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Dark Night of the Scarecrow Still Spooks on Blu-ray

Feature Presentations: Episode 83

Welcome to this column dedicated to my appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Dark Night of the Scarecrow from VCI Entertainment.

The Scarecrow is slumped on a post with bullet wounds in its chest.

I’m a child of the ’80s, and at the same time, when people discuss the decade, I feel there are significant portions I missed. I wasn’t into hair metal bands, and many of the television staples of this time missed my eyes. Whether I don’t recall seeing certain things or they just weren’t part of my life, I almost feel like I should classify myself as a kid of the ’90s. One of the more notable areas of pop culture that escaped me was made-for-television films.

I will always be the first to say I’m not an expert in any topic. I love film and cinema, spending most of my life somewhat immersed in yet, yet there are plenty of film genres, specifics, and movie regions where my knowledge is lacking. As I grew up, I focused on films that hit the big screen; those premiering on television and video didn’t hit my radar often. If at all. That’s me being a stupid and narrow-sighted young man. Even as I’ve gotten more mileage on myself, there are still plenty of pop culture avenues I haven’t explored as much as I want. Each day, I work to rectify this. That’s all one can hope.

Today, I’ve killed two birds with one stone: I’ve checked out a television film and a classic horror tale in one sitting! That’s right! I’m discussing 1981’s Dark Night of the Scarecrow.

When town locals accuse a developmentally-challenged man of harming a young girl, they take it upon themselves to instill justice. Unbeknownst to them, their actions lead to violent consequences as retribution returns to haunt the men responsible for an unnecessary violent act.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is one of those films I swear I’ve seen, but I know I didn’t. The themes and ideas are timeless in many horror films, and while I’ve seen many movies featuring a scarecrow at the center of the action, this is the OG. How have I seen other films of this ilk but not the one that started it all? Correcting the transgressions of my past, I can now say that Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a fabulous mystery film that doesn’t give off the typical TV movie oiliness that other films do.

Even though Dark Night of the Scarecrow is beloved by many who’ve seen it, getting a respectable physical media release for a television movie might be a tall order. Thankfully, VCI Entertainment stepped up to the plate and crafted a solid, if unspectacular, Blu-ray release.

Otis and his gang stand in a line.

You get a feature-length audio commentary with writer J.D. Feigelson and director Frank De Felitta. As the creator of Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Feigelson does most of the heavy lifting in discussing the project’s history while peppering De Felitta with filmmaking questions to keep the conversation as lively as possible. Feigelson digs into how the project came together, the design of the Scarecrow, and the origin of the main character’s name, Otis Hazelrigg, played by Charles Durning.

Frank De Felitta chimes in to discuss his methods of treating a television movie like a theatrical feature, shooting a film on such a tight schedule and budget, and overall thoughts on the finished film. While the commentary occasionally lapses into silence along with Feigelson vocally pondering the themes and ideas of the script—even though he’s the writer, the discussion between writer and director is a warm and welcoming listen.

Even better is the featurette, “Bubba Didn’t Do It: 30 Years of the Scarecrow.” Bringing together Feigelson, De Felitta, actors Larry Drake and Tonya Crowe, and others, this documentary brings together those associated with the film and others that Dark Night of the Scarecrow inspired. Seeing Larry Drake discuss how the role of Bubba changed his life is a beautiful segment. In this feature, Feigelson dives deep into how the script found its way into the hands of CBS executives while De Felitta talks about his shooting process. Honestly, “Bubba Didn’t Do It” provided more insight into the behind-the-scenes of Dark Night of the Scarecrow than the audio commentary.

Also included on the disc is a Q&A with Larry Drake, Tonya Crowe, and J.D. Feigelson. While I’m usually not a fan of features like this on a disc, for some reason, this one worked. It’s still clunky in its execution with one static camera shot and varying audio quality, but the comments stood out, especially from Drake. Unfortunately, Crowe gets slightly shafted with most questions aimed at Drake and Feigelson. The writer discusses themes from his story—I did enjoy him discussing how the character of the Scarecrow evolved throughout the writing period. 

Maybe I’m slightly biased here, but Larry Drake was one of my favorite character actors. I missed out on L.A. Law, but the man was a staple of my childhood, thanks to Darkman and Dr. Giggles. Even though he died many years ago, seeing the man amongst fans was a treat, especially as I haven’t seen many interviews and discussions with him before this Dark Night of the Scarecrow Blu-ray. Drake discusses how practicing for the role of Lenny in Of Mice and Men helped him prepare for auditions and shoots down a request to recreate his laugh from Dr. Giggles. While it may sound like he’s above the audience members for declining the request, the reason he gives is fascinating and insightful.

Hands down, the finest moment of this question-and-answer feature is Larry Drake showcases how he gets into a role. While not pertaining to his performance in Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Drake runs the audience through his process to get into his character of Benny Stulwicz from L.A. Law. It’s a glimpse we rarely see—an actor showcasing his method and transforming himself before our eyes. It’s a shining moment in a feature that contains multiple diamonds in the rough.

The disc comes to a close with multiple television promotions and a behind-the-scenes photo gallery.

Bubba looks between two boards in a fence with a scared look on his face.

And there you have it! I’m disappointed it took me this long to check out Dark Night of the Scarecrow, but I’m happy it was worth the wait. Even 40-plus years after its premiere, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a well-written and acted slice of cinema that deserves the praise it continues to receive. VCI Entertainment did an admirable job at culling together a few sizeable extras to create a solid physical media release that any film fan, not just those with an affinity for horror, can savor.

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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