I hope everyone had a great holiday. I got LOTS of made for TV movies to keep me going well into the New Year. You will find the list below, but first some linkage…
Horror Yearbook did a look at the Top Ten Horror Films of 2008. They asked us all to write a little bit about some of the films. I had something to say about The Strangers (which did not make the cut and I argue that logic) as well as a little thing on Rambo (OK, not a horror movie but it’s there!). I was pleased to be a part of it!
Also on HYB, please look at my latest review for my Not So Basic Instincts column. I watched the tawdry Night Rhythms recently. It’s sure to warm you up on a cold night – if you know what I mean! Anyway, stop by and check it out!
Not sure what’s up for me in the near future. I hope to get some more reviews going and I have another list I’d like to post soon. It’s not really of the TV movie persuasion, but does involve some machismo, so keep your eyes peeled folks!
OK, here’s a list of the movies I got (all courtesy of my boyfriend David who is the swellest gent a woman ever saw!):
Weekend of Terror (1970) – Oh man! This one has to be a classic! According to IMDb here’s the plot: Three nuns on a weekend trip are held hostage by escaped convicts. I think that’s all I need to say about that one! It’s going to be awesome!!!
The Invasion of Carol Enders (1973) - This is a nifty shot-on-video thriller that I saw a few years ago and have wanted to see again. Take it away IMDb: After her murder, Diana Bernard's spirit becomes trapped in Carol Enders, so she can expose her murderer.
Cry in the Wilderness (1974) – Gawd, do I remember watching this as a kid! I haven’t seen it since I was about six years old. Here is the plot synopsis, courtesy of IMDb of course: The father of a wilderness family gets bitten by a skunk, and fearing rabies, chains himself to a barn to protect his family should he go mad. He orders his son not to come near him no matter how persuasive or rational his appearance or argument. However, the creek dries up, indicating an upstream blockage and an imminent flood. Several trips upstream by the son have failed to locate the blockage and now Dad wants to be released... I’m sorry – George Kennedy goes rabid? So. Good.
Nightmare at 43 Hillcrest (1974) – This was an episode from the movie series Wide World of Mystery. Plot synopsis courtesy of IMDb: Police looking for drug dealers mistakenly raid the house of a typical suburban family. However, rather than admit their mistake and jeopardize their careers, several of the police officers decide to plant heroin in the family's house, and change the records of the raid to make it look like the family was the target of their investigation all along. Based on a true story. This movie was released on vhs some time ago and I had thought about buying it from time to time, so now I don’t have to worry about that little plight!
Winter Kill (1974) – I’ve been dying to see this one! IMDb: Someone is shooting the residents of a mountain resort town. Sheriff McNeill (Andy Griffith) must figure out the connection that links the victims and find the sniper before he (or she) kills again, and before the town council relieves him of duty. This is sure to be one of the first films I watch.
The Deadly Tower (1975) – IMDb synopsis: Charles Whitman is student at the University of Texas in Austin. He often suffers from headaches, during which he tends to violence. One night, he kills wife and mother, buys a number of rifles and loads of ammunition and takes them to the top of the tower of the university, where he barricades himself. With his long-range weapons his starts to shoot at everything that moves. Already until the police arrive, there are numerous people wounded or dead. OK, I don’t mean to be critical, but this synopsis is horrible. I wouldn’t have even used it but that last sentence needs to be seen. What exactly does it mean? Anyway, this is based on a true story and is supposed to be quite good. Unlike this synopsis.
Fire! (1977) – Made for TV disaster! IMDb: A convict starts a fire in a forest to cover his escape, but the fire goes out of control and threatens to destroy a small mountain community. Let’s hope it’s better than Terror on the 40th Floor!
Rage (1980) – There’s no synopsis for this one! Can you believe it?!? Oh, IMDb, how you’ve let me down. Anyway, Rage is about a rapist (David Soul) working out why he commits such violent acts while serving time in prison. This one looks pretty great. I have to admit I have never been a huge David Soul fan but have been enjoying revisiting of Starsky and Hutch and of course, watching Salem’s Lot helped too! He’s alright, that kid.
A Long Way Home (1981) -IMDb: Many years after being abandoned by his parents, Donald sets out in search of his siblings. His biggest challenge is cutting through layers of bureaucratic red tape. He happens upon a helpful counselor who offers her assistance in locating his missing brother and sister. This is a movie I used to look at all the time when I worked at a video store, but never rented it. It’s got Timothy Hutton in his prime and is sure to make for a night of great drama. I just feel it in my heart is all.
The Las Vegas Strip Wars (1984) – IMDb: Rock Hudson (in his last made-for-TV-movie role) plays Neil Chaine, a charming Las Vegas hotel/casino owner who tries to turn his decaying building into The Strip's top attraction to avenge his outing by his former partners who run a more fancy hotel/casino just across the street. How I love movies set in Vegas. This is one I probably should have seen some time ago (it has been available on vhs), but never got around to. Sure it won’t be as good as Las Vegas Bloodbath, but then again, what is?
Silent Witness (1985) – IMDb: Michael, son of a prestigious family, and his friends rape the young alcoholic Patty in a bar in front of lots of witnesses, but everyone looks away or leaves. The only usable witnesses the prosecutors find are Michael's brother Kevin and his wife Anna. Anna is set under severe pressure from both her husband's family and the prosecution before, and even more after, her decision to testify. Hmmm, an early take on The Accused? This one might be pretty good. It’s got an R rating on the box, so I am assuming I have the foreign theatrical release, but don’t quote me on that one…
Daughter of Darkness (1990) – The only proof I have that this is a made for TV movie is because IMDb lists it as so. But the version I have has a bit of nudity. So maybe it was made for cable? I didn’t get the synopsis off IMDb because like The Deadly Tower, it’s pretty bad. I have seen this movie though and can tell you it’s an interesting take on a young woman’s search for her father who turns out to be a vampire. Directed by Stuart Gordon. That’s just cool.
I also got a Justine Bateman TV flick called Deadbolt from my friend Heidi! One last IMDb synopsis: When medical student Marty places an ad for a roommate, her ad is answered by handsome, clean-cut Alec. At first Alec seems to be a wonderful roommate; supportive, considerate and a real friend. However, Alec's affection turns to obsession as he plots to manipulate and control all aspects of Marty's life, imprison her in her own apartment and make her his.
I’m so in TV Movie Heaven! Don’t ever make me leave!
Network: NBC Original Air Date: September 17th, 1974
What's Christmas without eggnog, mistletoe and a burning skyscraper? I know, what's the point of celebrating without these? If sex, drink and death are your Modus Operandi, look no further than this tale of yuletide disaster known as Terror on the 40th Floor. OK, please look a little further, because Towering Inferno this ain’t.
It's Christmas Eve and the office party on the 40th floor is plugging along. That drunken guy who loves to tell everyone he loves them has just given his groan-inducing speech and now the employees are starting to pair off or leave for better parties. Three potential couples and one older broad all end up in the VP's office, drinking and, ahem, spreading merriment throughout the land. Too bad a fire has started on one of the floors below. Now the smoke has reached them and it will be a true test of their survival instincts to make it through (hopefully there is a raise in there somewhere!).
Ewww, action-packed... for about 5 minutes!
The cast is full of great faces like Joseph Campanella, Anjanette Comer and John Forsythe, but the script just isn't up to par. There a couple of OMG moments, but mostly the cast just meanders around as the blaze moves through the building. To fill up the running time, there’s plenty of flashbacks and some footage of firefighters, uh, fighting fires. Anjanette is great as the swinging secretary with eyes for the VP and she looks simply stunning in her red dress. And that’s about the only nice thing I have to say about this fiasco. I know, Terror on the 40th Floor isn’t here to defend itself so I’ll just leave it at that.
Or better yet, let me just say I chose this film because Home for the Holidays seemed such an obvious TV horror movie pick. Next time, I'll go for the obvious.
Let’s start with the happy news first. I’ve been wanting to post this for a couple of weeks but haven’t had much of a chance with the holidays looming around the corner, but it’s a cool bit of trivia that proves our little made for television movies are still quite relevant.
On December 4th, 2008 Ugly Betty aired a very special episode titled Bad Amanda. There are at least two Bad Ronald references! And the episode also features John Putch who you all may remember as Barbara’s lovelorn nerd pal, Bob on One Day at a Time. Wow, it’s like the 70s never ended!
You can read a fun little recap of the episode on After Elton. It’s also currently streaming Hulu and ABC’s website.
Also, you better run out and get the latest issue of Horror Hound Magazine (featuring The Exorcist on the cover) because there is a great interview with J.D. Feigelson, the writer of Dark Night of the Scarecrow! Lots of great photos too! It’s really happening, kids. The DVD is due sometime next year! I am doing a dance right now! It's hard to do that and type!
Finally, it saddens me to write here that Sam Bottoms passed away this week. He was only 53 years old. The Bottoms were the Baldwins before the Baldwins were even twinkles in our eyes. Timothy, Joseph and Sam hit their prime in the 70s, with Sam appearing in the classic flicks The Last Picture Show (along with his bro Timothy) and Apocalypse Now. I know Sam best for his work in a little TV movie called Savages (1974) which is The Most Dangerous Game in the desert featuring a villainous Andy Griffith chasing down Bottoms. It’s a fantastic film and Bottoms was forever imprinted in my head afterwards. I don’t normally write notices when someone passes. It’s not because I don’t think it’s important, because I do. It’s just that with so much tragedy in the world, who wants to look at a blog full of more bad news. But Bottoms was a young, vibrant person who seemed like a great family man. I thought I’d like to honor him a bit. Rest in peace, Sam.
Network: CBS Original Air Date: September 25th, 1979
OK, it’s time to give the Freeway Fiddler a little love, because let’s face it, love was all he needed. Maybe then he wouldn’t have gone on to chase down independent woman on crowded Los Angeles highways. And all this time, I thought it was road rage. I mean, I live here and so I know all about road rage. You don’t gotta have a demented mommy giving you a few smacks across the face to plow down your fellow driver. So maybe I just relate a little too much to the Freeway Fiddler… just maybe… Does that up my scary factor?
In a bit I’m going to compare this movie to Black Christmas. I only mention it now because I love suspense! Can’t you see I’m a master at it?
Death Car on the Freeway stars Shelly Hack (Charlie’s Angels) as Janette, the beautiful, intrepid reporter out to find a maniac who has been dubbed the Freeway Fiddler. The Fiddler likes to taunt his victims on the freeway before he pulls a Dukes of Hazzard, which causes horrible (yet spectacular) crashes. The victims are all strong, self-sufficient women so you know eventually Janette will end up on this man’s hit list. But for now, she is too busy proving she can climb the network ladder as well as making it on her own outside the workforce, much to the chagrin of her soon-to-be ex hubby, George Hamilton (who manages to be the prettiest actor in the film!).
Death Car was directed by Hal Needham who is most famous for making Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run. A former stuntman, this man knows his way around a car! The chases and crashes are incredible, tense even. The Fiddler is the stuff of legend (see my list of Creepiest Characters from 70s TV Movies for proof), and would easily fit into any slasher story, except his car is the weapon. I just gotta say it one more time… this movie had to be an influence on Tarantino’s excellent thriller Death Proof. OK, I’m done! Needham also makes an appearance as Mr. Blanchard, the guy who teaches Janette to burn rubber!
OK, back to my thoughts on Black Christmas. We may agree that the Freeway Fiddler is creepy but he’s no Billy. Also, both films could be considered a slasher (if we really extend the definition!) but to the naked eye, these films couldn’t be more different. That’s where the leading ladies step in. Olivia Hussey was great as Jessie the Final Girl in BC, but let’s face it, she was a very self-absorbed character. She never once took her boyfriend’s feelings into consideration when she revealed that not only was she pregnant but that she was terminating that pregnancy. She came across as a woman who was going to do what she wanted regardless of who got stepped on. She might not be Madonna, but still kind of a bitch. Hack’s Janette is a bit the same way. She seemed unaware or maybe she just didn’t care how her ex felt about the impending divorce. Hamilton is drawn in a (mostly) sympathetic light so half the time I was thinking how lame Janette was. And at the same time I wondered if this cold-hearted portrayal was supposed to paint Janette as “independent.”
I get confused easily.
Also like BC, the killer's identity remains one of the great mysteries of the made for television movie. That does up the creep factor just a touch you see...
The Fiddler's gruesome handywork
So maybe I’m just thinking too much about the Fiddler and his nemesis because in the end Death Car is just one fun little film. More spectacular than most tele-films of this ilk, minus one plodding scene with a biker gang, it scores on almost every count. And it’s got Dinah Shore as an a-sexual tennis player! So what if I wanted to see Janette go up in flames?
1973 Version – Network: ABC Original Air Date: September 19th, 1973
2000 Version – Network: ABC Original Air Date: March 13th, 2000
There was a reason that ABC was once nicknamed the Aaron Broadcasting Channel! His resume of popular television outweighs almost any other filmmaker from that time period until today. I'm still not exactly sure what spurred the remake of Satan's School for Girls, except that perhaps Spelling had hoped to rekindle the once popular TV horror movie of the 70s and 80s. And why of all of his films he chose Satan 73 is anyone's guess. I mean, the man did produce the superior Home for the Holidays! Satan 73 is a fun but weakly paced film that will be mostly of interest to Charlie's Angels fans who would like to see the pairing of Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd pre-Jiggle TV. Well, it's also of interest to those of us who adore Roy Thinnes, a stalwart in these small screen terror flicks (Horror at 37,000 Feet, anyone?). Also, Satan 2000 gave Spelling and company a good shot at updating a supernatural film that originally had to forgo effects for expense's sake. If that’s so, the 2000 version is replete with bad CGI to make up for it!
But was it worth it?
I'm not scared by that shiny blonde hair at all!
Surprisingly, although these films are extremely different - only sharing various character names and the most base of concepts - both are full of enough moxey to warrant a lazy Sunday viewing.
The original came along in the early 70s and therefore relies heavily on traditional suspense devices (stormy nights, creepy corridors, etc...) to push the plot ahead. The adorable Pamela Franklin is the daring Elizabeth Sayers, a woman who has checked into her sister's all girl college after sis hangs herself. Determined to discover the truth behind Salem Academy, Elizabeth may have gotten more than she bargained for when the horrible truth is finally revealed.
Why are all the girls looking away from Roy? You're supposed to look at him!
Besides the familiar and well-liked faces of Jackson, Ladd and Thinnes, Lloyd Bochner and Jo Van Fleet also put in good time. The allure of this film mostly comes from its salacious title, which must have perked up a few tired eyes when the ads first appeared in TV Guide! Those were the days!
Although not one of the better made for television films, it is well remembered and does have some interesting and creepy qualities. Bochner’s performance as the on-the-edge-of-a-breakdown science teacher is so over the top you swear he’ flying! There’s not much of a surprise at the end reveal, but there’s enough atmosphere to keep you hanging on…
I can make FIRE!
The remake came at a time when TV movies weren't making many waves and the violence and sex factor could be upped slightly. And upping it slightly is exactly what Satan 2000 did. A little more sexy and a bit more gruesome, Satan 2000 (oh, why don't they just make a movie called Satan 2000! I'd watch it!) works mostly because of the actors. Shannen Doherty takes over the Pamela Franklin part - this time she's the plucky Beth Hammersmith who enrolls herself into a lush New England girl’s college to uncover the secrets surrounding her sister's death. A little bit more background is given to the Hammersmiths and since Doherty had made such a splash on Charmed, Beth now has supernatural powers which she is coming to grips with. You could easily call this a supersized Charmed episode (minus the humor) without offending anyone. Still, it's a fun, watchable film... if nothing to write home about.
He's no Roy Thinnes... but close enough
I do love Shannen Doherty so, and she really holds her own here and comes across as warm and charismatic, especially with her love interest (another new twist), Mark (Daniel Cosgrove - also of 90210 but after Shannen left). Kate Jackson returns, this time as The Dean. She's not given much to work with but she does have some good screen time. I'm not sure there was ever an actress more natural than Kate. Or Miss Jackson if you're nasty.
If you had to pick one (I know, why is life so hard!), I'd go with the Satan 73 because the pairing of Ladd and Jackson remains oh-so-sweet. The original is available on DVD and the remake airs sometimes on ABC Family (!), so what's your excuse?!?
For me, not much. I just wanted to let you know that I have a new review up at Horror Yearbook for my Not So Basic Instincts column. This time I take a look at this oddity called Play Nice, starring Robey from Friday the 13th TV series. Oh yeah, and she also did a crazy version of One Night in Bangkok. You really need to YouTube that!
My friend has a tatoo on her arm which says Don't Let the Bastards Keep You Down in Latin. I'm doing my best to follow that bit of advice. Not a great week thus far.
However, I am almost done with two more reviews and also have an idea for another article for my beloved Made for TV Mayhem blog. Plus What's Happening has kept me in stitches all week! Thank you Rerun, Raj, Dwayne and Dee!