Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Dark Secret of Harvest Home

(1978) *1/2

When their car breaks down while driving through a quaint part of rural Connecticut, Ned, his wife Beth, and their daughter Kate stumble upon the small community of Cornwall Combe. They are immediately captivated by the quirky townsfolk who all look and behave as if it’s the 1800s. After spending about 5 minutes in Cornwall Combe the three immediately agree that they should move out of New York City and purchase a home in the idyllic (if you’re Amish) community. The purchase of their home is negotiated by Widow Fortune (Betty Davis) who appears to be the leader of the odd little town. They soon learn that the town abides by certain rules including strict adherence to “the old ways”, which means modern technology is rejected. Apparently the family doesn’t see any red flags raised with any of this and they quickly move in.

Initially Ned is charmed by the town’s strange traditions, which all revolve around the corn crop. But soon he begins to feel ill-at-ease and the more he investigates the more he begins to believe that the town is not all that it seems and that his family might be in danger. Meanwhile his wife and daughter seamlessly slip into town life and its “old ways” of doing things. The more Ned voices concern about what he sees and hears the more they distance themselves from him – hell, they love it there! By time Ned figures out the “secret” of Cornwall Combe it’s too late and he finds himself in a fight for his life.

I’ve been on a 70s “made-for-TV” horror movie kick of late and I’ve been scouring the internet for ideas. I should have paid closer attention when I chose to watch The Dark Secret of Harvest Home. One of the reasons I like these old 70s movies is that the run times are brisk, normally clocking in at around 75 minutes, which is a perfect amount of time to invest in something that is going to be marginally entertaining – “short and sweet and no one gets hurt!” I always say*. Little did I realize that I unwittingly stumbled into a mini-series that was 400 minutes long in its original run! Remember that feeling of despair you experienced as a kid when you were watching a show and realized with horror that things weren’t wrapping up fast enough only to have the inevitable “To be continued” words came across the screen? Damnit, am I really going to have to wait a week to see if Arnold spills the beans about Mr. Horton the friendly bicycle shop owner before Dudley becomes Horton’s latest victim? Sigh.

Anyway, I was about 90 minutes into The Dark Secret of Harvest Home when I realized that things weren’t even remotely coming to a close. I quickly looked the film up online and gasped when I saw the 400 minute run time. Thankfully I learned that the film had been cut down to 200 minutes so it could all fit on a VHS tape back in the day, and that was the version I was apparently watching. Believe me, even with 200 minutes cut out this thing is glacially paced. Not only that, but anyone who has ever seen The Wicker Man would be able to figure out the damn secret of Harvest Home ten minutes into it. I can’t imagine watching this for 400 minutes only to get to the predictable climax.

How was the film? Meh. It really is just an inferior extended version of The Wicker Man with Betty Davis assuming the Lord Summerisle role. The film is broken up into different chapters, Ploughing Day, Planting Day, Agnes Fair, Choosing The Young Lord, The Day Of Seasoning, Tithing Day, Sheaving Tide, Husking Bee, Corn Play, Kindling Night, Harvest Home and each time a chapter concluded I rejoiced that I was one chapter closer to the end. Initially the movie and I became pals and I was enjoying it until I made the mistake of looking up the run time, then I started to resent it and we weren’t friends anymore.

*I never say this.


DCD said...

I can totally hear that gasp of indignation yours.

That picture of the little girl with Bette Davis planted in front of her is hilarious.

DCD said...


...gasp of indignation OF yours.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

Can you think of any other version of The Wicker Man? The list is pretty short.

Race With the Devil
The Dark Secret of Harvest Home
The Wicker Man remake

Funny review JPX. I loved the way you ended it.

Catfreeek said...

I totally remember this. I think I actually watched it when it aired. Bette Davis is my all time favorite actress. I do prefer her older work but I remember her doing a string of made for tv horror flicks in the '70's. Way to dig up these old beauts. You're bringing back some memories.

50PageMcGee said...

aww crap, you totally scooped me on this!

JPX said...

What you mean to say is I did you a favor! I put 200 minutes into this. I read some reviews of the original novel and it sound pretty good, I think I'm going to grab a copy.

50PageMcGee said...

i was completely kidding.

JPX said...

I was too, silly!

Landshark said...

This is what you get for passing off all those Masters of Horror 60 minute episodes as "movies" for all those years! 200 minutes of made-for-tv suckitude.

Cat and Octo are due for some comeupance too.

Octopunk said...

What? I'm just sitting here!

JPX, you are cracking me up with this particular subtheme. The titles alone are a blast.

The thing that's killing me about this movie is that the good guys don't get stuck in the middle of nowhere due to bad luck -- well actually they do, but then they get out just fine but decide to come back and live there! Oops! It's like moving into the shack next to the dudes from Wrong Turn.

And it's in the dark reaches of... Connecticut! Haaa ha ha ha ha! Too bad you're not friends anymore.