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DARK INTRUDER (1965).

I first came across this flick over 25 years ago, when I tracked down a 16mm print of it at a friend's request. It was well worth the effort. Originally conceived as a pilot for a torpedoed TV series entitled BLACK CLOAK, about an occult-oriented detective working in late 19th century San Francisco, the film transcends any expectations -- especially when you see that Leslie Nielsen has the lead role of Brett Kingsford, a playboy/sleuth educated in the supernatural. With a house overflowing with mystical knick-knacks, a resourceful dwarf assistant Nikola at his beck and call, plus a tongue firmly wedged in his cheek, the best way to describe this tale is THE WILD WILD WEST meets H.P. Lovecraft... When a murderous fiend takes to the streets (leaving an ivory demon head at the scene of each crime), the baffled police call in Kingsford, who determines that a Sumarian demon is attempting a return to earth through the body of a human being. The killer (Peter Mark Richman) is a chilling presence, always cloaked, with a hat obscuring his face and with big rubbery claws to slash up his enemies (O.K., so the make-up ain't so hot). And each murder provides yet another spoke on this demon's wheel to resurrection, with Nielsen wearing disguises and consulting a Chinese wiseman in effort stop this unnatural being. Oh, it comes off much better than it sounds, with director Harvey Hart (THE PYX, THE SWEET RIDE) overloading the production with creepy atmospherics (on a limited budget), fascinating props (what I wouldn't give to have some of 'em in my living room), and loads of namedropping thanks to British scriptwriter Barré Lyndon (THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, HANGOVER SQUARE). There's also a wonderfully imaginative wrap-up which goes beyond anything you'd expect. And for the trivia compilers, that's Werner Klemperer ("Hogan!!") providing the voice of Professor Malaki, a fortune teller...A slight but chilling surprise, and so perversely fascinating that it's no wonder the network never picked it up.

© 1991 by Steven Puchalski.