Sunday, October 07, 2012

Weekend Matinee: The Norliss Tapes


A Secret Sun board member recently asked me what I thought was Chris Carter's primary inspiration and the answer was simple: Dan Curtis. You see, the seeds of Ten Thirteen Productions can all be found in Curtis' legendary made-for-TV classics, everything from Dark Shadows to the The Night Stalker to Trilogy of Terror to Intruders.

And then there's The Norliss Tapes, featuring pivotal X-Files guest star (and Invaders legend) Roy Thinnes. This was made the year after The Night Stalker and almost seems like a sequel (complete with Claude Akins!) patched together with Thinnes because Darren McGavin was already booked. 

For my money Thinnes suits the material better; his moody, brooding demeanor adds a sombre realism to the proceedings that McGavin's wiseguy act could either embellish or undermine, depending on which way the wind was blowing.

This being a Dan Curtis production there are some fine Hollywood goddesses on hand, particularly the ubiquitous Angie Dickinson, the voluptuous Michele Carey and the doe-eyed Vonetta McGee. There's also some popcult resonance at work both with the setting (especially given the time period) and the Maguffin.

Geekery: The original story was written by Fred Mustard Stewart, author of The Mephisto Waltz, a Secret Sun touchstone if ever there was one. The screenplay was written by William F. Nolan, author of Logan's Run.