Original Transmission Date: 24/10/1981
Very few made for television movies have achieved the cult prominence of Halloween favourite Dark Night of the Scarecrow. It was originally broadcast on CBS in October 1981, became a network mainstay for many years, a success on video rental, and an unlikely success in other territories as well. I can personally attest to this by remembering several screenings on British television during the 1980’s which haunted my fractured dreams. In confirmation of the films cult credentials US distributor VCI belatedly issued a DVD in September 2010, and more impressively still issued a blu-ray in October 2011. Naturally the strictures and regimentation of US network television meant that the emphasis was very much placed on the writing. The teleplay was provided by J. D. Feigelson, and he produced a literate and well constructed plot, peppered liberally with some wonderfully acerbic moments of dialogue for the villain Otis P. Hazelrigg (Charles Durning). Nevertheless there are still several moments of surprising violence (the shooting of Bubba, the pitchfork fate of Hazelrigg), and one particularly unpleasant moment of off screen violence (the death of Harless). But it is the films almost total reliance on a carefully cultivated atmosphere of simmering small town tensions that sets it apart from contemporaneous efforts in the horror genre.
© Shaun Anderson 2011