aka Burned at the Stake
Director/Screenplay/Producer – Bert I. Gordon, Photography – Daniel Yarussi, Music – Arthur Kempel, Special Effects – Fred Yawnick, Makeup – Charles Schram, Art Direction – Charles Adair. Production Company – Alan Lansburg Productions.
Susan Swift (Loreen Graham/Ann Putnam), David Rounds (William Goode), Tisha Sterling (Karen Graham), John Peters (Reverend Samuel Parris), Guy Stockwell (Dr Grossinger), Beverly Ross (Merlina), Albert Salmi (Captain Billingham), Frank Dolan (Kevin O’Neil), Jennine Babo (Dorcas Goode)
Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. When young Ann Putnam is caught experimenting with witchcraft, she accuses others to deflect incrimination from herself. Reverend Samuel Parris quickly jumps in on this. With Ann as his chief accuser, he starts a series of purges, burning at the stake victims he knows to be innocent, ostensibly to drive the fear of God into believers. In present-day Salem, the spirit of Ann possesses schoolgirl Loreen Graham during a class trip to the museum. Loreen then enters a cross-temporal battle to stop the evil Parris sending another innocent victim to the stake.
Bert I. Gordon is a director/writer/producer/special effects man whose work has focused entirely in the bottom end of the genre. There his films range between the raggedly likeable – The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), The Magic Sword (1962) and especially Gordon’s masterpiece The Mad Bomber (1973) – to the undisguisedly grotty – The Food of the Gods (1976) and Empire of the Ants (1977). In the 1980s, a decade that seems ready-made for someone like Bert I. Gordon, he appeared to fade from active production altogether, with the exception of The Coming and another occult drama Malediction/Satan’s Princess (1990), as well as a couple of non-genre sex comedies.
The Coming has a tameness that looks like one of the 1970s occult tv movies on similar subjects – Crowhaven Farm (1970), The House that Would Not Die (1970). Susan Swift, who went through the possession routine a few years before in Audrey Rose (1977), comes across somewhat blank. This is perhaps understandable in light of the script’s confusion – characters are able to cross back and forth between time-zones with remarkable and never-explained ease; one character materialises as a wax statue and starts running about without any noticeable difference; and Gordon seems unable make up his mind whether the witchcraft he depicts is real or not.
The Coming was little seen when it came out. If anything, it lacked the oomph to carry it in the 1980s exploitation genre – it has no sex or blood; it is told straight-faced rather than tongue-in-cheek; and the killings by animated light effect are sorely lacking in any of the trashy-fun transformation effects of the product of contemporaries like Troma and Empire. Too boring to really be called bad.
Bert I. Gordon’s other films are:– King Dinosaur (1955), The Cyclops (1957), Beginning of the End (1957), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), Earth vs the Spider (1958), War of the Colossal Beast (1958), the fantasy adventure The Boy and the Pirates (1960), the ghost story Tormented (1960), the fantasy adventure The Magic Sword (1962), Village of the Giants (1965), the psycho-thriller Picture Mommy Dead (1966), the occult film Necromancy (1972), The Mad Bomber (1973), The Food of the Gods (1976), Empire of the Ants (1977) and the witchcraft film Malediction/Satan’s Princess (1990), and Secrets of a Psychopath (2015).