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The Legend of Hillbilly John (1972)

A wandering ballad singer in the Appalachians meets an ugly bird-type creature, is transported back in time, finds himself involved in the Devil's work.


John Newland


Melvin Levy, Manly Wade Wellman (book)


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Cast overview:
Severn Darden ... Mr. Marduke
Hedges Capers Hedges Capers ... John
Sharon Henesy Sharon Henesy ... Lily
Honor Hound Honor Hound ... Himself
Sidney Clute ... Charles
Denver Pyle ... Grandpappy John
White Lightnin' White Lightnin' ... Themselves
William Traylor William Traylor ... Reverend Millen
Harris Yulin ... Zebulon Yandro
Susan Strasberg ... Polly Wiltse
Alfred Ryder ... O. J. Onselm
R.G. Armstrong ... Bristowe
Chester Jones Chester Jones ... Uncle Anansi
Val Avery ... Cobart
Percy Rodrigues ... Capt. Lojoie H. Desplain IV


A wandering ballad singer in the Appalachians meets an ugly bird-type creature, is transported back in time, finds himself involved in the Devil's work. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


from ghostly hark mountain this eerie story of witches ... voodoo ... devils ... monsters See more »


Drama | Fantasy








Release Date:

February 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ballad of Hillbilly John See more »

Filming Locations:

North Carolina, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Two's Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Special effects created by Harry Walton. See more »


Referenced in My Best Friend's Birthday (1987) See more »


I May Be a Walker
by Hedges Capers
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User Reviews

A pleasing curio
11 May 2018 | by ofumalowSee all my reviews

This little-known curio is better than I expected. I hadn't heard of the source books (Manly Wade Wellman's "Silver John" pulp fictions) before, because they were presumably mostly a Southern regional phenomenon, but now I'm very curious to check them out. The episodic progress, drawn from a couple of Wellman's stories, chronicles the folksy fantastical adventures of a wandering Appalachian troubadour, which include tangling with the Devil and a Ray Harryhausen-like winged monster. The last and least adventure has John managing to somehow free the oppressed black slaves, a "White Savior" scenario that doesn't play too well now. (It probably didn't in 1972, either).

Offbeat and filled with pleasant music, "Hillbilly John" probably had a hard time finding an audience at the time, as it was so out of step with popular taste of the era, and it's certainly been largely forgotten since. But given a cast of mostly imported Hollywood veterans (Severn Darden, Denver Pyle, Harris Yulin etc.) and a director who'd mostly toiled in network TV, it's surprisingly flavorful and "authentic" feeling within its folkloric context. (Though he worked on a lot of major series, John Newland's best-known works were probably the TV-movie thrillers "Crawlspace" and "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.") Hedges Capers, a handsome young man with a fine voice who never quite hit the bigtime as a recording artist, is appealingly natural in the title role. Sharon Henesy is a weak point as the ingenue, seeming a classic 70s example of casting "somebody's girlfriend" (rather than a talented actor)...but then all she's allowed to do is gaze adoringly at John and hope he'll quit his wanderin' ways, so it's not really her fault she seems superfluous.

Despite its low budget, "Hillbilly John" is fairly well-crafted, although its neglect over the years was reflected in the fact that the YouTube dupe I saw seemed to be from an old VHS tape, and was accordingly low-quality. The nighttime sequences (of which there are many) were very murky. Alas, obscure old indie features like this are highly unlikely to get "restored" to pristine quality, so you take what you can get. Anyway, this is hardly a forgotten classic, but it's an ambitious oddity that is quite enjoyable and merits rediscovery.

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