On Aug. 8, 2013, Hollywood icon Karen Black lost her long battle with cancer at the age of 74. The actress, widely known for Easy Rider, House of 1000 Corpses, and Five Easy Pieces, was a fan favorite at various conventions in recent years.
For horror fans, one of Black's most notable roles was as "Marian Rolf" in Burnt Offerings. The horror-mystery received many negative reviews from critics, however it won many awards in 1977. It was also the first movie to be filmed in California's historic Dunsmuir House.
My first contribution to Fun With Horror, which was my first official article anywhere, was a review of Burnt Offerings. As a life-long horror fan, I offer my deepest condolences to her family and would like to offer my many thanks for so many years of stellar performances, that will be sure to keep audiences entertained for many years to come.
Here is my review:
This little gem from 1976 popped up in my Amazon recommendations about 8 months ago. Now that Halloween is upon us, it’s time for my annual “Horror-Movie-a-Thon,” and this year I decided to stray from my classic list (Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.) and watch some of the lesser known films in my arsenal. I knew the acting would be great, considering Bette Davis and Karen Black were the leading ladies, but aside from that I had zero expectations when I popped this in.
While it starts off kind of slow, there’s an underlying frenetic energy that builds your curiosity and keeps you guessing until the final moments. The Rolf family decides to rent a vacation house for the duration of the summer. The Allardyce siblings, owners of the run down manor, are a bit strange, but seem to like the Rolfs and allow them to rent their home with one condition; that they bring 3 meals a day up to their reclusive mother in the attic and leave them in front of her door.
Mrs. Rolf feels a strange urge to take care of the elder Allardyce, so the family moves in. As the summer progresses, the family begins to fall apart. Mrs. Rolf spends more and more time obsessing over the house, it’s “treasures” and Mrs. Allerdyce, who we’ve yet to see. Mr. Rolf finds himself anxious and depressed, while their son David keeps having strange little “accidents.” Aunt Elizabeth, brilliantly played by powerhouse Bette Davis, is the only one who seems to sense that something about the house is dangerous and that after every little “accident” a once irreparable part of the house has been restored. Curious.
The further in you get, the closer to the edge of your seat you’ll be. The last ten minutes I was gripping the arms of my chair, waiting to see if my predictions for the end would play out. I was half right, but nothing could have prepared me for the final moments of “Burnt Offerings.” Completely unexpected, chilling and surprisingly gory (previously there had been just a nose bleed), I ended up loving every moment of the film. Highly recommended!