From TV Horror: Investigating the Dark Side of the Small Screen by Lorna Jowett & Stacey Abbott
1-The Cat Creature 1973
Aired December 11, 1973, as an ABC Movie of the Week.
“Beware the seal of Kah-ub-set, for he who dares to remove it will open the gates of Hell.”
The Cat Creature was directed by horror film icon Curtis Harrington— Night Tide (1961), Queen of Blood (1966), Games (1967), How Awful About Allan (1970) tv movie, What’s the Matter with Helen (1971), Whoever Slew Auntie Roo (1972), The Killing Kind (1973), Killer Bees (1974) tv movie, The Dead Don’t Die (1975) tv movie also directed by Curtis Harrington, Ruby (1977), Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978) tv movie.
The Cat Creature was scripted by Robert Bloch based on a story by producers Douglas S. Cramer, Wilfred Lloyd Baumes, and writer Bloch himself.
From Nice Guys Don’t Work in Hollywood written by Curtis Harrington -talks about how different television executives’ mindsets for telefilms are than major motion picture executives.
Director/writer Curtis Harrington master at ‘horror of personality’
“I found out just how different on a television movie called The Cat Creature. The script was written by Robert Bloch, based on an old story he’d published in Weird Tales. In fact, he was one of the horror writers I had discovered in the pages of Weird Tales during my teen years in Beaumont. It was a nice pulpy story about a girl who is the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian cat goddess. In casting the actress to play the modern incarnation of this beautiful goddess, I got my first nasty taste of TV executive thinking. I discovered that this new set of black suits was always very involved in the casting of leading roles in the network TV drama. Unlike movie executives whose primary interest was ‘box office appeal’ they were concerned with something they called TVQ” This meant the ratings the stars other television appearances had received. The connection between a star’s suitability for a role meant absolutely nothing, and this was the case of The Cat Creature… […] I recalled that Egyptian women supposedly used henna to dye their black hair red, so we put a dark red wig on Meredith Baxter, and she agreed to darken her eyes with green contact lenses… […] Bloch had written an important supporting role, the proprietor of a magic shop, for a man. I suggested that he rewrite the role for a woman and that we try to get Gale Sondergaard for the part. Sondergaard was an actress I remembered vividly from my childhood. She had been memorable as the sinister Oriental [sic] woman in The Letter and in the title role of The Spider Woman, a Basil Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes adventure in 1937…
“I had wanted the proprietress of the occult shop to be played as a lesbian to lend a bit of spice to the show. But Standards and Practices , the office of the network devoted to removing any element to a script that might offend Mrs. Grundy, sent a memo after that there must be ‘NO SUGGESTION WHATSOEVER THAT THIS CHARACTER IS A LESBIAN.’ However, my natural propensity toward subversion was given its due when Douglas Cramer allowed me to add a dwarf hooker to a scene in a cheap hotel where Stuart Whitman as the detective interview John Carradine, who plays the hotel clerk. The dwarf lady of the evening is shown seated on the counter in the hotel lobby. Swinging her short legs and batting her eyelashes, she says to Stuart, “How’s tricks, baby!” This was left in, and Cramer was very pleased when the incident was singled out for comment in a New York Times review of the show. It wasn’t the sort of thing they were used to seeing in the bland medium of television.”
The Cat Creature was written by prolific horror-writer icon Robert Bloch, (Psycho (1960), Strait-Jacket (1964), The Night Walker (1964) a few episodes based on Bloch’s stories were used in Boris Karloff‘s anthology television series Thriller—The Weird Tailor 1961, The Grim Reaper 1961, The Hungry Glass, The Cheaters, The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1966), Torture Garden (1967) The House that Dripped Blood (1971), Asylum (1972) Bloch wrote for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Night Gallery, Circle of Fear and Star Trek.)
The story of The Cat Creature—
An estate appraiser Frank Lucas (Kent Smith) comes to catalog a private collection of Egyptian relics, the inventory at an estate –among the deceased’s possessions is an Egyptian mummy adorned with splendid regalia –wearing a large amulet around its neck and topped the golden head of the cat Goddess Bast.
Just to be clear as a person who worships cats–The story of The Cat Creature is a creation for a horror teleplay that has no foundation in historical fact. Bast was not a murderous cat nor an evil deity. Bast represents protection and is a sacred symbol of that protection toward cats… She is not a monster!
From Wikipedia–Bastet was a goddess in ancient Egyptian religion, worshiped as early as the 2nd Dynasty (2890 BC). As Bast, she was the goddess of warfare in Lower Egypt, the Nile River delta region, before the unification of the cultures of ancient Egypt. Her name is also translated as Baast, Ubaste, and Baset. In Greek mythology, she is also known as Ailuros.
The uniting Egyptian cultures had deities that shared similar roles and usually the same imagery. In Upper Egypt, Sekhmet was the parallel warrior lioness deity. Often similar deities merged into one with the unification, but that did not occur with these deities having such strong roots in their cultures. Instead, these goddesses began to diverge. During the 22nd Dynasty (c. 945–715 BC), Bast had transformed from a lioness warrior deity into a major protector deity represented as a cat. Bastet, the name associated with this later identity, is the name commonly used by scholars today to refer to this deity.
Shortly after Lucas leaves, a thief Joe Sung played by Keye Luke steals the amulet, and the mummy disappears setting off a series of uncanny events and several mysterious murders. Frank Lucas is found dead and Lt. Marco (Stuart Whitman) calls in Prof. Roger Edmonds (David Hedison) as an expert to help identify the missing amulet. Joe Sung tries to pawn this ancient amulet at The Sorcerers Shop an occult shop owned and run by Hester Black (Gale Sondergaard). After Black’s young salesgirl is murdered in the same fashion as Frank Lucas, she hires a new girl to work in her shop. Enter, Rena Carter (Meredith Baxter) who gets pulled into the mysterious happenings and begins a romance with Prof. Edmonds.
The strange killings show the victims all baring the marks of a giant cat attack as if they’ve been clawed to death. Is it the resurrection of the Goddess Bast who is committing these murders?
This ABC Movie of the Week showcases the actress whose popularity was rising at that time, Meredith Baxter, who plays the mysterious Rena Carter who may be somehow involved in these strange ritual killings. David Hedison plays Prof. Roger Edmonds an archeologist who is called upon by the detective on the case, Lt. Marco (Stuart Whitman) to assist him in solving the murders. Just a note… I am absolutely crazy about Stuart Whitman, down the road I plan on doing a feature on his work –his credits too long to mention, so see the link to IMBd, I also really want to do a feature on the incredibly mesmerizing actress of the 70s Barbara Parkins who appears in another ABC Movie of the Week Snatched that I’ll be covering in just a bit…
Prof. Roger Edmonds-“Marco is on his way here to arrest you”
Rena Carter “What!”
Prof. Roger Edmonds-“Don’t you see Everything about you adds to Marcos’ suspicious no previous address no social security number A girl who covers her tracks A girl who stops at the shop not by accident but with deliberate purpose. Marcos thinks that you destroyed everyone who stood between you and that amulet.”
Another bonus of this creepy telefilm is that it co-stars the wonderful Gale Sondergaard. as Hester Black the occult shop owner.
In an interview actor David Hedison commented, “All in all, it was a very happy experience. Meredith was a joy to work with, and a fine human being. Stuart Whitman and I talked and laughed a lot about our early contract days at 20th Century Fox in the late 1950s and 1960s. And of course, Gale was a lovely woman and shared so many wonderful memories with me about her early films. And I should add that all the felines behaved beautifully–even in one of the more violent scenes with me at the end of the film. I managed to escape without a scratch!” –“One other memory was of the first screening of the film before it aired. There was a small invited audience at a screening room on the lot. My wife, Bridget, had not read the script or seen any of the shooting, and at one point when the Cat Creature suddenly jumps out to attack, she got such a fright she let out a scream- much to the delight of the producers and director”
From Television Fright Films of the 1970s by David Deal-“here he (Curtis Harrington) successfully recreates the moody thrillers of Val Lewton of the 1940s. Relying on creepy atmosphere and suspense.”
Deal points out one of the prevailing great elements of The Cat Creature, it’s the fabulous casting, of course, Stuart Whitman is a tremendous actor, his appearances go all the way back to the early uncredited 50s classics like When Worlds Collide (1951) and Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Whitman was nominated for an Academy Award for his startling performance in The Mark 1961, as a tormented man dealing with his repulsive impulse to molest children and his ultimate redemption. It was a risky role, that he inhabited with dignity and pathos. A prolific supportive actor and leading man he appeared in the Cimarron Strip tv series from 1967-1968. One of my favorite films of his Shock Treatment (1964) was another powerfully nuanced portrayal of Dale Nelson an actor who is paid to infiltrate a mental hospital to expose a crazy psychiatrist Edwina Beighly played by the silky and sly Lauren Bacall. Stuart Whitman has appeared in stinkers too, like Night of the Lepus (1972) about giant mutant bunnies, eh not so much… in Jonathon Demme’s Crazy Mama 1975 with Cloris Leachman, and a very slick Italian cop thriller called Shadows in an Empty Room aka Blazing Magnums (1976). And since we’re celebrating these ‘tele-fright’ films of the 70s let’s just mention his other supporting roles, he plays a psychic looking for a missing husband in Revenge! (1971) with Shelley Winters as a deranged mother who lost her daughter and The Woman Hunter (1972).
David Hedison of course was popular with horror fans for his campy over-the-top performance as a altruistic scientist who loses his head over his discovery to transport matter in the fantastical classic Sci-Fi hit, The Fly 1958 (which is part of my series to follow Keep Watching the Skies -coming up The Year is 1953) starred in the hit television show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964)
The supporting cameos are such a treat! Seeing Gale Sondergaard who is terrific as the occult shop owner Hester Black while reading Professor Edmonds his tarot cards gets into a battle of the wills between skepticism and fanaticism. Sondergaard received the first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Anthony Adverse (1936) I adore her as Emily in the Abbott & Costello romantic comedy The Time of Their Lives (1946) even then she was open to the spirit world! Sondergaard was one of the unfortunate actors who were targeted by HUAC, brought before them she refused to testify and was blacklisted from the industry for over 20 years. She returned in 1969, and The Cat Creature was her first ‘tele-fright’ (as writer David Deal puts it) of the 1970s.
The Deputy Coroner (Milton Parsons) looks like a corpse himself, just one of the macabre details that Harrington likes to throw into his ‘horror of personality’ films and teleplays.
The busy-working actor Kent Smith has appeared in so many film and television supportive roles. Best known by horror fans for his roles in Val Lewton’s Cat People (1942) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944)
Here he plays Frank Lucas the cat creature’s first victim. Ironic isn’t it? His other tele-frights include director Curtis Harrington’s How Awful About Allan (1970) starring Anthony Perkins, Julie Harris, and Joan Hackett. He was also in The Night Stalker (1972) and The Disappearance of Flight 412 (1974). One of my all-time favorites is the lovable, ubiquitous theatrical acrobat like Burgess Meredith who could inhabit the role of a vagabond to thespian at times quixotic poetic tongued –the sharp, and saturnine character actor John Carradine who plays the manager of a sleazy hotel clerk. Carradine can make the smallest part enormously unforgettable and has graced many a tele-fright– Crowhaven Farm (1970), The Night Strangler ((1973), and Death at Love House (1976) Next to Boris Karloff and Vincent Price, I have such a sweet tooth for John Carradine and he’s another icon I’d love to feature here at The Last Drive-In.
From David Deal’s terrific Television Fright Films of the 1970s a movie of the week companion –“Charlie Chan’s number one son Keye Luke is the amulet thief in his only telefright appearance of the decade but most curious is Peter Lorre Jr. who appears as a dying pawn broker Lorre Jr. was really German born Eugene Weingand a notorious imposter who was once taken to court by Lorre for using his name. Lorre died before his case against Weingand was settled, allwoing the impersonation to continue. Relative newcomer but top billed Meredith Baxter was fresh off the Bridget Loves Bernie sitcom and would soon marry her co-star David Birney, where she would heifeenate her name and has become a fixture to television.”
Composer Leonard Rosenman is responsible for the score, he has won Oscars and Emmys for his compelling music, for instance, Fantastic Voyage (1966), A Man Called Horse (1970) Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) Race with the Devil (1975), Bound for Glory (1976) and supplied the poignant music for the dark disturbing psychological mini-series starring Sally Field–Sybil (1976). He also added his music to other tele-fright films such as Vanished (1971) The Phantom of Hollywood (1974) and The Possessed (1977) starring wonderful supporting actress of the 1970s Joan Hackett.
Though I am a huge fan of the director’s body of work, I have to look away from Harrington’s predilection to either kill off cats or make them look sinister in his films, so avoid The Killing Kind (1973) with Ann Southern or if you love rabbits lets not forget the poor bunnies in What’s The Matter With Helen (1971).
Also, the sound the cat creature makes doesn’t sound anything like a growling menacing cat, it sounds like an old man who smokes too many cigars and needs to spit up his oatmeal and prunes.
2-The Devil’s Daughter 1973
Satan Has Returned For Her!
Aired January 9, 1973, ABC Movie of the Week.
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc and the screenplay was written by writer/director Collin Higgin’s whose credits include the cult film starring Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon and one of my personal favorite films–Harold and Maude (1971), he also penned the memorable feminist comedy classic Nine to Five (1980) starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda.
Busy 70s television Canadian-born actress –with the girl next door beauty –Belinda J. Montgomery plays Diane Shaw, whose mother has died, leaving her with the revelation that she is actually the daughter of Satan. Diane’s mother Alice Shaw (Diane Ladd) had carnal knowledge of the prince of darkness and Diane is the product of that unholy union. Alice was also friends and worshiped Satan with Lilith who befriends and lures our wayward devil waif into a web of suspense as she spirals toward her fate.
Naturally, as the working formula would suggest Diane is then pursued by devil worshipers headed by Lilith Malone played by the grand lady herself, Shelley Winters. Of course, there are elements that pay tribute to the far superior classic pre-occupation with devil cults and paranoia in the city Roman Polanski/William Castle’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) brought to life by the stunning performance by Mia Farrow, and the presence of such greats as Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Ralph Bellamy, Patsy Kelly, and Maurice Evans.
Shelley Winters having a Ruth Gordon/Minnie Castevet moment!!!
Feeling trapped by her destiny, she soon meets and falls in love with Steve Stone (another tele-fright favorite-Robert Foxworth). Steve asks Diane to marry him so life is possibly good again. Well maybe not so much…
Lilith-“Dear, You mustn’t disappoint your mother’s old friends.”
Alikhine-“You are your mother’s daughter!”
Lilith- “SHE WAS ONE OF US”
Mrs. Stone (Martha Scott) “She got religion, and turned away”
Alikhine-“You are your father’s daughter!”
Diane –“NO! NO!”
Alikhine- “He is the evil one.”
Mrs. Stone- “The all-seeing… he is Lucifer”
First off, The Devil’s Daughter is still entertaining to watch, I adore Belinda J. Montgomery and I could watch Shelley Winters bring in her mail. She’s been lighting up the screen since she played the neurotic Jewish mother Faye Lapinsky in director Paul Mazursky’s sublime Next Stop Greenwich Village (1976) to watch her as Belle Rosen who swims under treacherous waters in The Poseidon Adventure (1972), as she envisions Ma’ Kate Barker in Roger Corman’s Bloody Mama (1970) or the tragic Helen Hill/Martin in Curtis Harrington’s gruesome horror of personality thriller What’s the Matter with Helen (1971) as the bellicose Mrs. Armstrong in Bernard Gerard’s The Mad Room (1969) as the vengeful and deranged mother in the tele-fright film Revenge! (1971) going back to the luckless love-sick and doomed Alice Tripp in A Place in the Sun (1951), as the delightful singer Binky Gay in Phone Call from a Stranger (1952), the sympathetic Terry Stewart in William Castle’s Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949) or the gutsy and classy torch singer –Joy Carroll alongside Frank Sinatra in the dazzling musical noir film Meet Danny Wilson (1951)…! there it is I just adore Shelley Winters!
Belinda J. Montgomery was one of the more prevalent actresses in the 70s teleplays, like Season Hubley who looked fresh scrubbed, and awfully pretty but could play it all damaged and less than pure if you know what I mean.
The Devil’s Daughter plays like a dark comedy, with a surprisingly pessimistic or should I say fatalistic ending, not unlike its finer forerunner Rosemary’s Baby.
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc had started out his career working in television and has directed many popular contemporary television series link to IMBd to see his complete credits, in the late 60s and 1970s he worked on Rod Serling’s television horror anthology series from 1969-1973 Night Gallery.
If you’re familiar with the series you’ll recognize the painting of Satan that emblazons Lilith’s living room wall, could be a tout to the series that utilized artwork of art director Thomas J. Wright who painted all of the paintings used to introduce each story.
Szwarc directed the ‘telefright Night of Terror (1972) and in 1973 directed the Lovely But Lethal episode of Columbo starring Vera Miles. Some of his notable theatrical releases – Are Bug (1975), Jaws 2, and the romantic fantasy Somewhere in Time (1980).
What makes The Devil’s Daughter the most interesting to watch are the familiar character actors that populate the film. The nefarious characters are not quite as they seem to be on the surface. Of course, there’s the mentioned Diane Ladd as the profane mother who slept with the devil in the first place but in her waning years found religion but was executed by the cult for her transgression. There’s the wonderfully perspicacious Ian Wolfe whose presence always adds extra depth to any story, here he plays Father MacHugh a kindly priest who while he doesn’t believe the gossip about Lilith would rather see Diane move out of Lilith’s house and live with a girl her own age. When Diane does decide to move in with a friend, Lilith blows her stack…
Fans of Dan Curtis’ cult television horror soap opera of the 1960s Dark Shadows will recognize Jonathan Frid as Lilith’s mute ‘chauffeur companion.’
Film star Joseph Cotten plays Judge Weatherby, Martha Scott as Mrs. Stone, Lucille Benson ( a quirky character actress who was great at playing batty old ladies) as Janet Poole and Thelma Carpenter as Margaret Poole’s curious twins, a pair that reminds me of the odd relationship between Sylvia Miles as Gerde Engstrom and Beverly D’Angelo as Sandra in Michael Winner’s The Sentinel (1977) which I am highlighting this Halloween month of October! The Poole sisters dress alike, Janet is white and Margaret is black, and they have cats with opposite colors.
The persnickety Abe Vigoda (the irascible Detective Fish from tv’s Barney Miller) plays Alikhine an expert in the ancient art of dance, Robert Corthwaite (the fanatical scientist intent on idolizing the superiority of the super carrot in The Thing from Another World 1951) plays pastor Dixon.
Some of the dialogue is as campy and hilariously high-brow as all get out–“You are promised in marriage to the Prince, the Demon of Endor.”
And much like the climax of Rosemary’s Baby, there is the ensemble of Satanists seen in Lilith’s scrapbook of yesteryear, the cult standing around in living rooms in their robes posing for the photograph.
Diane struggles to fight back against her legacy as the Devil’s own daughter as she struggles with nightmares, manifests her inherited evil nature, and wears her ring with the strange insignia, mentally impels a young boy to walk out into traffic, nearly getting him run down by a car.
There’s a nice touch as she meets her roommate’s horse and they become frightened by her presence bucking and whinnying, a sign that they can see her evil essence. When Alikhine (Abe) leads the ‘ancient dance’ at the party Diane has an instinctual rhythm that guides her movements. Will Diane succumb to her legacy or will she use her power to fight her destiny? I won’t tell… “They actually refer to me as the Devil’s daughter.” -Diane
3-Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark 1973
Aired October 10, 1973, ABC Movie of the Week.
“Sally, Sally, Sally… We want you, we want you. It’s your spirit we want, your spirit we need… When will they come to set us free… there’s time enough we have all the time in the world.”
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is one of the most remembered television horror films of the 1970s. It no doubt has left a lasting impression on so many of us. Enough so, that director Guillermo Del Toro remade it with more teeth and polished effects in 2010, renewing a whole revitalized generation of fans of the story and mood of the piece in all its palpitating unreality. That’s why it has maintained such a cult status all these years. The creepy atmosphere is partly credited to director John Newland who wasn’t a stranger to stories of the macabre and uncanny as he developed the late 50s series One Step Beyond. which dealt with real-life experiences with the uncanny and the supernatural. He also had a hand in directing several of Boris Karloff’s anthology series that blended mystery, horror, and noir in his 60s series Thriller.
I love the color palate by set designer James Cane–the purple and blue tones, the reds and pinks, the golds and browns, the lighting and set design is a rich visual set piece to work within the modern ‘things that go bump in the night’ trope.
Felix Silla, Tamara De Treaux & Patty Malone as the creatures: on the set of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)
Newland worked steadily through the 60s and 70s with Karloff on Thriller and then with Rod Serling on Night Gallery. In Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, director Newland has a grasp on what is eerie and spooky in the classical sense and delivers an atmosphere that is rich with a wonderful color pallet. He produces a simple story with spine-tingling chills, that are often missing today. Newland’s device works great often due to the lighting and the quick glimpses, as you just catch aspects of these little menaces, rather than have them appear for long periods of time on camera. Another creepy mechanism that I find startling is a device within the make-up developed by Michael Hancock (The Omega Man 1971, Deliverance 1972, Altered States 1980, Se7en 1995). where the creatures speak but their mouths do not move, it is as if the voices come from behind their faces.
It’s an odd effect, and though it lacks the virtual ‘teeth’ that Del Toro’s savage creatures have, I am filled with such nostalgic shivers for the old look of things. The kitschy decorating for instance. The creature masks also remind me of something you’d see in The Twilight Zone, an episode of Eye of the Beholder, in the same way, makeup artist William Tuttle created masks where their mouths didn’t move when they spoke. The effect just works. The three little devil imps with their shriveled scowling faces and piercing eyes and creep-tastical voices are among the most iconic and remembered creatures from the 1970s.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is “lit like a horror movie–pools of light glow amidst shrouds of darkness and mysterious shadows abound” “Even a darkened party scene is justified as reticence to reveal the house remodeling underway. The truth is fear of the dark is universal., especially when prune-face goblins tug at our bedclothes.”- David Deal: Television Fright Films of the 1970s.
Alex (Jim Hutton) and Sally Farnham (Kim Darby) inherit an eerie old Victorian house from Sally’s grandmother that holds a dangerous secret legacy, as it harbors the spirits of little devil imps who need to be set free by a designated person whose soul they aim to possess. Once Sally moves into her grandparent’s garish and secretly ghoulish old house, Sally discovers these little creatures living down in the pits of hell behind the bricked-up fireplace in the creepy, musty den. Like her grandfather before her, Sally is next in line to ‘set them free’ by being their chosen sacrifice. She now must convince her success-driven husband Alex that she isn’t crazy or a hysterical, bored housewife. Alex refuses to listen to Sally’s pleas to leave the house, or that the strange happenings and sightings of antagonistic little demons are real and not born out of her imagination or a way for her to sabotage the budding career that takes him away a lot. The only person who not only believes Sally but has tried to warn her not to meddle in things she doesn’t understand is William Demarest as cantankerous handyman Mr. Harris, who worked for Sally’s grandparents. He knows about the little evil gnomes bricked up behind the fireplace and tries to no avail to get Sally to leave the creepy den as is, “Some doors are better left unopened.”
Sally pushes on the bricks of the old fireplace, Mr. Harris the handy walks in, in his
sour-puss scowling manner-
Mr Harris-“It won’t work.! Sorry Miss I didn’t mean to make you jump”
Sally-“It’s alright… well why won’t it work? I mean surely all it needs to be is smashed open”
Mr. Harris- “those bricks are cemented 4 deep and reinforced with iron bars. There’s no way of opening it up.”
Sally-“now who’s idea was that?”
Mr.Harris-“Your grandmother had me do that twenty years ago.”
Mr. Harris-“Well, it, it was after, er (he stops and looks at the fireplace)
Mr. Harris- “I just can’t open it up.”
Sally-“Now Mr. Harris surely you’re not afraid of a little hard work, hhm?”
Mr. Harris-“Its not the work it’s just that some things are better left as they are.”
Mr. Harris-“That’s for cleaning out ashes.”
Sally-“it’s been bolted shut.”
Mr. Harris-“By me, and that’s the way it should stay!”
Told by both Alex and cranky pants Harris to leave the fireplace alone, naturally, she unbolts the ash pit, releasing the creatures who proceed to torment her, making it look like she is crazy, torturing her, gas-lighting her, as we hear whispered tones of
“No don’t hurt her, not yet… “But I want to I want to…”
Oh, there’s plenty of opportunity and time to torment, hurt and drag Sally down to hell. Sally, it’s too much fun to drive her mad, messing with the lights whiles she’s taking a shower, then leaving the straight razor on the dark bathroom floor, poking out from behind curtains and bookcases, peaking out of the floral arrangement at the Haute dinner party intended to impress Alex’s boss, placing a chord across the steps hoping she’ll fall down the long staircase. Sally sees these little menaces everywhere but no one else does. Alex doesn’t even believe that it’s mice, the place was fumigated right before they moved in. After Alex has a fit and fires Mr. Harris for filling his wife with dread, he finally reaches out to him wanting to hear about the history of the house.
Apparently, Mr. Harris tells Alex, that Sally’s grandfather was heard screaming in the study the night he disappeared presumably as he was being dragged down into the pits of hell. After that, the fireplace was bricked up and the ash pit bolted shut. The wicked little imps have been waiting all this time to be set free.
In the simplistic story, everyone at one time has been afraid of the darkness and the unseen terror that it holds, and the beauty of this enduring film moves along at a very quick pace that doesn’t seem rushed, or empty. Each scene while at times frustrating from the standpoint of stupid things you don’t do if you feel you’re in danger, like at the height of the danger drawing ever so near, just lie down on the bed and take a nap, okay you’ve been drugged with the sleeping pills slipped into your coffee by those little creeps. You will forever ask yourself, go to a hotel, why not just get out of the house? If you feel like you want to scream at Sally, get the hell out… now for the love of Mike! And by the end, it tickles you to finally see her being dragged and daunted.
It’s hard to make out in the darkly lit scene but the goblins are climbing the stairs like a mountain.
Sally -“It was something like this little ferocious animal grabbed at my dress… Alex’s irritated voice scolds Sally like a child--“Look Sally you’ve got to stop this!!!”
I must admit, it’s too delicious to see these little nasty creatures bounding up the stairs, rigging them with a chord in order to cause one to trip, fall and break one’s neck, and pop out of the luscious darkness wielding what is to them a giant a straight razor. These little evil imps inhabit our world view perfectly of those ‘things that go bump in the night.’
Kim Darby is plain and perfectly whiny within the horror version of Diary of a Mad Housewife, but that works to the film’s sense of go ahead drag her down the stairs already feeling, though I cheered for Carrie Snodgrass in the aforementioned film of the 70s. ” Sally trips into a surreal world of gloom and although she never really gets a grip on things, she still shows some resolve.” Buying flashlights and candles instead of a room at a Hotel. sure Sally sure…
Alex and Sally experiencing martial woes and little devil imps in the suburbs!
As Sally puts it when having a heart-to-heart with her only friend Barbara- “Most of the time she feels like a reasonable adjunct to his getting ahead”
Barbara tells Sally that she knows exactly what it’s like to be “left by yourself to brood”
‘Making imaginary mountains out of imaginary molehills” that’s exactly what her friend Barbara thinks the breaking of the ashtray by the side of the bed and the sounds of something lurking behind the kitchen garbage merely was…
This 70s tele-fright film could work as a horror story that embroiders the dismissal of women, their needs, their perceptions, and their entire world into an adult fairy tale/nightmare. How a woman can become discounted when what she thinks and feels is chalked up to being merely her ‘imagination’ or emotional distress, and/or an unreasonable emotional dependency on her man who is trying to make it. Or… she is just plain exuding hysteria. Don’t Be afraid of the Dark consists of blunt hyperbole of the hysterical woman not in its undercurrent but rather, right out in plain sight a contrast to the ‘shadows’ and goblins that lurk in the dark. A metaphor for women’s desire to be set free? I’ll leave that to scholars…
Kim Darby looks better than ever… no frowzy Sally here!
Actually, I read that originally actor George Hamilton was cast as Alex. The chemistry would not have been as well suited as Hutton’s disbelieving soul. Hamilton is too sharp an actor for Darby’s frowzy simple girl next-door style. William Demarest gives a well-suited supportive performance as the cranky handyman Mr. Harris who knows all to well about the secrets of that bedeviled house with its ancient wicked creatures lurking about. It is Sally’s friend Joan played by Barbara Anderson who finally believes Sally isn’t going mad. At first, she suspects that it is a mad housewife deal, sexual frustration, marital woes, and just plain hysteria. Anderson won an Emmy for her role on Ironside as Officer Eve Whitfield.
Writer Nigel McKeand was sometime actor and was one of the demonic voices in the film. Prolific composer Billy Goldenberg (Columbo) is adept at both classical and pop music and has been in demand, providing music for film and television since the mid-60s. His tele-fright scores include Ritual of Evil (1970), Duel (1971), Terror on the Beach (1973), Reflections of Murder (1974), The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), The UFO Incident (1975) and One of My Wives is Missing (1976).
One of the great aspects that work in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is the set direction by James Cane, the big old Victorian that creates the mood of a ‘chamber piece’ is so creepily garish with colors that clash, and a mix of neo-gothic, Louis VI and contemporary styles that even Sally decides to hire decorator Francisco Perez (Pedro Armendáriz Jr.) whom the dastardly gnomes accidentally cause to fall down the steps killing him. Still, Alex doesn’t quite see that something is wrong with the house.
Even after Joan (Barbara Anderson) begins to believe Sally, the efforts made to protect her friend are sluggish and frustrating, just to make our skin crawl with anxiety as these wicked little things chant “We want you, we want you, we want you, we want you”, while Sally is destined to go the way of her grandfather. This special Movie of the Week chiller is brimming over with an eerie atmosphere.
Felix Silla, who played one of the creatures also played Cousin It in The Addams Family.
4-Dying Room Only 1973
Aired September 18, 1973, ABC Movie of the Week.
Directed by Philip Leacock with a screenplay by Richard Masterson. (I Am Legend, The Incredible Shrinking Man) This iconic writer/visionary has too many credits to list them all, link to IMBd to see the breadth of this genius’ work.
She’s Alone. No One Believes Her. And There’s No Way Out!
While driving across the desert Bob and Jean Mitchell (Dabney Coleman and Cloris Leachman) stop at a desolate roadside diner late one night. When Bob goes to the gent’s room, he doesn’t return, just vanishes completely! The locals including Ned Beatty as Tom King, the wonderful Louise Latham as Vi, and Ron Feinberg as Lou McDermott all appear unfriendly and downright menacing. The worst of all is diner owner Jim Cutler who considers people like Jean and Bob ‘moron city folk’ (Ross Martin who does sinister really well!)
Jean “You must have seen where my husband went.”
Jim Cutler-“Are you telling me I did?”
Jean “He was sitting right there at that table. Right there.”
Jim Cutler-“And I was right there at that griddle, with my back turned how would I know where he went. Maybe he got sore at ya and just lit out. Cause your husband ain’t here ain’t no fault of mine.”
One of the most underrated character actresses Louise Latham!
These uncooperative folks deny even seeing her husband at all. Then as the paranoia and panic build someone drives off with her car, stranding her there and now are coming after her. Jean goes to the sheriff played by recognizable character actor Dana Elcar but she has no proof of a crime and tries to get him to believe her protect her from the danger she is in and of course, find Bob.
This familiar theme of the missing husband had been seen in tele-fright flicks such as Honeymoon with a Stranger 1969 starring Janet Leigh, and And No One Could Save Her 1973 starring Lee Remick.
Richard Matheson’s teleplay, from his short story, strikes that universal chord of paranoia, alienation, helplessness and abject fear stuck in the middle nowhere, working like a claustrophobic stage play Dying Room Only puts our heroine in an environment surrounded by hostility with authority figures who don’t believe you all while stuck in the middle of a lonely unforgiving desert.
Cloris Leachman is one of THE most talented comedic actresses, just brings to mind her iconic role as Mary Tyler Moore’s narcissistic and fashionable friend Phyllis Lindstrom from 1970-1977 and her outre brilliant performance as Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein (1974).
Ross Martin is best known for Artemus Gordon of popular television series The Wild, Wild West, and as Garland Humphrey ‘Red’ Lynch Blake Edwards striking suspense thriller Experiment in Terror 1962, and his pretentious art critic Dale Kingston in Suitable for Framing on Columbo’s 1971 episode co-starring Kim Hunter. Ross is just superb as a menacing figure, showing up in another tele-fright film Skyway to Death, before his death of a heart attack in 1981.
Ned Beatty is another marvelous character actor whose creepy statement to Jean is chilling a complete departure from the cowering victimized Bobby out of his element in Deliverance 1972 who goes through his own ordeal with local hostile types here plays a slovenly cretin, Jean asks for change to use the pay phone, Jim Cutler (Ross Martin) tells her he’s fresh out and Tom (Beatty)- looks straight at her, jingles coins in his pocket and walks over to the pinball machine to play a few rounds. One of his more menacing lines–“The only thing I’m gonna regret, lady, is that I’ll only have ten minutes alone with you before I kill you.”
Dabney Coleman has a few lines like this for instance– “These two men happen to be jerks and this… is a dump.” Not quite Bette Davis…
Dana Elcar appears to be a well-meaning but powerless sheriff… Is he part of the conspiracy?
From David Deal’s Television Fright Films of the 1970s –“This story of frustration has the feel of dream logic at first as Jean’s world suddenly turns into a series of unexplainable roadblocks.
Dying Room Only is a film that pushes the trope of paranoia and no one will believe me. Director Philip Leacock keeps the film tautly wound, especially during the first half. Leacock worked on many popular television shows of the 1960s. His tele-fright films in the 1970s include When Michael Calls (1972), and Killer on Board (1977).
Composer Charles Fox was twice nominated for Oscars The Other Side of the Mountain, and Foul Play, and won two Emmys both for Love American Style. Among his credits are Barbarella 1968, The Green Slime 1968, and The Drowning Pool 1975. I just learned that he wrote Killing Me Softly with His Song with lyrics by Norman Gimbel in collaboration with Lori Lieberman in 1972, made famous by amazing songstress Roberta Flack, who gives the most stunning rendition.
5-Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973)
If there are devils, there must also be gods. I don’t know. I have no thoughts…
Aired on February 13, 1973, as the CBS Movie of the Week
With a teleplay by Ron Austin and Him Buchanan -and music by Mort Stevens who worked on many Boris Karloff’s anthology series Thriller… Horror at 37,00 Feet is directed by David Lowell Rich
Television Fright Films of the 1970s by David Deal– “Horror at 37,000 Feet is either a meditation on the inherent savagery of the human race on the primal fears and ancient behaviors that tether us to the past, no matter how far we advance with our technology or just a silly horror movie.”
Alan O’ Neill –“You know I think I’m gonna put some black stone on the floor here around the altar”
Sheila O’Neill-“Very nice if you’re planning to use it as a bar”
Alan O’Neill -(laughs) “That’s a little nasty”
Architect Alan O’Neill (Roy Thinnes) appropriates the remains of a cursed abbey from his wife’s familial state in England, and loads them onto a plane with the intention of flying them to America and using them in their home. During all this time it also happens to be the night of the summer solstice and I might add, a full moon. A foreboding glowing moon shines over Heathrow Airport. Once the stones and pieces of the abbey are stowed away safely in the cargo hold, ten passengers board the red-eye flight.
Buddy Ebsen as millionaire Glenn Farlee, Tammy Grimes as Mrs. Pinder, Lynn Loring as Manya Kovalik, Jane Merrow as Alan O’Neill’s wife Sheila, France Nuyen as model Annalik, William Shatner as faithless minister Paul Kovalik, Paul Winfield as Dr. Enkalla, H.M Wynant as Frank Driscoll, a little girl Jodi played by Mia Bendixsen who is flying alone with her doll. And then there’s the crew Chuck Connors as Captain Ernie Slade, Will Hutchins as cowboy Steve Holcolm, Darleen Carr as flight attendant Margo, and Russell Johnson as Jim Hawley.
Once everyone settles in, the spirits of the long-dead druids break free in the cargo hold and threaten to take over the plane in order to claim their human sacrifice. The tension among the passengers starts to unfold as they try to figure out what the menace is, and what it wants.
Horror at 37,00 Feet is the only credit for V.X. Appleton whose story the film was based on. It was Emmy-winning director David Lowell Rich’s first supernatural film for television but he would go on to make the cult favorite Satan’s School for Girls, Runaway! (1973) and another frightening flight film called SST-Death Flight (1977). Rich also made Madame X (1966) with Lana Turner and Eye of the Cat (1969) with Michael Sarrazin, Gayle Hunnicutt, and Eleanor Parker, and lots of felines…
People might make a comparison with some of the elements of Horror at 37,000 Feet and Cruise Into Terror 1978 on a rival network. While the basic framework, is passengers board a cursed ship daunted by supernatural powers, Horror at 37,000 Feet just has a campier, creepier more atmospheric mood and sensational theatrics because of its cast. In that film, the passengers of a boat are threatened by the son of Satan. Horror at 37,000 Feet utilizes a more nuanced menace, the spirits of ancient druids, which is a totally more unique narrative, as they howl and cause an eerie frosty freezing burning cold throughout the cabin of the airplane as they hunger for their sacrifice. Barry Thomas in charge of the sound department creates some authentically chilling aural scares as the wailing, groaning old ones, and the supernatural static that encircles them…
The ensemble of this horror film might not be too proud of it but it is quite a diverse cast indeed. Tammy Grimes is deliciously eerie in her unbounded knowledge of ancient cults, and Lynn Loring as usual is perfectly intense and tightly wound. It’s all so outlandish and campy. Jane Merrow from Hands of the Ripper (1971) plays architect O’Neill’s wife, Sheila. Among the other great actors is millionaire Glen Farlee played by Buddy Ebsen, a Mrs. Pinder Tammy Grimes, who seems too in sync with all things supernatural and sort of sympatico with the druid mythology. There’s a man of god, who has fallen and is having a crisis of faith- drowning himself in alcohol and self-pity. Who else could play that without breaking a sweat by the brilliant to happily hammy master most likely hand-picked just to re-visit his role as the tormented man on a plane William Shatner as Paul Klovalik… Shatner is not at all a stranger to being terrorized on a plane by strange creatures–if we just think back to a decade before on The Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet that aired 10 years before in 1963. Shatner played Bob Wilson crazed by his visions of a monster on the wing of the plane, daunted by a gremlin who is tearing the wing and tinkering with the engine of a plane when no one, not even his wife will believe him much to the fate of the flight.
A film like Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) , creates a world of tension as the variety of personalities each respond to the crisis in their own way, not to compare this Movie of the Week with the masterpiece of cinema, Horror at 37,000 Feet is itself an ensemble morality play as much as it is a supernatural story. The tensions, conflicts and personal dynamics are tested by the imminent danger and the doomed fate they are faced with.
Alan (Thinnes) “Are you beyond fear or are you just drunk?”
Paul (Shatner) –“Both but if I were you I’d worry more about your fellow passengers than what ever it is you brought on board”
Things start to go wrong as soon as the flight leaves London as the plane is mysteriously suspended in mid-air going around and around in circles. The mysterious and uncanny entity smashes out of its crate in the cargo hold and freezes Mrs. Pinder’s dog, Damon. The cold then begins to manifest itself inside the cabin. A green boiling oozing Lovecraftian kind of menace reveals itself.
When Captain Slade and Hawley investigate, Hawley is quick-frozen like a bag of organic cauliflower. The evil power rips through the carpeted floor of the plane and an ugly greenish brown ooze bubbles and smokes as ancient unintelligible voices chant. That is how the malevolent entity shows its presence.
Co-Pilot Jim Hawley “Look at this there’s something like moss on the bulkhead.”
An evil unspeakable horror that you cannot really see. From the old school of less is more, and it’s what you don’t see that creates more dread. It’s more creepy and effective that way. Sheila O’Neill (Jane Merrow), whose family built the abbey passes out and speaks Latin and hears voices that torment her, calling her name, which prompts Mrs. Pinder to explain a bit about what’s going on.
Paul- “Do you remember what you said when you fainted? (he speaks a Latin phrase)
Sheila “Yes I heard that, one of the voices what does it mean?”
Alan – “Well do you know or don’t ya?”
Paul “It’s from a Black mass…”
Alan “a prayer… to the devil?”
Manya-“or to that thing back there!”
Alan “My wife is imagining things that’s all
Manya “She’s hearing voices… Paul says she was reciting a black mass.”
Paul –“I was probably wrong I was a worse scholar than I was a priest.”
Mrs.Pinder “It was a man’s voice wasn’t it?”
Sheila -a crazed look in her eyes-“Yes”
Mrs. Pinder “Do you know who that was my dear… ? In 1407 Lord Compton the owner of the land in which the Abbey stood, your ancestor was burned at the stake for heresy and murder. He worshiped the Druid gods. Offered human sacrifices. Members of your own family.”
It seems the abbey was built on a sacred grove of the druids who had performed human sacrifices. Every hundred years at the solstice, the spirits of the ancient druids come back demanding their sacrifice. Mrs. Pinder asserts that it’s Sheila they want. The panic sets in as everyone jumps to wild conclusions for self-preservation’s sake, They decide to make a pseudo-Sheila, attaching her fingernail clippings and strands of her hair to the little Jodi’s creepy doll. They paint its lips red with Sheila’s lipstick. It’s a grotesque site. They try offering that to the spirits who are drawing nearer, only being held off by a fire the passengers have lit, and their safe space is growing smaller with each hour. They try to substitute the doll for Sheila as their sacrifice. The druids aren’t buying it!
Glen Farlee (Buddy Ebsen) has a soliloquy “Maybe she’s right. What other explanation could there be? Everything’s gone crazy!” The plan doesn’t work so the group decides to light a fire on the plane to keep the evil spirits away, and soon the fire burns out and all looks grim. Of course, Shatner stands out in this film as the faithless, pessimistic, nihilist-defrocked priest Paul Klovalik as he drinks heavily and tries to shut off the chaos surrounding him, feeling helpless and hopeless. “The closer to heaven, the more discordant” and generally dismisses the rest of the passengers bitterly as fools and barbarians.
Paul Kovalik: “You don’t need a priest, Mr. Farlee. You need a parachute…I’m going to open a bottle of it right now. It might not make me happy. But it will amuse me to think of all of you back here worrying about your lives… as though they were of some importance.”
Shatner certainly isn’t playing this kind of guy, that’s for sure!
At the end Paul Klovalik does find a flicker of faith left and rises to the occasion. But will the ancient old ones, the druids get what they want?
6-The Invasion of Carol Enders 1973
Her task is clear, to find and confront her own murderer!
Aired November 5, 1973, ABC Movie of the Week.
From David Deal’s book Television Fright Films of the 1970s-“Producer-director Dan Curtis had his hand on several intimate productions in the early 1970s, which were shot on videotape in Canada. The Invasion of Carol Enders is one of these. Carol Enders (Meredith Baxter) and her fiance Adam Reston Christopher Connelly are attacked while spooning in lover’s lane and Carol is seriously injured when she attempts to escape. Meanwhile, Diana Bernard (Sally Kemp) the wife of a doctor, is fatally injured in an automobile accident. Both patients are sent to the same hospital. and Carol makes a miraculous recovery just as Diana dies. Upon Awakening, Carol claims in very convincing terms to be Diana. When the police determine that Diana was murdered, Carol/Diana leaves the hospital to find the killer. This mild-mannered story of possession will not appeal to those with a fancy for the macabre. It plays more like a soap opera mystery that happens to have a kernel of the supernatural driving the action.”
The story is by Merwin Gerard whose list of credits includes tele-fright films, The Screaming Woman (1972) starring the great Olivia de Havilland, The Victim (1972) and She Cried Murder (1973) The story was adapted by Gene Raser Kearney. Kearney wrote several Night Gallery episodes for Rod Serling and my cult favorite Games (1967) starring Simone Signoret and Katherine Ross, directed by Curtis Harrington, and Night of the Lepus (1972) —Giant killer bunnies, eh not so much…
Meredith Baxter was in the midst of her breakthrough television series Bridget Loves Bernie in 1972 when she did this film. She also appeared in Ben in 1972 and the other film I covered directed by Harrington, The Cat Creature. Her most famous roles aside from tele-films were as Nancy on the thoughtful nighttime drama Family 1976-1980 starring Sada Thompson and Kristy McNichol then she went on to play Elyse on Family Ties in the 80s.
Peyton Place alumnus the handsome Christopher Connelly plays Adam Reston and familiar character actor Charles Adiman plays Dr. Peter Bernard both are good at playing the perplexed husband routine. Connelly’s Adam Reston even helps the police in their investigation, playing an important part in solving the mystery. Dan Curtis’s favorite John Karlen plays Diana’s ex-husband, David Hastings, the number one suspect in her death. George DiCenzo plays Dr. Palmer and Sally Kemp is Diana Bernard.
Carol-“I knew Diana, probably better than anyone. She was hard on you David, a lot harder than you deserved.”
Dan Curtis has an executive producer credit on this film. and an un-credited nod for direction because several snippets of footage–including Diana’s car crash are taken from his tele-fright The Norliss Tapes, which aired the same year. Some sources list the film as having aired on March 8, 1974, some claim it was released in 1973. I’m choosing to include it in my feature here as a 1973 release.
Director Burt Brinkerhoff was an actor, mainly on television in the 50s and 60s and this was his first film as director. He would go on to make the horror film Dogs and yet another television adaptation of Frankenstein in 1987.
The film plays more like a murder mystery/thriller, but you cannot escape the supernatural narrative that exists, references to India where the air was “thick with the spirits of the dead, it was like incense.”
The Possession of Joel Delaney came out in 1972 and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud came out in 1975, Audrey Rose came out in 1977. The subject of reincarnation was threaded throughout the 1970s as an appealing and uncanny, almost taboo trend.
7-Isn’t It Shocking 1973
Aired October 2, 1973, ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK.
“You lose Buckwheat! Get yourself another girl!”-Marge Savage (Ruth Gordon)
Just hinted at by its tongue-in-cheek title, Isn’t It Shocking? is a movie about a serial killer Justin Oates played by Edmond O’Brien who does a great job of being well, creepy really really creepy. A creepy candy bar-eating killer who is picking off the elderly town members of Mount Angel, as he uses a unique and fetishistic style of murder not unlike something you’d see in any disturbing episode of Criminal Minds.
The movie opens with Justin Oates (Edmond O’Brien) putting gel on the paddles of a machine that looks like a defibrillator but instead, it actually causes an old woman to have a heart attack by electrocution.
As the movie opens Alda is in bed with his lover, Patricia Quinn who plays Ma Tate, she’s got a customer at the door, as he usually has to sneak out at his usual 5 a.m., as she urges him to finally marry her already. There’s nothing trashy going on with Ma, she runs a motel, and the customer who’s checking in is Justin Oates (Edmond O’Brien). Back at the station, Blanche teases him about his girlfriend, and how she couldn’t get in touch with him by phone. There’s been a death. It’s the old woman at the opening of the movie. Blanche loves to give Dan so much affectionate crap as she is obviously smitten with him. She assumes that since he probably wasn’t going to 6 A.M. mass at the local church, where else could he be but with his girl? And say, did she ask him to marry her yet again? Dan is not amused. As he scatters birdseed out the window we learn that he is an amateur ornithologist, one of the interesting little details of the teleplay that peppers this smart suspense thriller. Deputy Jesse Chapin (Lloyd Nolan) arrives and informs Dan that it was Janet Barber who died of a heart attack in her sleep that morning. Her husband Ralph is out of town at a VFW convention, and here’s where it gets weird, it was unusual for her not to be wearing her nightgown. They found her completely naked. They attend Janet’s funeral, and later that evening while Dan is eating at a restaurant with his girlfriend and her kids, one of his officers finds him to let him know that now her husband Ralph has died. Doc Lovell the coroner (Dorothy Tristan) examines the body and though there is no sign of struggle, or any signs of trauma to the body, it’s another appearance of a heart attack, once again but the same as wife Janet, Ralph’s body is also nude.
Good friend Deputy Jesse Chapin is soon found dead at the police station, of an apparent heart attack. Dan is devastated by this…
Soon after, his friend and deputy Jesse has also been found dead of an apparent heart attack. Also, Jesse’s dog is missing. The coroner re-examines all three deaths and finds an unusual smell, like turpentine on the bodies. Jesse’s dog is eventually found dead, and there are traces of the same smell of turpentine, nutmeg, or something on him as well. Finally, the lab discovers that it’s a topical salve or vaporizer ointment, and they also discover there were burn marks on him and he was murdered! These were not natural deaths. Finally, the players have caught up with what we learned from the top of the movie, that some psychopath is going around killing all the elderly town folk for some god-forsaken reason. Of course, I will not disclose the plot any further…
This ABC Movie of the Week is one of those rich and rare made for tv movies that left a deep impression on me, because of its wonderful characterizations, stellar cast, pitch-perfect acting, and slick direction by John Badham. It was disturbing and disquieting for me as I hated to see older people being the victims of an odd and malevolent killer. The atmosphere was rife with a heady sense of dread, and just the measured amount of cynicism to create a dark and witty tale, not a dreadful downer. It also utilizes some truly original visual brush strokes by cinematographer Jack Woolf, (Daughter of the Mind 1969, Smile Jenny, You’re Dead 1974) and a creepy use of the classic Irving Berlin song, (You Forgot To) “Remember”
With Justin Oates’ motive being conceived of a psychotically deranged vision of revenge for an old slight in his youth, this film is a little quirky gem. A dark and brooding black comedy where nice folk are dropping like flies and it’s up to a lanky awkward sheriff to try and put the pieces of the mystery together.
This elderly circle of friends in the quaint bucolic town of Mount Angel, Massachusetts (actually filmed on a farm in Mount Angel Oregon) are plagued by this series of strange deaths, starting to die off from sudden heart attacks at an alarming rate. Police Chief Dan Barnes (Alan Alda) believes that something strange is afoot. None of the victims had any enemies and robbery wasn’t a motive. While they can be explained as natural deaths, there are odd details to the deaths that a) link all the people together, they’re all found in various states of undress something out of character to these folks, and all bear strange round marks on their chests like burn marks, smelling of an oily resin or liniment and b) what’s the chances that everyone would start having heart attacks together in such a short period of time. Lloyd Nolan plays one of Dan’s officers and closest friends, Jesse Chapin, who himself is soon found dead of a heart attack deemed a natural death. But Dan Barnes is just not buying it.
With the help of his zany secretary Blanche (Louise Lasser), the pair begin to see the pattern emerging yet the motive is still unclear as is the identity of this bizarre killer.
With a sharp and intelligent script by Lane Slate (They Only Kill Their Masters 1972, The Car 1977, the television movies, The Strange and Deadly Occurrence 1974, The Girl in the Empty Grave 1977 starring Andy Griffith )and directed by John Badham who works magic with the clever script and a great cast, it’s an engaging mystery whodunnit. The British-born Badham had worked on several television series including Rod Serling’s Night Gallery before this. his first tele-fright. The next year would see his superior remake of Les Diaboliques (1955) called Reflections of Murder (1974) starring Tuesday Weld and Joan Hackett. Isn’t It Shocking? Also co-stars Will Geer as a hilariously erudite, smart-alecky chain-smoking coroner Lemuel Lovell. And the hilarious Liam Dunn (Young Frankenstein (1974) as Myron Flagg.
Alda plays it very cool and low-key, not his usually snappy wit, and his relationship with the quirky Blanche is adorable. clumsy and wonderful as their chemistry seems to want to blossom but can’t get off the ground just yet. Patricia Quinn plays Barnes’ girlfriend complete with bratty kids– she had played Alice in Arthur Penn’s cult classic Alice’s Restaurant (1967).
Edmond O’Brien plays the sweets-crazed killer who has a seriously warped sense of self-worth. O’Brien won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for 1954’s The Barefoot Contessa and he was nominated once again for Seven Days in May 1964. An interesting fella he was born in New York and at one point was a neighbor of Harry Houdini.
Edmond O’Brien stars in film noir classic D.O.A (1950)
But he’s probably best known for his work in the 1940s and 5os classic film noir where O’Brien brought to life some memorable characters in films such as The Killers (1946), The Web (1947), and White Heat (1949) culminating in his most famous noir role as the doomed Frank Bigelow in 1950s D.O.A. Other interesting roles for the character actor include prolific powerhouse Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-Hiker (1953), Jack Webbs’ Pete Kelly’s Blues, the 1956 version of 1984 as Winston Smith, Fantastic Voyage (1966), and The Wild Bunch (1969). O’Brien continued to work into the 70s with Dream No Evil (1971), and They Only Kill Their Masters (1972) starring James Garner. Isn’t It Shocking? would be his only tele-fright in the decade before his death of Alzheimer’s disease in 1985.
From David Deal’s Television Fright Films of the 1970s-“The key to the success of Isn’t It Shocking? is the intelligent script by Lane Slate for which he won an Edgar Allan Poe Award. The characters of the small town shot in Mount Angel Oregon “are drawn with a light touch and an eye for every day realism.” The murders-there are two that are particularly affecting since the viewer is allowed to come to know and like the characters. The few moments of action such as the car chase in the cornfield are deftly handled, and David Shire’s sprightly soundtrack is perfect.”
One of the highlights of Isn’t It Shocking? for me is seeing Ruth Gordon as cat-loving Marge Savage an eccentric old gal who lives out at a large house by herself, well, companioned by numerous felines, and NO she was not a crazy cat lady, just plain Ruth Gordon style quirky is all. Marge might just be next in line for an inexplicable coronary, and she might just be at the center of the mystery itself!
All *kinds* of observable differences: The world of Ruth Gordon
8-Kolchak: The Night Strangler 1973
or, “A Tale of Another City”
American audiences met reporter Carl Kolchak on January 11, 1972. The Night Stalker shattered all rating records for TV Movies that year. The character was created by writer Jeff Rice whose novel The Kolchak Papers was released on October 31, 1970.
By right, because of the eternal love I have for Darren McGavin and this transcendent gem, I should be doing a special stand-alone feature on Kolchak: The Night Stalker –both feature Movies of the Week AND the all-too-brief series, twenty episodes in all.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker -Legacy of Terror aired Feb. 14, 1975.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker-The Spanish Moss Murders aired Dec. 6, 1974.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker-The Devil’s Platform aired Nov. 14, 1974
Not to mention his performance as Old Man Parker in director Bob Clark’s transcendent holiday comedy with such orgiastic detail for nostalgia it’s become a beloved cult masterpiece partly due to McGavin’s brilliant characterization of the downtrodden working class dad prone to fits of un-discernible language & ecstasy over winning a major award–a bawdy fringed leg lamp in the timeless A Christmas Story (1983) Plus his various contribution to many memorable television series.
The Night Stalker isn’t one of my favorite cheeky horror/fantasy-themed shows of the 70s — it inspired as a jumping-off point Chris Carter to do The X- Files, this is a little of what he had to say“And it was a very, very scary show, and I loved that show. And I had an opportunity to create a show for Fox. And Fox responded, ‘What do you want to do?’ And Carter told them, “You know, The Night Stalker was this fantastic show and I was scared out of my pants. I said there’s nothing scary on television anymore. Let’s do a scary show. If you remember The Night Stalker… ” So many of us remember and still re-watch The Night Stalker.
Writer Mark Dawidziak- from The Night Stalker Companion, “Carl Kolchak, a hero perfectly embodied by Darren McGavin in those two hit TV movies, The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973) … was every sloppy inch the hero determined to uncover the truth… While obviously dedicated, he was eager for a share of the glory that goes with a front-page byline. While capable of great courage, he at times ran in fear. While skeptical about everything around him and inside him, he was optimistic about tomorrow… a low-bred hero with a wit sharp enough to puncture pompous windbags (heightened, no doubt by an early Marxian conversion of the Groucho variety.)… There was the humor. In the middle of the heroics and the horror, Kolchak’s audacious sense of humor tied the bizarre package together.
Long before Fox Mulder and The X Files came along, Carl was telling us that “the truth was out there” but Carl also told us that you had to push and push and push to get anywhere near the truth, and even if you found it, your reward might be a swift kick in the teeth… Some people connected with the Kolchak movies and series episodes have suggested that the mixture of humor and social consciousness made The Night Stalker a TV entity way ahead of its time. And… from a pop-culture standpoint.”
Producer/Director/Writer- Dan Curtis.
The master of the fantastic & the macabre writer Richard Matheson who passed on June 20th, 2013
Prolific writer & visionary Richard Matheson thought producer/director/screenwriter Dan Curtis did a great job with the sequel as sequels are very hard to pull off, without appearing to be retreads and worn-out caricatures. writer/creator of the Kolchak brand- Jeff Rice was frustrated with the process and wanted to be in charge of the script, as he felt that the characters were being turned into those very caricatures. He saw that potential with The Night Stalker.
In a letter he wrote to producer Herb Jellinek, “I added that Simon Oakland (Vincenzo) be brought back and that the characters of Kolchak and Vincenzo be explored and deepened, especially since Kolchak had tended to become somewhat caricatured in the sequel film.” Rice agreed that The Night Strangler had many strong elements and moments, but he felt it was too much like The Night Stalker, just set in a different city. changed from Las Vegas to Seattle. Darren McGavin had basically agreed with writer Rice. “When ABC wanted to do another Night Stalker,” McGavin says, “Dan literally redid the first one in another town. Do you know what the problem with the sequel is? They don’t know how to make a sequel with the character, so what they do is take the formula and redo it. That’s why I didn’t like Night Strangler that much. If you run the two movies consecutively you say to yourself, ‘Wait a minute, I just saw that” And that’s why I didn’t want to do a third one at the time. I suppose, as TV Movies go it’s all very good, but it was kind of weary and threadbare, even the second time around. It was like we’d done it before. The first one was so original. The second one was the same thing–same structure.” This time it was an age-old strangler draining their blood and life force from victims ‘ glands instead of using fangs to sustain his life.
Well perhaps the wonderful Darren McGavin wasn’t totally happy with the work, but you can’t argue that so many of us, could never get tired of the character, and wish the show had gone on to a second and even third season.
As writer Mark Dawidziak says so accurately “Look , something clever and original comes along. The network is afraid of it. But when the innovative concept works, that’s all the network wants. They don’t something even more clever and innovative. A Columbo arrives on the scene and breaks all the established network rules. But then, to maintain its success, Columbo rarely varies the new formula which soon becomes an old formula. Do we blame Columbo for repeating the formula through more than sixty mysteries? Or do we applaud Columbo for treating us to a clever variation on the familiar tune? This is how many of us feel about the Kolchak character and series.”
There are too many wonderful characters and moments to the Two tele-fright films and the series that ran from 1974-1975.
And once again as Mark Dawidziak in his fantastic Kolchak companion book, a must-read, points out memorable moments, “It would be a shame not to have The Night Strangler. There are just too many wonderful moments in the sequel. There’s the look on Tony Vincenzo’s face when he realizes the voice in the bar belongs to Carl Kolchak.”
By the way, with all his bellicose arguments with Carl, he always exudes confidence that Carl is the consummate journalist! and their relationship is just part of the charm of the show, there’s tension, heating bantering but a lot of love and respect.
Carl Kolchak: “Don’t you want to hear this?”
Tony Vincenzo: “What I want to do is raise tulips for a living but there’s not enough demand.”
My adoration of Darren McGavin, not unlike Peter Falk’s manifestation of the eternal underdog Lt. Columbo with his perpetual rumpled raincoat and worn out $16 worn out brown leather boots fighting as an archetypal David against the socially conscious classist adversary that was his Goliath, Carl Kolchak sports the creased sear sucker suit, cheap white sneakers, straw hat plays the ballsy gentleman of the press, who like Fox Mulder always seems to find the supernatural angle where ever he lands, which is always right in the middle of the paranormal muck and mire…
Even if he’s not the central cause of Tony Vincenzo’s bleeding ulcer, intrepid reporter Carl Kolchak played to withstand mimicry is the inimitable Darren McGavin who brought to life a character that is so indelible, that in order to get your fix of his delicious cynicism and veracious pursuit of the truth you must re-run the mere 20 episodes over and over just to feel like you’ve gotten your fill, The Night Stalker and it’s legacy never gets old.
McGavin’s snarky tirades and closing soliloquies soothe the viewer into a dreamy sense of comfort, that all memorable characters impart to their fans. You cannot remake this show, nor fill McGavin’s shoes. So we must live off the brief spark he and the show left us and replay it like a great song that always re-excites with its catchy chorus. The Night Stalker is a legendary gem, with great dialogue, interesting storylines, and yes a few cheesy monsters… that’s part of its enduring charm. One of these days, I’ll do a special on the entire series featuring some of my particular favorites, the pilot film, and the back story. For now, it’s 1973 and there’s a Night Strangler on the loose in Seattle! This was the second story, written by Richard Matheson, the sequel to The Night Stalker, that would eventually launch the show into our collective consciousness with a lifetime legacy of splendid spooky sometimes grim, shenanigans.
There are too many incredibly creepy sublimely hilarious moments to mention here at this time. Just to mention a few of the now classic, amusing elements of the series is Miss Emily played by the adorable character actress seen in a multitude of television shows bearing the most earnest and enchanting style of old gal–Ruth McDevitt and as Gary Brumburgh writes in his mini-bio for IMDb he so aptly describes her as- ‘Delightfully daffy and an apple dumpling of a darling.’
Appearing in the television series is Miss Emily Cowles who writes the lovelorn column for the Chicago newspaper Editor Tony Vincenzo runs. There’s a myriad of phenomenal character actors that grace Kolchak: The Night Stalker series. They add layer upon layer of dark comedy, terrific characterizations blended with genuine chills, campy special effects, and some thoughtful insight into the human condition. I always felt that like The X-Files, the vast talented contributors to the show could have come up with at least one more season of original storylines to feed us grateful fans and still have Kolchak appears as fresh and funny as ever.
In television repeating a formula that works is a recipe for success. ABC had unexpected incredible ratings after The Night Stalker aired. Dan Curtis and his team sought out Richard Matheson to come up with a second story that would put Kolchak back on the track of an interesting mystery.
“Dan and I and several others sat in an office at ABC for hours” writer Richard Matheson recalls, “trying to think up a monster for the second film. Somebody would come up with an idea and somebody wouldn’t like it. This went on and on. And at one point, it just struck me as so funny and I said, “isn’t this ridiculous? Grown men sitting in this big building, trying to decide what would be a good monster’ It seemed so bizarre to me.”
Then something occurred to the writer. “I had seen this underground city while on a trip to Seattle with my wife and kids… It isn’t as extensive as the film leads you to believe, but I amplified it and worked with Dan on it. But it took a long time to come up with a good story to go with that. My idea, actually was that it was Jack the Ripper still alive.”
And the story does give that sense of it, a Ripper-type killer on the loose. The original creator and writer Rice had Carl Kolchak fascinated like so many over the decades with the immortally malefic Jack the Ripper in The Kolchak Papers. The problem was that Matheson’s good friend and fellow writer Robert Bloch had already written a story called, Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper which was adapted to television on Boris Karloff’s Thriller, which aired April 11, 1961, starring John Williams.
Matheson decided to come up with a different sort of killer for the story, Dan Curtis says “Yeah, we worked our tails off on that story… You know, a good sequel is hard to do. If you don’t have a story that’s strong enough, why do it? But with Richard Matheson, you’re dealing with one of the best people in the business, period. I knew we were in good hands.” And what Matheson came up with was a very original and interesting idea, that sets itself apart from so many re-envisioned portraits of old Jack from The Lodger (1926) The Man in the Attic with Jack Palance in 1954 and even an episode of Star Trek called Wolf in the Fold written by Bloch, and directed by Joseph Pevney.
Few details were released before the second film premiered– TV Guide announced that Darren McGavin Simon Oakland, producer Dan Curtis, and writer Richard Matheson were reuniting for another ABC movie of the week but the little details only suggested it was about a 120-year-old murderer, it also said he was a 144-year-old killer.
It’s no secret that Darren McGavin and Dan Curtis didn’t get along. “Dan’s a street brawler… and I’m not bad at brawling myself so it was not a happy combination, let me put it that way,” said McGavin. Curtis was more tight-lipped about the fights but admits they took place, chalking it up to two strong-willed people working closely together on a project, but he also said that from this turmoil emerges a better product.
One Curtis backed off the project a bit and just became the producer, and onboard came the stellar actors it seemed to tamp down the tensions, John Carradine as the puritanical publisher Llewellyn Crossbinder. Margaret Hamilton is perfect for the role of Professor Crabwell, Wally Cox as the bookish Titus Berry, and Al Lewis as the tramp. Richard Anderson the ubiquitous character actor played the Strangler —Matheson speaks of Anderson’s role… “Richard Anderson was just wonderful as Malcolm He had a wonderful way of suggesting a quiet power. There was a tremendous dignity to his portrayal. He made the monster very human.”
I won’t reveal too much about The Night Strangler, for those of you that want to watch this 2nd pilot tele-fright and see for yourselves. The cast of oddball characters brilliantly played by the best character actors will entertain for sure. Maybe even make you a first-time fan of the Kolchak series.
In the end, we’ll say that our hero Carl Kolchak announces that he’s heading for New York!
Aired January 16, 1973, ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK
The opening narration goes as follows:
Carl Kolchak in noir like Voice-Over: “This is the story behind the most incredible series of murders to ever occur in the city of Seattle, Washington. You never read about them in your local newspapers or heard about them on your local radio or television station. Why? Because the facts were watered down, torn apart, and reassembled… in a word, falsified.”
“I came to Seattle for peace and quiet and what do I get? You again and another crazy story.” -Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) The Night Strangler (1973)
Teleplay by Richard Matheson is based on the same characters created by Jeff Rice. Produced and Directed by Dan Curtis. Music by Robert Cobert. Director of Photography Robert Hauser, Make Up by William J. Tuttle.
One thing that creates its own unique flavor set apart from the first television movie The Night Strangler is the spooky, eerie world of the Seattle underground. As Mark Dawidziak points out in his The Night Stalker Companion, Tony Vincenzo gives a tip-of-the-hat acknowledging the influence of Ben Hecht and MacArthur’s story. Tony Vincenzo to the bartender–“Take a look around that corner, and see if there isn’t someone that looks like he just came from a road company performance of “The Front Page.”
Then there’s another ubiquitous actor John Carradine’s marvelous face realizing that an employee he doesn’t know (Wally Cox) has worked for him for thirty-five years. There’s the saturnine Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West in the Land of OZ 1939)) an expert in the mysteries of alchemy. The co-stars –Belly dancer Louise Harper (Jo Ann Pflug), Simon Oakland as the ever confrontational (well at least where Carl is concerned) Tony Vincenzo. Scott Brady plays Capt. Schubert who has no great love for Kolchak, the impish and memorable character actor Wally Cox plays librarian/historian Mr. Berry. Al Lewis (Grandpa on the Munsters) plays a tramp living in the underground. Nina Wayne plays belly dancer, Charisma Beauty, Ivor Francis plays Dr. Webb, Diane Shalet plays dancer Joyce Gabriel, and then there’s one of the titillating, non-conformist for 70s television, knee-slapping characters Wilma Krankheimer played by Virginia Peters who only has eyes for Charisma and god help anyone who even looks at her twice! Kate Murtagh plays Janie Watkins who dares the Strangler to come and get her, telling him she’ll walk the Pioneer Square district each night until he takes the bait and attacks her. One of Kolchak’s sarcastic asides, “He may be sick, but he’s not crazy!” And George DiCenzo plays the underground tour guide.
In the series, John Fiedler plays Gordy the Ghoul, the mortician who always likes his palm papered with green stuff before he’ll release any info about the odd cadavers Carl shows interest in. In The Night Strangler, the equivalent is the mortician in a perfectly campy and macabre scene where the two are standing near a corpse being autopsied when Dr. Webb takes the bottle of Scotch that Kolchak bribes him with and pours it out into two specimen glasses.
And last but certainly not least omnipresent character actor of 1970s television Richard Anderson plays the malevolent Dr. Richard Malcolm otherwise known as the Night Strangler, who eventually meets Carl Kolchak, rotting face to freckled face fanatic in search of the eternal glory of ‘the truth.’
Kolchak’s veracious hunger and tenacity that the public has the right to know the truth. He believes in this even if it means, that he will be meeting up with monsters and go deep underground into the ‘tomb of Seattle’ to get an exclusive from a killer on the verge of disappearing for another twenty-one years. Matheson writes incredible dialogue delivered masterfully by Darren McGavin. Kolchak has some of the best lines even in the face of death when he’s told he’ll never leave the underground alive, “I’m just a dumb reporter doing his job” “You grovel nicely” Malcolm says as he agrees to give him the story.”
SATURDAY, APRIL 1: At 2:35 a.m. Merissa (real name Ethel Parker) one of three belly dancers at the Seattle bar Omar’s Tent is attacked by a powerful man dressed in black. The coroner determines that the cause of death was strangulation. Murder is the last thing on the mind of Tony Vincenzo–” city editor by profession, bilious grouch by disposition.” —as Vincenzo orders a glass of milk at the local press club bar, he hears a familiar voice around the corner. “Oh, no” Tony Vincenzo groans in agony as he hears the voice of Carl Kolchak who is relating the story of the Las Vegas vampire to an unconvinced young reporter. “Take a look around that corner” Vincenzo reluctantly asks the bartender, “See if there isn’t someone there that looks like he just came from a road company performance of The Front Page!”
Sure enough, it’s Kolchak. Tony Vincenzo coming off of that scandalous case in Las Vegas that almost ruined his career in journalism, is now city editor of the Seattle Daily Chronicle. And Kolchak, of course, needs a job. “Get this straight, Mr. Kolchak,” warns flinty sourpuss publisher Llewellyn Crossbinder (John Carradine) “No carnival or hoopla tactics on this paper. This isn’t Fun Town USA This is Seattle.”
Kolchak-“You know there’s been a murder don’t you?”
Now forewarned by Crossbinder, Kolchak is put on the case of Ethel Parker, a strangled belly dancer found in an alley. Investigating the murders Karl meets the other two dancers at Omar’s Tent, Nina Wayne who plays the buxom Charisma Beauty (given name Glady’s Weems), and the Princess of the East (better known as Louise Harper played by Jo Ann Pflug)
Louise and Carl seem to have a certain chemistry. Tony Vincenzo’s ulcer is about to perforate. Meanwhile, there is a second strangulation–cocktail waitress Gail Manning. There are some very creepy and disturbing details in the medical examiner’s report The murderer seems to have an incredible amount of strength. Blood has been removed by syringe from both victims. And, most grotesque and unsettling than the other two elements of the case, there are traces of decomposed flesh found on both necks of the women –as if they had been strangled by a dead man..
Louise (Jo Ann Pflug) introduces Carl to the underground tour of Old Seattle. In 1889, the Great Seattle Fire destroyed a lot of the city, and now a more modern city was built on top of the ashes and ruins. The city has been renovated and now tours are being conducted throughout several blocks of the Victorian city beneath its present-day streets. Of course, Carl is intently focused on this mysterious underground world. Naturally to him, there’s got to be a story he can always sniff out.
The Chronicle’s dead files attendant librarian Mr. Titus Berry (Wally Cox) discovers that a similar series of strangulation murders occurred in the same Pioneer Square district of Seattle exactly twenty-one years ago to the date. In 1952, during an eighteen-day period, a total of six women were found murdered in the same way, but the strangler was never caught. An eerie accounting of that case was a witness who saw the murderer in 1952 and described a man that looked more like a rotting corpse.
Vincenzo is naturally reluctant to print Carl’s story. “Let’s not play that stupid game again.” he tells his poor editor Tony Vincenzo who is about to go through the same dance with Carl as he did back in Las Vegas- “Psychologists call it deja vu–the distinct impression of having had the same experience before.” Kolchak tells us in voice-over. “That’s what it was, all right in spades.”
Then, secretary Joyce Gabriel (Diane Shalet) who was working late, while on her way home happens to see the Strangler hovering over his third victim. At this point, Titus Berry does some more research into the older murders.
Berry digs into the old files and finds that in 1931 during another period of 18 days, exactly six women were found strangled in the Pioneer Square area. This had happened before in the same eerie way back In 1910. There is a definite pattern here which seems to have started in 1889, the same year of the great fire. Again, another witness describes the killer as having had “cheekbones protruding through the face.”
“Isn’t that great” Kolchak is excited when he relates the facts to Tony. When the strangler strikes next, the police arrive in time to surround him. Kolchak arrives in time to witness the escape and nearly gets himself killed in the process. The flash from his camera startles the killer and gives Carl the opportunity to escape. The Strangler exhibits enormous strength throwing the police around like rag dolls, as he dashes away. The fifth victim sadly, is Charisma Beauty ( (Nina Wayne), this is a stroke of bitter luck for Louise Harper, who had been performing on stage at the time, she could have been the Strangler’s fifth victim instead of Ms Beauty.
Back at the newspaper dead file attendant/librarian/research wonk Titus Berry has found yet another clipping that he thinks will interest Carl. In an 1880s interview with writer Mark Twain, he tells local reporter that he had a most interesting conversation with a Seattle physician. Dr.Richard Malcolm (Richard Anderson, the Night Strangler) “a Union army surgeon during the Civil War and the founder of Seattle’s Westside Mercy Hospital, told Twain that the pursuit of physical immortality was completely practical. In 1910 after the fire, a Dr. Malcolm Richards appears and builds a free clinic. The twenty one year interludes convince Kolchak that Richard Malcolm and Malcolm Richards are the same man. The portrait at the free clinic is identical to his newspaper clipping of Richard Malcolm. Berry also found out that before Seattle, Malcolm was living in New York City where in 1868, six women were strangled during an 18 day period. Kolchak tries to tell the police that there will be a sixth victim and then the Strangler will disappear for another twenty one years!”
Carl meets with Professor Crabwell played by the stern-cheeked Margaret Hamilton who is an expert on the occult and alchemy.
Kolchak and Titus Berry look up at the portrait of Dr. Richard Malcolm at the hospital… it is the very likeness of Dr. Malcolm Richards who founded the hospital over 100+ years ago!
Kolchak-“The killer had to be an incredibly strong man, not only were the victims strangled but their throats were crushed!”
Dr. Richard Malcolm: “What’s a few lives compared to immortality, Mr. Kolchak?”
No one played acerbically cynical quite like Darren McGavin and his literary/television personification of report Carl Kolchak. McGavin was in his element as feisty, skeptical conversely open-minded abrasive reporter Carl Kolchak who had already stalked a vampire, which in turn was stalking the population of Los Angeles in the first film tv pilot. Because the ratings came back sensational which they never expected it too, Kolchak came back in The Night Strangler, this time located in Seattle, chasing an ‘alchemist’ who is killing women because he needs their blood and glandular fluid. He’s 1oo+ years old by the way. Almost as good as the first movie, this one benefits from director Dan Curtis’ patented atmospheric vision and a helluva good supporting cast of film and TV character actors.
Additional footage shot but not used featured actor George Tobias as an older reporter who’d covered similar homicides in the 1930s. Curtis did not follow star McGavin to the TV series in 1974, quality steadily declined and it was canceled after on year and a season full of sublimely cheesy horror. The memorable and oft repeated musical score is by composer Bob Cobert, who wrote the music for Curtis’ soap opera Dark Shadows and other Dan Curtis Productions, such as the movie Burnt Offerings (1976).
Darren McGavin thought the series went in the wrong direction. He felt that the show should have evolved like the 1963-1967 television series The Fugitive starring David Janssen with Carl Kolchak “chasing the undead, as opposed to the monster of the week’ format.”-Mark Dawidziak
- As as tribute, Chris Carter created a guest -starring role for McGavin on The X-Files retired FBI agent Arthur Dales, in two episodes of the series, in 1998 and 1999.
- Strangler co-star Ivor Francis was familiar with vampiric territory having played Dr. Franklin on producer Curtis’ soad Dark Shadows.
9-The Norliss Tapes (1973)
Aired 2/21/73–an NBC MOVIE OF THE WEEK.
A newspaper publisher listens to a collection of David Norliss’ audio files (in a similar fashion as Carl Kolchak but more somber in style and tone) who has disappeared after investigating the mysterious story Ellen Cort has shared with him. The cassette tapes tell in flashback style, the bizarre story of a recent widow whose late husband has been seen working in his private art studio on the grounds of the estate.
David Norliss: “As I headed for the Cort estate along the seventeen mile drive, acres of lush cyprus and tall pine loomed over me. The ocean below bellowed and roared, smashing into the coastline spilling white foam along the sand. There’s no doubt this rugged peninsular country could give the French Riviera tough competition. But on this afternoon, my mind really wasn’t on the scenery. I kept thinking about the girl who had been murdered the night before, trying to tie what I knew about her into the story Ellen told me. I had a gut hunch the two were connected. How, I don’t know. But I was going to have to find out!”
Roy Thinnes plays David Norliss a writer of books on the supernatural and the occult, often debunking fake mediums and the like. “But then I got into this business with Ellen Cort” He is approached by Ellen Cort (the ever-sexy Angie Dickinson) who claims her recently deceased husband James (Nick Dimitri) who had been buried with an unusual scarab ring on his finger has come back from the dead. During his investigation into Ellen’s mysterious confrontation with the specter of her husband, he finds out that James was a sculptor who was dying from a fatal disease, and thus looked to the legend of the Egyptian immortal god Osiris. Soon after Ellen thinks she’s seen her husband in the flesh, a string of strange deaths occurs, where all the victims are drained of their blood. Norliss’ having knowledge of the occult begins to suspect that the undead James Cort had struck a bargain to help the demon Sargoth enter into this realm, by completing a magical sculpture of him, molded from clay infused with human blood. James Cort comes back each night to finish his sculpture of the demon, his gruesome blue corpse face and glowing yellow eyes are very effective. Like Carl Kolchak, David Norliss leaves a set of audio cassette tapes with his findings for his editor to find, hoping he’ll publish his book, we aren’t aware of where Norliss has gone yet… this mechanism of using flashbacks is absent the witty flair and worldly circumspection, it sounds more dire and deadly monotone.
Ellen Cort—“The ‘Man’ I shot was already dead.” She tells him about the scarab ring -Norliss “Where’s the ring now, do you know where it is?” Ellen-“Yes… it’s in his coffin”
The Norliss Tapes was an unsold pilot by author Fred Mustard Stewart who is responsible for the amazing novel that was adapted to the feature film The Mephisto Waltz (1970) starring Alan Alda, Jacqueline Bisset, Barbara Parkins, and Curt Jergens. The teleplay was adapted by William F. Nolan whose credits include Logan’s Run (1976) and Dan Curtis’ favorite television Trilogy of Terror (1975) starring Karen Black and a frightening little Zuni doll that won’t stay still. Airing barely a month after Curtis’ previous directorial effort The Night Strangler 1973, The Norliss Tapes may seem a particularly thin project, but the actors and the atmosphere is quite interesting enough for fans of ‘tele-frights’ of the 70s like me. Dan Curtis hangs onto some of the elements that worked for the Kolchak series. While Darren McGavin’s character is a fighter, feisty, resourceful blatantly bucking the system, funny, and snarky as hell, Norliss is more low-key and civilized, he’s not quite as accessible as Kolchak. One of my only gripes is that the demon looks like the television version of The Incredible Hulk 1978-1982 played by wrestler Lou Ferrigno, and the end of a perfectly creepy mood, it’s sort of silly, and slightly tamps down the eerie vibe.
Angie Dickinson is always appealing and gives a fine performance as the threatened widow Ellen Cort. Ellen’s sister Marsha (Michele Carey) is around simply to be killed off in a typical Dan Curtis’ style scene at a Motel where the outre creepy corpse James Cort tracks her down and attacks her. Gallery owner Charles Langdon is played by Hurd Hatfield who is eager to get his hands on the scarab ring himself. Mme. Jeckiel a specialist in the occult played by Vonetta McGee, (Blacula 1972) is the one who shows the way for James Cort to find his path toward his wicked and damned immortality. Sheriff Tom Hartley is another authority figure who doesn’t believe in the supernatural and tries to dismiss the bizarre events that are happening. He’s portrayed by Claude Akins who also plays a lawman in The Night Stalker 1972. The Norliss Tapes is atmosphere-filled with shadows, a sense of dread, and lots of gloomy pouring rain around San Francisco — Fans of Roy Thinnes (especially for his television series The Invaders 1967-68) Angie Dickinson, and prolific filmmaker Dan Curtis as I am, will enjoy this tele-fright flick of the 1970s. There’s a cameo by character actress Jane Dulo as Mrs. Dobkins the Motel owner where Ellen’s sister is killed.
Stanley Adams plays the truck driver who finds the body-“Sheriff I never seen no one look like that after no car crash”
Sheriff (Claude Akins)“never mind what she was, you just keep shut on that part of it”
Truck driver—“Sheriff nobody looks like that after a car..”
Sheriff “I just got through telling you I don’t want anymore talk about this at all.”
David Norliss voice-over: “The morning I drove down from San Francisco, the weather was foul. A curtain of cold rain fell from a gun metal grey sky. I’d set up a meeting with Sheriff Hartley in Carmel to discuss the Ellen Cort situation. I didn’t expect much cooperation from him but it was worth a try. A way to begin. When I pulled up in front of Hartley’s office, the sky had begun to clear and the sun was breaking through. I hoped it was a good omen.”
Sheriff-“You’re the man who spends all his time chasing ghosts.”
Norliss-“I’m sure you find this all very amusing sheriff.”
Hurd Hatfield plays art dealer Charles Langdon who has been after the scarab ring since James Cort obtained it- “The beetle as you know is a symbol of immortality.”
Norliss-“What’s this it wasn’t here the other day”
Ellen-“I don’t know I’ve never seen it before.”
Norliss- “Are you sure he didn’t start this before he died?”
Ellen- “No, this isn’t his…”
Vonetta McGee plays Mme. Jeckiel who dabbles in the occult- “Jim always loved being in the studio and his presence might linger there.”
Norliss -“Oh come on, this was no presence this was a real man, real enough to kill a dog and take a double shot gun blast in the chest.”
Ellen’s sister shows up late, since no one was at home she drives to a Motel run by Jane Dulo and Bryan O’Byrne as The Dobkins.
Aired October 30, 1973, ABC Movie of the Week.
Directed by Lee H. Katzin (television movie Savages 1974, What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? 1969, Along Came a Spider 1970, Le Mans 1970 with Steve McQueen)
Ordeal stars Arthur Hill who plays the wealthy and ornery Richard Damian, who wants to personally inspect a manganese mine that he’s considering purchasing. Diana Muldaur plays his wife Kay Damian who is having an affair with Andy Foldsom (James Stacy-who lost his left arm and left leg in a 1973 motorcycle accident involving a drunk driver. Ordeal would be his last film appearance.)
“We’re all ready Mr. Damian”
“I’ll tell you when we’re all ready… Mr. Fulton.”
All three head out on horseback across the hot desert to the mine, Damian, his wife, and Andy Foldsom their guide. Damian spooks his horse who throws him, falling off a steep ledge, breaking his leg. Kay and Andy take the opportunity to leave him there to die. They figure to re-direct the authorities to look in the completely opposite direction from where Richard has fallen, hoping he’ll be dead by the time he is found. Richard Damian winds up lying there for two days, while he begins to find the resolve to make it out alive so he can return and exact revenge on his wife and her treacherous lover.
Ordeal reminds me of actor/director Hugo Haas’ film Bait (1954) starring Cleo Moore, Hugo Haas, and John Agar. Bait has a similar vibe and central theme.
Richard Damian is not a sympathetic character in the least, but being left for dead is not the answer to ending a marriage. His conniving wife and her lover just abandoned him in the punishing desert to die. Ordeal plays out like a film noir. The story heads down two linear narratives. How is Damian going to survive his ordeal and what is this murderous couple going to do while they wait, for the police to finally discover his body? Kay baits Andy to do the dirty work, it all has the makings of a noir thriller. Diane Muldaur is a classy sublimely beautiful actress, but as with these plots, there’s always something that goes awry and the relationship between Kay and Andy begins to disintegrate while the tense waiting game occurs, waiting to hear from the police, waiting to confirm whether Damian is dead. At first, the couple is exhilarated at the thought of getting away with it but soon both realized that they are incompatible. Andy begins to see through Kay’s shallow side after she questions his background he tells her “Did you expect to get a bishop to help you knock off your husband.”
While all this tawdry scheming is going on, Damian is struggling to survive out in the desert with a broken leg. He almost goes through a life-changing transformation as his body must succumb to the harsh elements. What drives Damian most is his thirst for revenge. Will he learn to embrace his environment and become more changed for the better becoming part of the cycle learning how to adapt, forgetting about his hatred of his murderous wife and her lover, or will he so whatever it takes to survive the desert just to get back to the city and exact his revenge?
At the time Arthur Hill made Ordeal he was starring in his own popular television series called Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law (1971-1974). Ordeal was actually filmed in the Mojave desert. Producers William Bloom and Joseph Silver interviewed-
‘We searched in Arizona for weeks, but all the desert areas there were we ended up 90 miles from Hollywood.” ABC’s press release added that ‘Travel into the location site was no cinch, however. As Red Rock Canyon is a state-owned park, it is against the law for any company or individual to build roads into the area. To get to the top of the hill seen in the move, drivers had to follow in the tracks of the proceeding car–and pray a little” Instead of his well groomed appearance (Arthur Hill) he wears dirty tattered slacks and shirt, an ever-increasing growth of beard. In the key role of a ruthless businessman who is abandoned by his wife and her lover after he is injured in a fall. Hill is left to die on a narrow ledge with a 400 foot drop.”
Ordeal is a remake of Francis M. Cockrell’s story 1953’s Inferno directed by Roy Ward Baker and starred Robert Ryan, Rhonda Fleming, and William Lundigran in the triangle roles.
Director Lee, H Katzin (What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? 1969) seems to have a connection to the desert as part of the narrative’s landscape. the story which was filmed in Red Rock Canyon State Park in California.
Katzin had made another desert survival telefilm called Savages (1974) which starred Andy Griffith as a menacing hunter and played out like The Most Dangerous Game, where Sam Bottoms had to try and make it out of the desert alive.
His other tele-fright films include Terror Out of the Sky (1971), and The Stranger (1973) a Sci-Fi pilot starring Glenn Corbett that didn’t get off the ground.
Composer Pat Williams has been nominated 22 times for Emmy winning four. He’s worked on television shows from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to The Streets of San Fransisco. His many diverse credits include music from cult horror films Ssssss (1973) Hex (1973) Kurt Russell’s rare film Used Cars (1980), John Waters’ Cry-Baby (1990), and the Tele-frights The Failing of Raymond 1971, and Terror in the Sky 1971.
Arthur Hill is a fine actor who is quite adept at transforming himself from a self-driven unfeeling business tycoon Richard Damian to a changed man. He has the depth to straddle both the villain and the sage authority figure.
Diana Muldaur gave a stunning performance in actor/writer Thomas Tryon’s adapted story The Other 1972 directed by Robert Mulligan–the film is perhaps one of the most hauntingly disturbing studies of human frailty and human monsters both. In Ordeal, she plays the role of the cold calculating wife with perfect precision.
James Stacy was popular by the late 1960s he had appeared in a western television series called Lancer. The drunk driver that hit Stacy and his girlfriend on their motorcycle killed his lady. Stacy tried to return to acting two years later but found there weren’t many roles. in 1971 he did make one other tele-fright film with Stephanie Powers and Dean Stockwell called Paper Man.
11-Satan’s School for Girls 1973
Aired September 19, 1973, ABC Movie of the Week.
Directed by David Lowell Rich, written by Arthur A. Ross. Satan’s School for Girls stars Pamela Franklin as Elizabeth, Kate Jackson (who appeared in the 2000 tv remake playing the dean) as Roberta, Jo Van Fleet as the Headmistress, Lloyd Bochner as Delacroix, Jamie Smith-Jackson as Debbie, Roy Thinnes as Clampett, Cheryl Ladd as Jody.
Elizabeth is told by the police that the case is closed, though she tries to convince them that Martha wouldn’t have killed herself, he informs Elizabeth that no one, not friends or even the headmistress can back up any claims that she wasn’t suicidal.
The film opens with a distressed student, Martha Sayers (Terry Lumley) driving her car in abject terror- fleeing for her life from the 300-year-old Salem Academy for Women in Massachusetts. She heads to her sister’s house in Los Angeles. When her sister Elizabeth (Pamela Franklin) arrives home she finds Martha has hanged herself.
Elizabeth meets Jo Van Fleet, the Headmistress, the so-called Dragonlady…
Elizabeth asks Debbie (Jamie Smith Jackson) about her painting, who doesn’t realize that the portrait is of Elizabeth’s sister Martha. Lloyd Bochner plays the intense and twisted psychology professor Delacroix who tortures mice.
Elizabeth is not convinced by the coroner’s verdict, not believing for a moment that her sister Martha would have committed suicide. So she enrolls in the school under a false identity, to try and get to the bottom of her sister’s death. Satan’s School for Girls acts like another ‘chamber piece’ as much of what happens occurs on the grounds of the old school. Director David Lowell Rich brings out the intimate almost claustrophobic atmosphere of an Old Dark House mystery that is a tele-fright film for sure. It is an old-fashioned Gothic thriller out of the 19th century as images of Pamela Franklin playing Elizabeth wanders in her nightgown carrying oil lamps on dark and stormy nights. There are strange goings on at the school and she delves deeper into the history and inner recesses of the old school.
There’s a well-working eeriness that surrounds the cast and the landscape. A familiar spookiness and a pop-culture visual spirit is present by cinematographer Tim Southcott (tv teleplays include, The Death of Me Yet 1971, Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole 1972, The Death Squad 1974, Cry Panic 1974, Savages 1974, Death Cruise 1974, The Missing are Deadly 1975,
The 1970s were popping through, and part of the clear charm of revisiting the films today is seeing the color schemes and things like the-from David Deals Television Fright Films of the 1970s
“shag rugs and macrame plant holders of the nearer past seem much more out of place than the older confines of the historic school. Of course there are trickles of the modern that make their way into the hallowed halls, such as Joseph Clampett’s white bucks and belt. Clampett is the art teacher who says things such as “What we think we see is as real as what we actually see” He’s the hunky instructor that all the girls have crushes on, so it goes without saying that he’s trouble. Professor Delacroix (Lloyd Bochner) on the other hands is the uptight science teacher whose experiments with rats creep out the student body. Bochner goes over the top playing the stressed out Delacroix delivering his lines as if about to burst. His classes take on an edgy absurdity as he stares down a student while spouting dramatic dialogue “The mind can be broken to any level of manipulation.”
Pamela Franklin debuted at 11 years old as the most mesmerizing little Flora in Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961)
deservedly has a huge cult following due to her appearances in several horror genre gems. She made her screen debut as little Flora in Henry James’s classic ghost story Turn of the Screw adapted to the screen by director Jack Clayton, The Innocents 1961 starring Deborah Kerr as the repressed Miss Giddens. She continued on with genre roles in The Nanny (1965) with Bette Davis, Jack Clayton’s Our Mother’s House (1967), Robert Fuest’s And Soon the Darkness (1970), Bert I. Gordon’s Necromancy 1972 starring Orson Welles as the head of a devil cult and writer Richard Matheson’s adapted story The Legend of Hell House 1973, as well as many television shows and films before retiring in the early 80s.
In Satan’s School for Girls 1973, no one is as they appear to be. And no one should be trusted.
Of course, Aaron Spelling put Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd would later be reunited on television’s Charlie’s Angels.
Satan does appear in this tele-fright but he’s a little more urbane, leaving the horns and hooves back in his flaming pad.
“Curiously he is described as Malleus Maleficarum , the Hammer of Witches which was a notorious book written in the Middle Ages and used by inquisitors to identify , prosecute and dispatch witches. In other words, Satan was the ultimate force behind the Inquisition.”- David Deal
Composer Laurence Rosenthal who wrote the incredibly moving score for Man of La Mancha 1972, The Wild Party 1975, did the music for Satan’s School for Girls.
Jackson told Beth Harris of the Associated Press in a March 13, 2000 interview, “Is that the worst titles you’ve ever heard in your life? It’s stunning that anyone would want to remake this.” Harris noted while actress Jackson had the fondest memories of making the original version of the film she just hated the movie’s title and insists on calling it The School. “There’s a certain amount of suspension of belief you have so you can pull it off for the audience… but you hope you’re not going to be remembered for The School.” As for Aaron Spelling, when prompted about the Movie of the Week he claimed, “I barely remember the first one. After 138 TV movies, they all kind of run together.” Kate Jackson added, “Aaron is one of the masters and I love this: he puts his tongue firmly in his cheek and marches on.”
12-Scream Pretty Peggy 1973
Aired November 24, 1973, ABC Movie of the Week.
Directed by Gordon Hessler, (The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Oblong Box 1969, Cry of the Banshees 1970, Scream and Scream Again 1970, Murders in the Rue Morgue 1971, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad 1973, written by Jimmy Sangster and writer Arthur Hoffe. Scream Pretty Peggy stars the inimitable Bette Davis as Mrs. Elliot, Ted Bessell as Jeffrey Elliot, Sian Barbara Allen as Peggy Johns, Charles Drake as George Thornton, Allan Arbus as Dr. Eugene Saks, Tovah Feldshuh as Agnes Thornton.
Composer Robert Prince creates a gorgeous suspenseful string of orchestrated musical motifs and melodic flourishes he also provided the scores for Francis Ford Coppola’s You’re a Big Boy Now 1966, the killer worm movie Squirm 1976, the telefrights Gargoyles 1972, The Strange and Deadly Occurrence 1974, Where Have all the People Gone? 1974 The Dead Don’t Die 1975 and Snowbeast 1977.
Shades of Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).
Art student Peggy Johns –Sian Barbara Allen applies for a housekeeping job at the home of a sculptor Jeffery Elliot played by the tense and odd Ted Bessell who lives with his domineering lush of a mother played to the pitch of Bette Davis. Mom’s a bit of a drinker and after she falls and hurts and sprains her ankle, Peggy moves in to take care of her, against her wishes.
Peggy notices a sculpture that Elliot did of his sister whom he claims left for Europe three months ago. Elliot won’t allow Peggy to clean the room above the garage, which piques Peggy’s annoying curiosity, she just has to insinuate herself into Jeffrey’s personal life and adventure seek what’s going in over the garage. After George Thornton (Charles Drake-the irascible sheriff in It Came From Outer Space 1953, The Maltese Falcon 1941, Winchester’ 73 (1950), Harvey (1950), All That Heaven Allows (1955), The Swimmer (1968), and the tele-fright with Olivia de Havilland, The Screaming Woman 1972 ) comes snooping around looking for his missing daughter Agnes (Tovah Feldshuh) Peggy suspects there is more than meets the eye at the Elliot house.
This is a sculpture of Jeffrey’s sister who’s in Europe somewhere… so they say. Isn’t the dripping bloody color just complimentary if not genuinely, artistically psychotic!
Peggy is also is smitten with Jeffrey, and constantly wants his artistic advice and butts her nose in where it’s not wanted, causing a lot of anxiety with Mother Elliot. This has a sort of a not-so-transparent flavor of Oedipal underscoring a la PSYCHO 1960 to it. Anything from the mind of Jimmy Sangster is worth a watch… better known for his British thrillers for Hammer in the 1960s & 1970s. Here Sangster worked with Arthur Hoffe to create a chiller with perhaps a predictable ending, but still an engaging one.
I had only wished that they had cast a different actress as Peggy, though I’ve seen Sian Barbara Allen do her Sian Barbara Allen thing in (You’ll Like My Mother 1972, and as Shirley Blaine in Lovely But Lethal a particularly great episode of Columbo. In Scream, Pretty Peggy, Allen is just a tad bit too annoying and unsympathetic as the over-eager student Peggy, as she ingratiates herself into this dysfunctional family dynamic. It seems she moves way to quickly in on Jeffrey who appears to be such a solitary and obviously troubled artist with an over-protective mommy.
Peggy figures she’ll have more time now to do some odd jobs around the house, like cleaning up the room above the garage, you know the one she’s been told on several occasions is off limits. Bette Davis, I mean Mrs. Elliot is not having any of that!
Charles Drake comes by the house at night hoping to ask Peggy a few questions about her employer The Elliots. His daughter has been missing, and they were the last people to see her. Peggy is not cooperative, especially if it involves the object of her affections and a chance at being introduced into the art world.
Ted Bessell doesn’t exactly make for great casting either appearing to see be perplexed by That Girl, perhaps the only one that truly fills up the screen is Bette Davis who is always interesting to watch as she is not only protecting her son, but possibly the mentally disturbed daughter who isn’t in Europe at all but living above the garage…???
Jeffrey’s sculptures are certainly grotesque and bizarre, “I’m trying to portray the ultimate in evil”
The question is what is it that’s making pretty Peggy scream? And where is that ultimate evil coming from?
Aired January 31 1973 ABC Movie of the Week.
During a girl’s day out the wives of three wealthy businessmen are kidnapped and held in a remote lighthouse for a $3 million ransom. The men have 36 hours to come up with the money, and against instructions, call in the police.
There are two complicating factors, however, Leslie Nielsen plays Bill Sutter whose wife Kim (Sheree North) is diabetic and without her insulin. Howard Duff plays Duncan Wood who refuses to pay for his wife Robin (Tisha Sterling) because she’s been cheating on him. John Saxon plays Paul Maxvill who desperately wants his wife Barbara (Barbara Parkins) back home safely. Incidentally, Tisha Sterling is the daughter of actress Ann Southern in case you didn’t know!
Snatched is an excellent suspenseful yarn from director Sutton Roley. He knows how to frame a good visual thriller as seen in his other tele-fright films Sweet, Sweet Rachel 1971 starring Stefanie Powers and Satan’s Triangle 1975. Some of the inventive touches are using the set surrounding the old lighthouse location and the final climax filmed in an industrial setting adding to the interesting atmosphere and clever & gripping camera work by Leonard J. South. (Hang ‘Em High 1968, Frenzy 1972, Home for the Holidays tv movie 1972, A Cold Night’s Death tv movie 1973, Night Gallery 1971-1973, Scream, Pretty Peggy tv movie 1973, Family Plot 1976.)
The tension builds nicely throughout the final scenes that feature a hectic footrace from phone booth to phone booth for the drop instructions, remember the psychotic punk who had Dirty Harry Callahan running all around San Fransisco, and Starsky and Hutch’s episode The Psychic.
Barbara Parkins came into prominence with her role as Betty Anderson Cord in Peyton Place 1964-1969 and of course her role as Anne Welles in Valley of the Dolls 1967. Parkins was nominated for an Emmy. One of my favorite roles is that of seductress Roxanne Delancey in Fred Mustard Stewart’s story adapted to film by prolific directed by Paul Wendkos, The Mephisto Waltz 1971. Barbara Parkins starred in another tele-fright alongside Barbara Stanwyck in a made-for-tv movie called A Taste of Evil 1971 Her other films include An Ideal Place to Kill 1971 by director Rene Clement and she appeared in Playboy several times. oh boy… She is still one of the most stunning women I have ever seen still going strong in her 70s! Love you, Barbara Parkins…
Leslie Nielsen and Howard Duff have a career that is enormous in its breadth, too involved to go into here, but their contribution to film and television is boundless, and I adore them both.
John Saxon made his screen debut in the mid-1950s and he appeared on the television series The Bold Ones 1969 – The New Doctors in the late 60s he is remembered for the science fiction telefilms that failed to gain a series Planet Earth 1974 and Strange New World 1975. For fans of horror and science fiction genre movies Saxon is revered for his many roles in horror, action, and exploitation films from Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much 1963, The Night Caller from Outer Space 1965 Curtis Harrington’s Queen of Blood 1966, Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee, Black Christmas 1974, Blazing Magnums aka Shadows in an Empty Room 1976, The Bees 1978 Dario Argento’s Tenebre and A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984.
The bad guys in Snatched are an interesting trio of thugs as well. Ringleader Boone is played by the fine character actor Anthony Zerbe– (The Omega Man 1971) in his only telefright film. Zerbe has been playing mostly villains in film and television since the mid-60s. His film roles include Cool Hand Luke, The Parallax View, The Dead Zone, and many more. He’s a fine actor. Interestingly he won his Emmy for playing a good guy Lt K.C. Trench in the David Janssen series Harry O.
Boone’s cohorts are Whit (Richard Davalos) and Cheech (Frank McRae) McRae was a former football player who turned to acting. As mentioned, the husbands call in the cops, one of whom Detective Frank McCloy (Robert Reed) is a personal friend of the men. There are a few twists and turns in this suspense thriller, but I’m not telling! I will say that in the end, all three couples are changed for good, some tragically.
🎃 Hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of tele-frights from 1973! Wishing you and yours a very Happy Halloween until next time, Your everlovin’ Joey saying it’s been a thrill running briskly down memory lane even if that lane is rife with devil imps and night stranglers nipping at your feet!
One thought on “Halloween Spotlight: ABC NBC & CBS Movies of the Week–the year is 1973 🎃 13 Fearful Tele-Frights!!”
W. O. W.
I’m about 2/3 through and had to stop to say THANK YOOOOU (moon howl). This brings back SO many memories that I’m thinking you either have a working time machine or a very magic TV stuck in another decade (cue Twilight Zone theme).
I’d forgotten about Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark ’til this post. Ah, boyhood crushes, lol. No, not on those pesky demons! Anyway, I recall all of these so far, and scrolling down to comment has shown me more treats to relight and delight the old squishy computer in that attic I call a skull.
Any-way, let me get back to this wonderful post. You keep working this magic and my popcorn budget for the year is going through the roof!