Blu-ray/DVD review: “Ghost Story (Circle Of Fear)” (1972-1973)

“Ghost Story (Circle Of Fear)” (1972-1973)

Television

Twenty-three Episodes

Produced by: William Castle

Featuring: Helen Hayes, Jason Robards, Patricia Neal, William Windom, Gena Rowlands, Carolyn Jones, Melvyn Douglas, Tyne Daly, David Soul, Karen Black and Jodie Foster

Released recently on Blu-ray and DVD is the short lived anthology series “Ghost Story (Circle Of Fear)” (1972-1973) that dipped its toes into horror and fantasy with some truly great character actors appearing in every episode. This is yet another lost gem from the 1970s that has been released, unlike many this has come to blu-ray with an often surprising and stunning picture restored in full 1080p high definition.

“Ghost Story (Circle Of Fear)” was produced by horror legend, William Castle, its origins can be found in a multitude of anthology shows from the day including “The Twilight Zone” (1959-1964), “The Outer Limits” (1963-1965) and of course the always great “Night Gallery”(1969-1973). “Ghost Story” was hosted by Sebastian Cabot as Winston Essex, the owner of a mysterious hotel named Mansfield House. Cabot’s introductions were filmed in the Hotel del Coronado near San Diego, California.

Written and developed by Richard Matheson, the content is more on the grounded side compared to the show’s predecessor. Many of the supernatural or paranormal occurrences can be interpreted as mental anguish experienced by the protagonist. The show was renamed to “Circle of Fear” after Episode 13. Complete with a new intro and theme, the reworked program was more to the point, dropping Cabot as the presenter.

Much like any series that is anthology based which relies on separate stories rather than one overarching narrative with the same actors and charters each week the success or failure depends on a few elements, that is the storytelling, the guest actors that are used and any theme or common thread that may hold each series together. This is is what the greatest series have in common, and why over the past fifty years they keep coming back, to be fair “Ghost Story” attempted something like those series but in the end it was too uneven, and changing the name could not have helped. But given the distance from it original airing and with hindsight as well as some truly amazing guest stars this has aged very well and I recommend it highly.

Episodes:

Pilot

The Dead We Leave Behind: A young couple (David Birney and Barbara Parkins) purchase a house that is standing on a site where an innocent woman (Caitlin Wyles) was unjustly hanged. The woman’s spirit eventually takes over the family’s newborn daughter.

Series One:

The Dead We Leave Behind: A forest ranger (Jason Robards) and his wife (Stella Stevens) have a television that can predict the future, including the wife’s accidental death.

The Concrete Captain: The spirit of a dead sea captain buried in concrete on the seashore haunts two tourists (Gena Rowlands, Stuart Whitman).

At the Cradle Foot: A father (James Franciscus) learns that changing events because he dreams that his daughter is murdered twenty years later makes things even worse.

Bad Connection: A young widow (Karen Black) receives warnings from her dead husband over the telephone.

The Summer House: A woman (Carolyn Jones) is trapped in a strange world between reality and nightmare—a vacation home possessed of its own malevolent personality.

Alter-Ego: Robert, a bored, ill boy stuck in a wheelchair, creates his own double. Robert soon loses control of the evil doppelgänger, who grows stronger as Robert grows weaker. Helen Hayes guest stars.

Half a Death: Christina (Pamela Franklin) is a young woman distressed to learn of the death of her twin sister Lisa, whose spirit begins to haunt Christina.

House of Evil: A deaf-mute girl (Jodie Foster) has telekinetic powers along with her evil grandfather (Melvyn Douglas), who uses the child as a pawn in his quest for revenge against his family.

Cry of the Cat: Rodeo cowboy Dan Hollis (Doug McClure) is delighted about his new marriage to the beautiful Mariah (Lauri Peters). When a cougar brutally attacks a bull that had thrown and trampled Dan in the arena, Dan’s stallion, and his former girlfriend, the other cowboys suspect that the legendary cat “Big Red” has returned while Mariah fears that she’s possessed.

Elegy for a Vampire: A college professor (Hal Linden) becomes a vampire and preys on his female students.

Touch of Madness: A young woman (Lynn Loring) inherits a house after her mother dies in a mental institution. Her aunt (Geraldine Page) and uncle (Rip Torn) welcome her warmly, but neither they nor the house are what they seem.

Creatures of the Canyon: A woman (Angie Dickinson) is troubled by a dog which turns vicious after its master dies.

Time of Terror: Ellen (Patricia Neal) wakes up alone in a hotel room with no sign of her husband, Harry. She learns at the front desk that he has checked out without her, and further inquiries lead her to a man (Craig Stevens) who helps her discover what really happened to Harry.

Death’s Head: Carol (Janet Leigh), the wife of a lawyer and devout entomologist (Gene Nelson), dislikes insects and has eyes for her husband’s partner (Rory Calhoun). She is susceptible when she meets a gypsy with a potion to offer, and after her husband’s “heart attack” she figures to take up with the lawyer friend—until the legend of the Death’s Head moth begins to come true.

Dark Vengeance: A construction worker (Martin Sheen) unearths a curious box, takes it home and opens it. His wife (Kim Darby) begins to be terrorized by the object it contains: a toy wooden horse that grows into something more.

Earth, Air, Fire and Water: Six young artists (One of them played by Tyne Daly) discover ancient, mysterious bottles in a warehouse which wield an abnormal influence over them.

Doorway to Death: When a family moves into a new apartment in San Francisco, young Robert (Leif Garrett) starts exploring and discovers an empty apartment upstairs. He opens a door that leads to a cabin in the woods, and sees a wood-chopping man who beckons to him. Robert brings his younger sister (Dawn Lyn) to meet the man upstairs, the spirit of an ax murderer who expresses an interest in meeting their older sister, Peggy (Susan Dey).

Legion of Demons: A young secretary (Shirley Knight) from a small town joins her more experienced friend in the city only to be baffled by the office’s witch-like happenings.

The Graveyard Shift: The unborn child of a couple (John Astin, Patty Duke) appears to be threatened by ghosts from an old horror picture studio.

Spare Parts: A transplant specialist (Don Knight) dies prematurely but donates his eyes, hands, and voice to three patients, all of whom suddenly take on his characteristics and seek vengeance on his widow (Susan Oliver), who he believes murdered him.

The Ghost of Potter’s Field: A magazine journalist (Tab Hunter) is almost destroyed by his doppelgänger until he finds out the true identity of a hit man (Darwin Joston) buried in a potter’s field.

The Phantom of Herald Square: Holly (Sheila Larken) is charmed by James (David Soul) and begins seeing him, but as soon as she does, she finds herself terrorized by an old man (Victor Jory). As her relationship with James grows, she is surprised to discover the connection between James and the old man.

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