Obscure Horror Cinema: Once Upon a Midnight Scary

by William Burns

Back when TV networks actually put some thought into their programming, audiences could expect special themed shows and original events around Halloween. One of the best was Once Upon a Midnight Scary, an hour-long television special for CBS, broadcast in 1979. The show was an anthology of short tales, adapting three horror stories: Richard Peck’s “The Ghost Belonged to Me,” Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and John Bellair’s “The House With a Clock in Its Walls.” Though the intended audience for the show was children, the adaptations had their intense moments, especially “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” with its concept of a doomsday clock hidden in a home that has to be found before it runs out of time, dooming all life on the planet. The version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is also quite good with a fearsome dramatization of Ichabod Crane’s fateful meeting with the Headless Horseman. Best of all, the show is hosted by horror icon Vincent Price, playing a vampire who is quite flattered to have been given the task of introducing the tales. What better way to spend Halloween than with the Prince of horror himself?


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