In Our Opinion

FEAR NO EVIL: AN OBSERVANCE

By • Sep 5th, 2009 • Pages: 1 2 3

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“A Dream Reflection Of Reflected Reality: FEAR NO EVIL – An Observance”

EXT. GRAVEYARD-NIGHT-MOVING SHOT

Our FIRST PERSON CAMERA PROBES SLOWLY through the mist-shrouded reaches of a rank and ancient graveyard idealized to our grotesque purposes. Visions of headstones crumbling and statues dissolving into faceless chimeras. Vines and creepers imprison all. Here are burning torches, set as if to light our way. The CHORAL SCORE gives a sense of tormented SIGHING, of ANGUISHED VOICES locked within the dank earth.

Strange relics APPEAR to the searching CAMERA: the spare wreckage of a pendulum clock, its pulse still beating – a night creature taking sudden flight from beneath its base; a skull sealed within a tortured bird cage on a tapestry of rotted velvet, a light gleaming through its eye sockets; an iron gate appearing to bar our way and then swinging soundlessly inward.

“There was a time, we were told, when shapeless evils stalked the earth in search of human souls. In our own time, if such nightmare spirits exist, it is by disguising themselves in familiar forms – to dwell upon us – friend and neighbor – and thereby seek their victims. I submit to you now that there is indeed a case for the bedeviled. My name is Dr. David Sorell. And I have seen such things.”

These are the opening images, and narration by Louis Jourdan, for the original TV pilot, THE BEDEVILED, not used in FEAR NO EVIL.

FEAR NO EVIL was one of those films I had taken for granted, along with its talented director, Paul Wendkos, for many years, until I was reintroduced to the title at a private screening (along with another Wendkos feature, THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BELL) giving me a chance to view this gem with a fresh, mature eye. Critically acclaimed when broadcast as a television movie on March 3, 1969, for NBC Television’s first “Movie Of The Week”, this intelligent and well-written motion picture is nearly forgotten, and in many ways can almost be viewed as a ‘lost film’. As of this writing I had contacted Universal Pictures, who replied that no copy is in their collection. And the UCLA Television Archives doesn’t list it in their collection either. But after getting e-mails from Mr. Gary Gerani (PUMPKINHEAD co-creator/writer), who then sent me a copy of the shooting script, and finally talking with him personally, I was assured that Universal does indeed have the original negative, which is believed to be in good condition. Additional information was also given to me by Jonathan Etter; the author of an excellent book on Quinn Martin ( “Quinn Martin, Producer: A Behind-The-Scenes History Of QM Productions and It’s Founder”. McFarland & Company. 2003, and again in 2008). And the Library Of Congress informed me that it has a 16mm copyright print on file. My real concern is the condition/existence of the original printing materials, said to be in the vaults at Universal. Are they in pristine/acceptable condition, and outside of faded TV print sources, will the film ever be restored and released to lovers of the fantastic?

The 1960’s were a time of experimentation by the motion picture industry that extended to the small screen. Made-For-Television features were just starting to get attention. The first TV movie was Universal’s See How They Run (aired in October, 1964). It starred John Forsythe, Senta Berger, and Pamela Franklin. In many cases, when it came to experimentation in television, Universal was ahead of the other studios.

Universal filmed a well-received motion picture for this new genre, broadcast on NBC on January 21, 1967 entitled THE LONGEST HUNDRED MILES. A well acted World War Two drama that was directed by Don Weiss and starring Doug McClure, Ricardo Montalban, Katherine Ross and Ronald Remy, it was a fast-paced tale of an American soldier (McClure) who aids in evacuating a group of refugees from the advancing Japanese after the fall of Bataan. Having seen this when first broadcasted, I never forgot the catchy theme music which I later discovered was composed by Hollywood legend Franz Waxman.

Gary Gerani wrote me: “For the record: NBC’s made for TV movies were called “WORLD PREMIERES.” These two-hour productions were broadcast on “Tuesday Night at the Movies” and “Saturday Night at the Movies” during this period, interspersed with theatrical films being presented on TV for the first time (many of them Universal releases from the 60’s, including films like the remake of MIRAGE with Bradford Dillman called JIGSAW, which began life as a made-for-TV movie. ABC’s “Movie of the Week” offered cheaper, shorter (90 minutes with commercials) TV movies every week in the same time slot. Although these became cult classics in their own right (THE NIGHT STALKER being the highest-rated TV movie of its day), they were generally inferior to Universal’s more expensive product (Universal would jump on ABC’s 90 minute bandwagon a few years later with “Movie of the Weekend”, which yielded DUEL, among others).”

Bradford Dillman

Speculating on the seed of the story that would be released as FEAR NO EVIL, in view of the flood of medical dramas then on television, was it originally meant to be a story of a hip professional shrink dealing with mental illness, or was a supernatural element plot device intended from the start? Again, Gary points out, “Although psychiatry served as the basis for a number of TV series (“The Breaking Point”, “Eleventh Hour”) and Universal was giving every professional prime-time leading man treatment during this period (Roy Thinnes as “The Psychiatrist”), I honestly feel that THE BEDEVILED/FEAR NO EVIL was always intended as a story about a handsome psychiatrist who realizes that x-amount of his patients aren’t crazy, just beset by demons…hence his special interest in all things dangerously supernatural, starting with the Siletski case. The “Enter David Sorell” speech pretty much says it all. And FNE and RITUAL OF EVIL were green-lit by NBC Programming exec Mort Werner, who is on record as saying “There’s always interest in the occult…the Jourdan character could return annually.”

BEDEVILED was given the go ahead with veteran Hollywood writer Guy Endore signed on to do the story. But, as reported to me by Jonathan Etter, the writer was unable to deliver a finished product and Richard Alan Simmons ended up doing the project. Despite the problems, Endore was still given a screen credit for story. Richard Alan Simmon’s story about death, loss, demonic forces, and the fight to restore faith and life was totally original in this highly intelligent and dramatic presentation. The dialogue, written for Louis Jourdan’s David Sorrell, is brisk and interesting (with a caustic dry humor) as his opening scene, taking place at a gathering of friends at his apartment, illustrates. We see a comfortable flat, the walls decorated with various images of primitive art (occult related?), as a sonorous voice intones “In the name of the smoldering legions of hell…I call upon The Devil and his servants…the demon Baal and Forcas…demon Marchocis…Buer…Astaroth…Behemoth…Asmodeus…And Theutus….All these [the camera finally sets upon the speaker – a casual, hip, cigarette-smoking younger man, scotch in hand. This is psychiatrist David Sorell, played by Jourdan] summoned hot upon these hours…to do battle with a pack of infidels…who never know when to go home and who drink up all of my booze and sit around insulting their host”.

Later in the story, meeting with his patient, Barbara Arnholt (Linda Day George), who had just lost her future husband, Paul Varney (played by Bradford Dillman, who we eventually discover was set up by a coven of Demonologists), the viewer gets a glimpse into his professional mindset as they go over the woman’s situation and question whether she has experienced seeing her dead lover.

“Trying to explain the unexplainable is a parlor game; by definition, it’s an exercise in futility”, Sorell lectures Barbara. “The challenge – the real challenge – is to crack the riddle of what can be explained – even though the explanation lies beyond the bounds of what we call normal experience-reason-logic. And the then we find ourselves face to face with the whole bag of tricks – E.S.P.-Psycho-kinesis-Foreknowledge-Ghost Phenomena-Possession – all those things that simply can’t be-could be-might be-sometimes are – no matter how much that jolts our comfortable, common sense universe. Mine was jolted a few years ago – the Siletski case. Still, these occurrences are very rare. They usually have more conventional explanations. Do you have one?”

Caroll O'Conner

Despite her unnerving experiences, Barbara nonetheless displays the self-deprecating humor she will exhibit throughout the story: “I… think there’s every possibility that I’m losing my mind,” she cracks. Sorell offers that this is still a good reason to visit a psychiatrist, then adds that her visions of a dead lover coming back might offer luster to what may be erotic fantasies. “Is that what you think they are?” Barbara asks. “For the moment, it doesn’t matter. I assume you’re here for help; I want to help you.” Barbara insists they weren’t fantasies. Sorell asks if she wants these experiences to stop? After a lengthy pause, Barbara replies, softly but firmly, ‘NO!’, explaining that she cannot let Paul go – she loves him. The doctor responds that Paul is dead.

“Not for me! Not…when these things happen.” David responds that in some way, in some place, her lover still exists. Satisfied that she has given him truthful responses, Sorell pushes with this question: “There’s only one way to be with him, isn’t there Barbara?”. He pushes a little more: What must you do?” Barbara, hushed, says “Die”. David then asks if that is what she wants? The girl shakes her head ‘No’.

It is from this point on that the complex screenplay by Richard Alan Simmons goes into high gear as the viewer is plunged into a nightmarish dark world of power-mad obsession, betrayal, loss, and the supernatural. Adding to the tension is the cutting back and forth from Dr. Sorell’s investigation to his patient Barbara Arnholt’s ongoing struggle with the demonic forces attempting to possess her. The mixture of Lynda Day George’s involving acting style with the detached, and cold direction of Paul Wendkos, plays on the viewer’s anxieties concerning the Barbara character. As does the Simmons script. In fact, each time the story cuts from the Barbara character to the Dr. David Sorell character, Barbara is left in an extremely vulnerable state. The character of David Sorrel comes across almost as an alternate Father Karras from THE EXORCIST (with Harry Snowden, his friend and mentor, in the Father Merrin role) as a man who first uses his mind to find a rational explanation (shock-survivor’s guilt – mental illness) to Barbara Arnholt’s situation before exploring the other possibility).

FEAR NO EVIL received high ratings when broadcast on March 3, 1969, and excellent reviews. When one thinks about it, the film represented a number of ‘firsts’ in the history of television: 1. The first made-for-television horror film. 2. The first tele-project featuring Carroll O’Conner, who would of course would go on to fame as Archie Bunker in “ALL IN THE FAMILY” and 3. Famed writer Guy Endore’s final Hollywood project before his death on February 12th, 1970.

Guy Endore (full name Samuel Guy Endore) was born Samuel Goldstein July 4, 1900 to Isidore and Malka Hapern Goldstein in New York. His father was a coal miner, investor and inventor who was not very successful. When he was four years old, Guy’s mother took her own life. Isidore changed their names and placed his children in a Methodist orphanage, later gaining enough money from the sale of an invention to move the family to Vienna (the man said his wife came to him in a dream and wished the children to have a European education). For five years the children lived in Vienna until their father disappeared, the money ran out, and what was left of the family settled in Pittsburgh.

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25 Responses »

  1. Richard

    this is great genre work on your part, very welcomed by those of us that remember these two films with affection from the time we first saw them on TV all those years ago.

    Please keep this up and give us more from your perspective…well done!

  2. Thankyou David. Your comment is most welcomed and hope to hear more. This is, believe it or not, an edited version from a 27 page piece that goes scene by scene of the entire film (because of its ‘lost’ status, I felt it was the only way to do justice to it). Hopefully, the powers to be will realize the importance of this film and bring it back!

  3. Richard, I remember this and have always liked Louis Jordon. Your comment re the archives of universal and the state of the precious negatives housed there, I was under the impression that there were two poeple employed there solely to check over the negatives, as…I think its nitrate…of the films can be explosive literally if the ‘frost’ up. Being closer to the source, you might be able to verfiy that

  4. When I contacted Universal Pictures I was confronted by what appears to be a beauracratic nightmare of being bumped from one dept. to another! As for the negatives there? Another mystery!

  5. Richard,
    This is a great article on a true “lost” classic. Fear No Evil was a feature film quality production in every respect. I still enjoy my grainy VHS copy, taped off a local television station in the 1980s, to this very day. It’s a chilling film and Lynda Day George is mesmerizing.

    It’s a shame its TV movie label has pushed it into the long lost category. Hopefully the right person at Universal will read this and issue a definitive DVD before it disappears entirely.

  6. I keep writing to TCM, under ‘Suggest A Movie’, to run this gem! Maybe we can all suggest it to TCM!

  7. Paul Wendkos died on Thursday (Nov. 12, 2009) at age 84! He was a talented director and will be missed.
    We all wish to express our sympathy to the Wendkos family for their loss!!

  8. Richard
    Bravo!!! I have been searching for these films for years and I’m glad to finally see some serious material written about them. I’m happy to see that my interest is not solitary.

    There are still some of us folks out there who DO remember the “bits of magic” from those glory days of television adolescence–especially the made-for-tv films. I remember when I first saw DUEL…what an experience. And how about A COLD NIGHT’S DEATH? Well. I could just go on and on…

    Thank you for that wonderful article. I hope we can “rattle the cages” and breathe some life into this genre.

  9. Thankyou very much Mark! I’m always trying to ‘think outside of the box’ in my entertainment by seeking and sharing the obscure and forgotten!!!!

  10. So happy to see this project Richard!!! Is there anyway I can get a copy of your original full draft? We’ve spoken before about the film through email AND snail mail I believe over the years. I’m so glad you contacted people and did some research regarding the preservation of this film. I think that you need to contact Anchor Bay Entertainment. I’ve been meaning to for years – wanting to send them a copy of the film and let them know the historical significance it has. Your background research on the film qualifies you more than me to contact them. I’m sure you are aware of them – they specialize in releasing the rare and obscure – especially horror and cult films. They spend so much time and money on restoring neglected films. They are now owned by Starz – I don’t know if that has changed their practice much or not. I would love to see Anchor Bay finally release this MASTERPIECE for the world to finally see and enjoy.

  11. hadn’t seen fear no evil in about 30 yrs., since it ran on NYC local tv as a 4:30 movie. all i can say is WOW! – they do NOT make them like this anymore. the script was hyper-intelligent and way ahead of its time for 1970 (erotic fantasies in prime time!!) brilliant cinematic shot compositions and use of muted colors to evoke mood … and the mirror scenes, while not horrific, were just skin-crawly. a modest film but one of a kind, sort of like a cooler, more sophisticated Night Stalker or even an X-Files precursor. if there’s a remake, they should cast Duchovny as Sorrell

  12. Loved the movie when I was very young.
    would love to see it again if possible.
    can someone help me find a copy?

  13. Tony again forgot my e-mail address.

    watpace3@bigpond.net.au

    hear from you soon

  14. this movie was so scary when I saw it, and much better than most of the theatrical releases that year, its a shame that it is languishing in some vault. this would be great to be seen on the big screen at some midnight screening at an independent cinema somewhere. I’m sure it could be turned into a cult favorite. Lets hope it can be resurrected soon

  15. At this writing, film historian Philip J. Riley, who, working with me on this near completed project, is putting the final touches on the “FEAR NO EVIL” book that I have written. It will be coming out through BearManor Media. It will contain contributions from filmmaker Gary Gerani and an afterward by Phil. At this writing, June 2012, Phil told me that Universal Pictures has NOTHING listed in their vaults, trims or stills on “Fear No Evil”! Maybe the european archives??
    Rakashi Lives!!!!!

  16. “FEAR NO EVIL” has now been brought back to life in my first book, along with input by film historian Philip J. Riley and producer Gary Gerani, that offers the shooting script, rare stills and great information. From BearManor Media!!!!

  17. As a BearManor author myself Richard…
    not to mention a lifelong pal of Phil’s welcome to the club….you have obsessed on this film for years and now you have brought it out of the closet and into the light….good for you…..

  18. Thank you for the very kind words, David. This is indeed a gem that people I have known, seeing it for the first time, were caught! An example of intelligence and eroticism, very rare, in a television production! The following will be “Ritual Of Evil”!

  19. I wish to say here, as I have been blogging elsewhere, that in regards to the “FEAR NO EVIL” book (BearManor Media), that my two friends, Philip J. Riley and Gary Gerani, are indeed the two ‘reel’ people who deserve all the credit (I consider my ‘talent’ a mere contribution to a tome that Phil set up and worked on ,while Gary, in turn, supplied the script and the excellent written articles/photographs in it). It is my hope that reviewers will focus on them and their amazing talent that they have contributed to this book and their past contributions to the field of cinema!

  20. It is so gratifying to see this film getting the appreciation it deserves! So deep was the impression it made on me four or so decades ago that, as I began to watch the first of 11 segments on YouTube, my mind was deliciously flooded with explicit details of the movie (such as that sinister musical theme, details of the demonic ritual, and David Sorell’s ‘ancient’ box which no one dared open) before they actually occurred, as though I had seen it only a week ago. Like the mirror around which the story unfolds, the crafting of this film seems to create a darkly compelling other-reality to which it is irresistible to return. The overall production is positively elegant in its intelligence, a real tribute to an era of movie making aimed toward provoking a thought process rather than a gag reflex! Truly a classic. It deserves cult recognition!

  21. Claudia, I fully agree and I have been getting, to my delight, very positive feedback on my book,”THE RAKASHI FILE: FEAR NO EVIL” (BearManor Media) that I did on this film (fully expanding on what I set out to do when I wrote the Films in Review piece. Sad to say, Universal seems to have lost (or junked) the original elements but I was given an excellent dvd-r of this title (and “RITUAL OF EVIL”) by a collector. Hopefully the French version is intact with excellent original elements that can be used for a full restoration.

  22. So happy to see work on this wonderful film! Thank you!
    Is there anyplace to get a copy of the music soundtrack?
    Have an adequate copy of the movie, but always hopefully of it being
    released.. Thanks Richard!

  23. Thank you John McClure! I have a book out, “THE RAKASHI FILE: FEAR NO EVIL” from BearManor Media and Amazon.com, which gives this excellent television the recognition it deserves ( look under: FEAR NO EVIL)! There is also a FB Page I created (FEAR NO EVIL) on this and, very sad to say, other television movies that have dropped off the face of the earth!! So many talented actors, writers and directors being now ignored!!!!

  24. Richard,
    There actually was one full season of “Bedeviled” episodes that were never aired; shelved by Universal Television to never see the light of day. They were apparently filmed sometime around the “Ritual of Evil” Telemovie. Most notable players in the cast were Robert Culp, Frank Gorshin, Chad Everett, Suzanne Pleshette, Patrick O,Neal, Stephanie Powers, Adam West, Juliet Prowse, and a rare appearance by Richard Burton. There is absolutely no paper trail to prove this but a few of the behind-the-camera workers have made statements to this effect. Billy Goldenberg’s score was also mastered for a vinyl release by Universal Music France but never surfaced. This would make a great DVD/Blu-Ray package if the gravediggers could get to work.
    Just kidding! Happy Holidays!!!
    Mark C, Marlton, NJ

  25. LOL!!!
    Thanks Mark, a good laugh is a great way to start a day-yes indeed!! Hope you enjoy “THE RAKASHI FILE: FEAR NO EVIL” and let us continue to hope a print shows up some day for a beautiful dvd release.
    While I am now concentrating on writing fiction , instead of films (and getting great feedback from several publishing companies as I write this), I would love to track down permission to attempt to write a novel of “Fear No Evil” and its sequel, “Ritual of Evil”. Plenty of time ahead!!!
    “RAKASHI LIVES!”

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