Friday, 14 October 2016

Burnt Offerings (1976)

“Oliver Reed Vs Haunted House” 

And you probably won’t guess who wins if you haven’t seen this, TV Movie maestro Dan Curtis’ shot at big screen haunted house horror, now given a new dual format Blu-ray and DVD release courtesy of Arrow Films.

The Rolf family (father Oliver Reed, mother Karen Black, aunt Bette Davis and son Lee Harcourt Montgomery from BEN and Curtis’ own DEAD OF NIGHT - the ‘Bobby’ episode) move into a remote country mansion for the summer. Even the presence of a flamboyantly eccentric and wheelchair-bound Burgess Meredith to help explain the (very low) rent doesn’t worry them, nor the knowledge that apparently the ancient and reclusive Mrs Allardyce will be living in the top room during their stay.

But they should be concerned, because while Mrs Allardyce is nowhere to be seen, Karen Black starts behaving as if the old lady is in fact there. Lee Montgomery ends up close to death on several occasions, Bette has a stroke and Oliver, while staying off the shandies (for the most part) starts to be haunted by visions of his mother’s funeral, and the scary chauffeur he remembers from it. Is Mrs Allardyce hiding somewhere in the house, or is it the building itself that’s the villain of the piece?

Dan Curtis was best known for TV horror. Movies like THE NIGHT STALKER, TRILOGY OF TERROR and DEAD OF NIGHT still evoke fond memories in horror fans. His soap opera DARK SHADOWS never made it over here but it was instrumental in making his name and giving him the chance to do other work within the genre. 

Unfortunately, with the transition to a lengthy cinema film (nearly two hours) Curtis does lose his way somewhat, with an idea that would be better suited to the shorter television format. Performances are all fine, as is the music by his regular composer Robert Cobert. But BURNT OFFERINGS still lacks something substantial enough to make the movie ultimately unsatisfactory. It’s not entirely a dead loss, but don’t go in expecting too much. Besides, there weren't many mid-1970s movies that boasted the technical credits of both Eugene GORGO Lourie as production designer and Jacques ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN Marquette as director of photography.

As always, Arrow have gone the extra mile to give their presentation of BURNT OFFERINGS some decent extras. There are two commentary tracks, one from Richard Harland Smith and a second from Dan Curtis, Karen Black and screenwriter William F Nolan. Nolan is also the subject of one of the featurettes in which he talks about his collaborations with the director. There’s also a great interview with Lee Montgomery, who shows us his signed script for the film. As well as that there's an interview with character actor Anthony James (who plays the chauffeur), plus a promotional gallery, reversible sleeve and new writing in a booklet that’s limited to the disc’s first pressing. 

Dan Curtis' BURNT OFFERINGS is coming out on Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Films in Monday 17th October 2016

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