NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW is one of the most revered made-for-TV thrillers ever
made. Originally broadcasted on CBS-TV on Saturday, October 24, 1981, I
completely missed out the film's initial airing (how this happened I honestly
can't recall; I was already a fan of the genre having seen BURNT OFFERINGS on
NBC-TV two months prior, so I don't know where my head was at). Apparently, so
did a lot of other people as this became the film that most of us caught up
with in the mid-1980's and 1990's during our trips to the video store after it
was released on VHS on Key Video.
had seen TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975) and DON'T GO TO SLEEP (1982) so I knew that
TV terror could very often be far more frightening than theatrical fare. The very fact that home video has made films
like DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW available to the ancillary market has given
many fans the opportunity to see it for the first time. Thirty years later, the film has thrown out
its old, Macrovision-riddled magnetic self for a shiny new optical facelift on
by screenwriter J.D. Feigelson, DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW is a tale of the
consequences of short-sightedness, misjudgment and vigilantism. Bubba Ritter (Larry Drake of DR. GIGGLES,
DARKMAN, and television's LA LAW) is a mentally-challenged adult who is falsely
accused of accidentally killing his little friend Marylee (Tonya Crowe) after
she is attacked by a dog.
Hazelrigg (Charles Durning), a postal worker with a hot temper and an air of
superiority, rounds up several confederates to hunt down Bubba and administer
their own form of justice. Though Bubba
may be simple, he is smart enough to hide within a scarecrow's costume in the
middle of a wheat field. The close-up on
his eyes hidden under the scarecrow mask is very creepy.
cover is blown by several bloodhounds who lead the mob to him, and they all
fire their guns upon him, killing him instantly.
the killing, the men are bewildered to discover that not only has Marylee
survived her attack, but that Bubba had no hand in it. In fact, he helped save her life by rushing
her back to her mother in time. This
realization stuns Otis and his gang, and they do their best to hide their guilt
and complicity from Bubba's mother (Jocelyn Brando). Unfortunately, someone begins to knock them
off one by one, until Otis is the only one left, and he soon comes to realize
that it is in indeed the spirit of Bubba that is seeking revenge.
today's standards, the film is very tame.
However, I think it was probably a bit violent for 1981, especially the
scene where Marylee is attacked by a dog, which is a common fear among
Durning gives a terrific performance as the ringleader who tries his best to keep
the mob's actions under wraps, but soon his plan spirals out of control with
is a movie that is best viewed around Halloween, and its Blu-ray presentation
is exceptional. The disc's extras
track with the director and the writer, ported over from the DVD
World Premiere Promo from 10/24/1981, ported over from the DVD
to the Blu-ray: Bubba Didn't Do It - 30 Years of the Scarecrow (31:41)
to the Blu-ray: CBS Network Re-broadcast from 09/07/1985
to the Blu-ray: Cast Reunion at the 2011 Frightfest Film Festival in
Louisville, KY (46:04)
can be ordered from the fine folks at VCI Entertainment. A standard definition DVD
with the same bonus materials is also available.
would love to see VCI get their hands on 1972's WHEN MICHAEL CALLS (aka
SHATTERED SILENCE and based on John Farris's 1967 novel of the same name), one
of the creepiest TV movies ever made that has never been properly represented
on home video.
soundtrack album for DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW has been released as a download
and is very creepy, atmospheric and highly recommended.