Friday, August 31, 2012


I’m not sure what a sociologist would make of it, but the '70s (that post- hippie “Me” decade of Watergate, the energy crisis, and the close of the Vietnam War) seems to have spawned more than its share of movies and novels about malevolent domiciles. The Amityville Horror (1979), The Sentinel (1977), and The Shining (1980) are all films based on popular '70s horror-fiction novels that sought to update the traditional haunted house story.
Burnt Offerings, Robert Marasco’s 1973 novel chronicling the gradual dissolution and ultimate destruction of a family after they take up temporary residence in a large house possessed of a deadly supernatural force, predates Stephen King’s similarly-themed The Shining by four years. I read Burnt Offerings back in 1975, as soon as I’d heard that it was to be adapted into a motion picture reuniting Karen Black with Dan Curtis, the director of the popular TV-movie, Trilogy of Terror (1975).
"There's no such thing as fun for the whole family" - Jerry Seinfeld
The involvement of Dan Curtis—the man behind the long-running Gothic TV soap-opera Dark Shadows, and a TV-based director/producer who never met a horror-cliché he didn’t like—was considerably less promising to me than the possibilities presented by the top-drawer cast assembled (always such a rarity in horror films). Karen Black, red-hot at the time, was cast as the wife; Ken Russell alumni Oliver Reed, fresh from the success of Tommy (1975), was the husband, and veteran star Bette Davis was rescued from TV-movie hell to bring her What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? / Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte scream-queen gravitas to the small role of Aunt Elizabeth. Rounding out the intriguing cast were Oscar-winner Eileen Heckart and indefatigable hambone Burgess Meredith as the eccentric owners of the parasitic (vampiric?) summer rental at the center of the story.
Karen Black as Marian Rolf
Oliver Reed as Benjamin Rolf
Bette Davis as Aunt Elizabeth
Lee H. Montgomery as Davy Rolf
Eileen Heckart as Roz Allardyce
Burgess Meredith as Arnold Allardyce
On its release, I was happy to find Burnt Offerings to be a serious-minded, slavishly faithful adaptation of the book (with the exception of a more cinematic, crowd-pleasing ending) that avoided the usual post-Exorcist bombast and instead concentrated on mood and atmosphere. It's one of those rare films that can give you a good, solid scare when you watch it alone, yet provide plenty of unintentional laughs when you watch it with friends. Contemporary audiences are likely to find the film predictable, slow, over-reliant on tried-and-true clichés (there should be a moratorium on rainstorms in haunted house movies), and hampered by the kind of empty ambiguity that often signals poor storytelling. But those who saw Burnt Offerings when they were very young (the film was rated PG) or before The Shining and the Amityville series drove the genre into redundancy, tend to recall the film with the most fondness today.
The Face That Launched a Thousand Bad Dreams 
Few knew the name of the ghoulishly grinning chauffeur (Anthony James) but no one ever forgot the face. 

A film critic once compared the horror genre to pornography (a '70s film critic...long before the genre's decline and the arrival of those wretched "torture porn" movies) making the point that no matter the flaws, porn films work if you find them exciting, and horror films work if they are scary. Is Burnt Offerings scary? Had I seen it as a ten-year-old, I would say most emphatically yes. Seeing it as an adult, I can't say it scared me so much as it entertained me in a way that encouraged my suspension of disbelief to just sit back and have fun with it all. Perhaps it's due to Curtis having developed his "style" from years working in television,  but the PG-rated Burnt Offerings feels less like a feature film and more like an expanded episode of the TV show Night Gallery (a program Curtis criticized for its poor writing). Burnt Offerings is more a well-told mood piece than a good scary movie. (Perhaps the scariest and most unsettling thing is how this family considers it a "vacation" to spend their entire summer working harder than most people do all year. Even before the house starts acting up, all they do is clean!) However, ask someone who saw Burnt Offerings as a kid and they'll tell you it was the scariest film they ever saw...the stuff of nightmares.
Karen Black discovers that a long-neglected greenhouse has blossomed overnight

One of my favorite things about Modern Gothic is when the horror is portrayed as an external manifestation of some form of inner turmoil in the characters. As in The Shining (and more successfully, if in a slightly different vein, Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby), Burnt Offerings nicely grafts familial dysfunction onto the conventions of the haunted house genre to create an eerie sense of tension both supernatural and psychological. When one really watches how the Rolf family interacts, it's easy to imagine that perhaps the "right people" the Allardyces seek for the house are ones living under a pressure cooker of repressed frustrations and barely constrained hostilities.
From the very first moments we meet the Rolfs, one gets a sense that all is not exactly well with this family. Pragmatic Ben and over-ardent Marian don’t really EVER see eye to eye before things begin to rapidly go awry between them. What is made explicit in the book (her domestic dissatisfaction, his creeping fear of mental illness) is only hinted at in the film, but the keen performances by Oliver Reed and Karen Black shore up the sense that the house doesn't really change these people, it merely amplifies that which is already there.
Unseen Terror

Always one of my favorites, screen legend Karen Black may not have been able to sustain the kind of career she once had at the peak of her '70s popularity (the partial blame for which she subtly lays at the feet of Burnt Offerings director Dan Curtis in the comically discombobulated DVD commentary for this film), but there are few actresses who can boast of having starred or appeared in as many films that have gone on to attain classic or cult status.
Black’s boom years were 1974 to 1976, a period in which it was near-impossible to avoid her on the big screen or television (her performance of Big Mama Thornton's “Hound Dog” on The Tonight Show is burned in my brain to this day).  The uniquely glamorous, off-beat, unofficial face of The New Hollywood, the ubiquitous Karen Black appeared in a staggering 10 feature films and TV-movies in these three years, among them, some of the biggest and most high-profile releases of the era: The Great Gatsby (1974), The Day of the Locust (1975), Nashville (1975), and Family Plot (1976). And of course, one cannot forget Airport 1975, a film so iconically silly that the line of dialogue “The Stewardess is Flying the Plane!” was made into the title of a book about films of the 1970s.
Bring on the Crazy
The eminently watchable Karen Black is the main reason I love this film. Even when her performance veers into the eccentric (and let's face it, they always do), she is so obviously coming from a perceived place of truth for her character that she wins you over through sheer conviction.

The central gimmick of Burnt Offerings is that the house renews and repairs itself with every injury, drop of blood, or instance of physical or spiritual decline it can extract from its inhabitants. Dan Curtis’ television-trained penchant for close-ups and tight framing robs the film of the kind of visual scope necessary to make the scenes of spontaneous regeneration really pay off, but his claustrophobic eye is well suited to building a sense of dread out of a million little isolated details. Not all of them followed through with or given a payoff.
A history of violence is suggested by the discovery of a vintage pair of eyeglasses with a discomforting hole through the center of one lens.
Things That Make You Go Hmmm
Oliver Reed reacts to discovering all the clocks in the house have miraculously wound themselves

Because I so enjoy a good scare at the movies, I’m almost ridiculously willing to suspend my disbelief if it better ensures a solid payoff at the conclusion. On that point Burnt Offerings delivers mightily; it has a great final act. But a movie has to work with me. I can accept the most outlandish plot machinations if a character's actions and motivations follow even a marginally identifiable pattern of a recognizable human behavior. As soon as characters go off doing patently stupid things just to advance the plot, well, then you lose me. 
To its credit, Burnt Offerings plays it smart most of the time. For example: to better counterbalance the swift susceptibility of the Karen Black character (who is sympathetic, if ultimately hard to relate to) and get the plot moving despite everything about the initial setup screaming, “Don’t rent that house!”, Oliver Reed’s dialog mostly has him giving voice to every doubt the audience is thinking. This is a great device that subtly pulls you in with presuming that if a character at least acknowledges something smells fishy, you're more likely to stick it out when they inevitably start disregarding common sense and doing all the wrong things.
Slightly annoying son Davy proves to be something of a disaster divining rod when it comes to who's to be the target of several "attacks" by the house in its attempts to destroy the Rolf family

Burnt Offerings is not a great horror film, but it's a good one that I enjoy rewatching a great deal. Not scary so much as eerie, Burnt Offerings plays like a supernatural parable on the risks of being controlled by one's possessions. Anyone who's ever owned a car, a home, or property can relate to feeling at times as if repairs, taxes, upkeep...the whole desire to acquire things.... can easily dominate one's life. That one is living one's life at the will and behest of the things we sought to possess, but which ultimately come to possess us.
The mysterious photograph collection of vaguely startled looking people 
The Dunsmuir Estate in the Oakland Hills (near my parent's house!) was used for the Allardyce mansion. It looks considerably less creepy now.


Oh, and as for my Karen Black obsession: in spite of her having filmed Burnt Offerings near my family's house in Oakland, and the previous year filming Hitchcock's Family Plot in San Francisco where I attended college, I never once made the effort to catch sight of her on location. Thirty years later, in Los Angeles in 2007, I finally had the opportunity to meet the object of my teen fascination when I went to see her in her self-penned musical play Missouri Waltz. When it came time for the post-performance meet and greet in the lobby, she was a real sweetheart, and I was near speechless. But boy, you should have seen her face when someone held out a poster of The Day of the Locust for her to sign (not her favorite movie), it was like one of those looks she shoots Oliver Reed when she has to rescue him from the attacking vines!

Copyright © Ken Anderson 2009 - 2012


  1. Excellent piece as always Ken. I don't actually think I've seen this one...though I've seen more than my fair share of 70s films with Burgess Meredith popping up in and he does look familiar here - perhaps my parents had it on one evening when I was a kid (they never really bothered with 'is this suitable for kids?' my Mum and Dad) who knows. The 70s were certainly the ultimate era for the arrival of these big doorstopper horror and macabre novels and they inevitably found their way to screen eventually with varying degrees of success. My sociology education is inclined to agree with your analysis-perhaps after the all too real scares of Vietnam and Nixon, the average American cinemagoer or reader wanted some 'out there' scares to combat the reality? Nice to see Ollie Reed, I always felt he was poorly served Stateside for film roles, but then he never really did himself any favours.

    1. Thanks, Mark.
      Maybe you did see this movie when you were young (although Burgess Meredith sort of majored in loony roles like this in the 70s. He pretty much plays the exact same role in "The Sentinel"). One of the things I like about horror films as a genre is how explicitly they tend to reflect the social anxieties of the eras in which they are made. In the 70s Americans seemed preoccupied with examining the cracks in the American Dream.
      And I agree with you about Oliver Reed's US films; I don't think we knew how to use him. Somehow "the Brood" is fondly remembered by many (I never saw it).

  2. Once again, you've spotlighted a movie that I enjoy so much as well! Davis's last scene may very well outdo even Baby Jane in terms of how rotten she looks. Good lord! The fact that she goes from being pulled together and quasi-stylish to completely degraded appeals to my obsession with disaster. LOL I know that the first time I saw this, I wished that I could be the one to go swimming with Oliver Reed (were his eyes ever as blue as in this movie?) He was so sexy. The kid got on my last nerve, though, but that's often the case for me. I think it's been a good two or three years since I watched my DVD, but you've reignited my taste for it. Thanks!

    1. Hi Poseidon
      Yes, this movie is very enjoyable in lots of ways. Bette Davis does indeed look terrible towards the middle of the film (Karen Black on the DVD commentary: "I've seen people dying in real life that didn't look that bad!"). I think it's a very effective device, only I wish we had more scenes of her when she was supposed to be "spunky". The 70s habit of using diffusion filters makes it hard to see how good she's supposed to look at the start.
      I love it that you thought Oliver Reed was sexy. In the scene where he asks Karen why she suddenly finds him repulsive, and she responds "You're incredibly sexy", the audience i saw it with howled. Me, I couldn't figure out why he coerced his wife to swim in the nude yet still kept his trunks on. I expected more from the man who wrestled naked with Alan Bates!
      And if you want to talk about how annoying little Davy is, I'm afraid you're going to have to get at the back of a very long line. Always great hearing from you!

  3. Very fortunate you are to have met Karen Black!

    The first thing I thought about when you mentioned Ms Black's displeasure at being asked to sign a "The Day of the Locust" poster was how Sir Alec Guinness would have similar negative reactions to "Star Wars" fanatics asking him about his role as Obi Wan Kenobi and wanting him to sign things pertaining to the film.

    Did Karen end up signing the "Locust" poster--or did she make the fan eat it?

    Looking at those mirror image screen captures--who guessed that Stanley Kubrick was such a pirate? Even the kid looks the same in both pictures! Jack is a much more attentive driver than Oliver. Close call between Karen's yellow neckerchief and Shelley Duvall's turtleneck creation.

    1. Hey Mark,
      Karen Black may have had a strong facial reaction, but she was so gracious to the guy and even wrote a bit more than just her signature. Me, I was having an out of body experience. I couldn't believe I was talking to Connie White from Nashville!
      By the way, your comments on the mirror image screen caps cracked me up! (Jack, the attentive driver.)

    2. Wow, has it been almost a year since you posted this review? Well, I'm pleased to say, I've finally managed to watch this film. Yes, Davy really is an annoying little brat! Was I the only one who enjoyed a bit of a sadistic chuckle when Oliver Reed damn nearly drowned the little brat? I also found it most amusing when, just before dunking the kid, Oliver Reed makes those "blub, blub, blub" sounds and swims about like a sea monster--take that, Jaws!

      Speaking of amusing, what about the way that Burgess Meredith, as Arnold Allardyce, leers at innocent little Davy? To me, the stroke of genius here is when dear demented Arnold tries to guess the kid's age..."eight, nine years old?" I bet Arnold was really disappointed to find out that Davy was twelve.

      I have my own list of reactions to this film. I'm sorry, Ken, but when Karen Black said, with a totally straight face, to Oliver Reed "You're incredibly sexy", I said aloud "Give her the Oscar!" Later, when Oliver Reed assure Bette Davis that she's not old, I said "Give HIM the Oscar!"

      The cinematography in this one is a real treat. I love the overexposed look of it all--it reminds me of those photographs from my very early childhood! The film has a distinct dreamlike quality, and I appreciate the fact that the film sets several of its most effectively chilling scenes in broad daylight.

      "Burnt Offerings" reminds me of two of my favourite horror films from the 1970s, namely "The Stepford Wives" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". The former, because Karen Black seems stricken with a compulsion to clean everything in the house. The latter, because of all those plants coming to life. One of my favourite parts of the film is, instead of plants withering and dying, the film managed to spook the audience by showing plants blossoming to life. And yes, the last few moments of the film caused me to gasp audibly! What a tremendous finish!

    3. I wasn't aware when you wrote me a year ago that you hadn't seen "Burnt Offerings" before. So glad you got around to it!
      I recall when I saw this film at the theater, Karen Black telling burly ol' Oliver Reed that he was incredibly sexy did indeed garner a big laugh. Too big.

      Also, by what I read online, you're not alone in your annoyance with little Davy.

      Glad you commented on the cinematography. A great deal of the hazy glow the film has was done by a lab technique known as "flashing", and it was very popular in the 70s. They used it to great effect in Day of the Locust, Lucky Lady, and The Great Gatsby.
      High Definition DVD buffs hate it because the images are not as crystal clear when restored digitally, but like you, I personally like the effect.
      Fun observations you make about the film. I'm glad you saw it and I'm even happier that you liked it. Thanks for sharing the experience, Mark!

  4. "that the house doesn't really change these people, it merely amplifies that which is already there."
    So right. And that's the difference with the Shining, which also has a person whose sanity was transformed after he entered a house of ill reputation (not THAT reputation!), but Kubrick didn't care for his characters, yet he played them - save for Jack Torrent - for sympathy. I still haven't come to terms with Stanley's Shining and I doubt I ever will...
    I find the Rolf family interesting, but not sympathetic. Which is most evident in the one who is usually cast as The Adorable Kid: Davy. If one draws sympathy, it's the Reed character.

    Labeling Oliver Reed as sexy is an understatement! There has never been an actor with so much undiluted testosteron in his eyes and in the lines of his mouth. That mouth alone is a Nature's miracle. Ollie was incredibly RAW. He didn't just sweep me off my feet in 'Women in love', he crushed me. Where other late blooming teens wanted to marry their fathers, I swore I would drag Ollie to the altar, even if it would take restraint belts and a whiskey IV. On top of that I sofar had seen men naked only in (semi)biblicals like Ben Hur and Spartacus, and that was Hollywoodian make-believe nudity, there always got something in the way between camera and actor. Remember Huston's 'The Bible'? I was waiting for the great moment of Adam's Creation. And he was never finished properly!
    (A few years ago I found the original Spartacus movie poster in Google. Two gladiators in the arena both fully nude, measuring each other up. It had been withdrawn in 1959 as too, well, too unsettling for schoolboys who were going to watch the movie together with their gym teacher. So in a panic I googled for an image of the Greek Disc Thrower statue, to assure myself that no idiot from Hollywood had dressed him in one of Kirk Douglas's silly arena speedos!

    In 'Women in Love' Alan Bates was the sexy intellectual, but Ollie was Marvel's Supermacho. And British enough to look natural in a silk chamber gown and a classic smoking (which I vehemently declared unfit anyway).
    In 1972 'The Triple Echo' teamed him with Glenda Jackson again. An underrated movie in which he had a wonderful if not hilarious role. It made me a fan for life. He had a wonderful voice too, deep and husky.

    Sorry for butterflying from one movie to another...

    In realtime Oliver was every mother-in-law's nightmare. A bit unsettling then to see him in 'Burnt Offerings' as an average family man. The coupling with Karen Black also seemed somehow unusual. But fifteen minutes into the film it was like I had seen them playing together for decades.
    So, one of the better 1970's horror movies, although it owes it all to Reed, Black and a particularly impressive Davis.

    1. Hi Willem
      I have never read such a wonderful (and amusing) hymn to the charms of Oliver Reed! It really seems like he got a lot of young boy's fancies stirred up during his heyday. I never got to see "Women in Love" until many years after its release, but had I been permitted to see it when it came out, the testosterone duel of Bates and Reed would have likely caused me to pass out in my seat.
      I also never got around to seeing The Bible, but in my hometown they had an ENORMOUS poster of Adam over the marquee that mesmerized me no end.
      I have "Triple Echo" on a YouTube list of films to watch, I hope it hasn't been removed, you make it sound very interesting.
      lastly, i have to concur that seeing both Oliver Reed and Karen Black cast as average folks was quite jarring for me when I was young. The idiosyncratic pairing of two of the least "average" actors you're likely to ever come across is what really got me excited about the film in the first place.

  5. Just watched this for the first time in at least 20 years. Not as scary as I remember, but what a cast! A horror film budgeted at this level today wouldn't come close to this caliber of acting. The scene that always stuck with me, even more than the ending, is the pool scene with the father and son. So primal; it still works beautifully and Reed is amazing in it, especially when he slithers off under the water after the kid smacks him with the goggles ( I bet this played very well with audiences of the time, coming just a year after Jaws!).
    Many people (myself included) probably remember this from television, where it ran frequently in the late 70 and 80s. With Dan Curtis directing, it works well for that medium. Tight shots almost always look better on tv than long ones, and, unlike many horror films, not a lot of this film takes place in darkness, which is always problematic for television (or at least the television technology in use back then). I wish the DVD looked and sounded better than it does, though. It looks little better than VHS, and, with this cast, deserves a better transfer.

    Still, I enjoyed revisiting this film more than some other, more ballyhooed works from the period. It's more interesting than The Omen, more fun than The Shining (and with a better ending, in my opinion), and superior in just about every way to The Amityville Horror.

    1. Thanks for the comment! The cast for this film really is outstanding and elevates what might otherwise have been a run-of-the-mill haunted house film beyond the pale.
      Interesting too, your comments regarding Dan Curtis' TV roots and how they (perhaps inadvertently) helped to make this a film that plays very well on TV - especially in the pre HD days.
      Love that pool scene!

  6. I was surprised to see you review this. was it a big hit, a moderate hit in theaters? I saw this when I was 10 and it scared me to death. I couldn't sleep for a week. Not only that.....the movie haunted me for the entire year (since I saw it the first week of Janurary 1981). Looking back....and thinking about it now...I realize that the actors had a lot to do with my never ending fear and feelings of being disturbed. Reed and Black are both actors who portray fear, rage, confusion and paranoia better than any other actors I can think of. and even Lee Montgomery as David, I thought, was really great in the movie. and Bette Davis, at that age, looked scary anyway. and maybe the best horror movies, or movies in general, are ones that you keep asking yourself...."what the hell was that all about?" you know, no easy answers, no easy story and definitely no easy ending. what exactly is the deal with that damn chauffeur? what does he represent? what's up with the pictures and why do the people in them look demented and constipated at the same time? why does that darn woman stay in that room and never come out? why doesn't Karen Black just go in there? Just do it, Karen. gheeeez. and what to Eileen and Burgess really get out of terrorizing innocent families, knowing they're going to be dead at the end of the summer?? I think seeing it so really bothered me that these horrible, demonic things kept happening to Davy. His father trying to drown him in the pool. the evil spirits trying to create a tsunami in the pool, while davy is swimming, as Reed Is paralyzed unable to help. and of course the ending has always stayed with me. the chimney slowing falling apart like an avalanche on top of David, klling him. the way it was filmed is one of the creepiest scenes I've seen in a movie. we see Davy being crushed and then we see (from davy's perspective) the bricks dropping on him one by one......the gross grainy lines of the lens, with dirt from the feel like you're suffocating watching it. my point...this all happened to a child. that was unheard of back then. Even the kid got away alive in The Shining. but not here. the best scene for me is when Reed desperately wants to tell Davy that he loves him....after nearly drowning him in the pool. Davy looks at the ground, scared and confused....then runs into his father's arms quietly saying, "Oh....Dad" so happy that he has his "normal" dad back. it's a very heartfelt and touching scene, in a movie that is just a nightmare. and actor Lee Montgomery did a really great job. lastly, everyone knows that the damn chauffeur was the scariest, most unpleasant part of the whole movie. I know the actor had been in a few 70s and 80s movies playing "character" roles that were very small, but still noticeable. well....everybody noticed this guy in THIS movie. I certainly did. Burnt Offerings truly is a groundbreaking started the whole "house is haunted" genre of that time. so....many thanks again for the review. it may even inspire me to watch it again. but seeing it once at the age of 10 may still be enough for me. can you let us know the ending in the book? didn't you say they changed the ending because the book's ending was too dark?

    1. Hi
      I seem to remember this being one of those movies that opened big but finished out the year a modest hit (my memory could be failing me, though).
      For the longest time it was sort of an unspoken rule (and at one time a Hayes Code mandate) that harm couldn't come to children in films, especially not graphically. So, given my terror at seeing Patty MacCormack struck by lightening in "The bad Seed" when I was a kid, I can only imagine the horror of being 10 years old and seeing a movie where a little boy is pretty much the major target of terror and abuse.
      When i was growing up, the only comfort of watching horror movies was in always knowing deep down inside, the guilty were going to be punished, all the terrors would be explained in a lengthy epilogue, and bad things only happened to those deserving it. By the time you were old enough to see horror films, all bets were off and movies could leave you with more questions than answers (always unsettling for a kid), bad guys sometimes won, and innocent people suffered through no fault of their own.
      It's great fun reading how "Burnt Offerings" struck you as child. Very vivid memories I'm glad you shared.
      As for the book, I haven't read it since 1976, but as i recall it was merely a flatter, less cinematic ending. Davy and his father both drown when the pool becomes too choppy (in the film the mother dives in and saves Davy), and then the book just ends with the elderly couple (Heckart and Meredith) returning and seeing the house is all revitalized, and that they have a new "mother" in Karen Black's character having taken the place of the previous mother. The photo of the family joins the collection of photos which is described in the book as a collection people who look terrified or startled at seeing something horrific.

    2. Hi Ken,
      I discovered your blog just a few days ago and have been reading voraciously ever since! It is both fascinating and delightful to read your spot-on appraisals of so many of the films l have loved for years - especially those l had thought l was alone in my admiration of (Eye of the Cat being a prime example!) We are a similar age (l was born in 1959) and so have covered a lot of cinematic ground at the same time. Like so many of your readership l am finding it hard to stop returning to your site to read "just ONE more" essay... and then of course the comments... and then a quick trip to Amazon to buy the dvd... and then read "just ONE more". l will never be able to write about film with as much insight and wit as you do, but thanks to a very lucky life l have had the opportunity to meet and spend a lot of time with many of the stars you write about, and my memories of the fabulous Karen Black prompted this first message to you. I was at the opening night of Come Back to the 5 and Ten, Jimmy Dean in New York, l guess the year was 1982? The strange thing is, the show just did not play well... many people, myself included, were bored and restless and glad when it ended (the most memorable moment for me was bumping into Gina Lollobrigida in the foyer). I can't quite work out how the show l saw, when translated to film with the same cast, and more or less as a filmed play, became so brilliant and magical. But back to Karen Black.... the friend who took me to the show insisted we wait at the stage door to get autographs from the stars. Not that l needed much persuasion - l had always loved Karen Black. So we met the somewhat diffident Sandy Dennis, the King's friendly and charming Cher, then last of all, the wild haired, wild eyed, magnificent Karen Black, a true star who greeted her fans and generic autograph hounds alike with genuine interest and total attention. She signed everything proffered and happily posed for photographs (I still have mine!), and even at the time l was aware she had a first night party to get to. Cut to a couple of days later... I was in a store when l heard THAT voice behind me, and turned to see Miss Black concluding a purchase. She noticed me, smiled and said "Didn't we meet recently?" l reminded her of the circumstances, and said how incredibly impressed l had been by her interaction at the stage door (whilst avoiding any mention of the play l had disliked so much), and we spent several minutes chatting. In parting l to her l was returning to my native England the following day, and she asked me to send her a postcard, which l duly did... and within a couple of weeks received a handwritten thank you note along with a gorgeous signed photo. And now, Ken, l am off to read just ONE more... Come Back, Jimmy Dean of course!

    3. Greetings, Milliefan!
      To say your comments flatter me would be an understatement. Let's just say that when I began this blog, it was always my fantasy (I dared not hope) that readers would find in my jumbled reveries, essays on film that others could relate to and wish to correspond about.
      Your words are gladdening in a way you cannot imagine. Thanks!
      And thanks for sharing such an absolutely brilliant Karen Black anecdote! You're the only person I've ever encountered who even saw that ill-fated Broadway production of "Jimmy Dean..."but to live to tell about a close encounter with its stars and a meetup with Ms Black...well!!
      It's not always necessary for me to hear nice stories about celebrities I like, but in Karen Black's case, it pleases me no end to hear that she was as captivating in real life as she is onscreen.
      So pleased that you stumbled upon this blog, and thanks for contributing in such a lovely, personal way!

  7. PS - the curse of predictive text... of course that should have read Come Back to the 5 and DIME... though l can't remember which word my keyboard replaced with "King's" whilst describing Cher!

    1. Please...I know all to well! (Kind for king's? ...I guess we'll never know)

    2. Thank YOU, Ken... and l loved your thoughts on the movie of Come Back, Jimmy Dean which l read today, plus several others! A request: please do cover Thoroughly Modern Millie soon (THE film of my young cinema going youth). A comment: Bob Hope was actually funny in that marvellous 1939 comedy thriller The Cat and the Canary. A couple of my favourites l can hugely recommend if they somehow passed you by... The Ursula Andress version of She, which terrified me at the age of six but also awakened my life long fascination with tall, hairy chested, John Richardson types (how disappointing to realise his voice was dubbed, along with Ursula's), and a film many English viewers (myself included) feel is one of the funniest ever made, 1966s Carry on Screaming. Probably not one which played for long in San Francisco!

    3. Hi again
      I can't say it will be soon, but I am bound to cover "Thoroughly Modern Millie"...i saw that film SOOO many times in my youth. It was my introduction to Julie Andrews (it wasn't until I was in my 30's that i saw Mary Poppins, and in my 40s when i saw The Sound of Music").Huge crush on James Fox.
      I'm somewhat allergic to Bob Hope, but i took a peek at "The cat and the Canary" on Daily Motion and i can honestly say it looks promising! He's so young (and a little less schticky).
      I saw "She" when i was very small and need to see it again. Andress has such a wonderful voice...why dub it?
      Also, as a big Barbara Windsor fan, i adore most of those "Carry On" films. I see "Carry on Screaming" is on DailyMotion as well....
      you've given me some new/old films to check out. Thanks!

  8. Hi there Ken, I had to leave a quick comment for you. I’ve always loved this movie and recently I finally upgraded to the Blu ray; I enjoyed revisiting it and then it occurred to me to check if you had ever covered it here—and presto! here I am. You did a great job with this essay and a lot of what you’ve written reminds of the childhood experience of seeing it for the first time. I was around eleven years old and my mom, who a major Karen Black fan (Five Easy Pieces was lifelong favorite of hers), took me to see the film shortly after it opened. And I remember being really scared! The creepy chauffeur had me covering my eyes of course, but I also recall being bothered by some of more psychological elements. I hated seeing Davis’ lively character so drained of life, but the swimming pool scene was the worst. I don’t think the idea that a nice normal father could snap and commit violence against his child had ever really occurred to me before. That kind of domestic horror was upsetting to me as a kid and it stayed with me for a while.
    But Karen Black is so great here—she’s an actress I will watch in anything—and the blu ray looks great too, so it was nice to settle in with the movie again. And to close on a lighter note, I remembered that first viewing and I how shocked I was during the early bedroom scene, when Reed casually places his hand on Karen Black’s breast. I whispered to my mother “Mom, look what he’s doing!” Her response, after a pause: “It’s all right, they’re married”. Just wanted to share that with you, take care until next time. Rich

    1. Hello, Rich - So good of you to check out this post and to share such fun (and vividly recalled) childhood memories of seeing BURNT OFFERINGS.
      You confirm what I imagined to be the case with this may seem like a tame, slow-burn for veteran horror fans, but for the young and impressionable, this movie is pretty scary stuff. Perhaps precisely because of the psychological elements you cite. Particularly the idea that a parent could cause harm to a child.
      It's pretty chilling the first time a child gets the impression (from a movie) that home...the usual safe haven...can be a threat.
      Your recounting of your first viewing of BURNT OFFERINGS resonates with me on many fronts (although relating to movies I saw when I was that age, which places me around 1968 and seeing ROSEMARY'S BABY for the first time) I suspect I responded to the modest nudity in that film much in a way similar to how you reacted to Oliver Reed getting familiar with Karen Black.
      I laughed when I read that!
      Glad you're enjoying the new Blu-ray of this movie and I thank you again for taking the time to contribute your youthful first impressions of it with us!
      Take care, Rich!

    2. Thank you for the kind words. It was fun remembering that movie night with my mom and sharing it here. And I really enjoy having your blog here as a reference. So many times I’ve noticed we have the same taste and interests. In fact, as I embarked on a mini-Karen Black phase inspired by this film, I searched the blog and found the review of “Killer Fish”—a movie I’d never heard of before I read your post. I jumped over to YouTube to find this epic and I was not disappointed! The film was a little slow-going at first for me, but the arrival of the Margaux contingent provided the proceedings with a genuine jolt of excitement. And by the time Karen was writhing on the dock in her wetsuit I was completely hooked. I really enjoyed the opportunity to see the cast interacting. I was happy just watching Karen and Margaux play in a scene together. Margaux looks great here (I was a boy then but I still remember her brief time at the top) with no sign of the troubles to come. For me this movie kept getting better and more fun and it cruised toward its bloody conclusion! I had a great time watching “Killer Fish” so thanks for the review. Speaking of recommendations, I should probably add that I’ve now watched “Five Desperate Women” a total of 3 times. Thanks again for pointing me to it. Take care. Rich

    3. Hello, Rich
      I am SO impressed that you are a fan of FIVE DESPERATE WOMEN (3 times!!). So much of the fondness I feel for films I saw as a kid or teenager are caught up with nostalgia and the kind of time-specific memories that made your comments about BURNT OFFERINGS so personal and so enjoyable.
      Unless FIVE DESPEATE WOMEN is a film you’re re-visiting, it’s quite eye opening to learn that the movie still holds up and offers some entertainment value to the contemporary viewer.
      The same holds true for your experience with KILLER FISH! It’s a surprisingly enjoyable actioner, isn’t it? And that cast is impressive. Just this side of a “very special” Love Boat episode.
      Your appreciation of these movies speaks to what you stated regarding this blog and its entries reflecting similar tases and interests on some fronts. It’s very gratifying to know that, and I’m glad you found this site. Hope there will be more posts you enjoy and that they inspire more contributions on your part. Agreement is not necessary nor a part of the deal. It’s just interesting for me and readers to share our impressions of a film with one another in a respectful and personal way.
      Looking forward to hearing from you again. Take care, Rich!