Circle of Fear was an anthology show that ran on NBC from 1972-1973. It started its run as Ghost Story and starred Sebastian Cabot (Family Affair) as the host.
The concept was created by the well-known horror and science-fiction writer, Richard Matheson. Also on board was the great William Castle who served as executive producer.
The pilot, the Matheson penned, The New House starring David Birney and Barbara Parkins aired on March 17,1972. Originally, the program was designed to feature ghosts, vampires and witches. Initially, the show was compared to Night Gallery and the Sixth Sense. Unfortunately, the paranormal themes did not catch on with audiences so beginning in January of 1973, the show was overhauled.
Cabot was out as the host. The tone of the show became darker but it attracted the top talent of the day such as Tyne Daly, Gena Rowlands, Jason Robards and Jodie Foster. Another interesting fact is that Circle of Fear attracted the best writers who made their mark on other popular shows.
One of my favorite episodes, Earth, Air, Fire and Water was written by D.C. Fontana based on a story by the marvelous Harlan Ellison. Both Fontana and Ellison were familiar names on Star Trek. The House of Evil was an original teleplay from Robert Bloch. Bloch was the screenwriter of one of the most famous horror movies ever Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Most of the episodes were the best in psychological horror. In the Dead We Leave Behind, Elliott Brent kills his wife accidentally and buries her in his shed. He then is haunted by images of her on the television being unfaithful to him. One night, a stranger shows up at the house and it turns out to be his late wife’s lover. Elliott kills him and buries him in the shed as well. Unfortunately, the couple are resurrected and seek revenge on Brent.
The writing on this show was original and very unique. Although Castle had tried to alter the format to gain appeal, Circle of Fear ended up getting cancelled anyway. However, forty-five years later, it is still memorable enough to warrant a closer look. In 2012, Sony released Ghost Story (a.k.a. Circle of Fear) -The Complete Series on DVD.