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The Watcher in the Woods (1980) Poster

Trivia

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The Anchor Bay DVD release was originally going to be a two-disc set, with both the famous original 100 minute cut that test audiences saw (Anchor Bay found the footage that was thought destroyed, and was going to re-edit it as close as possible to the preview version) and the theatrical 84 minute cut. Unfortunately Disney did not allow Anchor Bay to have the original cut, and only let them use the two "alternate endings" which now appear on the DVD. This explains why director John Hough referring to the movie as being finally edited the way he intended (the commentary was recorded before Anchor Bay had to drop the two-disc idea), when it actually isn't. The alternate endings, however, do provide the majority of the missing footage from the 1981 preview, save some small scenes/changes. Hough explains that "his" ending is a combination of the two alternate endings and the film's current ending.
In the Anchor Bay DVD commentary, John Hough states that Bette Davis wanted to play both Mrs. Aylwood in the present and thirty years ago. The crew shot scenes with her wearing makeup to appear younger, but she was clearly older than the character the script called for. After the cast and crew saw the dailies, Hough told Davis in private that the scene just didn't work; no one would believe her as a woman in her forties. To her credit, Davis looked Hough in the eye and said, "You're Goddamned right."
The house that Mr. Keller / John Keller (Ian Bannen) lives in previously also portrayed "Hill House" in the original version of The Haunting (1963) directed by Robert Wise from the novel by Shirley Jackson. The real life building is called "Ettington Park Manor" and is situated in Ettington Park in Warwickshire, England, UK.
The original version ran 100 minutes. This was with the short ending that didn't include the explanatory "Other World Sequence" (which wasn't finished at the time of the film's initial release). After the original ending didn't work, the filmmakers re-cut it, adding the special effects sequence in which the viewer sees the other world that the victim was trapped in. This ending still didn't fare well with the critics, so Vincent McEveety was brought in (director John Hough was unavailable) to tweak the film and shoot an entirely new ending and opening credits sequence.
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Director John Hough's audio-commentary states that Brian Clemens wrote the version of the screenplay he was most interested in directing but the Disney Studios decided that this version was much too dark and hired Rosemary Anne Sisson to lighten it up in a re-write.
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Actress Diane Lane auditioned for this movie.
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Director John Hough was not involved in the the re-shoots and additional photography of the movie's ending.
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The name of the novel that Jan Curtis (Lynn-Holly Johnson) was reading after moving into the new house was "The Green Light" (1963) by Bess Norton.
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In 2002, director John Hough said of this film: "You couldn't play a scene with Bette Davis and not really think and not be on your toes, as you just wouldn't have any impact on the scene at all."
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Final of seventeen films that Casting Director Maude Spector worked on at the Disney Studios.
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The movie's source novel title "A Watcher in the Woods" (1976) by Florence Engel Randall was changed to the similarly titled name of "The Watcher in the Woods" for this filmed adaptation.
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The film was first released about four years after its source novel "A Watcher in the Woods" by Florence Engel Randall had been first published in 1976.
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The eighty-fifth theatrical feature film of veteran actress Bette Davis.
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Many filming locations seen in this movie had previously been utilized in Robert Wise's earlier horror movie The Haunting (1963) which was based on a novel by Shirley Jackson.
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Star Bette Davis celebrated her 50th Anniversary year in the motion picture business at the world premiere of this film.
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The movie's closing credits declare that this picture was: "Filmed on location and at Pinewood Studios, London, England."
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Second Disney Studios film featuring an English manor mansion and filmed in the English counties of Warwickshire and Buckinghamshire in just a few years after Candleshoe (1977) which had debuted about three years earlier. "Candleshoe" refers to an 16th Century English Tudor stately home and country estate where most of the action in that movie takes place as with the English mansions played by both St. Hubert's Manor and Ettington Park Manor in The Watcher in the Woods (1980).
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Second of three motion pictures in the early three cinema movie career stardom of actress Lynn-Holly Johnson which had been preceded by the Olympic ice-skating romantic film Ice Castles (1978) and then after The Watcher in the Woods (1980) followed by the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only (1981). These two other pictures both featured winter sports unlike The Watcher in the Woods (1980).
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Lynn-Holly Johnson replaced Diane Lane in the role of Jan Curtis. The 4th June 1979 edition of show-business trade paper 'The Hollywood Reporter' and the 11th July 1979 edition of show-business trade paper 'Variety' both reported actress Lane would be appearing in this picture as Jan Curtis but in the end Johnson played the part.
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Diane Lane was publicized as going to be appearing in this first released in 1980 picture portraying Jan Curtis. Lane did not appear in the film in the end with the part being portrayed instead by Lynn-Holly Johnson. Lane however was seen in another theatrical feature film first released that year called Touched by Love (1980) where she played a character called "Karen". Ironically, "Karen" is the same name of a significant character in The Watcher in the Woods (1980), whose anagram name spelled backwards is "NAREK", with this functioning as a significant story element in The Watcher in the Woods (1980).
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In the remake The Watcher in the Woods (2017), Anjelica Huston plays Mrs. Aylwood, the role played by Bette Davis in this original The Watcher in the Woods (1980). Davis was directed by Huston's father, John Huston, on In This Our Life (1942).
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Anjelica Huston plays Mrs. Aylwood in this film's remake The Watcher in the Woods (2017). Stanley Myers composed the music score for the original The Watcher in the Woods (1980) as well as The Witches (1990), the latter of which is one of Huston''s trademark films.
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Director John Hough was hired to direct this picture after Disney Studios executive and the film's head producer Ron Miller had seen Hough's horror movie The Legend of Hell House (1973).
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Debut theatrical feature film of actor Benedict Taylor and actress Katharine Levy.
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Actor Benedict Taylor, who plays Mike Fleming, had previously appeared in the similarly related genre piece The Turn of the Screw (1974) based on the novel by Henry James.
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Co-producer Tom Leetch pitched this picture to the movie's main producer and Disney Studios executive Ron Miller exclaiming: "This could be our Exorcist" [See: The Exorcist (1973)].
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An unknown and uncredited actress replaced Katharine Levy in the non-speaking part of Karen Aylwood in the 1981 re-cut version of this picture.
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The acquisition of the film rights to authoress Florence Engel Randall's novel "A Watcher in the Woods" (1976) by Walt Disney Productions was announced in the 21st November 1978 edition of show-business trade paper 'The Hollywood Reporter'.
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This motion picture from Walt Disney Productions was initially intended to be a tele-feature made for television according to the 13th September 1979 edition of show-business trade paper 'The Hollywood Reporter'.
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About one week into production filming on this picture, circa late August - early September 1981, the Disney Studio had re-thinked the project, and changed the type of film from being a made-for-television tele-movie to a theatrical feature film cinema movie.
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Special effects sequences were shot not in England but at the Disney Studios in Burbank in Hollywood, California, USA. Actress Bette Davis during the northern hemisphere winter of 1980, shot her re-shoots and additional photography in California as well.
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After this film, skater-actress Lynn-Holly Johnson appeared in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only (1981) where she had a supporting role as ice-skater Bibi Dahl. Prior to Ice Castles (1978), Johnson had both skating and acting experience which contributed to her getting the lead role in Ice Castles (1978). Johnson had previously appeared in TV commercials and in stage productions such as "The Miracle Worker".
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This motion picture's closing credits declare: "Final sequence designed by Harrison Ellenshaw".
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The movie notably featured two English mansions: "St. Hubert's Manor" which is located at St. Huberts Lane, Gerrard's Cross, Buckinghamshire, England, UK and "Ettington Park Manor" which is situated at Ettington Park, Warwickshire, England, UK.
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Due to the 1980 SAG (Screen Actors Guild) actor's strike, the film's re-shoots and additional photography could not be shot until November 1980.
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The 20th October 1981 edition of 'The New York Times' and the 25th October 1981 edition of 'The Los Angeles Times' both reported Harrison Ellenshaw being hired as a special effects fxpert to shoot additional special effects for the movie at a reported cost to the Disney Studios of an estimate approximate US $1 million.
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The movie in its initial American release in April 1980 had its season canceled by the Disney Studios in May 1980. This was so the movie's ending, which had been the subject of much criticism by film critics and public audiences, could be re-worked, with re-shoots, new special effects, and additional photography conducted.
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The re-issue theatrical re-release of the Disney Studios classic movie Mary Poppins (1964) was brought forward nearly a year early from its scheduled release date of Easter 1981 to fill the gap left by The Watcher in the Woods (1980) being pulled from theaters in May 1980 after the film having just opened in April that year.
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Starring as Mrs. Aylwood in this Disney Studios film was veteran actress Bette Davis, who had just recently co-starred in another cinema movie for Walt Disney Productions, as Letha in Return from Witch Mountain (1978).
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The film was originally intended to start shooting in late July 1979 but the start of principal photography was delayed and did not commence until late August 1979.
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The initial period of principal photography on this picture ran for a production shoot length of around twelve weeks.
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The remake The Watcher in the Woods (2017) was made about thirty-seven years after this original screen version of The Watcher in the Woods (1980). An unrelated short film of the same name, The Watcher in the Woods (2009), sits between the two pictures, made about twenty-nine years after the 1980 film, and about eight years before the 2017 remake.
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

The word "NAREK" was both an anagram of "KAREN" and that word spelled backwards. The character of Karen Aylwood was portrayed by both Katharine Levy as well as an uncredited actress in the 1981 re-cut version.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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