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Dark Night of the Scarecrow(TV) (1981)
In a small town, a wrongfully killed man exacts revenge on those who murdered him from beyond the grave.
For more about Dark Night of the Scarecrow and the Dark Night of the Scarecrow Blu-ray release, see Dark Night of the Scarecrow Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on October 11, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Charles Durning, Larry Drake, Lane Smith, Tonya Crowe
» See full cast & crew
Dark Night of the Scarecrow Blu-ray Review
He may not have much of a brain, but this scarecrow gets around.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, October 11, 2011
It took the movie studios a while to figure it out, but television didn't need to be their enemy. By the late 1950s, most of the majors had their own television production units which were churning out weekly episodic television with the same professionalism—if often the same lack of flair—that made the studio system so productive and profitable when studios owned their own theaters and needed new product for them once a week. It took another ten years or so for the studios to realize there were ancillary profits to be made in longer form one-offs, titled World Premiere movies for stateside broadcast, which could then be exhibited theatrically internationally. The made for television film became its own self-sustaining genre, even divorced from overseas theatrical exhibitions, and there are a number of great telefilms which are still very well remembered to this day. Unfortunately, very few have yet to see the Blu-ray light of day. VCI, the niche label located in the heartland of the United States, is helping to ameliorate that situation by bringing one of the rarer made for television films to high-def. Dark Night of the Scarecrow was a CBS World Premiere "event" the week before Halloween 1981. This creepy "little" film boasts a surprising amount of thrills and chills as it depicts the frightening actions of a band of backwoods vigilantes, including Charles Durning as the worst mailman ever. (One wonders about product placement in this film—did the U.S. Postal Service actually approve the use of its signature trucks and uniforms?) Dark Night of the Scarecrow has attained a rather large cult following courtesy of regular cable showings this time of year for the past couple of decades, and that legion of fans should be thrilled (and chilled) to discover this title out on Blu-ray.
Larry Drake achieved worldwide fame for his portrayal of the developmentally disabled Benny Stulwicz on the long- running NBC series L.A. Law, winning two Emmys in the process, but some may be surprised to find out that Drake portrayed a very similar character several years previously in Dark Night of the Scarecrow. In the telefilm, Drake is Bubba, a sweet natured man-child who plays with neighborhood girl Marylee (Tonya Crowe), thereby raising the ire of local postman Otis Hazelrigg (Charles Durning), who is convinced that Bubba's physical maturity will result in illicit relations between the man and little girl. Marylee is no shrinking violet, however, and in the film's opening she's coaxing Bubba to let her give him an admittedly innocent kiss. Later she wants to look at a neighbor's new fountain and pushes through the backyard fence to take a closer peek. Unfortunately there's a vicious dog in the yard, one which mauls Marylee badly. Bubba, panicking, carries the girl back to her mother, screaming "Bubba didn't do it!," but the die is cast, and a group of towns men, led by Hazelrigg, decides to take the law into their own hands and make sure Bubba doesn't cause any more heartbreak.
Hazelrigg and his henchmen chase Bubba down in a cornfield, where the poor man has taken refuge by hiding in a scarecrow. Hazelrigg leads the men in basically executing hapless Bubba, soon followed by the revelation that little Marylee had actually been the victim of a rogue dog and had actually survived her attack. Hazelrigg and his comrades are arrested, but acquitted, and the rest of the film deals with the slow but steady vengeance wreaked on Bubba's murderer. Is it a series of supernatural occurrences which leads each of the men to their often violent demises? Or has someone taken upon themselves to avenge Bubba's coldhearted and cold-blooded murder?
Dark Night of the Scarecrow does an exceptional job in recreating both the sylvan beauty as well as the unseemly underbelly of a backwater town, and Durning has a field day as the nefarious Hazelrigg. Also excellent is television stalwart and very recognizable character Lane Smith as Hazelrigg's chief ally. Trivia lovers may be delighted to know that the elderly woman playing Bubba's distraught mother is none other than Jocelyn Brando, Marlon's big sister who carved out a fairly notable career herself in supporting roles.
The telefilm is also helped immensely by very smart writing by J.D. Feigelson and sure direction by Frank De Felitta. Dark Night of the Scarecrow has some of the same elegance, albeit on a smaller scale, that also informed Robert Mulligan's evocative small town evocation of horror in his film adaptation of Thomas Tryon's The Other. The film is both horrifyingly explicit at times (which may in fact turn off some more queasy viewers) while at the same time being nicely circumspect about some of the violence as well as the ultimate denouement. Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a great Hallowe'en gift from VCI and may well find a dastardly new life now that it's been released on Blu-ray.
Dark Night of the Scarecrow Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dark Night of the Scarecrow creeps onto Blu-ray with a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer in 1.33:1 (remember, this was a 1981 television broadcast). Though this is a 30 year old television commodity, the results are often staggering on this Blu-ray, which boasts impressive sharpness and clarity, as well as extremely well saturated color and more than abundant fine detail. The close-up of the burlap sack hiding hapless Bubba is a good indication of the level of fine detail available throughout this high definition offering, and the overall look of this presentation is extremely filmic, with natural grain and a very well delineated texture. Flesh tones are occasionally just a tad on the ruddy side, but overall color is accurate and very robust. There is some very moderate crush in the darkest nighttime sequences, but it's of trifling concern given the overall stupendous look of this Blu-ray.
Dark Night of the Scarecrow Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dark Night of the Scarecrow is presented with two lossless audio options, its original mono soundtrack delivered via an LPCM 2.0 mix, and a rather artful if minimalist surround repurposing courtesy of an uncompressed LPCM 5.1 track. The mono track is damage free, and offers wonderful clarity with regard to Glenn Paxson's marvelously creepy score, certainly one of the best from any 1980s television movie. The surround track also reproduces Paxson's score with just a bit more depth and nuance, and it also places occasional foley effects with discrete channelization, though the bulk of the track is still anchored rather firmly in the front three channels. Fidelity in both of these tracks is excellent, with clear and clean dialogue, and well prioritized effects and underscore. Abundant low end also helps to create a suitably foreboding mood throughout the film.
Dark Night of the Scarecrow Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dark Night of the Scarecrow Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
With this release of Dark Night of the Scarecrow, VCI has firmly stepped up to the Blu-ray plate and delivered what is easily its best high definition release to date. With a largely immaculate image, not overly tinkered with but also boasting impressive new levels of detail, and with well done lossless audio, as well as some great supplements, this is the sort of package that other niche labels would do well to emulate. Dark Night of the Scarecrow itself is a great little creepy thriller, filled with excellent character bits for a slew of fantastic actors (many of whom you'll recognize from their long film, television and even stage careers). Feigelson's writing and De Felitta's direction are sharp and in tune with each other, and special props need to be given to Glenn Paxson, who delivers one of the coolest, most nicely dissonant horror scores to grace any made for television movie of the era. This is a wonderful Hallowe'en present from VCI and it comes Highly recommended.
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Dark Night of the Scarecrow Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Dark Night of the Scarecrow Blu-ray Detailed - August 28, 2011
Independent distributors VCI Entertainment have detailed their upcoming Blu-ray release of Frank De Felitta's cult film Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981), starring Charles Durning, Tonya Crowe, Larry Drake, and Lane Smith. The film will be available for purchase ...
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