What better time of year than right now to review the classic DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW. Back in March we announced that DARK NIGHT was FINALLY making its way to DVD and thanks to our friend John Sullivan aka The Creepy Custodian we have a full review for you Bidites to feast on...
Through the 70's and by the early 80's, the horror genre was finding it's way to a brand new audience. Made-for-TV movies such as "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (1973), "Stranger in Our House" (Later re-titled Summer of Fear) (1978), "Midnight Offerings" (1981) and "Don't Go To Sleep" (1982), were scaring their way into living rooms and reaching a broader range of people who normally might not be exposed to these kinds of films or to the horror community in general. And while these were not big theatrical releases with huge promotional campaigns, because of excellent screenwriting and storyline, they easily could have been. With scripts stretching from witches, to small nightmarish creatures, to the supernatural, many were also taking advantage of premiering around the spookiest holiday of the year. So it was no surprise that when "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" debuted October 24th, 1981, on the CBS Saturday Night Movies, it would become an instant Halloween classic!
Directed by Frank De Felitta and written by J. D. Feigelson, "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" told the story of Bubba (Larry Drake/Dr. Giggles), a mentally challenged man who befriends a young girl named Marylee (Tonya Crowe) in the town in which they both live. Soon however, some of the towns folks fears are realized as the girl is brutally attacked Believing the girl is dead and that Bubba was responsible, four of the men, led by postman Otis (Charles Durning), form a group to hunt him down. Finding Bubba hiding as a scarecrow in a nearby cornfield, they open fire, thinking they have enacted revenge on the little girl's attacker. By placing a pitchfork in Bubba's hands, they claim self-defense for their actions, hoping to be cleared of their murderous vigilance.
Later, the girl recovers and reveals that the real attacker was a dog and that Bubba tried to protect her. As the men are exonerated for the crime due to the lack of witnesses, it seems the guilty go unpunished. Or do they? One by one, the men are stalked and hunted leading right up to the gripping and shocking conclusion. Who watches from the cornfields? Is it a ghost, a witness to the lynching, or is it Bubba himself?
Remembering this movie fondly, Halloween for me was never really the same without it. Oh, I had my worn out VHS television copy for years, but when tracking lines (remember those?) dominated the screen with no possible way of correcting, then you have a problem! Fortunately, dvd has eliminated those annoying things and as each year has seen the addition of those must-have classics being released to the current ever-popular format, I always kept my eye out for this one. It was a few years ago when I first heard that plans for a remastered dvd special edition was in the works. What can I say? I was ecstatic! But then over the following months, news about the release sort of fell to the back burner and was simply, lost in the cornfield. Time passed without a word and thoughts of losing this personal favorite again plagued me.
Then earlier this year, I heard the great folks at VCI Entertainment announce they would be the distributor with a projected September date on the horizon. VCI was already doing outstanding work acquiring and releasing hard-to-find movie and television titles so I knew it was in good hands. As an avid fan of "Dark Night's"original look and color that the movie had when it aired on television, I was a little apprehensive about a "remastering". But after viewing it, I have to say the new digital transfer looks absolutely amazing! All colors have been beautifully done and brought together for an impressive crisp and detailed brilliance (For excellent coverage of the restoration process, see issue # 17 of HorrorHound Magazine) so much so that it's literally like seeing it again for the first time!
Now for the features - When watching, you have the choice of listening at 5.1 Surround or the original soundtrack, with or without commentary by J.D. Feigelson and Frank De Felitta and as a very special treat for all of you purists out there (yes, my hand is up) - the original CBS Network World Premiere Promo opening that appeared during the first broadcast back in 1981 (be sure to also check out the very-well done VCI Entertainment logo animated cornfield segment that appears before the main menu to put you into the Halloween mood!). Not a huge slew of extras but hey, who needs them? Just the movie on dvd itself is exciting enough and listening to J. D. and Frank reminisce about the shooting locations and different scenes is an absolute treasure. It doesn't get any better than that!
Now that it's available, I feel that a huge part of my childhood is now complete. I can sit in front of the tv every October with my old plastic pumpkin candy pail from years past, dvd in hand, and remember what it was like anticipating that one night a year when kids could hide in plain sight and night was the time of the scarecrow. As for the movie itself, I regard this film as highly a classic as John Carpenter's Halloween and it will always have a place in my home right next to it. I mean, you really can't go wrong with cornfields, children and scarecrows. Ah, but that's another review......
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