Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: Trilogy of Terror – Karen Black, Hot For Teacher

ABC Movie of the Week circa 1975 featuring one of my favorite scream queens. What is Trilogy of Terror? You are correct. I have ignored this movie based on one thing, the cover of the VHS. For years I thought the cover of this one was too hokey to be scary. The little creepy, living doll thing… looked half assed. This would be blasphemy to most. I mean c’mon people. You’ve probably seen Trilogy of Terror or Terror of the Doll or Tales of Terror. I’m the only living fucker out there who didn’t catch this one somewhere around age sixteen. So you can’t judge a book by its cover. If you do, you’ll miss out on a great picture that begs the question, “what can’t Karen Black do?”

The answer is nothing. Karen Black does whatever Karen Black wants to do. She can be in 5 Easy Pieces if she wants to be. She can star in this made for TV jobber. Just point a camera at her and enjoy the voluptuous hotness (and horror of) Karen Black (and yes that was a reference to the band). Ms. Black plays three separate rolls in one short TV pilot.

In the first of the trilogy she plays the would be victim of a sexual predator who thinks he has his hot-for-teacher fantasy all worked out. When his scheme may not push him to the head of the class he realizes he may be trapped himself by his own victim.

The second lurid tale is about a well educated woman and her psychotic sister. They take turns driving their doctor insane with familial trouble and Freudian complexes that put Norman Bates to shame. Sister on sister action with a hint of the occult.
In the third and final installment, Ms. Black purchases a rather thoughtful birthday gift for her lover only to find herself battling for her very life. One thing is for certain, if the instructions on your warrior doll says don’t let the fucking chain fall from around his waist of the doll will come to life… don’t let the fucking chain fall of from around the little warrior’s waist. Use duct tape.
I know it was supposed to introduce a new television series akin to the Twilight Zone, but this one is beyond made for TV. And while we’re at it, why is made for television a bad thing. Did we get over that? Didn’t I mention that I thought Thinner was a made for TV movie thus preventing me from watching it for years? We just can’t use that as a benchmark anymore for what is great in film. I guess Salem’s Lot was made for television and that’s one of my all time favorite pictures. Remember IT? Made for fucking TV. I need to get this preconceived notion fixed in my cognitive mess of a brain. I like the television and shouldn’t hold anything against movies that are made solely for distribution there on.

Let’s take each one of these stories one at a time. “Julie” is the tale of a student seducing his cougar teacher with all his wily, young, lustful charm. Of course it backfires, and I won’t divulge too much more, but Karen Black is hot and her beau has a bad case of 70’s helmet hair. Please do not consider me overtly sexist, but I can’t help but say that Karen Black is a hot mama jama in this entry. Her young friend drugs her at one point and takes very lurid pictures. Usually I’d be all like, “that savage beast of a hooligan,” but in this particular instance (and knowing it’s made for TV) I’m thinking, “well how far do we go up that skirt in the mid-70’s before they cut to commercial.” It’s sad that I think that way. It’s sadder that they cut to commercial so soon.

Second Installment is “Millicent and Therese”. It’s the story of two sisters with enough drama between them to star in their own afternoon soap opera. This is a “she said, she said” affair with a poor doctor in the middle trying to sort out Millicent’s hatred of her “bad girl” sister and Therese’s complete disregard for morality and rules of conduct in general. Not my favorite entry of the three because you can see the end coming in the opening scene. It’s always nice to see an old fashion voodoo doll in full effect though. These things don’t get enough play in the big time cinema (made for television seems to go back to basics).

The Third story is “Amelia”. This is perhaps the most popular of the stories. So let’s talk about the god damn doll already. I’ve seen Dolls, Puppet Master, Child’s Play, Black Devil Doll (or parts of it)… I’ve seen plenty of friggin’ doll movies. What could this little tale at the end of a made for TV pilot deliver to a master of the dolls like myself? If you think you’ve seen a movie with great killer dolls and you haven’t seen the Amelia entry in the Trilogy of Terror than you are missing a fundamental and spooky take on the killer doll lure. The story of the possessed warrior doll is priceless and predicates every doll movie that would come after it. All living doll movies seem to want to put the soul of a once living being inside a child’s toy. Well, this really hits that concept home. I kept asking myself how I could be scared of the obviously phony effects. The doll looks completely unrealistic in motion. While the motion of the doll is unrealistic true wouldn’t a doll moving and attacking always look fake? Facial expressions would never be quite right. How could it possibly movie correctly? The thing’s made of plastic or wood or whatever. And those teeth… The teeth on this damn doll… Great story. Great ending. The only thing I want more than to see what happens after this entry ends is what happens during the commercial break in the “Julie”.

All three of these pleasure pieces are Richard Matheson specials which pretty much ties them inextricably to the Twilight Zone audience. This would have made an amazing show, but it probably holds up better as just a pilot. Karen Black gets scream queen status and we get one of the creepier entries in the living doll subgenre. Without this one does Karen Black come back to haunt us in Burnt Offerings, the Invaders from Mars remake or House of 1000 Corpses? I don’t think so. At 72 minutes of running time you rarely will get more scare per minute (at least in the last entry).

-Dr. Terror


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