Monster Fest 2016 appearances: The Evil Touch & Homicide, episode 27, ‘Witch Hunt’

qualyeA quick heads up to Melbourne readers – Monster Fest 2016 will happen on take place from November 23 – 27, at the Lido Cinema, Hawthorn. Monster Fest is not something I have had much to do with in previous years, but this year it has been hugely revamped, largely thanks to the new program director, Kier-La Janisse, who has put together a new programming team, of which I am a part of.

Anyway, I particularly wanted to draw your attention to two events I am a part of.

Low Grade Transmissions From Hell: Revisiting the Lost Australian Horror Anthology, The Evil Touch

The early seventies are viewed as a peak period for horror anthology television. The Australian show, The Evil Touch is unique in that it was the only horror anthology show made locally, specifically for the US market. Successful in America, it bombed when aired in Australia in 1973 and the 26 episode series is now largely forgotten. Although cheaply made, The Evil Touch is strangely effective, at times, genuinely disturbing television. The grainy look and surreal narrative style give it the feel – in the words of American television critic John Kenneth Muir – of ‘a low grade transmission straight from hell’.

As part of Monster Fest’s Monster Academy, I’ll be giving a talk on the origins, making and reception of The Evil Touch. The session will also include a screening of what I think is its most innovative episode

‘Kadaitcha Country’. Kadaitcha Country stars The High Chaparral’s Leif Erickson as an unhinged Christian preacher who is assigned to a remote outback mission, where he immediately comes into contact with an Aboriginal ‘witch doctor’ called the Kadaitcha Man.

The talk will take place at the Lido Cinema on Friday, November 25, at 2.30pm and is free.

A special screening of episode 27 of Homicide, ‘Witch Hunt’

Satan, witches, warlocks, demons, they were everywhere in the sixties, even in the case files of what was then Australia’s favourite TV cop show, Homicide. Myself & my fellow Homicide enthusiast and film scholar, Dean Brandum, will introduce a special screening of episode the iconic Crawford drama, ‘Witch Hunt’. Aired in 1965 & written by long time Crawford scriptwriter & producer Sonia Borg, the episode concerns an investigation into a near fatal assault of an old woman that draws the Homicide team into the shadowy world of witchcraft in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. This is a not to be missed chance to see this rare slice of Australian TV history.

The session will take place at the Lido Cinema on Saturday, November 26, at 4pm. Tickets are available at the Monster Fest site.

I suggest you check out the entire program Monster Fest program, which can be found here. Some of the highlights, for my money, include a screening of the 1971 classic, Wake In Fright, attended by the film’s director, Ted Kotcheff, who is a guest at the festival and the Australian debut of Ben Wheatley’s heist thriller, Free Fire. I’ll also be attending the screening of Paul Schrader’s latest, Dog Eat Dog, which will be preceded by a screening of Melbourne director Paul Anthony Nelson’s much anticipated film, Cigarette.

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12 Responses

  1. I dearly wish that I could have been at your 2006 talk about THE EVIL TOUCH. I’ve been fascinated by the series for a decade now, and have been looking for decent recordings for ages. Unfortunately, even had I known about your lecture in time, there’s no way I could have attended (as I live in the U.S.). But I’m thrilled to know that someone has devoted time to researching and discussing this unjustly overlooked gem. Here in the States, it’s difficult to even determine who owns the series’ distribution rights these days. It was last seen in the mid-1990s on a channel called TV Land, but has been missing from the airwaves in the two decades since. It’s great that you located a print of “Kadaitcha Country” suitable for theatrical screening. Gives me hope that good caliber prints of the series do still exist somewhere out there. Keep up the good work bringing attention to this minor classic.

    • Curt,
      Like you I have been obsessed by this show for some time now. Researching it was indeed a fascinating process. I wish I could get closer to discovering who owns the rights to the show.
      Andrew

  2. Here’s as much as I know, Andrew. THE EVIL TOUCH was originally distributed (in North America, at least) by Allied Artists Television. But Allied Artists went defunct sometime around the late 1970s or early 1980s. I’m unsure who the rights moved to at that time, but when ET aired in Canada during the 1990s on their cable outlet Bravo, the prints still bore the Allied Artists tag at the beginning. But when the series last aired here in the States (circa 1996 – 97), the opening Allied Artists credit had been removed, while separate tags for Viacom and Paramount were added to the end of each. So it’s pretty clear that in the late ’90s the series was being distributed by Paramount. It’s my understanding that since that time the Viacom and Paramount libraries have been acquired by CBS, so that would lead one to presume that CBS is EVIL TOUCH’s current owner. But I’ve had a look at CBS’s current syndication bible (accessible online), and there is no entry for THE EVIL TOUCH. Which brings us back to square one … Who owns the series?

    A few people have speculated that the rights have lapsed and the series has fallen into the public domain, but I find that hard to believe. Someone owns it, and hopefully has possession of the original film elements. Until the owner can be identified, it would be nice of some cleaner copies of the episodes would surface. I know a 16mm print of “The Fans” went up for auction on eBay last year, but the final bid was way out of my league. Happily, I have first generation VHS captures of a few episodes (including “Kadaitcha Country” and “They”), so I have better than average copies of a handful of them. But surely someone has better copies of the likes of “A Game of Hearts,” Wings of Death,” etc., or any copy at all of “Seeing is Believing,” “George,” and the other episodes completely missing in action. I notice that within the last year someone has posted three episodes to YouTube sourced from Asian broadcasts of the series. Unfortunately, their quality is poor, and their audio track is in Japanese. Oh well, I guess the search for the series is half the fun. Perhaps someday we’ll see a proper DVD released (but I’m not holding my breath).

  3. James Aitchison

    Hi Andrew,
    EVIL TOUCH was produced by APA (Amalgamated Pictures Australasia) and shot in Neutral Bay. The Executive Producer was Charles Wolnizer. Charles (sadly deceased) was a great friend of mine. We made many TV commercials together. From memory he was remembered mostly for an iconic children’s film he shot in Tasmania, THEY FOUND A CAVE. Charles spoke fluent Mandarin but didn’t look Chinese. Apparently as a wartime teenager he was assigned to sit at the docks and listen to what Chinese sailors were talking about. On another note, Andrew, I’ve only just discovered your wonderful website. I loved the feature about Aussie pulp fiction. I used to write pulp for ADAM magazine, published by KG Murray in the 1970s. I also wrote for Grace Gibson Radio Productions. She produced a lot of noir radio drama in the old days, e.g. Nightbeat, Carter Brown Mystery Theatre.
    Cheers, keep up the great work,
    James

    • James,
      Thanks for your positive feedback about my site and for your interesting insights into the production of The Evil Touch. I am also very interested in what you say about writing for Adam and for various radio shows. I assume you were living in Sydney when that was occurring?
      Cheers,
      Andrew

  4. Hey, Andrew.
    During your research into THE EVIL TOUCH, did you run across any info on episodes that didn’t make it into production? One of my favorite episodes of ET is “Heart to Heart” featuring Mildred Natwick. That episode bore the somewhat unlikely writer’s credit Q. Moonblood, which a minimal amount of research reveals to be a pseudonym for a then-unknown Sylvester Stallone (who was trying to break into show business as a screenwriter before his acting career took off). “Heart to Heart” is the only ET installment credited to Q. Moonblood, but several sites documenting Stallone’s early career state that he sold another script to ET … a piece titled “The Ballad of Butcher Bloom.” For reasons unknown, after purchasing the script, the powers behind THE EVIL TOUCH wound up shelving it, consigning it to the status of a “lost” episode. But last night I discovered that a short time back an auction house sold bundle of Stallone’s Q. Moonblood papers, among which were handwritten notes and a treatment for “Butcher Bloom.” Remarkably, the auction site still had scans of some of the papers posted, including bits and pieces of “Butcher Bloom.” While they only represent fragments of the story, you can piece together enough to tell where Stallone was going with it. At the outset, it’s obvious that he was drawing inspiration from the story of Sweeney Todd. **The story concerns a butcher living in an economically depressed small town. However, while other businesses are struggling, his shop flourishes, particularly because of a uniquely flavorful cut of meat he offers, which he calls “sweet meat.” Meanwhile, the local sheriff investigates a series of disappearances among the citizenry. (I believe we can see where this is heading.) The sheriff becomes suspicious that Butcher Bloom is somehow responsible for one of the disappearances (but apparently hasn’t put two and two together regarding the source of his meat products). He searches the butcher shop, but finds nothing suspicious. To show he harbors no hard feelings, Butcher Bloom invites the sheriff and all of his friends to a Sunday barbecue, at which he lays on a sumptuous feast. As the party breaks up at the end of the evening, the sheriff thanks Bloom for his generosity, but then asks the butcher point blank if he killed the most recent of the vanished citizens. Bloom laughs, and the sheriff looks around at the empty plates from the barbecue scattered about, horrible realization dawning on him.** So Stallone’s story was a mash-up of Sweeney Todd and Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter.” Not bad, really, considering this was one of Stallone’s earliest professional writing sales. Mende Brown and the rest of the folks at EVIL TOUCH may have decided the twist ending was a bit too obvious from the beginning, but I still think with the proper handling it could have worked. The element of cannibalism certainly would have been edgy for television in 1973. Anyway, it’s interesting to get even a glimpse at a lost story from THE EVIL TOUCH.
    Regards,
    Curt

    • Curt,
      I can’t say that I have. I was away that Stallone had written one show under a pseudonym and have seen said episode, but that is all I know. Indeed, you seem far more knowledgeable about it than I am. I wish you had made contact while I was doing the research for my presentation. You’ve inspired me to write something more detailed about the show on this site.
      Cheers,
      Andrew

  5. Hi, Andrew.
    I’m so glad to hear you’ve decided to do a lengthier write-up of THE EVIL TOUCH for your blog! Little more than cursory notice has been given to the series over the past couple of decades (with the thankful exception of John Kenneth Muir). Wonderful to see diligent folks like you giving it some attention. Keep up the great work!
    i’m far from an expert on THE EVIL TOUCH, but I am a bit obsessive about researching shows that interest me. So I’ve done a fair bit of Google searching and digging into the old newspaper archives for TV listings, ads, etc. I did, at one time, have a minor personal connection to the series, as I kept up a correspondence with actress Mirren Lee (who had small roles in the ET episodes “A Game of Hearts” and “Happy Birthday, Aunt Carrie”). Unfortunately, I lost touch with her years ago, but she had fond recollections of the series.
    BTW, if you need any images to accompany the longer piece you’re planning to post, I’m hopeful (fingers firmly crossed) of obtaining a batch of ET promo material in the near future. Would be glad to share scans, if it would be helpful at all.
    Best,
    Cirt

  6. Hey, Andrew.
    The EVIL TOUCH promo material isn’t a done deal yet, but things are looking good. I should know for certain by this time next week. At the very least, I already have low-res scans of a number of ET press photos and newspaper ads. But I’d love to be able to provide higher quality material if possible. Feel free to drop me a line anytime. My website is down right now, but my email address is good.
    Thanks, BTW, for the tip about the book with your chapter on “Happy New Year, Aunt Carrie.” I’ll definitely check that out.
    Best,
    Curt

  7. Here’s a little EVIL TOUCH themed video I cut together for my YouTube channel:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cc_wpK2mG8

    it’s just a collection of newspaper ads and a syndication promo, but I thought I’d take a moment to share it here.
    Cheers,
    Curt

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