TSDNIST EC004

Dan Curtis: Old School/New School (NYC)

Date/Time
Date(s) - Thu. Oct. 25, 2018
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Location
The Paley Centre for Media

Instructor
David Bushman

Admission
$12 advance / $15 door

In the early 1970s, just before Hollywood auteurs like Wes Craven and John Carpenter invented the modern horror film, eschewing old-school, fantastical monsters for gritty, politically edged stories aimed at excavating our deepest anxieties, producer/director Dan Curtis dominated television horror with a series of programs reinterpreting traditional genre tropes for what novelist Don DeLillo famously referred to in Running Dog as “the of conspiracy, the age of connections, links, secret relationships.” Although major newspapers almost unfailingly remembered him first and foremost in his 2006 obituary as the man who brought the epic World War II-themed miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance to television in the 1980s, with their graphic depictions of concentration camp existence, Curtis had earlier built his reputation as a purveyor of a different kind of horror – first with the Gothic-turned-supernatural daytime soap Dark Shadows (1966 to 1971) and then with a series of TV movies and specials airing between 1968 and 1975, including The Night Stalker, The Night Strangler, Trilogy of Terror, and adaptations of such classic monster tales as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Turn of the Screw, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  

Knowingly or not, Curtis – praised by Stephen King in Danse Macabre for an “unerring, crude talent for finding the terror place inside you and squeezing it with a cold hand” – tapped into the zeitgeist of the time – the turbulent sixties, the paranoid seventies – by imbuing classical, literal monsters with human dimensions, beginning with Dark Shadows, whose conflicted, Hamlet-esque vampire, Barnabas Collins, spoke to the outlaw culture of the late sixties just as the antiheroes of Bonnie and Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid did, and paved the way for a stacked roster of tortured successors, including Angel and Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Stefan Salvatore The Vampire Diaries), and Edward Cullen (Twilight).

With The Night Stalker (1972), scripted by horror legend Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Twilight Zone), Curtis once again turned to the classic creature of the night, in this case a vampire terrorizing young women on the streets of Las Vegas, but, in the age of Watergate, stirred in a political cover-up, foreshadowing a rash of literary and cinematic paranoid thrillers and mesmerizing a young viewer by the name of Chris Carter, who, twenty years later, would create The X-Files.

Join us as we explore these and other titles in Curtis’s horror oeuvre, exploring his thematic and aesthetic preoccupations, his evocation of the times, his own influences, and his influence on the men and women who have followed in his footsteps by finding the terror place inside us and squeezing it with a cold hand.

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