Deathdream (1974)


Introduction

Deathdream is a 1974 horror film directed by Bob Clark and written by Alan Ormsby, and starring Richard Backus, John Marley, and Lynn Carlin.

A young soldier killed in Vietnam inexplicably shows up to his family home one night.

Filmed in Brooksville, Florida, it was inspired by the W. W. Jacobs short story “The Monkey’s Paw”.

Also known as Dead of Night (original title), The Night Walker (working title, Canada), The Night Andy Came Home (TV title, Canada and US). US reissue titles include: Whispers; It Came from the Grave; King of the Grave; King from the Grave, Night Walk; and The Veteran.

Outline

In Vietnam 1972, American soldier Andy Brooks is shot by a sniper and falls to the ground. As he dies, he hears his mother’s voice calling out, “Andy, you’ll come back. You’ve got to. You promised.”

Sometime later, his family receives notice of his death in combat. Andy’s father, Charles, and sister, Cathy, begin to grieve, but his mother, Christine, becomes irate and refuses to believe that Andy has died. Meanwhile, a trucker stops at a diner and says he has picked up a hitchhiker who is a soldier. Hours later, in the middle of the night, Andy arrives at the front door of the family house in full uniform, apparently unharmed; the family welcomes him back with joy, concluding the notice of his death was a clerical error. When the father says they thought Andy had died, he replies “I did.” The family laughs, thinking this a joke.

In the next few days, Andy displays strange, withdrawn behaviour, speaking only rarely, dressing in a concealing manner, and spending his days sitting around the house, listless and anaemic. At night, though, he becomes inexplicably animated, wandering the town and spending time in the local cemetery. Meanwhile, local police investigate the murder of a local trucker, who was found with his throat slashed and his body drained of blood.

Charles attempts to confront Christine about Andy’s erratic behaviour. Christine insists that Charles was too withdrawn and authoritarian toward Andy; Charles counters that Christine made Andy too sensitive by smothering him. Andy continues to display weird behaviour: he attacks a neighbour boy who attempts to demonstrate his karate skills, then kills the family dog when it tries to protect the child. Charles witnesses the killing, tells his wife that their son is crazy, and then goes to the bar, where he tells his friend, a doctor, what Andy did.

Charles brings the doctor home, and he offers Andy a free checkup. The doctor later tells Charles about the truck driver and says he needs to inform the police about the suspicious coincidence of Andy’s return. Andy visits him at his office in the middle of the night, angrily demanding a checkup, but the doctor can’t detect a pulse or heartbeat. Andy tells him, “I died for you, Doc. Why shouldn’t you return the favour?” He attacks and kills the doctor with a syringe, then uses it to inject the doctor’s blood into his arm. It’s clear that Andy is some kind of vampire or zombie who needs the blood of others to reinvigorate his decaying body.

The next day, Charles learns that the doctor was killed and becomes convinced his son is responsible for the deaths. When Christine tells him that Andy is on a double date with his high school sweetheart, Joanne, his sister, and his best friend, Charles gets his gun and goes looking for them. At a drive-in cinema, Andy visibly decays due to lack of blood. He attacks and kills Joanne and his friend while his sister manages to escape. The other patrons witness the attack. Andy flees in the car before he can inject his victims’ blood, running over and killing one of the patrons.

Andy returns home, where his mother protects him from his father. Charles commits suicide when he sees the monster his son has become. As Christine is driving Andy away, he is shot twice by police, and their gunfire sets the car on fire. The police pursuit ends at the graveyard where Andy had been spending time. They discover his decayed corpse writhing in a shallow grave beneath a tombstone on which Andy had scrawled his own name and the dates of his birth and death. Christine sobs as she tries to cover the corpse with dirt. Her car explodes, and she tells officers, “Andy’s home. Some boys never come home.”

Cast

  • Richard Backus as Andy Brooks.
  • John Marley as Charles Brooks.
  • Lynn Carlin as Christine Brooks.
  • Anya Ormsby as Cathy Brooks.
  • Jane Daly as Joanne.
  • Mal Jones as Sheriff.
  • Henderson Forsythe as Dr. Philip Allman.
  • Norman William Beauchamp as Cop.
  • William Mason O’Neil as movie theatre extra.

Production

Filming took place in Brooksville, Florida, in the fall of 1972, under the working title The Night Walker.

Release

Home Media

Blue Underground DVD released a special edition of Deathdream in 2004. In 2017, Blue Underground released a 2K resolution edition on Blu-ray. Special features include an audio commentary by Bob Clark, an audio commentary by Alan Ormsby, the featurette Tom Savini: The Early Years, the featurette Deathdreaming: Interview with Star Richard Backus, alternative opening titles, extended ending sequence, trailers, and a poster and still gallery.

Unmade Remake

In February 2006, Dark Lot Entertainment acquired the rights to Zero Dark Thirty written by The Grudge scribe Stephen Susco with John Stalberg Jr. slated to direct. In December, it was reported that the film would serve as a remake of Deathdream. By June of 2008, financing fell through, leading to Michael Douglas’ Further Films taking over producing duties from Dark Lot. Paul Solet would later take over as director in July 2010, and revised Susco’s script, with production gearing up to take place by the end of the year. No further updates on the project have been made.

Trivia

  • Richard Backus was cast as Andy because he was able to create a silent stare of intense hatred for the casting agent.
    • Backus’ creepy facial expression came into play frequently for the film.
  • The ‘decaying’ makeup for Richard Backus took six hours to apply.
  • This film and its themes can in many ways be seen as an early reflection of the popular awareness of the effect of combat trauma on soldiers that the Vietnam War helped bring to light.
    • Much of Andy’s disposition and symptoms, e.g. sudden violent behaviour due to the re-living of traumatic experiences, would later be associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the Third Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1980).
  • For the opening Vietnam scene there was additional footage shot of a traumatised Andy walking through the jungle among the bloody carnage.
    • The footage was cut in favour of a quicker intro to the story.
    • There was also supposed to be a similar scene later where Andy walks through the streets at night and comes across a blind veteran sitting on a porch.
    • This scene was also cut for time.
  • Though re-released in 1981 as ‘King from the Grave’, ‘King of the Grave’ and ‘It Came from the Grave’, it was reportedly only advertised under these titles.
    • The actual film prints retained the more common ‘Dead of Night’ or ‘Deathdream’ title cards.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Bob Clark.
  • Producer(s):
    • Bob Clark … producer.
    • Gerald Flint-Shipman … executive producer.
    • Peter James … producer.
    • Geoffrey Nethercott … executive producer.
    • John Trent … producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Alan Ormsby (screenplay).
  • Music:
    • Carl Zittrer.
  • Cinematography:
    • Jack McGowan … director of photography.
  • Editor(s):
    • Ronald Sinclair … (as Ron Sinclair).
  • Production:
    • Dead Walk Company (copyright holder).
    • Impact Films.
    • Quadrant Films.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Entertainment International Pictures (1974) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Ambassador Film Distributors (1975) (Canada) (theatrical).
    • British Empire Films Australia (1975) (Australia) (theatrical).
    • Rovers Cinema (1976) (Italy) (theatrical).
    • Alpha Films (1977) (UK) (theatrical).
    • Atlas Film (1977) (Sweden) (theatrical).
    • Ben Barry and Associates (1978) (USA) (TV) (syndication).
    • Les Plaisirs Vidéo (1983) (France) (VHS).
    • VCL (1983) (Australia) (video).
    • Gorgon Video (1984) (USA) (VHS).
    • MPI Home Video (1984) (USA) (VHS) (distributed by).
    • Video for Pleasure (VFP) (1984) (Belgium) (VHS).
    • Videoteca Studio (1984) (Greece) (VHS).
    • MacVideo (1985) (Sweden) (VHS).
    • Skyline Video (1985) (West Germany) (VHS).
    • CIC Victor Video (1988) (Japan) (VHS).
    • Blue Underground (2004) (USA) (DVD).
    • Stomp Visual (2005) (Australia) (DVD).
    • Millennium Storm (2006) (Italy) (DVD).
    • Nucleus Films (2012) (UK) (DVD).
    • El Rey Network (2015) (USA) (TV) (cable television).
    • Media Target Distribution (2016) (Germany) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
    • Blue Underground (2017) (USA) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
    • Subkultur Entertainment (2017) (Germany) (Blu-ray).
    • The Criterion Channel (2021) (USA) (TV) (digital).
  • Release Date: 29 August 1974 (US).
  • Running Time: 88 minutes.
  • Rating: X.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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