(Welcome to the new iteration of 'Drive-In Saturday.' I'm going to be reviewing a new "dark detective" or paranormal investigator story each week. We'll start with one I watched this week with my son, "Dark Intruder," which you may never have heard of, but in weeks to come we'll also look at more well known such stories of occult detectives, including Kolchak, Dresden, and others.)
Dark Intruder via an email from Lovecraft Ezine, which regularly reviews and shares movies and books influenced by H.P. Lovecraft's work. There's a great examination of this little 59-minute movie at this link.
The short version: It's 1890, and Leslie Nielsen (best known these days for the Police Squad TV show that gave us the Naked Gun films — though I'll always think of him as the saucer commander on Forbidden Planet) plays the lead, Brett Kingsford, who carefully cultivates the outward appearance of a laughing dandy, while secretly helping local police battle occult menaces. He even disguises himself (a la Sherlock Holmes) to keep the beat cops from recognizing him when he needs to talk to the commissioner and access a crime scene.
This was a pilot for a TV series, but wasn't picked up for any number of reasons. It's easy to see why networks would be uneasy about it, as it is scary (for its day) and doesn't shy from demonic references. Using the black-and-white production limitations to good effect, it incorporates great noirish use of shadows and mist to heighten suspense. It plays almost like a Hammer film, in that respect, and as the above-linked article notes, its writer had some experience in that area also.
But what amazed me most was the fatalism in the script (which, given the Lovecraftian elements, probably should not have been so surprising). Without SPOILING too much (I hope), it shows us a hero who fails at every turn. Like John Constantine in the Vertigo comics, Kingsford manages to survive, but may have a mob of ghosts haunting him — the spirits of those whose lives he failed to save.
>>You can watch the film for yourself here.<<
Of interest to fans of Lovecraft will be mentions of creatures from his mythos, as well as the concept of them returning to our world. I was intrigued also by the body horror inherent in (possible SPOILER) the way the deformed conjoined twin plot line was built.
Finally, it's worth noting that Nielsen is a wonder to watch, shifting from the easily amused socialite to the deadly-serious occult investigator in the blink of an eye. I'd have gladly followed a series of his adventures before the turn of the century.