6.9/10
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Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

Not Rated | | Horror | TV Movie 24 October 1981
In a small Southern town, a wrongfully-killed man exacts revenge on those who murdered him from beyond the grave.

Director:

Frank De Felitta

Writers:

J.D. Feigelson (teleplay), J.D. Feigelson (story) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
3,568 ( 1,697)

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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Charles Durning ... Otis P. Hazelrigg
Robert F. Lyons ... Skeeter Norris
Claude Earl Jones ... Philby
Lane Smith ... Harless Hocker
Tonya Crowe ... Marylee Williams
Larry Drake ... Bubba Ritter
Jocelyn Brando ... Mrs. Ritter
Tom Taylor ... D.A. Sam Willock
Richard McKenzie ... Judge Henry
Ivy Jones ... Mrs. Willams
James Tartan James Tartan ... Mr. Williams (as Jim Tartan)
Ed Call Ed Call ... Defense Attorney
Alice Nunn ... Mrs. Bunch
John Steadman ... Mr. Loomis
Dave Adams ... Deputy (as David Adams)
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Storyline

In a small country town, the retarded Bubba Ritter has the mentality of a child and is the best friend of a young local girl. When the girl trespasses the yard of a house and is attacked by a dog, he saves her, but is wrongly accused of killing her by her mother. The postman Otis P. Hazelrigg joins three other vigilantes' friends of him and the group executes the poor man, who was disguised as a scarecrow in a cornfield. They forge some evidences that Bubba had attacked them, and they go to a trial but they are declared not guilty. They are released, but justice comes from the grave and the men are mysteriously killed, one by one, in the revenge of the scarecrow. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

An All-New Chiller for Halloween! See more »

Genres:

Horror

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 October 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La nuit de l'épouvantail See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Wizan Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Larry Drake plays a mentally impaired man named Bubba. In L.A. Law (1986), he plays a mentally impaired man named Benny. See more »

Goofs

When the postman is stabbed to death at the end, he grabs his gut and looks down at himself. There are no holes in his shirt. See more »

Quotes

Marylee Williams: [to Bubba's mother] Don't worry, Mrs. Ritter... Bubba's not gone. He's just being silly. Don't you know what he's doing?
[Mrs. Ritter shakes her head]
Marylee Williams: He's playing the hiding game.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Bubba Didn't Do it…
4 October 2013 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is directed by Frank De Felitta and written by J.D. Feigelson and Butler Handcock. It stars Charles Durning, Larry Drake, Tonya Crowe, Jocelyn Brando, Lane Smith and Claude Earl Jones. Music is by Glenn Paxton and cinematography by Vincent Martinelli.

Small town Americana and Bubba Ritter (Drake), a friendly but mentally challenged man, is falsely accused of attacking and severely injuring young Marylee Williams (Crowe). Four of the town residents, with hate and ignorance driving them on, hunt down Bubba and find him hiding as a scarecrow in a field. Murdering him, they claim self defence and walk free from court. It's not long afterwards, though, that the men start to see a scarecrow in their midst…

Some things from movies just stay with you from when you were a wee youngster, I still remember the first time I heard the anguished cry of Bubba Ritter stating that he didn't do the crime he was being hunted for. Dark Night of the Scarecrow stood out by some considerable mile as one of the best TV horror movies I saw as a youth, not for things that I would later appreciate in film making as I got older, but just for sheer terror of a scarecrow stalking his prey for divine retribution. How wonderful to revisit the movie three decades later and find that it is still one of the best TV horror movies out there.

Oh it doesn't terrify now, though it still packs a sense of unease and keeps scarecrows firmly in the realm of creepyville, but it has a style so sorely lacking in many of today's horrors. There is no need to bludgeon us with slash and stalk, showing us gore front and centre, the makers here are subtle, refusing even to put the scarecrow in the limelight like Michael or Jason. There's a smart ambiguity about the supernatural elements, keeping the mystery element strong as the guilty men begin to crack and head towards their real judgement.

Simmering away nicely in the narrative is of course the vile stench of bigotry, and the pain inflicted by such narrow minds. There is also a dark thread left dangling that suggests one of the guilty men is impure of thoughts towards little Marylee, one of the very things he whipped up as reason to hound Bubba for. Some thought went into the screenplay, and it's credit to the writers that it never becomes a moral crusade, while the crafting of the lovely innocent friendship between Bubba and Marylee is beautifully born out by actors and technicians alike.

Durning and Drake dominate the movie with classy shows, impressive in Drake's case as he is only in it for a short amount of time, but the work of young Tonya Crowe puts her in the club that houses best child performances of the 80s. Her reactions to Bubba and Otis (Durning) naturally call for different human emotions, and she in turn nails the aspects of youthful innocence and mature awareness of who the monster actually is. The photography is textured, the music equally so, and there's even some shards of humour and irony along the way.

I can imagine many of today's horror fans going into Dark Night of the Scarecrow and being very disappointed not to get a Voorhees type movie, while some more sensitive viewers may find the portrayals of backwater folk as being ignorantly stereotyped by the makers. It isn't for every horror fan, without a doubt, and clearly it's not perfect, but to those who loved it back when it first showed, those who are jaded by how this type of sub-genre of horror has evolved into bloody overkill and remake/sequel hell, then Dark Night of the Scarecrow is in fact a minor classic. 8/10


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