In 1979, the post-Star Wars, Glen Larson version of Buck Rogers took the sci-fi world by storm. I was nine year old at the time, and both the feature film and the follow-up TV series on NBC were right up my alley.
Category Archives: 1970s
But now when Elliott turns on her beloved television again, he sees Joanna there…still arguing with him, still tauntinghim. After he kills one of Joanna’s lovers, Elliot’s visions on the boob tube grow even more disturbing. He sees his victims’ bodies rising from the ground…and heading towards his house.
If you glance at a few other elements of “The Dead We Leave Behind” — such as an obnoxious, loud-mouthed wife (Creepshow ), and a man’s slow descent into madness in an isolated location (The Shining [1977) — the King-like aspects appear even more pronounced.
But if this indeed were the episode he wrote of, the insightful King would have been absolutely right to feel impressed with the creepy, unsettling qualities of “The Dead We Leave Behind.” It’s well-shot, well-acted and anxiety-provoking.
And from a certain perspective the tale could easily be interpreted as the story of a man losing his mind, responding to the sounds of his guilty conscience. The episode doesn’t come flat out and state it, but it is strongly suggested that Elliot has killed Joanna’s lovers before, and made it look like am accident each time.
We arrive in media res, then, as his grip on reality is already growing more tenuous. The episode begins with Elliot having a dream involving the television, a dream that reveals his anger, and his connection with a dead man.
In this episode of the Filmation Saturday morning series Ark II, the crew runs smack into a society that, as a whole, suffers from xenophobia, a fear of outsiders or “foreigners.” Captain Jonah’s (Terry Lester) initial log entry describes people who “refuse to have contact with the outside world.”
While Ruth returns to the Ark II via hot air balloon to work on a cure for the new disease, Jonah attempts to convince the village’s leaders to “open” their hearts and minds to others. Unfortunately, he and a young boy fall prey to the disease, and only reinforce the fear of strangers. Now outsiders are disease carriers.
In real life, of course, America has witnessed periods of intense xenophobia over the last two centuries, not the least of which has been in the decade following the 9/11 terror attacks. Yet the rampant fear associated with xenophobia is ultimately counter-productive, as this episode of a 70s kid show rightly points out. If you close yourself off, you also close yourself down to certain options, to new solutions, and to improvements your life. When you come from a closed place, everything – even learning – comes to a stop. It’s not a healthy response to fear, even if it is, on some level, understandable.
In terms of Ark II continuity and lore, this episode reveals that the Ark II can fire a focused beam from its fore section, but the beam is still defined as “a force field,” keeping in tune with the idea of self-defense and no aggressive weaponry. Intriguingly, the force field is also quite a limited device. In trying to move heavy stones from the vehicle’s path, the force field’s power grid short circuits…
Ghost Story/Circle of Fear(1972 – 1973) represents the TV collaboration of William Castle, the great 1950s exploitation showman responsible for “Emergo” and “Percepto,” and Richard Matheson, brilliant scribe of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Omega Man (1971), The Legend of Hell House (1971) and Somewhere in Time (1980), among others.
The TV series — a one-hour horror anthology — ran for just one season on NBC in the early 1970s, and starred (as host) actor Sebastian Cabot. He played “Winston Essex,” the “old world aristocrat” and owner of the upscale hotel/bed-and-breakfast called Mansfield House.
In each episode of Ghost Story, Mr. Essex would reveal an unusual and macabre story about his various guests. This aspect – the host and his world – were dropped from the series entirely when it transitioned into Circle of Fear after fourteen hour-long episodes.
In “The New House,” directed by John Llewelyn Moxey and adapted by Richard Matheson, the Travis family moves into its newly constructed modern home, which sits atop the peak of picturesque Pleasant Hill.
When expectant Eileen Travis (Barbara Perkins) begins hearing ghostly noises at night, she grows convinced that the new home is haunted. She soon visits a local historian, De Witt (Sam Jaffe), who tells her that her home is actually built over a two-hundred year old gallows, the very spot where a defiant, unrepentant thief, Thomasina Barrows (Allyn Ann McLerie) was hanged on March 2nd, 1779. Upon her death, she swore to one day return…
“The New House” is an effective horror tale that, in some ways, reflects the aesthetics of Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Here we have another pregnant woman, spending her days alone, worrying about things. And in that state of anxiety, she encounters the supernatural. Of course, from the perspective of others, Eileen Travis seems unstable, and it’s easy to write off that instability as a sign of her “condition.”
The punctuation of all the horror comes when the ghost of Thomasina Barrows appears (in a thunderstorm, naturally), but we don’t see her face.
Instead, we observe a shadowy, still figure in a long shot, at some distance from the camera. The Travis’s maid actually speaks to her, believing she is speaking with Eileen, not a ghost. It’s a creepy, creepy moment as you come to realize that the malevolent ghost is arranging to be alone in the house with Mrs. Travis and her innocent baby.
Also, Essex describes himself as a “devious dinosaur” and discusses the incompatibility between Gothic tales and “the nuclear age.” In a real sense, that’s the terrain Ghost Story wishes to tread.
The series hopes to bridge the gap between modern reason and science, and our ancient, campfire fears of ghosts and goblins. This idea recurs several times throughout the short-lived series, and I’ll be sure to bring it up again when it does.
Importantly, “The New House” sets its horror inside a modern house, one that has never been lived in before. It boasts all the modern conveniences of the 1970s, from telephones to dish washers. And yet despite such comforts, something terrifying and ancient – from an age past – infiltrates the family’s life.