31 Days of Halloween – Day 9: Burnt Offerings (1976)

Burnt Offerings 1976Some great horror movies came out in 1976 and one that is still chilling to me today is Burnt Offerings. For whatever reason, this movie played quite frequently on channel 41 in Kansas City throughout the late 70s and early 80s. An evil house with a stellar cast makes for some great spooky fun.

Burnt Offerings is based on a 1973 novel written by Robert Marasco. In fact, his body of work consists of only two novels, one completed play and one play that, while finished at the time of his death, was never produced. His other novel was Parlor Games while his play was called Child’s Play, which dealt with evil at a boys’ school. Oddly enough, after Parlor Games, he was never published again and died of lung cancer in 1998 at the age of 62. Burnt Offerings was his only work that was adapted into a movie, and what a creepy tale it was.

The story is about the Rolf family, Marian (Karen Black, House of 1,000 Corpses), Ben (Oliver Reed, The Curse of the Werewolf) and son Davey (Lee H. Montgomery). They move into a mansion with their Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?) for only $900 for the entire summer. The only catch is that Marian must feed the owners’ mother three times a day as she lives on the very top floor. The house is owned by the Allardyce family, themselves quite creepy characters. We have Roz (Eileen Heckart, The Bad Seed) and brother Arnold, played by the incomparable Burgess Meredith (The Sentinal, Rocky). Another familiar face is that of caretaker Walker, played by character actor Dub Taylor (247 movie credits). It seems this house comes alive with new owners. As blood is split and deaths occur, it begins to rejuvenate itself. As the family begins to fall apart, the house is growing stronger. The final scene is indeed haunting, if not a little obvious. And, of course, we have the terrifying images of the chauffer driver, which was apparently based on a real life person witnessed by director Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, Trilogy of Terror).

Burnt Offerings was not a success at the box office but it is one of my personal favorites. The all-star cast helps it rise above what otherwise could easily be lost amongst other films of the period. The DVD was released in 2003 and is now out-of-print and the picture quality was surprisingly poor for an MGM release. This title is in desperate need of a remastered Blu-ray. Meanwhile, the full movie is currently on YouTube, so check it out while you can!

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