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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Supernatural > Revenge > Telefilm > TV Movie > Dark Night Of The Scarecrow (1981/VCI DVD)

Dark Night Of The Scarecrow (1981/VCI DVD)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Telefilm: B-

 

 

There were more good TV movies made in the original years of production (the late 1960s to early 1980s) made than anyone now (especially those making bad theatrical films now as we have suffered through so many bad movies of late) wants to admit and this actually includes Horror movies.  The Night Stalker, Satan’s School For Girls and others had solid scripts, suspense, good actors and were impressive considering the restrictions of TV at the time.  One of the last important Horror telefilms made before the networks gave up on making quality works is Frank De Felitta’s Dark Night Of The Scarecrow from 1981.

 

Made as the slice-and-dice trend took over movie theaters in the wake of 1978’s Halloween, the film stars Charles Durning as a local mailman who is not the nicest guy, who has a junta of local friends who think they have some lock on normalcy, morality and can do what they want.  A local man named Bubba (Larry Drake of Darkman and L.A. Law) has a positive relationship with a young girl, but some locals do not like him, their relationship and his mental limits have allowed him to be stigmatized and made an outcast.

 

When something bad happens to the girl, not caused by Bubba, he is blamed and the junta goes after him.  Instead of bringing him in, they find him hiding, dressed as a local scarecrow and they decide for fun to shoot him up to death, taunting him and run.  However, they soon discover that they have made a big mistake as someone (or something) is going after them for revenge one by one and they have to figure out how to stop the retaliation before they all land up dead!

 

J.D. Feigelson finished the script based on a story he co-wrote with Butler Hancock and considering the TV limits, they wrote a very suspenseful thriller that holds up very well for its age with few limits.  Director De Felitta also co-wrote the highly underrated Z.P.G. – Zero Population Growth (reviewed elsewhere on this site), Audrey Rose and The Entity, so he has a solid genre writing record and this furthers that legacy.  There is a reason this film has had the great reputation and cult fan base it has for so many years and deservedly so.  The supporting performances of Lane Smith, Robert F. Lyons, Claude earl Jones, Tonya Crowe and Jocelyn Brando (among others) work very well together and makes this a minor Horror classic.

 

That it has been restored is a plus.

 

The 1.33 X 1 image was shot on 35mm film and the elements have survived in remarkable shape, down to the detail and color, so much so that this could easily be issued as a Blu-ray.  Director of Photography Vincent A. Martinelli (The Bionic Woman, Quincy, M.E.) does some remarkable work here, finally visible in this transfer in a way that only people who owned good film prints of this telefilm could ever appreciate.  For the time, the use of color, shadow and light are far above TV of the time and most Horror films of late.  There are some soft spots (limits of the DVD are part of it), but there are some demo shots too.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is also here as an expanded Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is not bad, but the sound really needs a lossless release and maybe PCM can really deliver how good and clean these tracks really are, but this is good for the format.

 

Extras include feature length writer/director commentary to hear after you see the film and the CBS Network World Premiere Promo that told everyone the film was coming.  Oh, how I miss the good old days.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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