Movies from the Black Lagoon: Spectre

Movies from the Black Lagoon
Spectre - 1977, Unrated
By Tom Doty

A criminologist and his physician buddy journey to England when a prominent family enlists their aid in determining whether or not one of them is possessed in this mystery/horror effort from the man who brought you "Star Trek."
By 1977 all things demonic had proven to be big box office so Twentieth Century Fox ordered this pilot from Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek and various other fantastic television dramas). Unfortunately the studios went on to drop their obsession with demonic chillers like "The Exorcist" and " The Omen." Ironically the studios would become more amenable to restarting "Star Trek" that summer when a film called "Star Wars" reignited their interests in all things science fiction. It's too bad that Hollywood think tanks can't multi-task because this pilot really works and would have made for a wonderful series.
It all begins with Dr. Hamilton arriving at the home of his friend, and former partner, William Sebastian. Mr. Sebastian, a criminologist with a strong interest in the occult, is in bad shape after losing a bet with a demon. Apparently there is an effigy somewhere with his face on it and someone has entered a pin into its chest giving Sebastian a shorter lease on life. He invites Hamilton to go to England with him where a wealth woman, Anitra Cyon, has engaged him to determine whether or not one of her two brothers (Geoffrey and Mitri) is possessed by a demon.
Hamilton is dubious but he changes his mind when Anitra shows up and turns out to be a babe and a half. Unfortunately she's not the real thing. This version is just a succubus that is posing as Anitra. Sebastian tumbles to the sham right away and is able to make the faux-Anitra explode by shoving a sacred text onto her face. This development is enough to convince Hamilton and we're off to the races-actually England.
In the United Kingdom things go from bad to worse. First the guys stop off at their only occult contact's shop in downtown London. Too bad they get their minutes after a demon has consumed their buddy and wrecked all of the reference material that might have helped in the case. It's a cool sequence that sees the men seeking shelter in a pentagram, which the demon can't enter.
The family mansion isn't all that inviting. The wine is spiked with crushed glass, killer dogs patrol the grounds, and the banisters are so shaky they almost claim the good doctor. That said there are a bevy of beauties cavorting around the grounds, which the Cyon brothers make sure that these ladies throw themselves at their houseguests. It doesn't take long for our new age Holmes and Watson to find a crypt hidden beneath a "Stonehenge" like temple of rocks. Inside they find enough evidence to prove that the demon Asmodeus is responsible for all that has happened. It just remains to unmask the demon, interrupt the sacrifice of Anitra to Asmodeus, and stop an orgy (I don't think that Hugh Hefner liked this movie).
Rodenberry accomplishes it all with style thanks to a smart script. It's obvious that the works of H.P. Lovecraft as well as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle inspired him and he handles mixing the genres like a master bartender. The film also benefits from decent special effects as well as some top-notch acting. Robert Culp is well cast as Sebastian. He definitely has the Leonard Nimoy role here and he is perfectly wed to the material. Gig Young is also good as the befuddled Hamilton but he would take his own life after completing only one other picture.
This one shows up on Fox Movie Channel often though a DVD release would be most welcome.
Best Line: "This case is so complex, so bizarre, that it's literally unexplainable."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.