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Many horror fans, and those who try to write such stories, understand
that Stephen King has taken inspiration from the work of others. And
there can be little doubt King was influenced by Thomas Tryon's
outstanding novels "The Other" and "Harvest Home."
The TV movie version of the latter book, titled "Dark Secret of Harvest Home," was the second and final adaptation of Tryon's work and was originally aired in 1978, two years after the big screen success of Stephen King's "Carrie." Unlike 1972's "The Other," "Dark Secret of Harvest Home" was presented as a mini-series with a superb cast headed by Bette Davis.
Thomas Tryon wrote with an elegant style somewhat reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft's. His plots were engaging, his characters interesting and well developed, and his New England settings evoked the gloom and obscure anxiety traditionally associated with that region. So why has his work faded into obscurity while King's is heralded as the greatest in the history of horror?
Regrettably, Tryon started writing rather late in life after a well-regarded career as an actor in such films as "The Cardinal," and died while his creative powers were on the wane. He also chose to explore genres other than the Gothic (with generally good results.) There is also a more staid, pre-World War II air about his work that might not appeal to the Baby Boomers and Gen-X'ers who form King's core audience. Nevertheless, Tryon's Gothic efforts translated wonderfully onto the small screen, and he deserves a well-deserved place in the pantheon of American Gothic writers. Thankfully, American Movie Classics has begun airing the TV movie version "The Other" again. Hopefully, 'Dark Secret of Harvest Home' won't be far behind.
I saw this in its original form during the first run on Television. Normally I think that most made for TV movies are really second rate. This one stands out as one of the best! A family looks to leave the rat-race of the big city for a simple quiet town. They found out that this town may be quiet, but it is anything but simple lving there. A particularly chilling performance from Bette Davis is of note in this one. If you are conditioned to think that every horror movie has to have a minimum of 200 severed heads and 10,000 gallons of blood in it to be good, you'll hate this one. The rest of you who still believe in great acting and a tense plotline will be THRILLED with Harvest Home. RATING: 10 out of 10!!!
A truly "delicious" and engrossing film. This richly textured and atmospheric offering was made for TV in two parts (I believe) because it is quite long. I remember it as being in black and white, but I may be wrong about that. It used to come on late at night and though I sometimes had to go to work the next day I always watched the entire film all the way to the end -- because you have to. Makes the "Blair Witch Project" of the same genre really look like amateur hour. It stars the late, great Bette Davis, in a low-key performance, as a kindly old witch-like lady and David Ackroyd, a darned good actor of the "old school" -- meaning lots of talent and sex appeal. Ackroyd eagerly takes his family to their new home in rural Harvest Home... to an old, charming, quaint farmhouse that they find very desirable in today's hectic world. One-by-one, as the townspeople's quaintness reveals itself to be something beyond the norm, the family detects a supernatural, if not evil, undercurrent to everything they say and do. Harvest Home, as the title implies, is much more than it seems. Bits of the mystery of Harvest Home unravel bewitchingly and languorously as the story of this most unusual town and the people who live there unfolds. Like all exceptional movies, this one does not have one lame or wasted moment of film. It also has great production values, a great story, a great cast, a great director, and great scenery and photography. It's spooky and intelligent, not obvious and gross. There is so much going on under the surface and the performances so on-the-mark that it keeps your attention. It is a thoroughly enjoyable movie experience and you should jump at the chance to see it -- if that day ever comes.
Say what you will about the translation of Tom Tryon's fine gothic chiller
Harvest Home into this TV film, Bette Davis' performance here is riveting
and really nails home the creepiness of the tale. Unlike her sad farewell
in The Wicked Stepmother (1989) where she was clearly having trouble
focusing on her acting, here she is a powerful presence that (goose)fleshes
out this telefilm the way it should be.
Playing the Widow Fortune (a prophetic name if ever there was one), she is the matriarch of Cornwall Coombe, a small Connecticut village just on the other side of the Lost Whistle covered bridge where "the ways" hold sway over the villagers. What they do and how they do it is bound by tradition, one hundred percent, so when a city family comes to stay, culture clash is inevitable.
Of course we all know this is a gothic chiller standard--sophisticated city couple/family comes to small quiet village only to find it mired in evil and horror, et cetera. Too true. But Davis' character is spellbinding enough that the viewer can overlook this tried and true plot point and enjoy the proceedings. Additionally, aside from some minor outdated bits of dialogue here and there, the script is actually pretty intelligent; a low stupidity quotient in the dialogue helps tremendously.
Unfortunately the VHS release of this film was chopped considerably; the original five hour length was shown on TV but unless the viewer taped it (as I did), it's completely unavailable. High time for a DVD release.
This is a great way to spend an evening with a roaring snowstorm outside. And the ending really is a shocker.
This film really shocked my infancy and I'll never forget it. I saw it when I was 7 or 8 but I vividly remember many of its sequences: the pagan rites of the Harvest Home, the tongue cut, the protagonist made blind by the terrible widow ... Bette Davis is charismatic as always and in this role she's really unforgettable; Rosanna Arquette lets us see some of the qualities which will lead her to be an important actress in the 80's and some minor characters are well refined. Briefly, it's one of the best TV movies I've ever seen.
A Very good adaptation of the novel HARVEST HOME by Thomas Tryon. Bete Davis
stars as The Widow Fortune. The seemingly kindly matriarchal leader of a
quiet New England puritan-like village. Funny thing is they actually LIKE
outsiders??? Joanna Miles, Bradford Dillman & Roseanna Arquette play the NEW
folks in town. Rene Auberjonis gives a wonderful turn as the local JUNK
dealer who may know TOO much. Just exactly WHy are these homely folk SO
interested in NEW blood? Keep an eye out for the
Harvest Home Festival itself. And once it starts...HOLD ONTO YOUR SEATS!!! One word of advice...this was originally a four hour mini series for NBC. The videocassette version is a severly edited version that leaves out HUGE chunks of the original story. If you can catch it on the Sci-Fi channel they always show the entire mini series. It's worth the wait!
This was a terrific mini-series with just the right mix of fantasy and
horror. The reverence the people of this matriarchal town holds for its main
crop, corn, is nearly as creepy as the out of control little girl who
foresees things. Nice touches were the long sharp scissors Ms. Davis wore on
a cord hanging from the belt of her long black dress, the shunning of the
old couple and the suitable cluelessness of the menfolk.
This was an edge of your seat, can't wait to see what happens next movie. Anyone who missed it one its first run should try to get a copy--it's a truly excellent creepshow.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off..Why isn't this movie on DVD!?!
The "cut" version is the only one I can find in existence & that really takes away from the atmosphere that this movie is trying to purvey...Granted, the book is much better - but this is still one helluva movie! Acting, dialogue and the story itself put this flick far beyond other TV movies of this era (Remember - this is a "made for TV" flick!)Bette Davis (as always) is at top form as the Widow Fortune...the ending (SPOILERS) where the same fate becomes our main character is amazing!
Please someone, somewhere bring this movie to DVD - Uncut please!
PS: Check out the amazing voice of Donald Pleasance on the "audio books" the blind man is listening to...also, check out the content...Edgar Allen Poe!
This was originally aired in England on the Sci-Fi channel back in
1996. It was shown quite late on at night, so I taped all the episodes
and watched them later. Today, I still have the recording!
A young married couple with a daughter go out in their car one day to get away from the city. The wife's father has recently been buried, and she needs to escape. They blow a tire just beside the Lost Whistle Bridge, which thus leads into the small village of Cornwall Coombe. After putting on a spare tire, they venture into it, and are instantly charmed by the inhabitants, and a grand old house. The neighbours to this house, the Dodds, say that its owner will never sell it. However, once they get back to the city, they receive a phone call from the Dodds, telling them that the house IS up for sale, and that they will have to talk to the Widow Fortune (Bette Davis). The house is surprisingly cheap, and they take it, and move. It seems absolutely great at first, but then the husband starts getting suspicious about the folk of Cornwall Coombe, especially when he learns of a recently deceased woman, who apparently fell in love in the village, but somehow 'fell from grace', and committed suicide by jumping off the Lost Whistle Bridge. As he starts to unravel the mystery, however, horrors that seek beyond the imagination start rising, and suddenly, the nice calm little village begins to show its true colours...
Bette Davis gives what must be one of her best performances EVER in this chilling mini series. It's a shame that it isn't available on DVD. The out of print VHS version was drastically cut, and its never been released uncut. Try and catch this on TV some time. The Sci-Fi Channel always shows the full series, so if you ever get the chance, make sure to watch this. You won't be disappointed!
Stars like Bette Davis were not getting the big roles for the big
screen that they were in the days of the big studio system so many like
Davis turned to the small screen. One of her better choices was The
Dark Secret Of Harvest Home where she actually went back to her New
England roots to play the Matriarch in a special matriarchal society
that has developed in an isolated corner of Connecticut.
David Ackroyd with wife Joanna Miles and daughter Rosanna Arquette think they've found this picturesque relic of a town where time seems to have stood still. Even the fact that they find a house in need of a bit of repair seems to be inviting them to stay. What they don't know is that the family is being auditioned by Davis known to one and all as the Widow Fortune who rules the roost there. In fact if this were a beehive Cornwell Coombe would have the men either as worker bees or worse drones.
The women acclimate quite quickly, but Ackroyd starts developing suspicions. Sad to say they prove to be right. These folks have their own kind of religion, Christianity with pagan fertility rites. There's one male among them who is the Prince of the Harvest and what perks come with John Calvin's office. But what a price he has to pay for them.
The kid who is scheduled to be Calvin's successor wants to commit the unpardonable heresy of leaving. Michael O'Keefe plays him and it's his story that makes Arquette start to question 'the ways'.
Bette Davis really was born to play the Widow Fortune, I cannot imagine another actress doing justice to the role. O'Keefe as the young man who thinks there just might be something more to this old world than a New England farming community that has some strange ways is very touching in his performance.
I'm not a big fan of these kind of horror novels and the films that come from them. But author Tom Tryon did a wonderful job in creating some real three dimensional characters, not just meat waiting to be slaughtered by some guy waving an ax.
The Dark Secret Of Harvest Home is more than horror film fans.
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