Bill’s Bizarre Bijou Presents: DARK INTRUDER (1965)
Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
By William D. Carl
This Week’s Feature Presentation:
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes!
Halloween is almost upon us, kiddies, and tonight I have a real treat for you . . . a nearly unknown little horror gem that truly deserves a wider audience. This is the kind of discovery monster movie fans search the backs of the video store bargain bins for, the kind of film you hear people speak of in hushed, awed ones, even though hardly anyone has actually seen the thing. Tonight, we unveil DARK INTRUDER!
DARK INTRUDER was originally filmed as the series premiere of a never produced TV show called THE BLACK CLOAK, produced by Shamley Productions, Hitchcock’s television company, which also produced THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR and THRILLER. When the show was deemed too scary and violent for mid-sixties television, NBC sold it to Universal, who sold it to drive-in theaters as the second feature on a double bill that also included William Castle’s I SAW WHAT YOU DID (1965). It showed up from time to time on late night TV through the 1970s, and it received a token, blink-and-you’d-miss-it release on VHS, but it has never (officially) been released on DVD. Sadly, relegated to the deep discount bins and random showings in the middle of the night on weird cable networks, DARK INTRUDER has become a forgotten classic that was creepy and disturbing in the 1960s, and it remains so today.
In 19th century San Francisco, a murderer stalks a woman through fog-enshrouded streets. The killer limps and remains obscured in shadows until he creeps up on his victim and tears her to shreds while she screams in the night. At the foot of the body, a small grotesque statue is left like an offering, and the slobbering, snorting hump-backed monster gimps into the night as the police arrive.
Leslie Nielsen (yes, that Leslie Nielsen, of AIRPLANE, 1980 and FORBIDDEN PLANET, 1956) plays hung-over playboy Brett Kingsford, who dabbles in the occult, calls the elder gods of H.P. Lovecraft by their first names, and employs a dwarf manservant named Nikoli (well played by Charles Bolander). Brett is off to see the police, who have called him in to help investigate the murder, the fourth in a long string of awful murders where statues were left by the bodies, but he is interrupted by Evelyn Lang (Judi Meredith of QUEEN OF BLOOD, 1966 and THE NIGHT WALKER, 1964) the shrill, chatty fiancé of his best friend, Robert Vandenburg, played by Peter Mark Richman (star of multiple TV series like SANTA BARBARA and BEVERLY HILLS, 90210). Brett says, “Evelyn, there is this much to say of you – you don’t just enter a room, you invade it!” She proceeds to tell him how her fiancé Robert is acting strangely, as if there was something bothering him beyond typical wedding jitters. Brett informs her he will also look into this behavior.
At the police station, Brett confers with the police about the killings, which resemble animal attacks, and he identifies the statues as replications of a Sumerian demon god. In each statue found at a victim’s feet, the demon in the little figurines emerges from the back of a man, budding out farther with each crime. It’s as if with each killing, the demon is freeing itself from its host a little bit more. Plus, there seem to be connections between the various four victims.
Outside the station, Brett discovers Robert walking in a daze, almost hypnotized. He tells Brett he will meet with him later at his antique shop. Brett stops by an ancient Asian man’s curiosity shop, where a Confucius-like shopkeeper shows him a parasite demon and says it could be related to the Sumerian figurines.
At seven that evening, at Robert’s shop, Robert is nowhere to be seen, but a cloaked creature with clawed hands and a bad case of asthma attacks him, destroying most of the shop before being driven away by a silver-tipped cane. A few minutes later, Robert arrives and whisks Brett away to his family doctor, Dr. Burdett played by Vaughn Taylor (PSYCHO, 1960, IN COLD BLOOD, 1967 and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, 1958). While he patches up Brett, he shows him a photograph in which two of the four victims are shown, including a nurse, the latest victim. The picture was taken on an expedition to Bagdad, and the nurse was the last to return to America, bringing with her a sickly little boy Robert has vague memories of seeing when he was a child.
Robert keeps falling into a fugue state, sleep-walking, while the dwarf servant follows him. He claims that he feels as though he was being pushed out of his own mind by some terrifying power. Something is trying to force him out of his own body, some dark entity. Brett plays the fool, acts the playboy, but he grows increasingly worried for his friend.
Robert is visiting a psychic, Professor Malaki, who tells him that Robert has a terrible scar on his back, and Robert admits that when he was born in Bagdad (!), he had a small lump removed from his back by Dr. Burdett. This Professor Malaki is played by Werner Klemperer, Colonel Klink from HOGAN’S HEROES! The German actor’s accent must have been too much, however, as he is dubbed by Norman Loyd (SPELLBOUND, 1945 and LIMELIGHT, 1952). After the men leave, Prof. Malaki reveals his hands, complete with long, sharp talons.
Meanwhile, the creature kills Dr. Burdett in his office. Brett dons a drunken sailor’s disguise and searches the doc’s place, discovering all the files from Robert’s date of birth are missing.
Everything points toward the beautiful Evelyn being the next victim of the monster’s wrath, so the police surround her house on her wedding night to catch the killer. The fog enshrouds the place, Robert’s fugue state grows ever more virulent, and something in a cloak stalks the gardens waiting for the couple to emerge.
Is Robert the monster, committing the murders while under some hypnotic spell? What of the gargoyle-like statues? What of the deformed boy brought to the states by the nurse? Will Evelyn and Robert survive their marriage night?
The solution to the puzzle is truly grotesque, and I am not surprised that NBC refused to air this supernatural tale. In fact, I would be very surprised if Frank Henenlotter didn’t see this little wonder before writing and directing his grindhouse masterpiece BASKET CASE (1982).
DARK INTRUDER is full of atmosphere, just as the streets are full of smoke and fog and gas light. The finale in an impressionistic graveyard is especially impressive. It was directed by Harvey Hart, who also helmed the TV mini-series EAST OF EDEN (1982) and the great, underrated THE PYX (1973) which starred the wonderful Karen Black in another disturbing supernatural mystery. The literate script is by Barre’ Lyndon, who also penned THE LODGER (1944) and WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953). The pacing is almost too fast, speeding along like an episode of THRILLER on crystal meth. Even the make-up on the creature is quite hideous, demonic and yet somewhat human.
And, yes, Leslie Nielsen is quite good as Brett Kingsford. He’s funny and charming and handsome, but there’s always this dark side to him, as though you wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alleyway. The interplay between Brett and his intelligent dwarf servant is witty and amusing, and their chemistry is quite good. This would have made a terrific series in the vein of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER. What a missed opportunity.
Missed opportunity or not, DARK INTRUDER is a creepy Halloween horror treat, a smart monster movie with several unpredictable twists and turns and a hideous creature at its epicenter.
There is a rumor that Universal is planning on putting out a DVD of this spooky thriller next year. Let’s pray to any Sumerian god that this is true!
I give DARK INTRUDER three and a half dwarf servants out of four.
© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl