Today’s generation wouldn’t know it, but one of the more reliable sources of quality horror in the 1970s was regular network television. Yes, back when your channel options were limited to little more than three, the webs churned out a surprising amount of made-for-TV movies that generated serious scares.
Producer Dan Curtis was responsible for scores of them, including “Dead of Night,” an anthology film now on DVD. Like its 1975 predecessor “Trilogy of Terror,” it features three separate tales from the pen of genre master Richard Matheson.
In “Second Chance,” bewildered gearhead Ed Begley Jr. is in love with an antique Jordan Playboy auto. When he gets behind the wheel, he’s sent back in time to the 1920s. “Holy mackerel!” he exclaims, in a predictable number more sci-fi than horror.
“No Such Thing as a Vampire” offers a smidgen of terror, but it’s nothing compared to the closing “Bobby,” a “Monkey’s Paw”-esque cautionary tale about using that ol’ black magic to bring your child back from the grave. A hideous game of hide-and-seek ensues, with an ending that could still manage to scare today’s jaded audiences.
Among a more-than-expected bundle of extras on the Dark Sky Films disc is an hour-long 1969 pilot film for a “Dead of Night” TV series — something of a rarity. Too bad it’s shot on video, which dulls any sensation generated by its haunted-house plot. Never you mind, however; it’s the main feature that provides the shock and the sizzle. —Rod Lott