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[tab title="Movie Review"]

Burnt Offerings (1976) - Blu-ray Review


4 stars

Dan Curtis is a relative god among men when it comes to producing and directing American horror television programs. From creating Dark Shadows to bringing life into investigative reporter Carl Kolchak in The Night Stalker, Curtis is often cited as the primary source of influence for a lot of creative types working in the field of horror-tinged entertainment. He even stirred up renewed interest in horror anthologies with the success he had in bringing Trilogy of Terror to ABC for their "Movie of the Week" in 1975. Like I said, he's a pretty big deal.

After all these successes on television, it's little wonder that he would move to a much bigger screen with an entirely new possession-themed product. The idea of bringing back the idea of the haunted house must have seemed daunting. It was largely dated and recent attempts had proven hollow. Much like Hitchcock did with the filming of Psycho, Curtis took his television crew and – with an emphasis on low angles – shot his faithful adaptation of Burnt Offerings by playwright Robert Marasco.

While poorly received upon its initial release, Burnt Offerings – now on blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber - is a deliberately slow-moving menace of terror that is due for some serious reconsideration as a classic of the genre. Most people my age remember it from its constant rotation on independent channels during the early part of the 1980s. It often comes up in conversation when people are trying to remember the movie about the man who jumps out of a top story window after seeing the face of his possessed wife and lands on a car with his son in the backseat. Others remember it for the hair-raising use of Anthony James as the chauffer inside the hearse that keeps haunting that same man.

Shot in and around the deliciously spooky Dunsmuir House and Gardens in Oakland, California, an expansive 37-room mansion on 50 acres, Burnt Offerings tells the story of one family's summer rental home misfortune when a once-decrepit looking home suddenly blooms under their loving care. Curtis assembles a top-notch cast, too. Oliver Reed is Ben Rolf and Karen Black plays Marian, his wife. They are joined by their young son, David (BEN's Lee H. Montgomery) and Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis). Even before the inclusion of the incomparable Davis, you have to applaud Curtis' use of the house's original caretakers: siblings Eileen Heckart and Burgess Meredith and their handyman, Walker (Hubba Bubba and Creature from the Black Lagoon's Dub Taylor). Truly, there is some magic in this lineup.

What follows in Burnt Offerings is the Rolf's promise that for a mere $900 for the summer, they will look after the Allardyce home and the siblings' 85-year-old mother, who lives in a room at the top of the mansion. It will, in fact, be their pleasure. Marian takes it upon herself to look after Mrs. Allardyce. Ben and David go about taking care of the grounds. Their first order of business is the pool. Make note of that because that's where IT begins.

What becomes apparent soon enough is that the house is conscious. The more they look after it, the more it rewards them. And the more it rewards them, the more it possesses them. How this is communicated to the audience rewards patient viewers; there is a slow burn to madness in much of Burnt Offerings but its twisting path to possession inside its walls is a rewarding experience of practical effects and some pretty spine-tingling scenes of terror.  The final few minutes are unforgettable.

Curtis doesn't hold back. Burnt Offerings is a tough film to watch as one family is essentially torn apart by this house. There aren't any ghosts. No killers. Just possession. It doesn't explain why either which, in my opinion, makes it a hell of a lot more insane. I doubt that Hollywood would have the balls to commit to the same ending should this film ever be selected for a remake. Curtis does, though, and in a very unsettling way, Burnt Offerings – along with Robert Cobert's haunting score – delivers a film about possession that still haunts its viewers.


[tab title="Film Details"]

Burnt Offerings (1976) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: PG
116 mins
: Dan Curtis
William F. Nolan
Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Burgess Meredith
: Horror | Mystery
The perfect summer rental for the last vacation you'll ever take.
Memorable Movie Quote: "The house takes care of itself."
United Artists
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 18 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 6, 2015
Synopsis: A family moves into a haunted house that seems to be stealing their lives.


[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

Burnt Offerings (1976) - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 6, 2015
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: None
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

Kino Lorber updates MGM's DVD transfer with a new 1080p presentation. This release features the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio which is nice. While there are some parts of the film that feature a diffusion lens, the overall detail and clarity are solid. This only becomes problematic when outside with very shiny objects. Black levels are clean throughout. Colors are good, too. There is a nice layer of natural grain that gets heavier at night but, overall, this is a good-looking release. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track is sufficient to showcase both dialogue and Cobert's GREAT soundtrack.



  • While it would have been better if the commentary's participants had recently seen the movie BEFORE recording their thoughts, Dan Curtis, Karen Black and co-screenwriter William Nolan do provide some good details about the shoot. It is hindered by them actually watching the movie instead of commenting upon it, though. The commentary is not new. It was recorded for a previous DVD release but it's nice to have it included here since Curtis has passed away.

Special Features:

Kino does a good job of celebrating the movie with a trio of new featurettes. First up is an interview with Anthony James, an actor with an unforgettable face. His remembering of Bette Davis is classic. Next up is a new interview with former child actor Lee Montgomery in which he remembers Oliver Reed's entourage. And, finally, there is co-writer William F. Nolan's thoughts on the making of the film. Good stuff!

  • Anthony James: Acting His Face (18 min)
  • Blood Ties: Lee Montgomery (16 min)
  • From the Ashes: William F. Nolan (13 min)


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