Trilogy of Terror

Overview

In this made-for-TV horror showcase, Karen Black plays four separate roles in three successive tales written or based on the works of venerable genre writer Richard Matheson. In "Julie," Black portrays a prim college literature instructor who engages in a debauched affair with one of her students after he drugs, date-rapes, and blackmails her into submission; here and in the other stories, however, things aren't what they seem. "Millicent and Therese" features the actress in two roles as good sister/bad sister ...
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Overview

In this made-for-TV horror showcase, Karen Black plays four separate roles in three successive tales written or based on the works of venerable genre writer Richard Matheson. In "Julie," Black portrays a prim college literature instructor who engages in a debauched affair with one of her students after he drugs, date-rapes, and blackmails her into submission; here and in the other stories, however, things aren't what they seem. "Millicent and Therese" features the actress in two roles as good sister/bad sister twins who use witchcraft to settle their sexual and moral differences. In the final and most famous segment, "Amelia," Black plays a spinster with an insufferable mother who sublets a high-rise apartment in the city in order to find romantic freedom. When she purchases a Zuni fetish warrior doll as a present for her anthropology-professor beau, it comes to life and chases her around the flat with considerable tenacity. A failed pilot for a horror anthology series, Trilogy of Terror first appeared on ABC in 1975 and subsequently gained a devoted cult following. Black originally didn't want to participate, but agreed after her husband, Robert Burton, was cast in the role of the date-raping blackmailer. Although the actress has appeared in numerous subsequent horror films, it was her indelible quadruple roles here that inspired cult New York rockers the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. The film also allegedly inspired the 1984 horror-blaxploitation flick Black Devil Doll From Hell. A belated sequel, Trilogy of Terror 2, also from former Dark Shadows director Dan Curtis, followed in 1996.
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Special Features

Commentary with Karen Black and writer William F. Nolan; "Richard Matheson: Terror Scribe" featurette; "Three Colors Black" featurette
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
This well-regarded 1974 TV movie, the brainchild of producer-director Dan Curtis Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker, doesn't seem as impressive now as it did then, but it's still well worth having, if only for the bravura performances of Karen Black, who essays four separate roles. Writers Richard Matheson and William F. Nolan collaborated with Curtis on the three tales of horror and suspense. The first, "Julie," concerns a soft-spoken English professor Black and the aggressive college student who seduces and blackmails her. In "Millicent and Therese," twin sisters with widely different personalities Black again become unhinged and plot to destroy one another. The final and most fondly remembered segment is "Amelia," which tells the terror-ific tale of a young woman guess who victimized by a murderous Zuni fetish doll. In the years since Trilogy of Terror was made, screen horror had become increasingly gory, nasty, and nihilistic, and to some present-day viewers these three little stories will seem corny and campy, like something out of the old comic books such as Tales from the Crypt. But Trilogy is quite well done and, as we said above, Black is excellent in four very distinct characterizations. She and Nolan provide newly recorded commentaries for the film in this Special Edition, which also includes a featurette on Matheson, whose significant contributions to the horror genre have been overlooked in the wake of such wordsmiths as Stephen King and Clive Barker.
All Movie Guide - Brian J. Dillard
As much a camp classic as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, this horror anthology paved the way for actress Karen Black's precipitous '80s and '90s career decline and terrified an entire generation of TV kids with the devilish antics of the Zuni fetish warrior doll -- certainly the most hilarious/horrific bit of puppetry ever to grace either the silver or small screen. Yet only the final ten minutes of this flick feature the diminutive African warrior. The more lasting pleasure is Black's simultaneously genius and goofy acting and the exploitation thrills of the thematically interlocking story lines. It's easy to dismiss the first and second segments, both written by William F. Nolan, and praise the third, written by Richard Matheson, veteran of countless horror novels and Twilight Zone episodes. Yet all three stories are based on Matheson's work, and they all play with virgin/whore archetypes in ways that allow Black to make good use of her early training in exploitation films. With impossible cheekbones and pouty lips that anticipated the exaggerated glamour of comic actress Jennifer Coolidge, Black's got sin written all over her face. Yet she spends most of Trilogy of Terror hiding behind a succession of glasses, severe hairstyles, and schoolmarm clothing. That makes it all the more campily wondrous when she does get to break out of her sexual shackles: for the implied gang-bang and gothic degradation of "Julie"; for the blue eye shadow flirtatiousness and bewigged vamping of "Millicent and Therese"; and for the shockeroo finale of the incomparable "Amelia," which finds Black borrowing a gesture or two from her pal, the Zuni fetish doll. The little warrior himself became a permanent horror icon, but the image of Black literally becoming the doll both proved her considerable acting chops and destroyed any chance that she'd ever be taken seriously again. That's quite an accomplishment for a TV movie.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/29/2006
  • UPC: 030306759395
  • Original Release: 1975
  • Rating:

  • Source: Dark Sky Films
  • Region Code: 0
  • Presentation: Special Edition
  • Time: 1:19:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 23,750

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Karen Black Amelia, Julie, Millicent, Therese
Robert Burton Chad Foster
Orin Cannon Motel Clerk
George Gaynes Dr. Chester Ramsey
Gregory Harrison Arthur Moore
John Karlen Thomas Amman
James Storm Eddie Nells
Technical Credits
Dan Curtis Director, Producer
Richard Albain Special Effects
Robert Cobert Score Composer
Les Green Editor
Robert J. Koster Production Manager
Art Levinson Asst. Director
Paul Lohmann Cinematographer
Richard Matheson Screenwriter
Gail Melnick Casting
William F. Nolan Screenwriter
Jan Scott Art Director, Production Designer
Barbara Siebert-Boticoff Costumes/Costume Designer
Robert Singer Associate Producer
Michael Westmore Makeup
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Trilogy of Terror
1. Act 1 [11:19]
2. Act 2 [11:51]
3. Act 3 [2:40]
4. Act 1 [11:49]
5. Act 2 [4:27]
6. Act 3 [3:38]
7. Act 1 [9:00]
8. Act 2 [13:02]
9. Act 3 [1:53]
10. End Credits [2:13]
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Trilogy of Terror
   Play
   Chapter Selections
      Story One: Julie
      Story Two: Millicent and Therese
      Story Three: Amelia
   Special Features
      Feature-Length Commentary With Karen Black and Writer William F. Nolan: On
      Feature-Length Commentary With Karen Black and Writer William F. Nolan: Off
      "Three Colors Black" Featurette
      "Richard Matheson: Terror Scribe" Featurette
   Set-Up
      English Subtitles: On
      English Subtitles: Off
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