In Our Opinion

FEAR NO EVIL: AN OBSERVANCE

By • Sep 5th, 2009 • Pages: 1 2 3

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Guy scraped enough money together to attend Columbia University (making extra cash by renting out his bed to a wealthier student while he slept on the floor). He received his B.A. in 1923 and an M.A. in 1925, both in European languages. He went to California and taught fiction and writing at the Los Angeles People’s Education Center. Guy married Henrietta Portugal after graduation and while in Hollywood (being influenced towards the political left by Whittaker Chambers and the Great Depression) wrote articles for leftist publications “The Black and White”, “The Clipper” and “New Masses” while being an active member of the Communist Party. He was later investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committie, but was not called before a hearing, nor did he spend any time in jail. However, he was blacklisted, which resulted in his using the pseudonym ‘Harry Relis’ (Relis was actually the husband of Endore’s wife’s eldest sister). He was also a devoted proponent of the Synanon Foundation, a controversial southern California commune dedicated to reforming and rehabilitating drug addicts and alcoholics.

Endore also was involved in writing ‘The Crime at Scottsboro’, about the Scottsboro boys and their trial. He also became literarily involved, in 1940, with the case of 17 Mexican teenagers incarcerated for murder. Although there was scant evidence, no eye-witnesses, and no murder weapon was found, they were put away by public hysteria. Endore wrote a pamphlet called “The Sleepy Hollow Mystery,” which went over the mistakes and oversights of the case. Giving a speech on the Al Jarvis radio show, he referred to the case as “the name of a disgrace which should be on the conscience of every decent American -and especially every decent person who lives in Los Angeles – because we allowed it to happen here.” His writing and speeches resulted in a change in public opinion and the original verdict was reversed.

Guy Endore’s role in Hollywood began in 1935, where he wrote the story RUMBA, a filmed vehicle for George Raft and Carole Lombard, which resulting in bad reviews -particularly from The New York Times. He then began writing stories which became classic horror films like MARK OF THE VAMPIRE ( a rewrite to some extent of the Lon Chaney silent, LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, adapted for the screen and directed by Tod Browning) which starred Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi, WEREWOLF OF LONDON starring Henry Hull, MAD LOVE starring Peter Lorre, and THE DEVIL DOLL with Lionel Barrymore. His novel ME THINKS THE LADY was made into a movie starring Gene Tierney, and a comedy starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, CAREFREE. In 1961 Hammer Films used his1933 novel, THE WEREWOLF OF PARIS, as the source for its film CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF which starred Clifford Evans and Oliver Reed. FEAR NO EVIL was Guy Endore’s final Hollywood project before his death on February 12, 1970.

As stated, at the time FEAR NO EVIL was being planned, Hollywood released numerous medical dramas to television, and the idea of a series about mental illness (even with supernatural overtones) was a logical progression. Veteran writer/producer Richard Alan Simmons, who had worked on the screenplay to THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957) with Richard Matheson, took the Endore story and began crafting it into a credible tale that stretched the bounds of television censorship for the time. Possibly inspired by the British DEAD OF NIGHT’s mirror sequence, and surely indebted to ROSEMARY’S BABY (one will note [as pointed out to me] that Bradford Dillman does look like the late John Cassavetes), the original shooting script went through a title change from DEAD OF NIGHT to BEDEVILED, and by production’s end had been changed yet again to FEAR NO EVIL.

Wilfrid Hyde White

Cast choices were made with famed stage/screen actor Louis Jourdan approached to play David Sorell. A modern day Van Helsing in the Peter Cushing mold, Jourdan infused a believable quality into his performance of a man who, despite his earlier experience with the supernatural, first looks for rational explanations (like Father Karras in THE EXORCIST) in all things related to mental illness. Subtly warmth and intense, he was an excellent choice, and was a far cry from the usual love-’em-and-leave-’em characters found on television at the time.

Others in the cast included veterans of Quinn Martin’s production company like Linda Day George, fresh from television shows like “THE FBI”, THE FUGITIVE” and “THE INVADERS”, who took the role of Barbara Arnholt and was able to infuse it with believable qualities of loss and vulnerability. Observes George biographer Jonathan Etter, “We like Barbara from the moment we meet her. She’s bubbly and effervescent and cute, and has a smile for everyone. As a result when we enter the Varney/Arnholt apartment with Barbara, we are less than pleased to see that the mirror from the antique shop has already been delivered. Billy Goldenberg’s music changing from the light-hearted ‘Barbara’ theme to the dark and foreboding ‘Rakashi’ score the minute Barbara sees the mirror underlines the danger it will soon represent to her. Her amused reaction to the mirror further increases our anxieties.”

Barbara’s relationships with her fiancee Paul Varney (Bradford Dillman), his friend Myles Donovan (Carroll O’Connor, who’s even wearing his ALL IN THE FAMILY/Archie Bunker shirt at one point in the story), and Paul’s mother Mrs. Varney (Marsha Hunt) are of additional interest. Though these three characters will later turn against Barbara, they do so through circumstances beyond their control. Yet despite their actions, all three remain sympathetic throughout the story – particularly Hunt’s ‘Mrs. Varney.’

Like many Lynda Day George characters, FEAR NO EVIL’S Barbara Anholt is multi-layered and definitely falls into the “quirky, complex and bizarre” parts that came to be so strongly identified with the actress such as Judy Reynolds in THE GENTLE RAIN, Joyce Jane Carr in THE FBI – “THE WINDOW,” Valerie Watkins in HERE COME THE BRIDES – “TWO WOMEN” etc. Cast and crew were very impressed with the performance George delivered during the production. Ditto television viewers. “FEAR NO EVIL is one that’s often mentioned to me” George stated to biographer Jonathan Etter during one of their many conversations concerning the film.

No wonder. Seeing the actress’ ‘Barbara’ change from a bubbly, effervescent, and sexy young woman to one who is nervous, uncertain, and prim-and-proper in her dress and appearance definitely catches one’s attention. As do George’s mirror scenes. FNE pushed the boundaries of erotica.

Linda Day George would later experience personal loss when her husband, actor Christopher George (ABC Televisions “THE RAT PATROL”), suddenly died of a heart attack at age 52. She retired from acting shortly after she reprised her famous role of disguise expert Casey on the April 15th, 1989 new “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE” episode, “Reprisal.”

Bradford Dillman, a vet of the New York stage, with a list of various film and television work – including working with Linda Day George on the QM series “THE FBI”, delivered an intense performance as Paul Varney – a scientist who comes across as an ‘everyman’, and does not realize he has been tainted by spiritual corruption (ironically, it is said that during the ‘mirror love scene’, Linda Day George gave the actor the flu). Dillman turned up later in the Paul Wendkos directed/Quinn Martin production THE MEPHISTO WALTZ in 1971. Many fans might also recall his appearance on “ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY” in the excellent Jack Laird directed episode PICKMAN’S MODEL (based upon the story by H.P. Lovecraft), which co-starred Louise Sorell.

Other cast choices included Wilfrid Hyde-White, distinguished British character actor (May 3, 1903-May 6, 1991), who took on the role of Harry Snowden, Sorell’s mentor (who is referred to, with affection, as “The Prince Of Darkness” by his former pupil). With a wide range of credits including THE THIRD MAN (1949) with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton, LET’S MAKE LOVE (1960) with Marilyn Monroe, and of course MY FAIR LADY (1964) with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. But it was in television where he was most recognized, playing eccentrics of the intellectual class or outright buffoons. In FEAR NO EVIL, White plays Harry Snowden as a somewhat caustic mentor, at the same time bringing forth genuine warmth for his former pupil, and compassion for the case. Another British actor – Katherine Woodville, in the small but important role of Ingrid Dorne, appeared in numerous television programs and shows including the soap “DAYS OF OUR LIVES.”

Marsha Hunt, former black-listed actress and MGM contract player, was cast as the devious Mrs. Varney. As of 2007, Ms. Hunt had served on the Advisory Board of Directors for the San Fernando Community Mental Health Center, a large non-profit operation in the San Fernando Valley for homelessness and mental illness. In 2008 she appeared in the short film noir, THE GRAND INQUISTOR, as the possible widow of a famous serial killer. The film premiered at the 6th annual Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco.

But it is now-well-known character actor Carroll O’Conner who really was (and still is) a find in his very first made-for-television movie as the ruthless Myles Donovan, a man willing to sacrifice his friend, Paul Varney, and even his own sanity, in trying to peek into the unknown. Obviously a friend of David Sorell, having known him for a long time, Donovan shocks the good doctor by admitting his spiritual corruption – on an almost Mengele level – which revolts the compassionate psychiatrist. In one of the highpoints of the film we observe two mindsets in a quiet duel – without the time-worn physical battle found in your standard drama. Myles: (smug) “Are you gonna judge me David?” David stares silent. “Because the only difference between you and me is I guard my fascination, my knowledge. How do you see yourself? As White Magic fighting Black?…Good against evil?” Sorell: “Against you?…yes. Against this thing you’ve done.” Myles: “But do you understand what evil really is? Because it’s won its case, Doctor. One worships the all-powerful, if one worships at all. Look at the misery of our world – the agony and suffering. Can you doubt that Satan leapt from Heaven not as vanquished but as victor…and gave us science the destroyer…my own particular shrine? (voice raised) We’re all hostages of Hell, Doctor, all we can do is cry for mercy. Do you deny my logic?” David is quiet, shakes his head “Your case fails.” Myles: “Prove that!” Sorell: (with loathing) “Life is a denial. What you worship is death.” Myles:” What I worship is the power…to do what I’ve done.” Sorell:” What you’ve done to Paul Varney!” It is an interesting study in human nature of a man being driven by extreme ruthlessness to achieve his goal – even when taken over by the demon in the climax, one really begins to wonder if there was much difference between Myles Donovan and the entity named Rakashi?. This is indeed a very far cry from the lovable bigot, Archie Bunker, of “ALL IN THE FAMILY” for which Carroll O’Conner would be known world wide.

Marsha Hunt

Director Paul Wendkos who, up to now, was best known for the 1959 film GIDGET (and its two sequels: GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN -1961, and GIDGET GOES TO ROME – 1963), as well as THE BATTLE OF THE COARL SEA (1959), was another veteran of Quinn Martin productions (including “THE INVADERS”). Wendkos went beyond the confines of television by thinking in terms of a motion picture for the big screen. As described earlier, we have a reality of distorted visuals and tilting angles (even the use of color and shadow is in in the vein of Mario Bava), not seen before in a television project. The director, in Jonathon Etter’s excellent book, referred to this film as “one of the best things I’ve ever done”. Wendkos would later go on to direct THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971) for Twentieth Century Fox and Quinn Martin Productions, based upon the novel by Fred Mustard Stewart, a film very close in style to FEAR NO EVIL in technique (in a dream scene there is a mirror glimpsed – a nod to the television movie), which starred Alan Alda, Jacqueline Bisset, Curt Jurgens and (as previously mentioned) an encore performance by Bradford Dillman. Wendkos later directed the acclaimed LEGEND OF LIZZIE BORDEN starring Elizabeth Montgomery (1975). His final credit before retiring was CRIMES OF PASSION: NOBODY LIVES FOREVER, a 1998 television drama.

The music chores, handled by composer William ( Billy) Goldenberg, based upon old religious themes, brought an aura I personally haven’t noticed in television since the early days of Jerry Goldsmith’s work on the Boris Karloff anthology series “THRILLER.” Goldenberg’s other credits included “NAME OF THE GAME,” “IT TAKES A THIEF,” NIGHT GALLERY (pilot movie), DUEL, “THE SIXTH SENSE” and THE LEGEND OF LIZZIE BORDEN. His film work includes Woody Allen’s PLAY IT AGAIN SAM and Christopher Lee’s stint as Sherlock Holmes, SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE LEADING LADY, with Patrick MacNee and Morgan Fairchild. Interesting to note that the Jerry Goldsmith style in THE MEPHISTO WALTZ is very similar to music heard in this television production.

The film appeared to be shot on the Universal back lot as well as some location work at, as mentioned, the historic Bradbury Building, which served as the headquarters for the Metaphysic Research Center, and, for the Varney Estate, the famed Al Capone mansion in Pasadena. This location was previously utilized on the BATMAN television series, and after FNE it became Duncan Ely’s home in THE MEPHISTO WALTZ.
Since its premier as the flagship production on NBC’s “Movie Of The Week”, FEAR NO EVIL had generated not only repeat viewings into the late 70’s but also a reworked semi-sequel called RITUAL OF EVIL (original shooting title: NEXT TIME, MY LOVE), again starring Louis Jourdan as David Sorell, and Wilfrid Hyde-White as Harry Snowden. While not directed by Paul Wendkos (Robert Day took over the chores), the film generated decent reviews. This leads to the mystery of whether FNE and its follow-up were possible television pilots. The first film obviously had a direct bearing on the creation of the Gary Collins series “THE SIXTH SENSE,” and it is possible the same applied to DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (a spy thriller with supernatural overtones starring Ray Milland and Don Murray), which is structured like a pilot, and also, much later, SPECTRE, from Gene Roddenberry, which featured Robert Culp and Gig Young as two investigators involved with the occult.

The big question today is: why has a critically acclaimed film like this been allowed to fall into obscurity? Why hasn’t it been issued on VHS or DVD, when lesser titles have been allowed to glut the collecting market? Outside of a few sporadic showings, via grainy and worn 16mm source transfers shown on indie television stations, this film has been allowed to drop out of sight. As stated, my own re-introduction to this film was seeing a crisp and beautiful 16mm print from a private collection, but I have never heard of it being shown at film festivals, or even the various horror conventions that spring up all over the country. Is this movie, along with other titles such as THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BELL, SOLE SURVIVOR, BLACK NOON, DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, THE BORGIA STICK, and SOMETHING EVIL doomed to be forgotten? Film historian William K. Everson once wrote of classic films being lost and misplaced when television filler was needed back in the early 60’s, and over a period of time, lost gems gradually sprang back up to be cherished by a public eager to see films again that were talked or hinted about. Maybe, with enough interest, Universal will see fit to dust off FEAR NO EVIL and unveil a beautiful new transfer not only we who remember it, but for a new generation of filmmakers/viewers who wish to be inspired!

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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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