Tuesday, September 10, 2019

DARK AUGUST (1976) Blu-ray Review

Dark August (1976) d. Martin Goldman (USA) (87 min)

In what amounts to be more dramatic character study than straight-ahead fright flick, former New York illustrator Sal (J.J. Barry) flees the city and his current marriage to “find himself” in the quieter climes of Stowe, VT (where the film was actually shot). Unfortunately, one day he accidentally runs down a young girl crossing the country roads, whereupon her vengeful grandfather (William Robertson) lays down a curse on the urban interloper, setting in motion a series of events that threaten to rob Sal of both his sanity and his life.

Barry and real-world spouse Carolyne Sheylne (who plays Sal’s live-in lady friend Jackie) co-wrote the script with producer/director Goldman, which trades beats between a man’s midlife crisis, his trauma over the accident, and a voodoo-inspired tale of payback. Each of these elements work relatively well on their own, yet fail to weave together into a satisfying whole, especially with the long scenes of Sal “working stuff out” clogging up the potentially supernatural goings-on.

That said, there are a number of memorable scenes (parking lot confrontation, carpentry accident, shadowy figures, and Jackie’s Nancy Drew excursion into Robertson’s lair) and the distinctive New England atmosphere is captured in spades.

Oscar-winning actress Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire, Planet of the Apes) was somehow lured into the low-budget mix to play a benevolent witch recruited to thwart the dark forces on hand, and her no-nonsense, chain-smoking presence adds to the air of authenticity surrounding the fantastic proceedings. In fact, most of the performances are quite solid, with Barry and Sheylne doing most of the heavy lifting, but while the character investment is there, the dramatic payoff is not, particularly in the abrupt climax and the film’s truly puzzling denouement.


Audio commentary with writer-director Martin Goldman

“Revisiting Dark August” with author/curator Stephen Thrower (11 min)

“Mad Ave to Mad Dogs” with director Martin Goldman (15 min)

“Don’t Mess with the Psychic” with producer Marianne Kanter (9 min)

“The Hills Are Alive: Dark August and Vermont Folk Horror” with author/artist Stephen R. Bissette (34 min)

Original Press Book

Dark August is available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video (along with Dream No Evil and The Child) as part of its American Horror Project Vol. 2 and can be ordered HERE:



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