BURNT OFFERINGS (1976) Reviews and overview

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Burnt Offerings is a 1976 American horror film produced and directed by Dan Curtis (Dead of Night; Bram Stoker’s Dracula; House of Dark Shadows) 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. Produced by Dan Curtis and [uncredited] Alberto Grimaldi.

The movie stars Burgess Meredith (Torture GardenMagic; The Sentinel), Karen Black (Trilogy of TerrorInvaders from Mars; House of 1000 Corpses), Oliver Reed (Paranoiac; The BroodSpasms), Bette Davis (Wicked Stepmother; Scream Pretty Peggy; The Nanny). 

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 Allardyce’s appear at the beginning of the film when they inform their new tenants of a particularly odd requirement for their rental: that the Allardyce’s’ 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


“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.” 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.” 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


“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


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.” 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




Blu-ray releases:

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


Buy Blu-ray: 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

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


Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

karen black burnt offerings
Karen Black in makeup that wasn’t used in the final version

Cast and characters:

Karen Black … Marian Rolf
Oliver Reed … Ben Rolf
Burgess Meredith … Arnold Allardyce
Eileen Heckart … Roz Allardyce
Lee Montgomery … David Rolf (as Lee H. Montgomery)
Dub Taylor … Walker
Bette Davis … Aunt Elizabeth
Joseph Riley … Ben’s Father
Todd Turquand … Young Ben
Orin Cannon … Minister
Jim Myers … Doctor Ross
Anthony James … The Chauffeur

Filming locations:

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


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