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Failure to launch: Dark Intruder

July 7, 2013

Leslie Nielsen as Brett Kingsford.

The movie Dark Intruder from 1965 was originally a pilot for a television series that was to be named The Black Cloak.  When the pilot wasn’t picked up by NBC they sold it to Universal where it was released theatrically as the second half of a double bill with the William Castle film I Saw What You Did.

Dark Intruder is set in San Fransisco in the year 1890.  The movie doesn’t waste any time getting into the story as the first thing we see is a woman being murdered by a cloaked and clawed individual.  The story then jumps to the main character Brett Kingsford who is played by Leslie Nielsen.  Brett acts the part of the playboy/man about town but is actually an investigator specializing in the occult.  The role is an interesting one for Mr. Nielson in that he is actually playing a semi-comedic role long before the movie Airplane!.  In his first scene his hangover is interrupted by his friend’s fiance Evelyn Lang played by Judi Meredith.  She is engaged to Robert Vandenburg an antique dealer played by Peter Mark Richman.  Evelyn is concerned by some of Robert’s recent behaviors but, Brett blows these off as just pre-marital jitters on Robert’s part.  That is until he sees Robert himself and rapidly becomes convinced that he is under the influence of some supernatural force.  The last two cast members who would probably have become regulars had this gone to series are Nikola who is Brett’s little person butler.  As Brett explains to Evelyn at one point, he is the victim of a witch doctor who cast a shrinking curse on him.  Finally, we have Detective Misbach who occasionally calls in Brett for help on his more unusual cases.  In reverse of what would become the normal relationship in such series, Brett takes pains to avoid his detective friend in order to be able to maintain some of his less than above board contacts that he needs for his supernatural research.

The pilot is extremely well written and I really don’t want to go into any detail here because there are too many easy ways to spoil the tightly crafted story line.  About the most I can say is that it involves some shenanigans surrounding a decades old archeological expedition in Baghdad.  There are even some Lovecraftian names tossed in for fans of his writing.  The ending is even quite ahead of its time and makes use of a gimmick that would be more at home in an 80s horror movie.  And this, perhaps, is why the pilot failed to result in a series as the whole production is quite ahead of its time as it holds up quite well by today’s television standards.  The principle rumor as to why the series never materialized is that the network executives of the day were concerned about the show being too intense for the viewers at the time but, this has never actually been verified as far as I know.

I would highly recommend Dark Intruder to anyone who has a chance to see it and, here is where the problem with the movie comes in as it has become quite hard to find.  I got my copy on DVD from Sinister Cinema but, they no longer seem to have it available.  Perhaps I should have made this posting a “This really should be available on DVD” posting as well because I find it hard to believe that there is still no professional release of this amazingly fun movie.  This is easily on the top of my list of favorite failed pilots and may very well be my number one.


From → History, Reviews

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