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Burned at the Stake (1981)

April 23rd, 2013 by unkle lancifer · 7 Comments

Approximately a trillion years ago, I came across a picture in a magazine (either Fangoria or Famous Monsters) of a weird priest with gross bubbly skin. It was for an upcoming horror film called THE COMING, which to my knowledge, ironically, never came out. The image made a strong impression on me, either due to my psychotic fear of acne or, simply because anything related to religion can’t help being creepy. That dusty memory sat in a shoebox at the very back of my mothball-riddled brain until the other day when I finally came across THE COMING on YouTube, hiding under the alias of BURNED AT THE STAKE! (sticklers who point out that nobody was ever burned at the stake in Salem as the film suggests should be burned at the stake themselves for bumming me out.) Lo and behold, it’s directed by the nice man (BERT I. GORDON) who gifted the world with ant-o-vision in EMPIRE OF THE ANTS and brought to life H.G. WELLs spectacular vision of a world gone mad thanks to giant chickens in FOOD OF THE GODS! This was too good to be true and so I pinched myself and, by pinched myself, I mean did a jig.

What a pleasant surprise this movie is! Maybe it’s not good in that useless, “It’s made well” sense but it’s certainly good in the more important, “I cannot wait to see what happens next” sense! How has this movie remained so far under the carpet for so long? I see that it involves a time traveling pilgrim so I’m going to blame him. It’s very difficult to pull off a time traveling pilgrim. BURNED AT THE STAKE stars the incomparable SUSAN SWIFT of AUDREY ROSE fame, who apparently was working on being type cast as a reincarnate. She plays a nice girl named Loreen, who was not such a nice girl a couple hundred years ago when she was known as Ann Putman and her hobbies included screaming her head off and randomly accusing people of being witches. Loreen is having flashbacks of her previous horrible self and to make matters worse, she’s being stalked by an adorable/scary black dog, the pizza-faced priest and the aforementioned time traveling pilgrim who is rightfully amazed by airplanes. Luckily there is a helpful witch on hand to explain the fuzzier parts of the plot when she’s not too busy having telepathic conversations with the dog. There’s a sweet redemption bit near the end that reminded me of THE SEVENTH SIGN (1988) and more than a few absolutely horrifying wax historical reenactment figures one of whom may or may not spring to life. Also, I dig this witch mobile…

OK, this movie is patently ridiculous but it’s way better than I ever dared hope. Plus, it’s all autumnal and takes place in beautiful Salem, Massachusetts! Fortuitously, I found it mere hours after having seen ROB ZOMBIE’S LORDS OF SALEM (review pending) and I decree that the two movies make an excellent wonder twin double feature! I think they might have even used the same graveyard! It’s probable! Kooky though it may be, BURNED has a semi-cruel dark streak as only a film that concerns itself with a five-year-old being burned alive can. SUSAN SWIFT‘s performance is seriously solid, regardless of the heaps of hokum thrown at her and frankly, I’d take this cockeyed lunacy over drippy AUDREY ROSE any day of the week! Somebody who cares about humankind should put this unfairly forgotten flick out on DVD and they should do it quickly! They should also put a blurb by me on the back that says, “ So bewitching, you won’t even care that it doesn’t involve giant chickens!”

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Tags: General Horror · Tykes in Trouble




7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Apr 23, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I did some research and I think that the magazine I saw the picture in was Fangoria….”The Coming” is on the cover of issue #5…

    http://www.coverscans.com/covers/206090

    If you watch the video it’s way too dark to see the pizza face guy. I’m not sure if that would still be the case if a proper copy was available. it’s a shame because if this movie pushed the Krueger-esque pizza guy a bit more and pulled back on the time traveling pilgrim- it might have really made a mark!

    Still, it definitely deserves more attention and it’s better than a lot of movies that have gotten respectable DVD releases lately!

  • 2 stevil1981No Gravatar // Apr 23, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Is there a moment in this movie where the Loreen character, while lying in a bed, seemingly in a trance of some kind says (in a strong southern drawl) “Black dog knows!”? If so, you have once again inadvertently solved another one of my NTT’s

  • 3 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Apr 23, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Stevil, check out the scene around 25:28. She’s in bed speaking with a strange accent and she says “The Black dog knows! I must be careful!”

  • 4 stevil1981No Gravatar // Apr 24, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    That’s it! It never fails to amaze me the obscurities that were shown on late night television when I was a kid. I have never heard of this movie until this review but turns out I caught parts of it years and years ago, just amazing.

  • 5 ThaliaNo Gravatar // Apr 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Is that dog supposed to be spooky or menacing? Because he’s darling! I want to scruffle his ears and tell him he’s a good, good boy.

  • 6 jamesleeNo Gravatar // Apr 26, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Finally someone has found The Coming!! I posted the Fangoria article on my facebook page for anyone interested.

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005451639114&ref=tn_tnmn#!/media/set/?set=a.130755787116142.1073742039.100005451639114&type=1

  • 7 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Apr 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Thalia, I agree! I love that dog and his psychic powers!

    Jameslee!!!! That is awesome!!! That is exactly the article I remember with a great shot of pizza-priest! Bless you for posting that!!!!

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