ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNKNOWN
You are used to anthology stories that are compact and tightly told, usually building to a sting in the end of the tale. By contrast, the episodes in Encounter with the Unknown are singularly drab and uninteresting. They suffer from a directorial pace that is plodding to the point of soporific. The first episode has an eminent predictability to it. We are told that the three guys are going to die, even the means whereby they will die, and the entirety of the episode consists of waiting for this to happen. There is not even any panic on their part or dramatic struggle to prevent their fates from occurring.
The second story is mildly more interesting in its tale of a hole in the woods that moans. Crucially though, there is much talk of how the locals regard the hole in the woods as a place of evil but there is nothing done in terms of direction to ever relay this. The episode suggests something of an H.P. Lovecraft story, particularly in the final image of the father driven insane by whatever he encountered down in the hole but Lovecrafts feeling of dread and of horrors beyond ordinary human ken could not be further away from anything in the film.
The third episode is a ghost story that the film lets fall through its fingers. Again, there are elements that had potential the mystery surrounding the girls appearance on the bridge, the reasonably detailed character conflicts in the flashbacks to tell her story but the film mangles them. The flashbacks go on far too long where the scenes with the young eloping couple together even come to the accompaniment of a folk song on the soundtrack and the film flubs what should have been an eerie payoff.
The film winds up on a long piece of end narration one that goes on for some ten minutes during which it recaps the essentials of each story for us to build its thesis. (It should be pointed out that the opening and end narration come from someone other than Rod Serling). Certainly, the opening narration, which talks about the theories of the fictitious Dr Jonathan Rankin and how he traced every uncanny happening to a mere score of cemeteries, sounds intriguing. On the other hand, the loooong end summation, which makes the rather incredulous claim that thousands of people are turning to witchcraft in the US and that the knowledge they are discovering comes from Atlantis and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, ends up in hopeless whackadoodle territory.
Harry Thomason subsequently went onto direct other low-budget genre films such as the psycho-thriller So Sad About Gloria (1975), The Day It Came to Earth (1977) and Revenge of Bigfoot (1979). Throughout the 1980s to the present, Thomason has worked as a tv producer.
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