Trilogy of Terror (1975)

trilogy of terror poster 1975 movie karen black
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visual: 8/10

Amelia story is a classic horror tale

Julie and Millicent and Therese are largely forgettable

Movie Info

Movie Name: Trilogy of Terror

Studio: Dan Curtis Productions

Genre(s): Horror/B-Movie

Release Date(s): March 4, 1975

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

trilogy of terror julie karen black robert burton

Remember the other two thrilling tales? Doubt it…

Uptight college professor Julia (Karen Black) finds herself blackmailed by a student named Chad (Robert Burton) and trapped in a relationship…but who is really pulling the strings?  Sisters Millicent (Karen Black) and Therese (Karen Black) find themselves at odds, but Dr. Ramsey (George Gaynes) realizes there is more to their battle than anyone knows.  When Amelia (Karen Black) gets an ancient wooden Zuni tribal hunter doll for her boyfriend, terror is unleashed when the doll comes to life.

Directed by Dan Curtis, Trilogy of Terror was a made-for-TV horror film.  The three story anthology was based on the stories of Richard Matheson (who adapted “Amelia” with William F. Nolan adapting “Julie” and “Millicent and Therese”) and aired on ABC on March 4, 1975.  The film received positive reviews and gained a cult following over the years in particular for the “Amelia” storyline.

trilogy of terror millicent and therese karen black george gaynes

I’m a bad girl, doctor…

I remember first learning about Trilogy of Terror from a coworker who had been terrified by “Amelia” as a kid.  I saw it years ago, and like most, “Amelia” was the most memorable aspect of the story.  Rewatching Trilogy of Terror, it remains the same, though I do like aspects of the first story “Julie” a little more than I did on early viewings.

“Julie” is based on “The Likeness of Julie” which was originally published in Matheson’s Alone in the Night collection in 1962 is a story of rape-revenge.  Unlike something like Last House on the Left which goes for the no-holds-barred approach of an unrated film, this movie is forced to do it under the guise of a TV movie.  It is pretty obvious where the story is going and Burton is the oldest looking college student (he was actually married to Black at the time).  It is a little more interesting in the post #MeToo movement where a student is able to blackmail and seduce a teacher because “no one will believe her”, but it is also obvious because the film is a horror film that Julie is playing Chad for her own games.  You never get any motive for this behavior, but Black is decent in the sequence.

trilogy of terror amelia zuni doll bathtub teeth

Always keep your Zuni hunter clean and fresh

“Millicent and Therese” adapts the 1969 short story “Needle in the Heart” and is the weakest of the three vignettes.  Even non-jaded horror movie viewers would quickly recognize that Therese and Millicent are the same person, so it is slow to pan out and dull to wait for the inevitable twist.  Black tries to make this story interesting, but Millicent and Therese aren’t interesting enough characters (and Millicent is too similar to Julie in the first story).  The story is completely forgettable.

The final sequence “Amelia” is based on Matheson’s “Prey” which was originally published in Playboy (April 1969).  It was originally pitched for The Twilight Zone (he adapted “The Invaders” loosely around it) and is one of the better short horror films around.  The story is relentless with Amelia trapped in her apartment by the screaming evil Zuni doll.  While you can watch the story and say “Why doesn’t she ________”, you just need to watch and enjoy the sheer terror.  Black helped develop the story herself and her ability to make the goofy doll (which was tough to work with) scary is commendable.  It has the great, classic ending with Black leering with the Zuni teeth, and it holds up over the years.

trilogy of terror amelia karen black zuni teeth ending

Come back sometime!

Trilogy of Terror needs to be seen, but if you can’t stomach the first or second stories, at least see “Amelia” which is a horror classic.  The movie is relatively available after years of difficulty finding it, and websites often stream it.  The film, along with other movies from the same period, shows how strong a made-for-TV horror film can be if it embraces the base nature of horror instead of trying to go for shock, jumps, and gore.  Trilogy of Terror was followed by a sequel Trilogy of Terror II in 1996.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

2 Comments on "Trilogy of Terror (1975)"

  1. Mike Lambert May 7, 2017 at 8:35 am -

    I give the film a solid AGW rating. Absolutely godamned woeful. The first two segments are completely boring, the third whilst being pretty dreadful is at least funny. Trilogy of ‘terror’ my arse.

  2. cliff anderson March 25, 2018 at 9:13 pm -

    I actually really liked this one (bit I’m used to a lot worse). I thought Karen Black was pretty good.