Three disparate tales of terror revolve around four women, each portrayed by scream queen Karen Black, of the titled names: “Julie,” “Millicent and Therese,” and “Amelia.” With a theme of revenge, the anthology’s twists and frights are threefold, and have since been duplicated tenfold.

Bloody Rundown

6A made-for-TV movie anthology, Trilogy of Terror was directed by Dan Curtis and, like his gothic series Dark Shadows (1966 – 1971), aired on the ABC network, accompanying the then novel warning: “Due to mature subject matter, parental discretion advised.” The network commissioned Trilogy of Terror from both Curtis and renowned terror scribe Richard Matheson. The two had previously worked together on another ABC feature The Night Stalker (1972).  (Matheson would ultimately write seven television features for Dan Curtis.) Another longtime collaborator of Curtis’, Robert Cobert, scored the film.

14All three tales are based on Matheson’s stories, yet he chose to only write the screenplay for the film’s final segment, “Amelia.” Horror writer William F. Nolan wrote the screenplays for “Julie” and “Millicent and Therese.” Matheson was impressed with Nolan’s writing skills, especially with his adaptation of “Millicent and Therese,” which derived from Matheson’s two-page synopsis on split personalities. Matheson humbly stated he “had no idea” as to “how” Nolan “made that into a half hour show,” and he “did a wonderful job, better than I could have done.”

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As stated in Sliver, the film stars Karen Black in all four leading roles. Black “had a certain amount of ethics in character work” as she was already an experienced and award-winning character actor of both stage and film. (Black would later portray the protagonist in Curtis’ haunted-house horror Burnt Offerings (1976).)

9The first segment, “Julie,” concerns a forbidden romance between an English professor and her student, Chad Foster, who was played by Robert Burton, Karen Black’s second husband. During the scene of Julie and Chad’s first date at the drive-in theater, Curtis’ The Night Stalker is featured on the screen.

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In “Millicent and Therese,” Black performs dual roles as dueling sisters of a dual personality. (Because I really just can’t help myself, it should be noted that Richard Matheson also wrote Steven Spielberg’s first film, the road-rage thriller, Duel (1971).)

The third, and, arguably, most terrifying segment, “Amelia,” involves the soul-steeling battles between a young woman, her mother, and a zuni fetish doll. With Curtis’ consent, Karen Black rewrote Amelia’s telephone conversation with her suppressive mother, emphasizing her character’s codependency.

4Other frightening elements conceived by Black included how to expose the blood of her character’s slashed finger, as well as wearing dark eye makeup in the conclusion. Black requested wearing dental prostheses in the final scene. Although this was not written in the script, Richard Matheson found the fake fangs to be “marvelous touch” and a “perfect little jolt at the end.”  Of the four parts, Amelia was Black’s favorite as it was “interesting to play the creation” of “that much pandemonium and terrible upset—even despair when you’re alone in a room. That was really a wonderful challenge for me.”

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Trilogy of Terror garnered so much fanfare, and has since acquired cult status, that Curtis released a small-screen sequel, aptly named, Trilogy of Terror II, in 1996.

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Die-Anne’s Diatribe

I am partial to any horror anthology, especially one that stars the talented Karen Black in its entirety. From an objective viewpoint, however, the film is quite tame and even funny by today’s far-reaching scare tactics; but, each of these vintage segments is priceless and warrants continued praise.

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Plot Mutilator

Coming before my review of Trilogy of Terror II.

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Deadly Details

Director ∞ Dan Curtis  
Producers ∞ Dan Curtis and Robert Singer
Screenwriters ∞ William F. Nolan (“Julie” and “Millicent and Therese”)
Richard Matheson (“Amelia”)
Stories by ∞ Richard Matheson
Music ∞ Robert Cobert
Cinematographer ∞ Paul Lohmann  
Editor ∞ Les Green  
Art Direction ∞ Jan Scott  
Set Decoration ∞ Leonard Mazzola
Special Effects ∞ Richard Albaine and Erik von Buelow
Sound Department ∞ James Pilcher  
Makeup ∞ Michael Westmore and Kathryn L. Blondell (hair stylist)
Costume ∞ John S. Perry and Barbara Siebert
Casting ∞ Gail Melnick  
Distributor ∞ ABC; MPI Home Video
Release Date ∞ March 4th, 1975
Running time ∞ 72 Minutes
Country ∞ USA
Language ∞ English
 
Cast ∞
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Karen Black ∞ Julie / Millicent Larimore / Therese Larimore / Amelia
Robert Burton ∞ Chad Foster
John Karlen ∞ Thomas Amman                                    
George Gaynes ∞ Dr. Chester Ramsey  
Jim Storm ∞ Eddie Nells
Gregory Harrison ∞ Arthur Moore
Kathryn Reynolds ∞ Anne Richards
Tracy Curtis ∞ Tracy
Orin Cannon ∞ Motel Clerk
Walker Edmiston ∞ Zuni Fetish Doll