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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Angie Dickinson in The Norliss Tapes (1973) Roy Thinnes

The Norliss Tapes (1973) Roy Thinnes & Angie Dickinson

The Norliss Tapes starring Roy Thinnes and Angie Dickinson is an acclaimed 1970s TV movie which doles out the undead, vampirism and satanism all in one action-packed 72 minutes. Shot almost completely on location in San Francisco and around Carmel, this was more fun than many movie movies at the time. The same mix of police investigation, horror and stunt work that made The Night Stalker work so well.

Like his two Dark Shadows feature films, Dan Curtis successfully transplanted gothic horror into modern day settings, combining Van Helsing monster-hunting with present-day detective work. The Night Stalker and The Norliss Tapes are the seventies equivalent to The X-Files. Series creator Chris Carter even featured actors Darren McGavin (Kolchak) and Roy Thinnes (Norliss) in important episodes. Of course, Thinnes had also starred as paranoid UFO hunter David Vincent in The Invaders TV series.

In The Norliss Tapes, David Norliss is writing a book to debunk the supernatural. A friend calls him in to help a widow who is convinced that she was attacked by her late husband. She says that he was grey, incoherent and survived a shotgun blast in the chest. Could this be the supernatural at work? Is it a coincidence that the walking dead was seen in an old studio where he used to make bizarre sculptures…

Because it’s for TV, the film has to get you interested quickly, and keep you hooked before each ad break. Curtis, also directing here, ensures there’s action or scares at regular intervals – the non-stop highlights that play under the end credits would make a great trailer. The atmosphere is thickened by Robert Cobert's eerie soundtrack, making great use of sawing strings.

Glamorous Angie Dickinson is reduced to the role of damsel in distress, screaming her head off. She had a stronger role in Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill (1980) which is saying something. Smaller parts go to an aging Hurd Hatfield (thirty years after he starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray), and the lovely Vonetta McGee from Blacula.

If you wished there were more Night Stalker episodes, or if you’re into seventies horror, I think this is for you.

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