TV Movie Double Feature: ‘Fear No Evil’ And ‘Ritual Of Evil’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

In another life, Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil would’ve resulted in the launch of a brand-new TV show. Fear No Evil was supposed to do the trick on its own, but instead NBC asked for another TV movie to act as a second pilot for the series. Bedeviled would’ve starred Louis Jourdan (Gigi) as Dr. David Sorell, a psychiatrist who dabbles in the supernatural. While that show never came to be, we still have the two TV movies as evidence of what could’ve been.

Paul Wendkos’ Fear No Evil

When her fiancé, Paul (Bradford Gilman), dies in a car accident, Barbara’s first mistake is moving in with her mother-in-law (Marsha Hunt). It goes to figure, though, that of all the things her mother-in-law could’ve commandeered from her son’s apartment, she had to take the mirror Paul bought recently in a haze.

Barbara’s health quickly declines from there. She also starts seeing Paul inside the mirror and having erotic dreams about him, but dreams don’t make people wake-up with cuts on their neck. In order to help Barbara (Lynda Day George), Dr. Sorrell starts looking into what happened to Paul and, while he doesn’t have a sidekick, he does have a mentor in Harry Snowden (Wilfrid Hyde-White), who returns for the sequel as well.

Fear No Evil isn’t without flaws. There’s a superfluous scene where Barbara gets locked out of the house that seems to exist purely to induce panic. Some of the sets look cavernous and empty. Because Paul doesn’t exhibit all of the same symptoms as Barbara before his death, there’s an implication that women are the weaker sex, which is just plain wrong. The old casting rule that if there’s a guest star that’s famous, they’re probably the villain still applies and you can see Sorrell about to make mistake a mile away, but Barbara’s grief is relatable and her inability to resist the mirror makes sense. Besides the fact that the mirror world looks incredibly cool, she misses her fiancé, and you can understand why she would risk everything to try and communicate with him.

Robert Day’s Ritual of Evil

From evil mirrors to evil statues, Ritual of Evil begins on a dark and stormy night and goes right to a body on the beach the next morning. The victim, Aline Wiley (Carla Borelli), was a patient of Dr. Sorell’s and her sister, Loey (Belinda Montgomery), has been having weird dreams since her death. While Fear No Evil made Dr. Sorrell work to find out what was going on, Ritual of Evil starts pointing fingers right away at Leila (Diana Hyland), a photographer who may or may not be a modern witch. Hyland couldn’t be cooler and steals every scene from Jourdan. It would’ve been great if she could’ve become a recurring character on Bedeviled, as a morally ambiguous love interest for Sorell.

Bonus Features:

Film historian and screenwriter, Gary Gerani, provides the commentary for both movies. One of the things that’s great about that is while two commentators might have had some overlap, Gerani is able to divvy out information across both tracks so there’s very little repetition. Some of the information is fairly exclusive, too, like Gilman’s backstory for his character which Gerani found out after being gifted a copy of Gilman’s personal screenplay for Fear No Evil.

Not only is Gerani able to shed some light on why Bedeviled wasn’t picked up for series but he also tries to answer the question “why was Sorrell a psychiatrist?” and offers some scene specific commentary on things like the use of star lens effects and William Goldenberg‘s score.

There’s definitely a difference in how Sorrell was written between the two films and, according to Gerani, it was NBC who wanted Sorrell’s occult interests dialed down for the sequel. Fear No Evil’s Sorrell has a darkness to him, comparable to the Seventh Doctor’s darkness on Doctor Who. Ritual of Evil’s Sorrell has trouble establishing boundaries between his professional and personal lives.

Fear No Evil/Ritual of Evil is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now from Kino Lorber.

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