Burnt Offerings – USA, 1976

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Burnt Offerings is a 1976 mystery horror film produced and directed by Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows; Kolchak: The Night Stalker) from a screenplay co-written with William F. Nolan (Trilogy of Terror; The Turn of the Screw; The Norliss Tapes), based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Robert Marasco.

On October 17, 2016 Arrow Video released the film as a Blu-ray + DVD combo.

Burnt-Offerings-Arrow-Video-Blu-ray

Buy: Amazon.co.uk

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
  • Original uncompressed PCM mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith
  • Acting His Face, an interview with actor Anthony James
  • Blood Ties, an interview with actor Lee Montgomery
  • From the Ashes, an interview with screenwriter William F. Nolan
  • Portraits of Fear, an animated gallery of promotional materials and behind-the-scenes stills
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Haunt Love
    First pressing only: Collector s booklet

Main cast:

Burgess Meredith – Torture Garden Magic The Sentinel
Karen Black – Trilogy of Terror | Invaders from Mars | House of 1000 Corpses
Oliver Reed – Paranoiac | The Brood | Spasms
Bette Davis – The Nanny | Watcher in the Woods

Oliver Reed Karen Black

The Rolf family takes a vacation from the city at a large Victorian era mansion in the California countryside. The family consists of Marian (Karen Black), her husband Ben (Oliver Reed), their young son David (Lee Montgomery), and their elderly aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis).

The owners of the house are the Allardyce siblings, brother Arnold and sister Roz, played by actors Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart, respectively. The Allardyces appear at the beginning of the film when they inform their new tenants of a particularly odd requirement for their rental: that the Allardyces’ elderly mother continues to live in her upstairs room and the Rolfs provide her with food during their stay. The siblings explain that the old woman is obsessed with privacy and will probably not interact with them, so meals are to be left outside her door…

Burnt Offerings house

Reviews:

“Without elaborate special effects, the PG-rated film is able to convey a sense of unknown menace, and although the ending is predictable (maybe it wasn’t back in ’76), it’s still quite eerie, commencing very violently. Reed and Black are good as always, and Davis is given a smaller sympathetic part, rather than the wicked bitches she was accustomed to playing at this time in her life.” George R Reis, DVD Drive-In

“As much as it may sound like typical fare, the execution and underlying plot of Burnt Offerings is pure genius. The house itself is almost a living thing, destroying lives in its quest for perpetual “youth.” While many people found it too slow paced, I found it to move at a nice, deliberate trot. It’s genuinely good stuff.” Carl Lyon, Monsters at Play

” … The Legend of Hell House brought out the fun in this sort or material very well. But Burnt Offerings just persists, until it occurs to us that the characters are the only ones in the theater who don’t know what’s going to happen next.” RogerEbert.com

“Superior haunted-house chiller with good production value and a steadily increasing atmosphere of horror, underlined by the acting, direction and Robert Cobert’s effectively eerie music.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

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“The cast – including Karen Black as Reed’s wife – is uniformly excellent, and all the family members are sympathetic. The atmosphere – invoked by glowing gauze-filtered cinematography and a tense score by Robert Cobert – is continuous and strong. Unfortunately, the story never comes together.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“It’s been decades since I first saw Burnt Offerings, and revisiting it, I prayed that I would not be disappointed. Thankfully I wasn’t. If anything, I’ve learned to appreciate it even more as it’s not only an excellent exercise in creeping terror, it also has an insightful underlying theme about the destruction of the American Dream in possessing material things.” Peter Fuller, Kultguy’s Keep

[Spoiler]: “The theme of the ‘house possessed by evil’ never comes off due to a lack of expository material. Instead, it’s a mishmash. Even a twist ending cannot save it.” John Stanley, Creature Features

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Previous releases:

On October 6, 2015 Kino Lorber issued the film on Blu-ray with the following extras:

  • Interview with actor Anthony James
  • Interview with screenwriter William F. Nolan
  • Interview with actor Lee Montgomery
  • Audio commentary with director/co-writer/producer Dan Curtis, actress Karen Black, and co-screenwriter William F. Nolan
  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Richard Harland Smith
  • “Trailers From Hell” with Steve Senski
  • Animated Montage of Images
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

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Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

US Burnt Offerings DVD

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

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Karen Black in makeup that wasn’t used in the final version

Cast and characters:

  • Karen Black … Marian Rolf
  • Oliver Reed … Ben Rolf
  • Lee H. Montgomery … Davey Rolf
  • Bette Davis … Elizabeth Rolf
  • Burgess Meredith … Arnold Allardyce
  • Eileen Heckart … Roz Allardyce
  • Dub Taylor … Walker
  • Anthony James … Chauffeur

It was the first movie to be filmed at Dunsmuir House, Oakland, California (also the setting for Phantasm and The Vineyard).

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