Wrong. What began on March 4th was an elaborate game of keep-away that was instigated by the ABC affiliate in central Wisconsin, WAOW-TV Channel 9, and lasted for a number of years. Truth be told, I cannot remember exactly when I saw Trilogy of Terror for the first time, but I guesstimate that it was sometime in the late 70s, and on
I have to begin by telling you what a ritual watching ABC's Movie of the Week was in my household. From the very first offerings in 1969 (including the deliciously eerie Daughter of the Mind, the shockingly bloody House on Green Apple Road, and How Awful About Allan, with a post-Psycho Anthony Perkins), my family and I watched them all, no matter the genre. They helped ABC become a true ratings competitor against
But let's be honest - it was the Horror offerings that got my blood pumping, and easily one-quarter of the films fell into that category. When Duel and The Night Stalker became two of the highest-rated TV movies to date, the floodgates opened, and the MOTW felt like a super-sized Horror anthology, with titles like Crowhaven Farm, Dr. Cook's Garden, The Screaming Woman, Sweet, Sweet Rachel, Home for the Holidays, Bad Ronald, When Michael Calls, Scream, Pretty Peggy, The Devil's Daughter, Satan's School for Girls, The Cat Creature and many, many more. If you loved Horror, this was your Playhouse 90.
When the TV Guide for that first week of March 1975 arrived at my house, it all but screamed for my attention, with a full-page ad for Trilogy of Terror, touting star Karen Black's participation in all three tales (for my money, she will always be as she was promoted in the advertising - "Karen Black is ELECTRIFYING in Trilogy of Terror!"), as well as a brief article in the color section (this didn't happen often) showing off He Who Kills, and detailing his involvement in the movie. I though, hey, a creepy doll, sure to be shown in close-ups, maybe some hints that it was alive and capable of movement. As much as the figurine was highlighted, it was also being soft-sold, as nothing in the ramp-up to the premiere hinted that the doll was as ferocious, as unrelenting as it turned out to be. Hats off to Curtis and ABC, as they were preparing to sucker-punch the country with this little beastie.
So on Tuesday night, March 4th, 1975, primed for some prime evil, homework done, showered and scrubbed, I settled into our old green davenport, with obligatory Coke and Doritos (ok, it might have been 7-Up and Fritos - my memory's not that good), and was ready for Trilogy of Terror to make its World Premiere at 7:30 CST.
At 7:30 CST, WAOW-TV's weatherman Nick Ryan (thank you, thank you, Gary, for the memory prod, because I could not remember his last name; we watched
Good evening. WAOW-TV station management has had the opportunity to preview tonight's Tuesday Movie of the Week, Trilogy of Terror, and has determined that it is too intense to air during regular evening programming. We have decided to air it later tonight, at midnight, and we apologize for any inconvenience or disappointment. Instead, please enjoy
Jarheads, I had never witnessed anything like that before. At the very last minute, to pull a Horror movie from programming, and a made-for-TV one at that, because of intensity? And to add insult to injury, Station Management got to see Trilogy of Terror, and I couldn't? Now, normally the opportunity to watch a Hitchcock film - and one I had not seen at that point - would have just tickled me pink, but I was furious! I bolted out of the sofa, ran to the phone book, looked up the number for Channel 9, and dialed. It rang and rang and rang...no answer. I have no idea how many may have complained about the station's decision, and in the tiny town of Mosinee, no one got copies of Variety to learn about any post-broadcast fall-out. I sulked, and soon just went to bed. And no, gentle Jarhead, there was no question of my being able to stay up until 1:30 AM to watch it. Not on a school night. Not with only one TV in the house. (However, my often-insomniac mom did stay up to see the first installment, about an obsessed student blackmailing his teacher with compromising - and staged - photos. She said it was "dirty," could understand why the station didn't show it. Scary and smutty? Mom, I love you, but did you think that made me feel any better?) The next morning my classmates and I discussed it briefly, but since there were no other horrorheads among my circle, no one else was as dejected as I was. Within days, I had moved on to other concerns. After all, what was one more MOTW, right? And it was sure to be repeated, right?
Now, jump ahead a couple of months, when I picked up the Marvel B&W magazine Masters of Terror, a two-issue experiment that reprinted a number of comic adaptations of classic Horror fiction, by authors like Robert Bloch, H.P. Lovecraft, Theodore Sturgeon, August Derleth, among others. (These come highly recommended; since Marvel's rights to this material have long since elapsed, these stories will almost certainly never be reprinted, and the two issues can be had for a song on eBay.) Marvel asked Don and Maggie Thompson, then-editors of The Comics Buyer's Guide, to write a column - "Time Out for Terror" - talking about stories, movies, television that scared them. They spent the bulk of one of those articles rhapsodizing about Trilogy of Terror, the third story in particular. Not only had they admired its execution, but they confessed that the doll I had seen in the TV Guide article had given them weeks of nightmares. Actual, honest-to-God night terrors!
WAOW was consistent, by golly. They did not allow Trilogy of Terror to air as a repeat, either. It wasn't until years later, as part of the
I've been scouring the Interweb, trying to find evidence of any other network affiliates that refused to show Trilogy of Terror, either during prime time hours, or possibly not at all. I haven't found anything yet, but that doesn't mean it may not have happened. Jarheads, anyone have any knowledge on this front?
Today, I'm looking at my own He Who Kills, perched on a bookshelf across the room from me, his spear poised to take on all comers. I purchased him as a gift to myself, to ameliorate the years of painful patience I had to endure to experience one of the great moments in 70s Horror. It's funny, but...when I moved into this apartment, his chain mysteriously broke, and it's resisted all attempts to be repaired. I leave it off, coiled up at his feet.
I have absolutely no worries about break-ins. But I keep my knives tucked well away.
I'm a fan, but I'm not stupid.