That horrifying Trilogy of Terror doll was born from the original, rejected Twilight Zone script for ''The Invaders''

"Amelia" is the "grim and serious" version of "The Invaders."

Left image: ABC

Trilogy of Terror is quite possibly the scariest TV movie of all time. Made up of three twisted tales from the mind of TV horror master Richard Matheson and released in 1975, its shocking concluding segment "Amelia" is definitely the nightmare that stuck most with viewers.

Well, here’s some news that might shock fans of TV suspense. It turns out that the evil Zuni doll that played villain in "Amelia" was born out of Matheson’s original, rejected script for the iconic Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders.”

Matheson explained in Dimensions Behind The Twilight Zone: A Backstage Tribute to Television’s Groundbreaking Series:

"I’m sure that Rod, being the consummate writer he was, did not think, for a moment, of making every Twilight Zone as though made with a cookie cutter. Their variety was perfectly in keeping with his creative awareness. What the story called for, we did. If the notion was serious, we wrote it that way. If it was comedic, we did it that way. Interestingly enough – I have said this before – the original submission for 'A World of His Own' was very grim and serious indeed. They suggested making it a comedy, which I did gladly. A similar occurrence was on 'The Invaders.' My original story was not to their taste, so I turned it into a science-fiction approach. Many years later, the grim approach to the story – not that 'The Invaders' is exactly comedy – became one of the stories on Trilogy of Terror, the Zuni doll chasing Karen Black all over her apartment."

It’s easy to see the similarities between the two stories (both seemingly based on Matheson’s short story "Prey") once you look a little closer. In "The Invaders," actress Agnes Moorehead plays a woman who is stalked in her humble home by invading miniature spacemen. In "Amelia," actress Karen Black plays a woman who is stalked in her apartment by a small warrior doll.

Of the two, Black had more to say onscreen, as "The Invaders" famously featured no dialog. Matheson told the Archive of American Television that his screenplay was "just all description," causing Moorehead upon reading to ask, "Where’s my part?"

In "Amelia," Black takes several phone calls before succumbing to her fate.

Both actresses took on their tense roles marvelously, but for Matheson, it was "Amelia" that was more in line with the chilling way the master horror writer liked to tell a story.

In Dimensions Behind The Twilight Zone, he criticized the pace of "The Invaders," which he said dragged on too long for him. Matheson said, "The beginning, for instance, I thought took forever for her to get up on the roof. When I tell a story, I like to, boom, right off the bat, get you involved with it, in a quick-moving story."

The writer also said he wasn't a fan of the look of "The Invaders," explaining, "I didn’t like the little critters that were chasing her around. They looked like little waddley toys you used to see men selling on street corners." In his script, he'd intended for them to never be seen onscreen, only experienced as small sparks of light. "I think it would have been much better," he said.

Watching “Amelia,” his issue with pacing is seemingly addressed. The story escalates in quick, dread-inducing leaps, beginning when Black’s character Amelia arrives home at her apartment. She’s carrying an ancient-looking parcel, wrapped in thin twine like it was something sweet from a pastry shop. In the first three minutes, Amelia opens the box and examines the Zuni doll. Her first words in the episode set the tone: "He who kills," she reads off the paper scroll she pulls from the parcel.

Apart from the ugliness of the doll – whose jagged teeth and alarming eyes immediately convey menace – Amelia’s first observation hints at her impending doom. "Very sharp," she notes of the doll’s spear, fumbling and unwittingly aiming it at her own heart. After 10 minutes, suspense heightens when the doll suddenly disappears.

The events that rapidly followed ensured every viewer would remember the striking warrior doll perhaps even more ominously than Child’s Play’s Chucky or The Twilight Zone’s Talky Tina. It’s no wonder it distracted fans from noticing striking similarities to The Twilight Zone episode "The Invaders." Now we know it was because "Amelia" was the "grim and serious" version of "The Invaders."

In his interview with Archive of American Television, Matheson praised Moorehead ("She was wonderful") but admitted that the greatest shock for him was that "The Invaders" became such a fan favorite on the series. He said, "It has always surprised me that the one with Agnes Moorehead has become a classic."

He also revealed that writing "The Invaders" was one of two random goals he had set for himself as a TV writer. One was to do a script for a show that lasted 30 minutes and was literally called "Thirty Minutes." He crossed that off his to-do list with a 1960 Lawman episode about a lazy day in Laramie. The other would become "The Invaders," he said: "It appealed to me … [to] do a script with no dialog at all."

In the end, Matheson got to also take a stab at his (arguably) more horrifying version of his "Invaders" premise. That became "Amelia," which unleashed an ending that any viewer can assure you, haunted their dreams.

Which was your favorite?

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Maia60 15 months ago
I watched The Invaders TZ episode last night and immediately saw the connection to the Trilogy segment when Agnes Moorhead kept getting stabbed with the knife by the invaders. The invaders also sawed through things with knives in order to injure the old woman. Serves them right that she won out in the end. Agnes Moorehead should have received an award for her performance. She was clearly terrified, even if we as viewers weren't. Karen Black was terrified in Trilogy, and so was I. I watched it recently and still find that doll segment scary! It has definitely earned its place in scary doll movies.
woodtree65 21 months ago
I saw shows like Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Invaders, etc. when I was younger.
DuanneWalton 21 months ago
Watch the Zuni Fetish Doll chase Karen Black around while playing "Sabre Dance." You'll thank me.😂
BenSobeleone 21 months ago
Another excellent ABC-TV movie was The Night Stalker (1971) the Kolchak and vampire movie. Producer Dan Curtis said the ratings for that movie went through the roof! He said they should have released that movie in the theaters.
Mac2Nite 21 months ago
I honestly don't see any connection between "The Invaders" TZ episode & "Trilogy of Terror" other than the author. Two totally different concepts other than the simple fact that they both involve a woman alone and under attack. I love them both.... for different reasons. The Zuni Warrior Doll shares nothing in common with the US Astronauts... not even in their appearance or especially their motives. JMHO.
Pacificsun Mac2Nite 21 months ago
Good point, and I didn't know how to express it myself. I knew it was getting close to "Boo-nanza" but when they first put the story out there, I didn't know what they were talking about. And it wasn't a quik-read, though well-done. Having watched The Invaders long ago, maybe before digital even, I didn't realize the "invader" was what's pictured. Much less did I catch the twist (no spoiler alert). To me, AM dominated the attention because of her silence and fear. Too busy watching the acting.

The Zulu Doll, even if I came across it, would've gone in the other direction anyway.

A little tired of the images, hoping for a new story now! Yeah, even TAGS or MASH! 🎃
bre003 21 months ago
They don't make movies like that any more. When they do, they have 10 sequels.
RichLorn 21 months ago
Author's opinion not withstanding, my opinion of Morehead's performance in The Invaders was outstanding. Conveying a range of emotion and unspoken thoughts by facial expression throughout an entire episode has got to be be very difficult. It surpasses even silent movies in that there aren't even dialog cards to help. She's a helluva character actress who's talents were wasted on Bewitched.
SalIanni 21 months ago
Here's what I would love to see on Halloween: "Trilogy Of Terror" starring Bob Saget, John Stamos, and Dave Coulier. It would be really scary!!
Nikkitay6209 21 months ago
Trilogy of terror is one of the scariest movies I watch when I was a kid😱
RS1515 Nikkitay6209 21 months ago
I remember after seeing it all the kids at my elementary school were talking about it.
F5Twitster 21 months ago
"Of the two, Black had more to say onscreen, as "The Invaders" famously featured no dialog."

Agnes Moorehead may have had no dialog, but the episode certainly did: the little waddling astronaut's radioing back to their base that they've just been fatally attacked by a giant hillbilly farmer's wife (of course, they didn't go into that much detail; bad enough being killed by one, but you don't want the folks back home knowing it).
RS1515 21 months ago
I remember seeing this movie while in elementary school, as a kid it really scared me. Especially the scene when the doll was cutting itself out of a box or suitcase.
AgingDisgracefully 21 months ago
My scariest doll was Twilight Zone's Talking Tina who menaced the then-unbald Telly Savalas.
"And YOU better be nice to me!"
All Tina wanted was a Tootsie Pop.
LalaLucy 21 months ago
Gee. I personally love The Invaders. One of the best episodes in my opinion. I think the pacing is just fine and love the fact so much is conveyed by the very talented Moorehead without a word. And the twist says so much, making the payoff worth watching the struggle. The only thing I can agree with is the idea of just showing light sparks versuses actually seeing the little guys. The unseen suggestion of a threat always heightens the tension in my book. But, then, I always much prefer the things that make you think over ghoulish visuals.
RS1515 LalaLucy 21 months ago
I also thought the Invaders was not scary but very profound, because the end scene explained they're astronauts from Earth.
Pacificsun RS1515 21 months ago
Ya gotta keep in mind, that sometimes there are Readers here new to an interest or a topic. They might not have heard, or had a chance to see, this Twilight Zone episode. Sometimes it's more fun to leave the ending to speak for itself. 🎃
Inkwell765 RS1515 21 months ago
That reminds me off “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”. The gremlin was played by Nick Cravat, Burt Lancaster’s circus partner. Poor guy’s face was scarier that darn mask! They should have just shown his face.
LalaLucy Pacificsun 21 months ago
I wasn't going to say it but was thinking the same thing. 🙂
Pacificsun RS1515 21 months ago
Sometimes (probably not often though) Readers are new here, and they haven't always seen the episode. Sometimes a Spoiler Alert warning is helpful.
PierreKhoury 21 months ago
Why has METV taken Gomer Pyle & Green Acres off, and replaced them with this lousy news stuff!?
We're already paying sky-high fees on Cable every month and the last thing we need to watch is some
tired, depressing news that also comes on 12 other channels!!

Bring back our classic shows Gomer P. & Green Acres so we can laugh again!
mapman1071 PierreKhoury 21 months ago
Gomer Pyle & Green Acres are on M-F prime time on METV, it is not your cable or Satellite provider that is preempting these programs for news, it is your local METV affiliate. (on all promos for METV programs on the bottom of the screen it says "On Most METV Affiliates")
Pacificsun PierreKhoury 21 months ago
With all due respect for anyone 𝙣𝙤𝙩 caring about my opinion 🎃 it is appalling to me that "local affiliates" gouge their viewers, not only as a side note to the cable charges they're already paying to the a provider. But the advertising they must wade through anyway on the affiliate station. And then preempt (instead of scheduling 𝙖𝙧𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙙 favorite shows) the station's idea of "useful" News presentation. I would write an email complaining, and copy the FCC. While that entity has probably changed over the years, there was a time when complaints made a difference. As the FCC grants licenses to affiliates based on the "service" they're providing the community. If they're replacing those 2 particular shows, then they're running their News at an oddball time anyway. And if you're complaining, I can guess there are plenty of others. See if you can gather up enough mutual opinion.

Yes, it worked in the day, Stations had to keep those complaints on file, and they were reviewed before the next licensing opportunity. My dad worked for a TV Station, so he knew for sure.
Runeshaper 21 months ago
I hope we're not in for haunted dreams!
Zip 21 months ago
I've never seen "Trilogy of Terror." But I agree with the writer, "the greatest shock for him was that "The Invaders" became such a fan favorite on the series. "

Me too. I thought it was stupid, with Moorehead just grunting and gasping and not saying a word throughout the entire episode.
Michael Zip 21 months ago
It wason The Simpsons
Mob39 Zip 21 months ago
I saw the original trilogy of terror, with Karen Black, back in the 70s, when I was young. My Sister and I watched it, and we thought the little devil doll was so scary! We were afraid to go upstairs and we left every light in the House on. My parents weren’t home, and back in the day, the older sibling usually watched the younger sibling. My sister and I watched a lot of scary movies that we probably shouldn’t have watched, because there were so many nights, we kept every light on in the house, or else we couldn’t sleep. The joys of being a 60/70s child. 🤣🫣
RS1515 Mob39 21 months ago
I know what you mean, as a kid I sometimes would sleep with the night stand lamp on after watching a scary show.
RichLorn RS1515 21 months ago
I still do that today after watching network programming.
MrsPhilHarris 21 months ago
I never that that doll was scary.
KJExpress MrsPhilHarris 21 months ago
I would probably laugh at it now. I saw it when I was 12 years old. It's funny, but I haven't any memory of the plots of the first two stories, just the one with the doll. I can still hear that weird noise he made when he was chasing her around her apartment.
Pacificsun MrsPhilHarris 21 months ago
Perhaps because we've been oversaturated with special effects, which (🎃) no longer seem [ wait for it ] 𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙡!
Andybandit 21 months ago
I never saw The Trilogy of Terror. But man I saw pictures of the doll and it is scary. Enough to make me have nightmares.
cperrynaples 21 months ago
RE; Twilight Zone companion I remember a critic saying The Invaders was actually one of the BEST TZs because it was all visual with no dialog! Two is another example of this as Elizabeth Mongomery is mute except for one word!
GoUTVols1961 cperrynaples 21 months ago
Like mother like daughter.
Pacificsun cperrynaples 21 months ago
Relevant to this topic/thread, another comment referencing her silent role in The Invaders" said Agnes Moorhead was underrated. Actually she had a long and stellar career. But to the point, the one who seemed underrated as Elizabeth Montgomery. Of course beloved in Bewitched, who probably was responsible for the show lasting as long as it did. But the better example was her role with Charles Bronson (another stellar actor) in that TZ episode. In the day, a viewer just wanted to reach out and put those two together, to save themselves!! The pacing was excellent.
DavidFullam 56 months ago
Such douchery in the article and in the comments.
DavidFullam 21 months ago
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