Everyone has one or two, right?
I'm referring to those hazy, uncertain movie and TV moments from your younger days. Moments that now drive you crazy, because you cannot confirm their titles ... or even if these things truly existed. Maybe you dreamed them.1
I had three such mysteries. I'm down to two.
Children's Film Foundation.
I had been fairly sure about the title. I had recollections of watching it in the early 1980s, possibly on Spotlight. I remembered a creepy man, dressed in black and wearing a top hat, who terrorized a young girl as she made her way through the forest. That was it.
The Man From Nowhere was one of dozens of films produced by the Children's Film Foundation, which was founded in 1951.2 My memories were pretty accurate. The plot involves a young girl named Alice (played by Sarah Hollis Andrews) who is sent to stay with her sick uncle. She is terrorized by The Man in Black, who always seems to know where she will be and pops up for several mild jump scares.
A 2013 DVD release3 gave the film some renewed attention. It has been reviewed and discussed on PopMatters and Nothing But the Night!
At least two clips from the film can be seen on YouTube. There is a five-minute excerpt from the beginning and another three-minute scene. Both feature Alice and The Man in Black. While his voice, which is electronically modified, remains unsettling, my 44-year-old self doesn't find him very scary any more. This was, after all, intended for children.
Finally, you can check out a collection of 200+ stills from The Man From Nowhere on a Picasa Web Album by "jonny 8 books." Those stills are the source of all the images that appear in this post.
While The Man From Nowhere is no longer a mysterious thorn in my mind, two other horror-themed fragments still bother me from time to time. Maybe something in these descriptions will ring a bell with someone:
- 1. A man arrives at an inn that is (of course) in the middle of nowhere. He checks in alongside another new guest, a middle-aged woman. During the evening, the man meets a beautiful young woman, who is also staying at the inn. They eventually go back to his room for a romantic engagement and are in the midst of said engagement when the clock strikes midnight and the woman turns evil and attacks him. (I think maybe her eyes change somehow.) It turns out that everyone in the inn, except for the man and the middle-aged woman who checked in at the same time, are malevolent beings intent on killing the guests. In the mayhem, a fire erupts. The man tries to save the middle-aged woman but cannot, so he flees the burning building. The next morning, the man and a police officer he told his story to arrive at the site of the inn. But there's nothing there. No inn. No sign of fire. Just an empty field. But not entirely empty. The corpse of the middle-aged woman is there, among the tall grass. The end. ... I'm pretty sure this was an episode of a horror anthology series, like Tales from the Darkside or Hammer House of Horror. And I think it was a British production. I saw it circa 1984.
- 2. There's very little to go by on this one. It's the ending of a horror movie from, I'm guessing, the late 1960s or early 1970s (based on my hazy memories of the production values and costumes). The "bad" guy, who is either a Frankenstein's monster type or a hunchback/Igor type, is trying to escape the police via a rooftop. But he is shot and falls to his death. Here's the part that stuck with me, though. He was carrying something bundled up in his clothes. As he lay dead on the ground, a few kittens emerge from his grasp and mew pitifully while walking around on his chest. That's it. That's all I have. I've long hoped that the moment involving the cats is specific enough to help lead me to answer. But, thus far, I've had no luck.
1. Or maybe they exist, and they dreamed you. Ponder that.
2. One of CFF's films was 1967's Calamity the Cow, which is most notable for starring a teenaged Phil Collins, a few years before he joined Genesis. YouTube has a generous clip from the film. Collins, coincidentally, is "no longer retired," according to a Rolling Stone article that was posted yesterday.
3. It was only, however, released as a Region 2 DVD in the UK, meaning it cannot be played on Region 1 players in the United States. Pfffft!