Dan Curtis revealed why the most memorable story in ''Trilogy of Terror'' was also the most difficult
Apparently, that little puppet terror was a terror to film.
If you can recall any memorable scene from the original Trilogy of Terror, chances are that the evil Zuni doll is involved in it. Short, freaky, and terrifying, that little guy will stick in your memory long after the film has concluded.
In the book Produced and Directed by Dan Curtis, compiled and edited by Jim Pierson, Dan Curtis, the film's director, revealed the process of creating and filming the scenes involving the Zuni doll. Quoted in the book's introduction by Mark Dawidziak, Curtis confessed, "I did it all with smoke and mirrors." He explained, "The Zuni doll was a little hand puppet. But it worked. The thing still holds up."
Still, the crew had trouble when it came to telling the third and final story of the film. Curtis said, "When it came time to shoot the Zuni doll story, I was scared out of my wits because I didn't know what we were going to do. How was I going to make this thing work? All we had was a hand puppet and a little model with hands and legs that could move."
The original plan was to have the set of the apartment placed on risers while a puppeteer moved the Zuni doll on a rod. However, this was easier said than done. Curtis said, "Well, forget it. It absolutely didn't work. It was the most awful thing you've ever seen." Still, the crew was determined to make the scene work somehow. Curtis said, "I got the idea of chasing Karen Black with a hand-held camera about two inches off the ground. So that was very effective."
Still, Curtis was upset that he didn't have much footage of the Zuni doll at all. Suddenly, lightning struck. Curtis said, "I got one last thought, which saved the picture. I got hold of the puppeteer, and we hung a piece of black velvet. And I just shot a ton of close-ups on the doll: opening its mouth, thrashing around, exiting frame. I sent it to the lab and had it skip-framed, and before you know it, it was zipping around. I edited those into the scene, and it was very effective. It saved me."
So, the third and final story was saved, and the Zuni doll was able to still properly terrify us on screen.