DEAD OF NIGHT is one of those times where lightning doesn't quite strike twice.
Mention TRILOGY OF TERROR to anyone and they'll almost always come back with 'that movie with that crazy story about that Zuni Fetish Doll trying to stab Karen Black' or something to that effect. Yeah, there were the other two segments, but nothing compared to Chucky's forerunner going after Mother Firefly. And like TRILOGY, DEAD OF NIGHT's third story is the best of the bunch, but that doesn't say much when the overall quality of the three is still lacking.
First up is "A Second Chance", which really has no horror elements to it and feels like something you'd see as part of the original 1959 Twilight Zone series. Featuring a very young Ed Begley Jr. as Frank, the story centres on Frank and his hobby of restoring classic cars. For $100, Frank buys a 1926 Jordan automobile, and proceeds to restore it. One night while taking it out for a spin, he is transported back to 1926, where the car is stolen by an overzealous driver. Frank eventually makes his way back home, waking up in the present. Some time later, Frank is given another vintage automobile to restore, and is subsequently transported back to 1926 again, where he eventually finds out just what the hell is going on. Begley is a likable lead, but the pacing in this one doesn't help keep the segment from being unintriguing and far from scary.
Next is "No Such Thing as a Vampire", which has Patrick Macnee cast as the sly Dr. Gheria. The doc is worried about his wife, the victim of a vampire bite. With all the servants of the mansion, save for the nervous Karel (Elisha Cook Jr.) quitting, Gheria calls in an old friend (Horst Buchholtz) to examine her. But things are more than what they seem once the 'old friend' shows up. While the performances by Macnee and Cook are wonderfully done, the whole thing turns clunky pretty quickly, and the payoff at the end is far from satisfying, letting the bleak atmosphere and foreboding score go to waste.
Finally there's "Bobby", starring the late Joan Hackett, who lives in a beach house with a husband away on business. The mother is grieving the death of her son Bobby, who recently drowned. She decides to bone up on her 'Voodoo for Dummies' in an attempt to bring Bobby back. One stormy night, Bobby shows up at the door, shivering from the cold rain and explains that he never really drowned, but that a couple found him water-drenched, and that up until now, he was suffering from amnesia. Everything's hunky dory at first, but soon Bobby's behavior becomes very peculiar, and soon joy becomes terror for the mother. Keeping with the idea of saving the best for last, this is a wonderfully directed and acted affair, with some great atmosphere and tension, however like the first segment, is hampered by some pacing issues. Still, it's the creepiest of the three, but as Meatloaf said, it's two out of three that ain't bad, not one out of three.
Despite being a great idea to revisit, Dan Curtis couldn't duplicate what he did with TRILOGY OF TERROR. Bogged down by clunky pacing and simply not being scary for the most part, DEAD OF NIGHT feels more like a missed opportunity than anything. Only diehard fans of Curtis and Matheson it seems will probably get more out of this than the rest of us.
Video: You have to hand it to Dark Sky Films. Just like they did for LINDA LOVELACE FOR PRESIDENT, these guys did a great job for the DEAD OF NIGHT transfer. Shot in its original 1.33:1 full frame ratio, the colours are stable and there's good detail throughout, even if some of the night-time scenes are a tad too dark. Despite the cleanup, there are a few source blemishes here and there, but it's nothing to distract your viewing.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono presents a good mix, even with the film's obscurity and made-for-TV origins, and Robert Cobert's score comes through quite nicely.
Speaking of Robert Cobert, the Robert Cobert's Music Score Highlights feature presents 36 tracks of the composer's haunting score played underneath a collection of stills for you audiophiles.
Next up is deleted footage from "No Such Thing As A Vampire", consisting of cutting room floor stuff and some bloopers mixed in. The footage mostly has some lengthier bits with Macnee's character interacting with the other performers, though some of the scenes have no accompanying sound. Luckily, subtitles have been provided for these scenes.
Following that is the deleted extended opening title, which has 10 different folks taking a crack at the intro. Most notable of these folks is Curtis himself, trying to do his best Rod Serling impression.
Finally, there's a precursor to the TV movie DEAD OF NIGHT in the form of the 1969 pilot for Dead of Night TV series, which would have involved a team of psychic investigators that would go around and solve mysteries. Clocking in at 52 minutes, the pilot entitled "A Darkness at Blaisedon" centres on a young woman, who after inheriting a crumbling old house with a malevolent apparition, calls upon Jonathan Fletcher and his sidekick Sajid to spend the night in the house. When they arrive, they try to solve a mystery involving the house’s original owner, conducting a séance and discovering a ring that possesses the wearer to do wrong. The pilot is somewhat mundane and talky, with a lack of consistent scares, and it's not really a surprise that it didn't get picked up.
And just like what they did for LINDA LOVELACE FOR PRESIDENT, Dark Sky Films has utilized the transparent case again, this time featuring a production shot of the Dead of Night pilot on the reverse side of the cover art.
Despite Dan Curtis missing the boat with DEAD OF NIGHT, fans of his work with Richard Matheson will be pleased to know what a great job Dark Sky Films have done in restoring the TV movie, as well as providing great handful of extras. Really, I have to rate this DVD pretty high, as Dark Sky could've easily just phoned it in. Kudos to you guys for going the extra mile!