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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Norliss Tapes (1973)

Dan Curtis is back on the made for T.V. marathon. This time he is trying to duplicate the magie he had with the Kolchak series by creating another series featuring a writer exploring the unknown. This time it is a man named David Norliss who is writing a book in order to debunk the supernatural. Yeah that is going to work out well for him.

Things get started with Norliss calling his editor to let him know that he hasn’t put a single word onto paper. This is a nice setup for the audience to find out that Norliss has put everything onto cassette tapes. See how the title works in? Anyway, they make plans to speak because the book isn’t turning out as he expected it to. But when the writer doesn’t show his editor eventually gets concerned and goes looking for him. Finding the house empty he pops in tape number one.

The rest of the story is told in a flashback narrated by Norliss. We find out that he was contacted by a recently widowed Ellen Cort in regard to a very terrifying experience that she had. One night she heard a prowler and went to investigate with a shotgun and her rather large dog. The good news is that she finds it was just her husband in his art studio, the bad news is that she is a widow! A shotgun blast and a dead dog later she gets Norliss on the job. What he discovers is a world filled with magic rings and demons made from clay and the blood of innocent victims. Hey wait a minute. That might be why the dead husband is running around killing people!

The Zombie looks cool
I’m making light of the plot synopsis not out of sarcasm but because I love The Norliss Tapes. Not as much as Kolchak, but it is a close second. The story has a creepy vibe with the zombiefied husband sneaking around for nefarious purposes only to return to his resting place during the day. This leads to a great sequence where his wife and another woman go looking for him to pull the ring that reanimates him off of his dead finger. Spoiler they don’t get there in time! This is one of a couple great moments where the movie uses shadows to build tension that is then payed off with a decent jump scare. This movie also proved my belief that you leave the damn curtains closed. Hear a noise outside? Ignore it!

Roy Thinnes does a wonderful job in the role and so do the supporting cast. It was awesome to see Angie Dickinson as Ellen Cort, though sadly she isn’t given much more to do other than look pretty and run screaming. The always awesome Vonetta McGee has a small role as the unfortunate woman who meets her end trying to pry the ring off his finger. Finally, Claude Akins shows up as another cranky sheriff. I was about to make a slightly snarky comment about him playing the same role on the Night Stalker but then I looked at his IMDB page. Guess he made a career out of playing the same character over and over again. It’s a living.

The special effects are very simple with our main creature being the zombie husband. They basically use some grey face paint and creepy contacts to create the effect. It works really well, especially the contacts. The way the movie is shot focuses on those eyes and they are genuinely scary looking. There is also a bit with a demon made from clay that is ok but thankfully doesn’t get much screen time.

It isn’t often that you can go back to the well and successfully revisit a formula. But Curtis does that with The Norliss Tapes. Honestly it is Kolchak without Darrin McGavin. It is also a lot of fun and worth spending some time with. The link at the top of the review takes you to YouTube where you can watch it.  

                                                        © Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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