Sunday, November 30, 2008

House on Greenapple Road (1970)



House on Greenapple Road (1970)
Network: ABC
Original Air Date: January 11th, 1970


Anyone who frequents this blog is well aware of my undying love for Christopher George. When I read other’s descriptions of him I often hear the words “dependable” and “reliable” but those simple terms don’t seem to encompass the great talent he possessed. He often brought up the production of a film just by showing up and doing what he does best. Luckily, he didn’t have to do all the work in the excellent cop procedural House on Greenapple Road, but that beautiful face of his is an extremely welcome addition to this unyielding mystery.

A peek into chaos

As much as I love this man, he’s not the first image that comes to mind when people remember this thriller. House begins with a very young Eve Plumb (Jan on the Brady Bunch) coming home from school. She walks into the house expecting to find her mother but the house is empty. She enters the kitchen and walks past the broken dishes and puddles of blood and heads next door to her aunt’s (Julie Harris). It’s a harrowing segment that sets the scene for a dark look at the life of a missing housewife.

A little beauty amongst the chaos (and I don't mean Ed Asner!)

George is Lt. Dan August, a plain clothes cop with a nose for solving twisted mysteries. Think Sgt. Joe Friday with a touch of (intentional) humor. He is called onto the scene with his steadfast partner, Sergeant Charles Wilentz (Keenan Wynn who is always a pleasure). August is sure there is something more involved to the violent crime scene, but without a corpse he begins his routine investigation by looking for the missing housewife, Marian Ord (Janet Leigh looking divine).

Chrissy Snow's dad showing some machismo... Oh and Janet Leigh!

Of course, the husband is always the first suspect and the spineless traveling salesman George (Tim O’Connor) does nothing to prove his innocence. August digs deeper and we find that Marian was not the most faithful of wives. August uses several photographs he found hidden in Marian’s dresser to identify several men. Each one writes Marian off as a lonely housewife, but a series of flashbacks reveals that she left quite an impression on them. Also, we find that Marian was desperately seeking some kind of confirmation that she was still a desirable woman and not just an aging mother.

She don't take no shit. Don't even ask...

To say House is gripping would be an understatement. The expert cinematography, suspenseful script and A list acting will keep the viewer on the edge of their seat (and guessing) right up to the end. George is fantastic here and even gets to share a small scene with his wife (then still cast as Linda Day without the George). She plays a pot smoking receptionist who doesn’t like to take shit. Even Ed Asner shows up as the befuddled sheriff who unwittingly has one of the biggest clues right at his fingertips. In fact, this movie is all about clues. Everything that is said and done by the supporting players offers a bit of revelation about Marian’s disappearance so keeps your eyes and ears peeled when watching it.

Dan August at your service

The rest of the cast is amazing and I would feel amiss if I didn’t mention that House also features Walter Pidgeon, Julie Harris, William Windom, Peter Mark Richmond (Chrissy Snow’s dad!) and the always likeable Lawrence Dane.

House is a Quinn Martin Production. Martin is most famous for several police procedural television series such as The Fugitive and my personal favorite, The Streets of San Francisco. You won’t find any of the grime here from Streets (arguably one of the grittiest shows of all time), but you will catch Martin's signature top notch writing and themes of the “nothing is what it seems” kind. I would highly recommend anything that has the QM Production logo attached to it.

Tim O'Connor in an excellent role

House was so popular it spun off a series called Dan August starring Burt Reynolds (George had prior obligations and couldn't do the series). It ran just one season from 1970-1971 and I have never seen it. But if the movie is any indication of the quality of the series, than this is one show to keep an eye out for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Update



In case you all had forgotten, Parker is dreamy!

I have a new review on my Lifetime Kills column at Pretty Scary. Stop by and read about the Lifetime-a-licious flick Her Only Child.

Btw, Kindertrauma has been spreading the TV Movie love and have new reviews for Killdozer and Deadly Lessons. For comparison – because you are so analytical - you will find my review of Deadly Lessons by clicking Retro Slashers and take a look at my stills gallery for the slasher Home Sweet Home (you will also find a link to my review on Retro’s main site)!

I mean, is there a better way to celebrate the holidays than with a big, plump turkey?

Have a great holiday folks!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mr. Roarke Said There'd Be Days Like This: Part II



When I say "days like this" I mean his BIRTHDAY! Congrats and many happy wishes to Mr. Roarke himself who left such an indelible mark on me. Fantasy Island could be funny, sad, amusing and pretty damn scary.

Ricardo Montalban was born on November 25th, 1920 in Mexico. It was inevitable that his good looks and beautiful voice would lead him to acting and in 1958 he was nominated for a Tony for his Broadway performance in Jamaica.
So handsome... and talented....and cool!

In the 50s, Montalban was one of the only working actors who was Hispanic and often played Asian characters! That is probably what inspired him to start a non-profit organization called Nosotros in 1970 (the word means "us" or "we"). The goal of Nosotros is to help Hispanics forward their career in films and television.

That's totally noble and all, but it was his role on the Aaron Spelling show Fantasy Island that really put him on map (for me anyway). His charm was undeniable and the chemistry he shared with Herve Villechaize was unforgettable.

One of my favorite episodes is called The Devil & Mandy Breem/The Millionaire. This one features Mr. Roarke going toe to toe with Satan (Roddy McDowell) and does not disappoint!

Welcome!

Of course, Montalban is also famous for his portrayal of Kahn in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and later as the Grandfather in Spy Kids, but I'm sorry, Mr. Roarke just trumps them all! Montalban continues to work to this day. His last project was in 2008. He supplied one of the voices on a Family Guy episode titled The Cow.

Montalban has stayed true to his roots and remains a Mexican citizen.

Happy 88th birthday, Ricardo! And here's to many more!

Could there be two hotter people?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dead of Night coming to DVD!



Thanks to David Fullam who gave me a heads up on the upcoming DVD release of the creepy TV Movie anthology Dead of Night. I just got this in my email from Dark Sky Films:

Legendary producer-director Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker) presents a thrilling trilogy of spell-binding stories with mystery-horror writer Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Twilight Zone). Dead of Night includes three short stories: Second Chance, No Such Thing As a Vampire, and Bobby, in addition to the extra feature A Darkness at Blaisedon and 100 minutes of bonus material, all available for the first time on DVD!

Wow, an extra made for tv movie! That’s too awesome. I did a cursory check on IMDb and discovered that Darkness at Blaisedon aired on August 26th, 1969 on ABC and was co-written by Mr. Curtis. Here is the IMDb synopsis:

Investigator Jonathon Fletcher and his assistant Sajeed Rau investigate supernatural incidents that the local authorities either cannot or will not tackle.

Holy Cheese! This is awesome! This is due to be released on January 27th, 2008.

Mark ye old calendars kiddies!

Here’s a little bit of the good stuff (Darkness at Blaisedon):


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Even Sexier!



I have a new post over at my Not So Basic Instincts column at Horror Yearbook. Since I enjoyed Night Eyes so much, I reviewed the sequel, Night Eyes II. Good stuff. Good stuff, indeed.

Enjoy!

And since we’re on the subject of salaciousness, check out this article on TV and the 70s Sex Revolution . It references everything from Love Boat to Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway.

Double enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Top Ten Creepiest Characters of the Made for TV Horror Films of the 70s


If I may be so bold and speak for the silent masses of made for television movie nuts (I know you’re out there!), I think one of the reasons why these movies remain so enduring is that the scares are predominately organic. No bad computer effects (well some, but in that fun, kitschy way), and a lot of reliance on tradition made these films simple but good. Maybe simple isn’t the right word, let me say classic. And who wouldn’t take Audrey Hepburn over Kim Kardashian? I mean, really

Thing is these movies might have had to confine themselves to stricter guidelines but they still managed to be effective. Even more so, the era of the made for television movie spawned some pretty freaky characters. When I made this list, I had well over ten. But at the same time, narrowing them down was child’s play (and I don’t mean the game show with Bill Cullen!). It was pretty apparent which ones left the most unforgettable impressions on this latch key kid. I hope you agree with some of them!


10. Death Car on the Freeway (1979): The Freeway Fiddler – If any director knew his way around a racing car, it was Hal Needham who directed this, Cannonball I & II as well as Smokey and the Bandit. Here we’ve got a serial killer who uses his car as the weapon (I said it before, but you just know this movie had some kind of impact on Quentin Tarantino’s excellent thriller Death Proof!) and it’s up to one spunky reporter (the lovely and talented Shelly Hack) to capture our elusive killer. My good friend buzz at Camp Blood wrote a pretty great little capsule synopsis of it, so let me direct you there for more info!


9. Satan’s Triangle (1975): Eva – Without giving anything away Eva (Kim Novak) made this list based solely on the last few frames of the criminally underrated (and oft unseen) tele-film Satan’s Triangle. The film as a whole works even without these chilling moments, but those last seconds are guaranteed to put you over the edge!


8. Night Terror (1977): The Killer Night Terror might be the worst movie on the list. Well, there’s no might about it… It’s portrayal of hapless Valerie Harper is silly and plodding at best, but Richard Romanus’ depiction of a character simply named “The Killer” is unforgettable and terrifying in every way imaginable. A neat bit of characterization – The Killer speaks with a vibrating larynx box. This movie scarred me for life! And I loved it!


7. Salem’s Lot (1979): Kurt Barlow – Our small screen vamp evokes the unforgettable image of the original Nosferatu in all the right ways. In this cherished Stephen King adaptation, Reggie Nalder's creepy Barlow is the money shot worth waiting for.


6. Duel (1971): The Truck Driver Duel topped my Top Ten Must See Made for TV Films of the 70s. I mean, it would be nuts if it hadn’t. Duel is by far the most appreciated, revered and enduring of television horror films and that is thanks in large part to the malevolent truck and its unseen driver. You never know why its following Dennis Weaver across a desolate highway, but it's also impossible to peel your eyes away from one single frame.


5. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973): The Demons – I swear this list doesn’t totally mirror my Top 10 TVM list, but there are a lot of similar titles represented here. How could I face myself in the morning if I skipped these little demons that look like they are wearing hard hats covered in latex? They are adorable and totally freaky all at the same time. With the use of simple camera trickery, these little guys made a big impact on me in my younger years. And just imagine how Sally (Kim Darby) felt about them!


4. Gargoyles (1972): The Gargoyle – Bernie Casey wowed and terrified audiences as the main Gargoyle in, you guessed it, Gargoyles! The incredible costumes and make up (some of which was supplied by the late Stan Winton) remain untouchable in a world of overused CGI. Simple, a little traditional and extremely effective, Casey disappeared into the character with his fantastic get-up and a little futzing with his voice. When he says “Read to me Diana, your voice pleases me,” you’re a little bit petrified and a little bit in love with the intelligent creature who is just trying to survive. Click on title for the whole review.


3. Bad Ronald (1974): Ronald Bad Ronald also made my Top 10 TVM list, and again it was the character of Ronald that landed it squarely on there. Scott Jacoby’s mesmerizing performance of a disturbed lost soul was just one of several amazing performances he lent to the small screen, which also included Smash Up on Interstate 5 and That Certain Summer (for which he won an Emmy). As Ronald, he scares the pants of you while also eking out a weird sense of compassion for him. With his deep sense of instability comes a longing to fit in and to still be loved by his overbearing mother. Click on title for a full review.


2. Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975): Lizzie Borden – An unforgivable oversight on my other list, I decided I would not make the mistake twice and had to include Elizabeth Montgomery’s absolutely chilling performance of accused killer Lizzie Borden here. The movie methodically lays out the evidence against Ms. Borden and takes it one step further, showing what may or may not have happened on the fateful day that Borden was rumored to have taken an axe to her father and step-mother. Not only did this movie mesmerize viewers, it gave Liz Montgomery a new lease on her acting career and she dove deeply into dramas afterwards.


1. Trilogy of Terror (1975): Zuni the Fetish Doll – I keep saying it, but perhaps no other creation has left such an indelible mark on young horror fans as the Zuni Fetish Doll. Featured in the last segment of Trilogy of Terror, Zuni was one bad ass dude who would stop at nothing to end Miss Karen Black. I know we’ve all felt that way one time or another, but this guy meant it! Trilogy also landed on my Top Ten Made for Television Films of the 70s, and this little creature is what got it there.



Friday, November 14, 2008

Oh La La - Get Sexy!




Head on over to Horror Yearbookand check out my latest review for my Not So Basic Instincts column. This time I write about one of the more infamous erotic thrillers, Night Eyes. How I love Tanya (but not her acting).

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Small Screen Scream Queens of the 70s



I have a new TV Movie related article up at Small Screen Scream Queens of the 70s! I take a look at 30+ women who contributed something important to the genre along with their general wit, style and beauty, of course! This article took 3 years to write. Mostly because the more into TV Movies I got, the more I realized that so many women appeared in some great films that were worth mentioning.

I hope one day to expand it out to the 80s, but at this rate, don't expect anything until 2011!

Anyway, please stop by Pretty Scary and take a look at my article! I’m pleased as punch with the layout and so I’d like to send a big thank you to Heidi who has always been so supportive of my obsession with television movies! She’s a pip!

Enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Christopher George (1931-1983)


One of the great pleasures I get from this blog is being able to write about actors that I just adore. I think when you discover an actor as a child or a young adult, it sticks with you more. Especially when they are no longer with us.

Such is the case with Christopher George. An amazingly charismatic actor, George is probably best known for either his westerns or the slew of B grade horror movies he did before he died in 1983. What people might not realize is that he had a strong career in television that spanned from airy fare like The Love Boat to eerie cop thrillers like House on Greenapple Road (1970) (he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his work in Rat Patrol in 1967) . In fact, he moved easily between the small screen and the big one during the 70s.


I thought it might be fun to take a look back at his work on television:  

The Immortal (1969): A nice mix of sci-fi and thriller, The Immortal is about a race car driver whose immortality is of interest to some sinister types. Also starring Jessica Walter (Home for the Holidays). The Immortal became a short lived television series (1970 - 1971) also starring George. 

House on Greenapple Road (1970): An all star thriller involving a missing woman. The character George played, Dan August got his own show with Burt Reynolds, but the chill factor from this film remains. Click on title for full review.

Dan August is here to help us.. SWOON!
The Immortal (1970 - 1971): George reprises his role as Ben Richards in this short lived series based on the TV movie. The Immortal was in the same vein as The Fugitive (or maybe more apropos, Werewolf), and he's a man on the run!


Watch the opening of The Immortal:

 
 
Dead Men Tell No Tales (1971): George plays two characters in this tense potboiler about mistaken identity. 
Escape (1971): Christopher George plays the sexily named Cameron Steele (man of action, no doubt) an escape artist/private eye (!) out to stop a mad scientist turning people into zombies! Now this one just HAS to be good! It's directed by John Llewellyn Moxey (Home for the Holidays again!) and also stars William Windom and Avery Schreiber. 
The Heist (1972): Another awesome cast (Norman Fell, people!!!) appears in another George thriller, this time involving an armored car guard out to prove his innocence.



Man on a String (1972): George leads an incredible cast including Keith Carradine, Jack Warden and Joel Grey as an agent out to topple the mob! Directed by Joseph Sargent. 

Love American Style, episode titled Love and the Burglar Joke (1973): It's funny for me to think of Christopher George in a comedy, but there you go. Here he plays a practical joker out to pull a fast one on his sister's roommate, but then the real burglar shows up. And hijinks ensue! George also appeared in an earlier episode titled Love and Formula 26B in 1971. 

A Beautiful Killing (1974): I couldn’t find any info for this movie, except it aired as a Wide World of Mystery movie and co-starred George’s wife, Linda Day.

 
Thriller: The Next Scream You Hear (1974): Thriller was an excellent series in England written by Brian Clemens (The Avengers). Every episode was a stand alone television movie of sorts, which is how it ran here in the states. Shot on video, using suspense over effects, the show was more hit than miss in its six wonderful seasons. In this particular episode, George is again a man accused of a crime he did not commit... the murder of his wife.


Get a little George in Thriller: The Next Scream You Hear:
 


The Last Survivors (1975): A remake of Seven Waves Away (1957), this version takes the horrible incident involving a luxury liner accident to the court room ala Caine Mutiny. This time, it's up to Martin Sheen to decide the fate of the survivors afloat on a lifeboat and running out of food and water. Harrowing film. 

S.W.A.T., several episodes (1975) – George played a character named Harry in four episodes of this awesome cop show. 

Christopher "Heartbreaker" George in Mayday at 40,000 Feet
 Mayday at 40,000 Feet (1976): In the heyday of the disaster movie, television films weren't far behind with smaller, but often entertaining, copies. This time George (along with his wife Lynda) are part of a large cast of 70s stars (including David Janssen) on board a plane desperate to safely reach the ground after a crazed gunman opens fire! 

Wonder Woman, Fausta The Nazi Wonder Woman (1976) – George’s wife, Linda Day co-stars with her hubby in the second episode of WW, which features Day as Fausta the evil Nazi operative desperate to figure out WW’s secrets so she can help Hitler take over the world! Phew! Now that’s a lot to take in! 


Love Boat (Several Episodes 1978-1979): Another comedy! Why that Christopher, always surprising me! I have to admit, as big of a fan as I am of both George and the Love Boat, I don’t recall any episodes in particular, however I do remember: 

Fantasy Island, episode titled The Racer (1978): One of my biggest Amanda By Night fantasies was to see Christopher George and Paul Burke in a film together, because I thought they looked so much alike. How excited was I to see they were both featured in this episode of Fantasy Island?!? Only, they are in different stories and don’t share any screen time so I can do my side by side comparisons! I was robbed! George would star in several more episodes through 1982. 

Cruise into Terror (1978): So good. This would turn out to be George’s last made for television movie. Click on the title to read my review. 

Vegas, episode titled Serve, Volley and Kill (1978): aka the best title for an episode of any television series EVER! Seriously. This episode about a tennis match gone deadly features a swarthy George along with his wife, Red Buttons and Mamie Van Doren! Wow. So hot. And it was directed by the late Sutton Roley who also made the fiercely disturbed television movie Satan’s Triangle. Serve is particularly striking episode with fantastic cinematography and lots of awe-inspiring stunts. George is the bad guy and his wife is almost as evil.

Chris and his wife Lynda serve up chaos in Vega$
Charlie’s Angels, episode titled Angels on Skis (1978): The Angels once again find themselves embroiled in espionage as they hit the Vail slopes and protect a presidential aide! Not sure who George plays in this episode, but I smell FBI! 

The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, Pilot episode The Day the Shark ate Lobo (1979): George is a criminal pitted against Lobo his bad self, in the pilot of the criminally underrated comedy show. Sounds a bit like Killer Fish - criminals dump loot in river to be retrieved at a later date only to find some deadly fish have inhabited said area. Geez! Isn't that always the way!

OK, I just can't let this go, don't you think Paul Burke looks just like Christopher George:











Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Haunted (1991)



Network: FOX
Original Air Date: May 6th, 1991


It’s rare that you see a modern film that takes place in the 70s that actually looks like it was made in the 70s. One of the only films that spring to mind is the criminally underrated Zodiac which came out last year (and is a must see!). The Haunted is another example. And not only does it aptly capture the fashion of the decade (without going over the top with it), but it damn well feels like a film made in the 70s. It's an awesomely creepy throwback to a time when television got it right.

The part of The Haunted that actually takes place during one of my favorite decades is at the beginning and is brief, maybe only 15 minutes or so, but it sets the stage for a movie that manages to encompass both the slow burn of the early made for television movies with brief glimpses of modern horror to take the film to depths of all things creepy.

The Smurl family is a typical Catholic family who move into a new house after they lost their original home in a hurricane. A fixer upper for sure, the family jumps into making it feel as much like a home as possible. The weirdness starts off subtly enough, with a few objects gone missing and some weird but not overly suspicious noises. As the family grows older and become an integral part of the neighborhood, Janet (Sally Kirkland) and her mother-in-law Mary (Louise Latham) start to notice odd happenings which eventually lead to an apparition. At first Janet’s blue collar husband Jack (Jeffrey DeMunn) thinks his wife is just stressed with all of her community commitments, but then one night a spirit appears and fondles Janet’s leg (think of a PG version of The Entity) and Jack witnesses it. Thoroughly concerned, the family seeks out help from the church only to be patronized and then turned away. That’s when the Warrens show up (Diane Baker and Stephen Markle). Janet invites these parapsychologists into their home. Although not before this shows up:














YIKES!

This, my friend is approximately 45 minutes into the movie and it lets the viewer know that whatever slow burn of a film you were watching is now ready to take no prisoners. Albeit, this is by far the scariest scene in the movie – even eliciting an OMG Moment from me! It’s one of the creepiest-out-of-nowhere things I've witnessed in a horror movie. The rest of The Haunted surrounds the Smurl family’s several failed attempts to rid themselves of the evil spirits, which even follows them on a camping trip!

Based on allegedly true events, The Haunted is an exceptional thriller masked as a not-so-exceptional thriller. The odd pacing, basic cinematography and lack of soundtrack through most of the movie, along with its overt religious undercurrents may seem distasteful to some, but don’t be fooled - all of the weird beats work in this film’s favor. It’s a plain tele-film that uses traditional and simple effects to pull the viewer inside the horrible world of the Smurl family. Sally Kirkland is exceptional, and the person I least expected to pull off the sympathetic holy roller routine, but she’s really strong and comes across as a loving mother with a lot of faith in her religion. In fact, although it’s blatantly obvious that this family is ultra-religious and the church and its traditions play a large part in the film, I never felt like I was being beat over the head with it. I think The Haunted definitely conveys the message that the people who go to church aren’t the enemy, it’s the bureaucracy of organized religion and the feeble attempts to maintain its ‘image’ that is the real problem.

Who knew you’d get so much out of a film that features demon rape?


The real Smurl family


Read more about the Smurl Family here:

The Smurl Haunting Wikipedia Page

The Warren’s website page on the Smurl haunting

Another article on the Smurl haunting

Kindertrauma Review

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Column-licious



So, I've got two reviews for my two columns today.

First you can go to Horror Yearbook and read about the classic 1982 thriller The Seduction (you can also read it about it on Anchorwoman in Peril).


And I have a review of Hushfor my Lifetime Kills column at Pretty Scary.

I’m not sure what the life of writing looks like for me right now because tis the season… to work more overtime. It gets required of me around this time of year and you know, we all need a little dough, so I couldn’t turn it down. It’s frustrating because I feel I was finally getting on a roll, but it’s not like the internet is going anywhere.

Also, I found a list of potential ideas for articles/essays/reviews that I’ll be trying to (slowly) work on during the holidays.

Thanks everyone for stopping by and enjoy the new reviews!