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TopBilled

Horror made for TV in the 1970s

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There are a lot of old TV movies on YouTube. I've been watching some of them.

Standards and practices of broadcast television were stricter so some of the horror is quite tepid. But the better scripts and performances give us some truly suspenseful moments.

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"She Waits" from 1972. Directed by Delbert Mann with an impressive cast that includes Patty Duke, Dorothy McGuire, Beulah Bondi, David McCallum and Lew Ayres. Most of it is filmed inside an old Los Angeles mansion. In fact there is only one sequence where the main character ventures outside the house. Borrowing from REBECCA, Duke plays a young bride who learns about the death of McCallum's previous wife. Except in this version, the dead wife is speaking to the new bride. Duke is most effective in scenes where the dead wife starts to possess her. McGuire is the daffy mother-in-law who is also haunted by the presence of the dead wife; Ayres is the family doctor who prescribes sedatives for the women in their hour of distress. Bondi is a hardened housekeeper who doesn't believe in ghosts. Very atmospheric and it builds nicely. The ending is a bit of a cop out, but the rest of it is genuinely thought-provoking. My score: 9.

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"Reflections of Murder" from 1974. Starring Sam Waterston, Tuesday Weld and Joan Hackett. Directed by John Badham. An excellent remake of the French feature DIABOLIQUES. Waterston is the abusive husband/lover whose mistress (Weld) and wife (Hackett) conspire to kill him. Since it's an American television production, it's in English. Filmed on location in the Seattle area, the cinematography takes full advantage of the rainy outdoors which gives the story increased mood and tension. I don't think writer Carol Sobieski who adapted the original premise made the characters American enough; they seem like Americans with French "morals" which throws things off a bit. But the performances more than make up for it. Waterston is a memorable bad guy. My score: 9.

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"Crowhaven Farm" from 1970. With Hope Lange and Paul Burke. They play a big city couple who move out to the country when the wife inherits a farm from her late aunt. The aunt may have been a witch. Lange finds out she may be a witch too. There's a lot of reincarnation stuff, and the script is full of contrivances but the stars make it work. Lange took this role in between two hit sitcoms trying to shed her wholesome image. Aaron Spelling's company produced. Character actress Virginia Gregg is outstanding as a nasty old witch who wants to take Lange's son away from her. There are several subplots with assorted rural neighbors that almost bog things down, but it all comes together in the end. The story goes out of its way to give us an unexpected climax which actually works. The last scene is supposed to make us wonder if Lange hasn't exactly escaped her hellish nightmare. Worth checking out to see what TV audiences and horror fans were being offered at this time. My score: 7.

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"Scream Pretty Peggy" from 1973. Not great but not bad either. Bette Davis has a strong supporting role as the mother of a painter (Ted Bessell) whose relationships with women always seem doomed. It starts with the arrival of a young woman named Peggy (Sian Barbara Allen) who's been hired to work for the family. She learns the previous help disappeared one day. Though the mother and son insist the former housekeeper left of her own accord, evidence starts to suggest otherwise. At the same time there is a woman living in the guest house who only goes out at night and does not interact with anyone else. Of course, the mystery woman's presence piques Peggy's curiosity. She starts asking questions, too many questions. It's fairly predictable and after the first half hour, it's easy to see where the story is headed. But Davis infuses her part with some amusing sarcasm and a great deal of irony that gives the story a boost. Bessell had recently played an amiable character on the sitcom 'That Girl' so his role as a mentally unbalanced artist was a chance to work against type. Allen's line readings are flat, especially compared to Davis in their scenes together. But she has a wholesome quality that works well with this plot. There's some genuinely creepy stuff near the end when we find out where some of the bodies have been hidden. The ending is a ripoff of PSYCHO, but there is still enough entertainment value and suspense to recommend it. My score: 8 (too generous, but it benefits from Davis' participation and Universal's production values).

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I have an entire book on the subject, one which I recommend for anyone with interest in the genre, or looking for titles to seek out. It's called Television Fright Films of the 1970s by David Deal.

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1 hour ago, LawrenceA said:

I have an entire book on the subject, one which I recommend for anyone with interest in the genre, or looking for titles to seek out. It's called Television Fright Films of the 1970s by David Deal.

51eyFLtLIEL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Looks like a great book. I will have to see if my library has a copy. Perhaps what I enjoy most about this "genre" is how derivative it is, meaning they lift plots from classic movies but then add a few original twists, some cheesy special effects and a bit of psychological mumbo jumbo. Can never quite tell if they're being serious or if these productions are tongue-in-cheek. When they throw in a few method actors, the scenes take on added dimension, especially if the young method actors are working opposite old-school stars with their own over-the-top interpretations.

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For me the 1970s were the Golden Age for TV movies, especially the horror and suspense ones.

"Crohaven Farm" has long been a favorite of mine, I have been hoping for a DVD to come out. It was probably inspired by "Rosemary's Baby" with it's evil child (played by pretty Cindy Eilbacher) and it's twist ending. A similar one to this is "The Devil's Daughter" with Shelley Winters as one of Satan's minions.

I have "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" on DVD, it stars Kim Darby as a young wife terrorized by tiny demons living in the old fireplace. Another one with a bleak ending, but it WAS the 1970s, after all.

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16 minutes ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

For me the 1970s were the Golden Age for TV movies, especially the horror and suspense ones.

"Crohaven Farm" has long been a favorite of mine, I have been hoping for a DVD to come out. It was probably inspired by "Rosemary's Baby" with it's evil child (played by pretty Cindy Eilbacher) and it's twist ending. A similar one to this is "The Devi's Daughter" with Shelley Winters as one of Satan's minions.

I have "Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark" on DVD, it stars Kim Darby as a young wife terrorized by tiny demons living in the old fireplace. Another one with a bleak ending, but it WAS the 1970s, after all.

Have you seen one with Kim Darby called "The People"...? It's about a teacher who goes to a rural village and learns the kids she's instructing are all aliens with strange powers. Sort of a combination of science fiction and horror, made in 1972, based on writings by Zenna Henderson. Francis Coppola produced it, and his company filmed it in northern California. The original stories feature other characters and go more in-depth, so I'm eager to read some of them.

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Just now, TopBilled said:

Have you seen one with Kim Darby called "The People

I have some vague memories of that one, there were some kids in Amish type garb who can float in the air, I would like to see it again.

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11 minutes ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

I have some vague memories of that one, there were some kids in Amish type garb who can float in the air, I would like to see it again.

Yes, that's it. William Shatner costars as a local doctor who takes a shine to Darby's character and helps her when one of the kids uses his powers in a self-destructive way. There are a lot of metaphors occurring, a lot of possible meanings to take from it. Very surprised it's never been remade, especially with the improved special effects we have now.

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Don't forget about Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror.  The last story is excellent.  Robert Bloch wrote it. 

 Is Duel horror?  I think so.  Great film that was a TV movie.  Dennis Weaver is quite good in this early Spielberg offering.

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54 minutes ago, ChristineHoard said:

Don't forget about Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror.  The last story is excellent.  Robert Bloch wrote it. 

 Is Duel horror?  I think so.  Great film that was a TV movie.  Dennis Weaver is quite good in this early Spielberg offering.

At the moment I am watching SOMETHING EVIL, a 1972 TV movie that Spielberg made after DUEL. Sandy Dennis plays an unstable artist and mother of two who becomes increasingly distraught when she realizes the devil is in her house. It doesn't help that her husband is away working all the time.

A kind old neighbor (Ralph Bellamy) tells her about things that will help the family overcome the devil. Dennis is great at playing neurotic characters. One day, while the husband is gone, she loses control because her son (Johnny Whitaker) didn't stay away from the shed where she believes the evil spirit resides. She beats him to a pulp, then apologizes.

Later she realizes something horrible came over her, as if she'd been possessed when she violently disciplined the boy. But even though she's now slightly more rational, other disturbances continue to occur. 

There are other memorable developments. Like the scene where she paints a pentacle on the floor of the children's room so she can sit in it and evoke another spirit to defeat the devil. As well as the parts where she keeps hearing a baby cry and sees a jar of her homemade jam turn into a frightening gooey substance. Spielberg's shaky camera and unsteady tracking shots heighten the suspense while she continues to unravel. These stylistic elements, combined with the actress's riveting performance, show us how the character is waging war to make sense of the phenomena and to get herself right in the head. But will she succeed this time or will she lose control again?

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I wish Universal or who ever owns the rights to some of these classic made for TV horror-thrillers would give them a good DVD set release.  " The Night Stalker" scared the hell out of me when I saw it  - I had to turn all the light in the house on and I still could not watch the ending.   Karen Black gives a real tour de force performance in "Trilogy of Terror"

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On 3/25/2018 at 4:42 PM, TopBilled said:

At the moment I am watching SOMETHING EVIL, a 1972 TV movie that Spielberg made after DUEL. Sandy Dennis plays an unstable artist and mother of two who becomes increasingly distraught when she realizes the devil is in her house. It doesn't help that her husband is away working all the time.

A kind old neighbor (Ralph Bellamy) tells her about things that will help the family overcome the devil. Dennis is great at playing neurotic characters. One day, while the husband is gone, she loses control because her son (Johnny Whitaker) didn't stay away from the shed where she believes the evil spirit resides. She beats him to a pulp, then apologizes.

Later she realizes something horrible came over her, as if she'd been possessed when she violently disciplined the boy. But even though she's now slightly more rational, other disturbances continue to occur. 

There are other memorable developments. Like the scene where she paints a pentacle on the floor of the children's room so she can sit in it and evoke another spirit to defeat the devil. As well as the parts where she keeps hearing a baby cry and sees a jar of her homemade jam turn into a frightening gooey substance. Spielberg's shaky camera and unsteady tracking shots heighten the suspense while she continues to unravel. These stylistic elements, combined with the actress's riveting performance, show us how the character is waging war to make sense of the phenomena and to get herself right in the head. But will she succeed this time or will she lose control again?

Screen shot 2018-03-25 at 2.51.43 PM.png

I watched the movie right after I read your review last night, and I'm glad I did. It's a good horror story, with an excellent performance by Sandy Dennis.

Thank you for the recommendation.

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23 minutes ago, Arsan404 said:

I watched the movie right after I read your review last night, and I'm glad I did. It's a good horror story, with an excellent performance by Sandy Dennis.

Thank you for the recommendation.

I'm so glad you had a chance to watch it. They don't make actresses like her anymore. Brilliant performer.

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On 3/25/2018 at 5:12 PM, ChristineHoard said:

Don't forget about Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror.  The last story is excellent.  Robert Bloch wrote it. 

 Is Duel horror?  I think so.  Great film that was a TV movie.  Dennis Weaver is quite good in this early Spielberg offering.

I made a mistake in crediting Robert Bloch as writer of TRILOGY OF TERROR.   Richard Matheson wrote it.  He also wrote DUEL.  I apologize for my error.  Bloch, of course, wrote PSYCHO.  Matheson also wrote the excellent novels I AM LEGEND and THE SHRINKING MAN, both of which I've read and which became movies.  He wrote tons of books, short stories and scripts. 

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10 minutes ago, ChristineHoard said:

I made a mistake in crediting Robert Bloch as writer of TRILOGY OF TERROR.   Richard Matheson wrote it.  He also wrote DUEL.  I apologize for my error.  Bloch, of course, wrote PSYCHO.  Matheson also wrote the excellent novels I AM LEGEND and THE SHRINKING MAN, both of which I've read and which became movies.  He wrote tons of books, short stories and scripts. 

After I read your previous post, I read up on TRILOGY OF TERROR since I have not seen it yet. I noticed your error and was going to ask about it. So I'm glad you've clarified things!

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1 minute ago, TopBilled said:

After I read your previous post, I read up on TRILOGY OF TERROR since I have not seen it yet. I noticed your error and was going to ask about it. So I'm glad you've clarified things!

Yes, I'm glad I clarified things, too.  I was watching the last half of THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN tonight even though I've seen it many times and I had a "wait a minute" moment about my post's inaccuracy.

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"When Michael Calls" is another one worth mentioning. Elizabeth Ashley plays a divorced woman who gets phone calls from her dead nephew. Ben Gazzara is her ex husband who looks into the case. Michael Douglas has a memorable early role as the dead boys brother.

I heard this was a favorite of Stephen King. There are several memorable moments including a shocker of a Halloween scene and an attack by bees. The phone calls are also pretty creepy.

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1 hour ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

"When Michael Calls" is another one worth mentioning. Elizabeth Ashley plays a divorced woman who gets phone calls from her dead nephew. Ben Gazzara is her ex husband who looks into the case. Michael Douglas has a memorable early role as the dead boys brother.

I heard this was a favorite of Stephen King. There are several memorable moments including a shocker of a Halloween scene and an attack by bees. The phone calls are also pretty creepy.

Yes, this one is currently on YouTube. Douglas is credited as a special guest star, I guess because he didn't yet rank above Ashley and Gazzara.

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21 hours ago, TopBilled said:

After I read your previous post, I read up on TRILOGY OF TERROR since I have not seen it yet. I noticed your error and was going to ask about it. So I'm glad you've clarified things!

You must see " Trilogy of Terror"

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21 minutes ago, jaragon said:

You must see " Trilogy of Terror"

Yes, I plan to...probably over the weekend.

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38 minutes ago, rayban said:

From the 70's, I still remember -

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It's on YouTube. Produced by Aaron Spelling.

Another one from Spelling is this 1973 classic:

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I watched the Perkins TV movie last night. Curtis Harrington directed 'How Awful About Allan' and given the constraints of the budget, it's effectively made. Without Anthony Perkins and Julie Harris in the lead roles, it would be nothing. Casting them as brother and sister is inspired since they both specialize in highly neurotic characters. Joan Hackett is also on hand as an ex-girlfriend who gets involved in Perkins' life again. I knew Harris was setting her brother up right from the beginning, but I did think she was in cahoots with Hackett, though that was not really the case.

I like how Harrington uses the camera to give us insights into what Perkins is experiencing. We are given many blurry point-of-view shots where he hears things but can't quite see it all clearly due his hysterical blindness. This could easily have become an overused trick, but it works because of the mystery involving the renter, whom we are as anxious to see as he is.

The sequence near the end where he regains his eyesight and his sister is revealed as the culprit is truly suspenseful. But I don't think her wearing a fake scar was necessary. Her scars should have been real. If he was blind what was the point of her putting on a fake scar, since he would never have seen it?

If Hitchcock had expanded this and made it a feature film, I think we would have seen more people come to the house, with a few more red herrings. And there would have been more humor. In a way Harrington and his scriptwriter present this all a little too seriously. When you have an intense actor like Perkins in the lead role, and someone like Harris supporting him, it helps to add a few bits of business to lighten things up. Otherwise it starts to feel too foreboding.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

I watched the Perkins TV movie last night. Curtis Harrington directed 'How Awful About Allan' and given the constraints of the budget, it's effectively made. Without Anthony Perkins and Julie Harris in the lead roles, it would be nothing. Casting them as brother and sister is inspired since they both specialize in highly neurotic characters. Joan Hackett is also on hand as an ex-girlfriend who gets involved in Perkins' life again. I knew Harris was setting her brother up right from the beginning, but I did think she was in cahoots with Hackett, though that was not really the case.

I like how Harrington uses the camera to give us insights into what Perkins is experiencing. We are given many blurry point-of-view shots where he hears things but can't quite see it all clearly due his hysterical blindness. This could easily have become an overused trick, but it works because of the mystery involving the renter, whom we are as anxious to see as he is.

The sequence near the end where he regains his eyesight and his sister is revealed as the culprit is truly suspenseful. But I don't think her wearing a fake scar was necessary. Her scars should have been real. If he was blind what was the point of her putting on a fake scar, since he would never have seen it?

If Hitchcock had expanded this and made it a feature film, I think we would have seen more people come to the house, with a few more red herrings. And there would have been more humor. In a way Harrington and his scriptwriter present this all a little too seriously. When you have an intense actor like Perkins in the lead role, and someone like Harris supporting him, it helps to add a few bits of business to lighten things up. Otherwise it starts to feel too foreboding.

Casting Anthony Perkins and Julie Harris as brother and sister was an inspired move.

Adding Joan Hackett to the mix was inspired, too.

And, at the helm, Curtis Harrington as director!

Does it get any better?

He directed for the TV series, "Dynasty".

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1 minute ago, rayban said:

Casting Anthony Perkins and Julie Harris as brother and sister was an inspired move.

Adding Joan Hackett to the mix was inspired, too.

And, at the helm, Curtis Harrington as director!

Does it get any better?

He directed for the TV series, "Dynasty".

I was looking at Harrington's credits. He did a 70s horror film for TV called 'Killer Bees' starring Gloria Swanson. It seems interesting...has anyone watched it?

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