Ghost Story (aka Circle of Fear): The Complete Series (Blu-ray) (1972)
|Category||TV Series||More…-William Castle’s Ghost Story - Audio from the original LP|
|Year Of Production||1972|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (5)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Various|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Unknown||English Linear PCM 48/24 2.0|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Ghost Story is produced by William Castle, a producer of low budget horror films and a blatant, gimmicky self-promotor who, however, did produce Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Ghost Story is an anthology of supernatural and horror stories that commenced with the pilot that was aired March 1972 with Sebastian Cabot, as the owner of a mysterious hotel, providing the introduction and coda to each story. The series proper then began airing in September 1972, however half way through its first, and only, season Cabot was dumped and the series retitled Circle of Fear for the remainder of its run. The production values throughout the series are high and it managed to attract an impressive array of veteran, and future, stars to appear in episodes.
John Travers (David Birney) and his heavily pregnant wife Eileen (Barbara Parkins (Emmy nominated in 1966 for her role in Peyton Place), build their new house on a hill outside of town. Eileen soon hears footsteps and female laughter in the house when there is no-one there; of course John hears nothing. When Eileen discovers that their house was built on the very site where a troubled young woman was hanged two centuries before, her hallucinations, if that is what they are, increase to the point of hysteria. Is she suffering from a nervous breakdown or is the house haunted by the ghost of the hanged woman? During a thunderstorm three days after Eileen returns to the house with her newly born baby daughter, she is about to find out.
Park Ranger Elliot Brent (Jason Robarts) buys his bored and promiscuous wife Joanna (Stella Stevens) a TV set which she watches constantly. When Joanna decides to leave Elliot he accidentally kills her and then buries her body in the shed. Her TV, however, stays very much on and shows Elliot events that about to happen, events which may happen and events which have happened, including a scene of Joanna and her lover arranging to meet after she leaves Elliot. When the man Elliot saw on the TV arrives at his cabin Elliot decides on further action. If only the TV, and the dead, would stay dead.
The Dead We Leave Behind is worth watching for Jason Robarts, dual best supporting actor Oscar winner later in the 1970s for All the President’s Men (1976) and Julia (1977). He had also acted previously with Stella Stevens, in Sam Peckinpah’s The Ballad of Cable Hodge (1970).
On their tenth wedding anniversary Ed and Kate Lucas (Stuart Whitman / Gena Rowlands) book into a hotel on a headland and hear of the local legend of the Concrete Captain. One hundred years previously a ship floundered off the headland; the captain in trying to swim ashore became so firmly trapped in a crevice in the rocks that his body could not be retrieved. Instead the body was encased in concrete, an encasement that still stands on the headland. The Captain’s wife Katherine, grieving for her husband, died in the same room Ed and Kate are in. Kate becomes possessed by the sprite of Katherine seeking to be reunited with the ghost of the Captain, calling from beneath the concrete something, of course, Ed tries to prevent.
A predictable episode with the recognisable craggy features of Stuart Whitman; he ended up with 189 credits on the IMdB and an Oscar nomination for his role in The Mark (1961). Gena Rowlands also had Oscar nominations for A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Gloria (1980) but perhaps the most notable participant in the episode was director Richard Donner, who later directed features including Superman (1978), Ladyhawke (1985) and Lethal Weapon (1987).
Divorced father Paul Dover (James Franciscus) has recurring premonitions that as an adult his five year old daughter Emily will be shot dead on a merry-go-round in a town in Wyoming. Determined to stop Emily’s death Paul goes to the town and rents a room in the boarding house run by Julie Barnes (Meg Foster) and her father (Karl Swenson); he is later joined by his ex-wife Karen (Elizabeth Ashley) when she too starts to have similar premonitions. Julie is about to be married to Rafe Norris (Jeremy Slate). Paul’s premonitions become more specific showing Emily shot by Rafe and Julie’s son (also called Rafe) so he does anything he can to try to stop the marriage, even getting Julia to fall in love with himself instead. But Julie has a plan and a surprise of her own and it seems that the more one tries to change fate the more it happens.
At the Cradle Foot is not really a ghost story as such but it is an episode with an interesting premise and a good performance by pin-up boy James Franciscus.
Young widow Barbara Sanders’ (Karen Black) husband Michael was killed in Vietnam shortly after they were married. She is about remarry, to Keith Newton (Michael Tolan), when she starts to feel that she is being watched and stalked. Then she starts getting spooky and threatening telephone calls, even when the phone is disconnected, and she is convinced that the voice she hears is that of her dead husband. Is it her imagination, as the police believe, or is her life really in danger.
The appeal in this episode is Karen Black, who appeared in Easy Rider (1969) and was Oscar nominated for Five Easy Pieces (1970); she looks great with her big raven hair and screams very convincingly.
Each summer Martha and Andrew Alcott (Carolyn Jones / Steve Forrest) return to the old house on the lake where Andrew was born. This year, however, Martha tells people, including family friend Charlie (William Windom), that she has come down by herself to open up the house although some locals are convinced that they saw Andrew the previous evening. And in the basement of the house is a deep well with a cover that keeps coming off while Martha has visions of her husband and of a fight they had beside the well. Is she imagining it, or is it real and she is caught in a time warp destined to repeat the events of the evening before?
The Summer House is a good, slow burning mystery / horror story featuring an excellent performance from Carolyn Jones, perhaps best known for her role as Morticia in The Adams Family although here she looks nothing like Morticia! She had also been nominated for an Oscar for her role in The Bachelor Party (1957).
Primary schooler Robert Cameron (Michael-James Wixted) is a good student in the class of Miss Gilden (Helen Hayes), a popular teacher about to retire at the end of term. However for some time Robert has been stuck at home with a broken leg, a lonely boy playing chess against himself who conjures up a double of himself, an alter-ego who turns out to be all too real. This alternative Robert is as nasty as Robert is nice; he attends school in place of Robert, intimidating Miss Gilden, turning the class and Headmaster against her with false accusations and he kills Robert’s pet cat and hamster. As the alter-ego becomes more powerful, the real Robert becomes sicker and sicker, until the two must play a game of chess to determine which of them will remain.
The interest in this rather pedestrian episode with a twist is veteran actress Helen Hayes, who in a career spanning over 7 decades on stage and screen won Oscars for performances 40 years apart: The Sin of Madelon Claudet in 1931 and Airport in 1971.
After the death of her father Christina (Pamela Franklin) returns home from Italy to comfort her mother Paula (Eleanor Parker) and to find out more about the mysterious life and death of her twin sister Lisa whom Christina had never seen. Quickly she starts to hear Lisa calling to her, and sees ghostly visions of Lisa. Her mother and their neighbour Jeremy (Andrew Duggan) think Christina is having melancholy delusions until Jeremy’s son Ethan (Stephen Brooks) also sees Lisa. They organise a séance to try to find out what Lisa wants; the result is unexpected and may lead to Christina joining her twin in the grave.
Eleanor Parker’s career was at its height in the early 1950s when she received three Oscar nominations for Caged (1950), Detective Story (1951) and Interrupted Melody (1955) before, from the 1960s, appearing mostly on television with occasional parts in features; she was, for example, The Baroness in The Sound of Music (1965).
Grandpa (Melvyn Douglas) comes to visit his 10 year old granddaughter Judy (Jodie Foster), who is a deaf / mute, bringing with him a doll house which is the exact replica of the house Judy and her father Tom (Richard Mulligan), her stepmother Fran and younger brother live in. Grandpa is not, however, on a goodwill visit for he blames Tom for the death of Judy’s mother in childbirth. And he enlists Judy, who can hear his voice, to help destroy the family.
A strong episode with some magical casting on two levels of the age spectrum. Ten year old Jody Foster, who would be Oscar nominated for Taxi Driver (1976) in a few years and would go on to win two Oscars, The Accused (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), is excellent playing off against veteran Melvyn Douglas who in a career spanning five decades from 1931 also won two Oscars, for Hud (1963) and Being There (1979). A trivial fact: Douglas’s last role before his death was in a feature film called Ghost Story (1981)!
Rodeo star Dan Hollis (Doug McClure) has been married to beautiful Mariah (Lauri Peters) for only two weeks when a cougar starts to attack and kill animals, such as a bull and a horse, that tried to hurt Doug as well as his old girlfriend Sheila (Mariette Hartley). The men from the rodeo try to hunt and kill the cougar but rodeo clown Dumpy (Jackie Cooper) tries to warn Dan the danger is closer to home and that Mariah, like her mother whom Dumpy knew, was capable of turning into a cougar, putting all their lives in danger.
Cry of the Cat is more a horror than a ghost story that stars the square jawed Doug McClure, who ended up with 104 credits on the IMDb including Beau Geste (1966) and The Land that Time Forgot (1974), as well as veteran Jackie Cooper who, as a child actor forty years previously, had been nominated for an Oscar for Skippy (1931); obviously nothing to do with the Australian TV series!
Co-eds are being murdered on campus, their throats punctured. The Police start to suspect the aging Chief Huston (Arthur O’Connell), the Head of campus security, but academic David Walls (Hal Linden) knows better as he is struggling with trying to hide his vampiric urges not only from himself but also from his friend and fellow academic Frank Simmons (Mike Farrell) and his new girlfriend Laura (Marlyn Mason). David really only wants to die; but can he?
Elegy for a Vampire is more a psychological study than a horror or suspense film as David (an excellent Hal Linden, better known for playing Barney Miller on TV between 1974 and 1982), struggles to come to terms with who, and what, he is.
Janet (Lynn Loring) inherited her mother’s old ramshackle house when her mother died in an asylum. Janet travels to the house where her eccentric aunt Hattie (Geraldine Page) and uncle Jonathan (Rip Torn) still live. Once in the house Janet starts hearing voices and then she witnesses the murders in the house, twenty years previously, of Hattie’s husband and the family butler, whose headstones are in the house garden. Is Janet going mad, just like her mother before her, or are the ghosts of the dead still roaming the old house?
Touch of Madness may be predictable but it is a spooky episode with deliberately off-kilter performances by veteran Geraldine Page, who was nominated eight times for Oscars, finally winning one for The Trip to Bountiful (1985), and Rip Torn, a familiar face who has 192 credits listed in the IMDb but is probably now best known as Zed in Men in Black (1997 / 2002).
Carol’s (Angie Dickinson) husband has just died but before his death his dog, a Doberman, had been given away to Carol’s mysterious neighbour Arthur Mundy (John Ireland) and his wheelchair bound wife. But now Carol is being terrorised by the dog and she comes to feel that it blames her for her husband’s sudden death. Even after the dog is found dead, poisoned, Carol still feels that it is stalking her from beyond the grave. Is she hallucinating; and where do Arthur, and Carol’s sister Georgia (Madlyn Rhue), fit into the mystery?
Creatures of the Canyon builds some nice tension but does tend to overuse the POV of a dog, with dog panting, in the audio. Angie Dickinson and John Ireland are both familiar faces, Dickinson with 149 credits on the IMDb and Golden Globe wins for Rio Bravo (1959) and Police Woman (1974), Ireland with 203 credits is familiar from westerns and quickie Italian films.
Ellen Alexander (Patricia Neal) wakes in her bed in a swanky resort hotel surprised that her husband is not beside her. Her efforts to find him prove futile and she is finally told by the hotel that he has checked out. She is confused and disturbed, becoming more so when people leave the hotel and disappear when their keno numbers are called; the only person who seems to know what is happening is Brett (Craig Stevens), the assistant manager, but he isn’t saying. Is Ellen the only one who is does not understand what is happening?
It only takes about ten minutes to work out what is happening in Time of Terror, the only question really is how it is going to play out. Patricia Neal, Oscar winner for Hud (1963) – indeed the second person in an episode of Ghost Story to win an Oscar in Hud, the other Melvyn Douglas in House of Evil - is always on screen carrying off the distress and confusion of Ellen beautifully.
Sebastian Cabot has been dumped and we have a new introduction, theme music and badging of the episodes now titled Circle of Fear.
Carol (Janet Leigh) is afraid of insects. Her husband Steve (Gene Nelson) is an avid, rather obsessive, insect collector; pride of place in his mounted collection a large Death’s Head moth. Needless to say, the marriage is not going well and Carol, feeling ignored and unhappy, starts an affair with Steve’s best friend and business partner Larry (Rory Calhoun). She falls in love, he feels guilty. When Carol is given a potion by a gipsy, she puts it in Steve’s coffee and he promptly dies of a heart attack. But things don’t go to plan for Carol; Larry finishes their relationship and Carol becomes inundated by insects, and insect sounds, real or imagined, including that of a large Death’s Head moth.
The highlight of Death’s Head, of course, is Janet Leigh so good in Touch of Evil (1958) but probably best known for Psycho (1960), for which she received an Oscar nomination despite a very limited screen time!
Construction workers Frank (Martin Sheen) and Art (Shelly Novak) unearth a strange box without hinges or lock. Frank takes it home to try to work out how to open the box but almost straight away his wife Cindy (Kim Darby) starts to have nightmares in which she sees a toy horse and hears neighing. When Frank manages to pry open the box inside is the toy horse on wheels Cindy has been seeing in her nightmares. What’s more, the horse seems to have a life of its own and seems to be stalking Cindy, gradually getting bigger and bigger. Frank and Cindy try to get rid of the horse, but it reappears. It appears to be trying to harm Cindy for something that happened when she was a child. Can Frank and Cindy work out what happened before the toy horse extracts its vengeance?
Another impressive cast in this episode; Kim Darby had been Mattie Ross in the original True Grit (1969) a few years before and Martin Sheen, currently with 256 credits listed in the IMDb, will in no time at all be in the jungles in Apocalypse Now (1979).
Sam (Frank Converse) arrives in town and joins an art and craft commune in an old building that is reputed to be haunted. Including Frank, there are six people in the commune; Jake and Anna Freeman (Tim McIntire / Tyne Daly), Holly (Brooke Bundy), Paul (Scott Marlowe) and Ellen (Joan Blackman). When cleaning the building the group find a trunk with six glass jars inside it and each takes one of the jars. Soon each of the group, in varying degrees, starts to change character and work in a trance like state while the work of each, be it painting, pottery, jewellery or woodwork, becomes very disturbing, almost grotesque. Then first Holly then Jake and Anna disappear, absorbed into their glass jars. Old gods are at work; can Sam escape before he too becomes a victim?
Whereas most of the episodes in the series have tended to focus on one individual Earth, Air, Fire and Water is much more an ensemble piece; however, possibly only Tyne Daly, who received four Golden Globe nominations for Cagney & Lacey would be a familiar face.
When the family moves into a new apartment in San Francisco pre-teen Robert (Leif Garrett) discovers a decrepit, empty apartment upstairs but with a doorway that leads out into a snowy landscape, a cabin and a man (Scott Thomas) chopping wood. He takes his younger sister Jane (Dawn Lyn) to meet the man but the person the man really wants to meet is their seventeen year old sister Peggy (Susan Dey) who starts having nightmares about that same cabin in the snow, although she has not been upstairs. There is a secret in that apartment which may just lead to Peggy’s death. Doorway to Death is a tense, chilling episode, one of the strongest in the series.
And straight after one of the best episodes in the series comes one of the weakest and most predictable. Small town girl Beth (Shirley Knight) joins her best friend Janet (Kathryn Hayes) at an office in the city. Suddenly, however, Janet disappears and Beth is taken from the typing pool to work in Janet’s place in the Executive suite. The workers in that area, led by Mary (Neva Patterson), we quickly discover are a coven of devil worshippers; Beth starts having visions and nightmares, including hearing the voice of Janet calling “help me” and feels that she is becoming possessed. Can Beth escape the coven, perhaps with the help of Keith (Jon Cypher), also newly promoted to the Executive floor? Or is Keith also one of the coven?
Fred Colby (John Astin) is a security guard on the midnight to dawn shift on the lot of an old movie studio that is doing to be demolished in a few weeks. A local gang of youths are often breaking into the lot to have fun with the costumes but when Fred starts to hear voices and see visions of some of the monsters from the films the studio used to make it something more sinister is happening, something that will threaten Fred’s heavily pregnant wife Linda (Patty Duke) and their unborn baby.
Graveyard Shift is a strong episode with very good visuals, including shadows, in the darkened lot building a decent tension. John Astin is better known as Gomez Adams in The Adams Family, the second actor from that show to appear in an episode of Ghost Story / Circle of Fear after Carolyn Jones (Morticia) in The Summer House). At the time this episode was filmed he and costar Patty Duke were married. Duke had previously won an Oscar for The Miracle Worker (1962) and was the mother of The Lord of the Rings’s Sam, Sean Astin.
When famous doctor Phillip Pritchard (Don Knight) dies in an accident his instructions are that his hands, eyes and vocal cords are to be donated for transplants. His assistant Dr Stephen Crosley (Rick Lenz) follows the instructions and Penny (Meg Foster (her second appearance in the series after At the Cradle Foot) receives his eyes, Chuck (Christopher Connelly) his hands and Joe Moretti (Alex Rocco) his vocal cords. The result, however, is that the three transplant recipients become possessed by Dr Pritchard, and what he wants is revenge upon his wife Ellen (Susan Oliver), a revenge delivered over one night in the transplant ward of the local hospital.
Magazine journalist Bob Herrick (Tab Hunter) is struggling to write. In search of a story he visits Potter’s Field, the graveyard where people who cannot be identified are buried. While there Bob sees a figure who looks, and dresses, very like himself. He dismisses it as an illusion, but later a Bob-a-like figure sets about destroying Bob’s life; Bob’s close friends have accidents, he is alienated from his workmates, evicted from his flat and his fiancé Nisa (Louise Sorel) is threatened. Nisa comes up with an answer; Bob is being stalked by a doppelganger that wants to take over his life, and his body. Bob and Nisa have to identify who the doppelganger was before his death and work out what he wants before the real Bob is no more.
The Ghost of Potter’s Field stars Californian golden-boy Tab Hunter who has aged somewhat and put on a bit of weight since The Tab Hunter Show (1960-1961).
Holly Brown (Sheila Larken) is an art student sketching in Central Park when she is approached by a handsome young man, James Barlow (David Soul). Holly is captivated and starts seeing James but becomes scared when an old man (Victor Jory) starts stalking her, warning her not to see James. And who is the elderly woman who keeps on wanting to talk to James? Holly starts to realise that James is something far different than he appears to be, but for Holly, in love, will it matter?
The Phantom of Herald Square is a strong episode to end the series. We know from the start that something is amiss and indeed, in an unusual step for the series in which most episodes have predictable “happy” endings, this stays true to what has gone before. David Soul is good and would soon find fame in Starsky and Hutch, while veteran Victor Jory, whose career spanned five decades from 1930 and who appeared in such diverse fare as The Shadow (1940) serial and Arthur Penn’s The Miracle Worker (1962) is also good.
As an anthology the episodes Ghost Story / Circle of Fear vary in quality. Production values are high and the cast list is very impressive indeed while most of the usual ghost / horror tropes occur such as ominous music and spooky sound effects, sudden camera moves zeroing in on a door handle or faces, windows flying open in the wind and such. While some episodes are predictable, the better ones build a nice tension and some add the odd scare or two along the way although, as a TV show, most episodes are neither particularly tense nor scary. And of course, being the early 1970s, on show is big hair, flares and huge gas guzzlers.
Ghost Story consists of the pilot and 22 episodes on five Blu-rays.
Ghost Story is presented in the 1.33:1 original broadcast ratio, in 1080p utilising the MPEG 4 AVC code.
Shot on 35 mm film this almost 50 year old TV series looks very good indeed in HD with strong firm detail in close-ups and mid shots, rich natural colours, excellent blacks and shadow detail, skin tones are fine, brightness and contrast is consistent. There are speckles, of course, during the episodes, the occasional scratch or bigger mark such as the vertical blue line in Elegy for a Vampire and a scene or two that are soft or grainy; for example, establishing shots of cities are soft and hazy while stock footage can be quite poor, such as a howling wolf in The Dead We Leave Behind or the airplane in The Ghost of Potter’s Field (which also shows a lot of grain in the steam room steam as well as a blue blotch on Tab Hunter’s nose at 8:50). An occasional episode, for example, Earth, Air, Fire and Water shows more noise than usual.
No subtitles are provided.
The audio is English LPCM 2.0 mono.
Dialogue is fine and clear throughout, some of the screams are piercing! Effects, including the rain, the wind and waves, insects and car engines, things that go bump in the night, footsteps, doors creaking open and general eerie sounds, are all present as well as ominous chords and spooky music. The music is by Robert Prince and Billy Goldenberg; the latter is also responsible for the series’ theme music.
I did notice minor lip synchronization issues in a couple of episodes, but nothing serious.
|Surround Channel Use|
The only extra is on Disc 1.
Audio recording of the LP promising Thrilling, Chilling Sounds of Fright and the Supernatural. The sections can be selected individually or there is a play all option. The sections are:
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Ghost Story / Circle of Fear did have a DVD release in Region 1 US as well as here in Australia, neither of which seem now to be available. This release is the only Blu-ray listed on sales sites.
Ghost Story / Circle of Fear is a curiosity, an anthology of supernatural stories that only lasted one season (and changed its name and star part way through). It is a varied, but interesting series of episodes and for this Blu-ray release most episodes look very good, with strong detail and natural colours. And the range of talent, veteran, current or emerging, who appear in episodes is wonderfully strong.
The video is dark and the audio good. The only extra is an audio recording of ghostly sounds.
Ghost Story / Circle of Fear was supplied for review by ViaVision Entertainment. Check out their Facebook page for the latest releases, giveaways, deals and more.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|