First, one of Mr. Miller's favorite female stars Shelly Winters took her final plunge to that great boat in the sky. She was followed shortly thereafter by Grandpa Al Lewis. Then there was the one/two punch of Darren McGavin and Don Knotts, two of my all-time favorite TV (and movie) stars -- McGavin starring in one of my top-five favorite TV shows Kolchak: The Night Stalker; and Knotts starring in one of my most favorite sitcoms The Andy Griffith Show.
Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger in Oliver!.
I guess I should add a sad three to that one/two punch for Jack Wild, who died after suffering a miserable illness. I became a big fan of his when I first saw him play the Artful Dodger in Oliver!, and then grew to love him even more when he starred in the Saturday morning PopCereal fav, HR Puffenstuff. Last week brought news that the world of Honky Tonk had lost another cowboy of high distinction -- Buck Owens. Next to Johnny Cash and George Jones, this puckered-face hillbilly had the most spins on Mr. Miller's country-fried turntables. Now that Buck is gone "who's gonna mow yer grass?" (Hear Buck done Moog style)
This weekend Mr. Miller was floored to hear that his ultimate TV hero had passed away.
Mr. Dan Curtis.
Sure, Curtis was strictly a behind-the-scenes kinda guy, producing and directing and stuff like that. But, to Mr. Miller here, he was the man who almost single-handedly shaped yours truly into the creep-lovin', monster-huggin', spook movie freak horror fan than he is today (the rest of the credit goes to Vincent Price and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine). Yep, Mr. Miller here was one of those little varmints who ran home from school to watch the weirdest of weird daytime TV programs Dark Shadows. I was just turning five when the show started and I've been hooked ever since. Curtis further compounded my jittery nature by producing and directing some of the creepiest TV movies EVER: The Norliss Tapes, Scream of the Wolf, Turn of the Screw, just to name a few.
But the real damage came when his Trilogy of Terror premiered.
My older sister and twin brother and I were like a little gruesome trio. We'd head down to the corner store to buy whatever candy our meager allowance would allow us, and then head home to park are carcasses in front of the TV to watch the Saturday afternoon Monster Movies (that was the actual name of the broadcasts on our local station). On the weeknights, though, my Mom would join the mix to watch the TV Movie of the Week. We loved all the mysteries and suspense stuff, but the night Trilogy came on, we were all riveted.
Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror
Karen Black had been a favorite of ours, since my sister bore a slight resemblance, so to see her get her creep on was amazing. But the topper of the night came during the final scene of the third story in the trilogy, when Ms. Black, after being chased by the maniacal killer Tiki doll around her apartment, suddenly became possessed by the dolls savageness. She coolly calls her nagging mother on the phone to invite her over for a visit, then turns towards the camera, hunkers down in a crouch and then repeatedly plunges a huge butcher knife into the floor in anticipation. Brrrr! For months after that our older sister would torment my brother and I by greeting us in the kitchen in that exact same crouched position -- knife in hand. Needless to say, when she was the babysitter, we were well behaved.
Kolchak has a stake well done
Two other Curtis-helmed TV Movies were also held in high regard by yours, Mr. Miller. The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler have been tops on my list, so you could well imagine how flipped out Mr. Miller was when they made a TV series out of the main character in those two movies -- Kolchak; The Night Stalker. By then I was creeping into my teenage years, so this weekly dose of monster shows simply put the nail in the coffin, making Mr. Miller an official creepy kid.
So, thank you Mr. Curtis for making this boy happy.