Friday, June 28, 2013

TV Movie Memes!

On a whim I decided to see if I could live in the modern world and make a bunch of memes. Of course, I had to keep it all retro, and I had fun. So, I went crazy and created all of the images below.

Most of the following stills came from TV movies (note: MFTVM reader and all around TVM nut Amyellyn came up with the idea for the "Drink Coffee" Stranger Within meme. Thank you Amy!). I'm not sure who will like them, or even care about them, but that little voice inside kept saying, "Ahhhh," while I was making 'em. Isn't it all about inner peace?

If you like these, please free to share them where ever your heart takes you. All I ask is that you keep the little "" tag on them, so other TV movie luvin' people know where to find me.

What memes do you like?

TV Movie Memes

Bad Ronald:

The Devil's Daughter:

Dark Night of the Scarecrow:

Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate:

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark:


Gargoyles #1:

Gargoyles #2:


The Stranger Within #1:

The Stranger Within #2:

This House Possessed #1:

This House Possessed #2:

This House Possessed #3:

TV Show Memes 


Fantasy Island:

Flo from Alice:


Twiki from Buck Rogers:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Richard Matheson (1926 - 2013)

When it comes to made for TV movies, it’s not often that I’m at a loss for words. But here I am thinking about what I’d like to say about the great Richard Matheson, and I can’t seem to form my thoughts into any sort of coherence. He was a wonderfully talented man who brought so much entertainment to the world as an author and screenwriter. I have indeed read many of his short stories (starting with Born of Man and Woman, which as it turned out was his first published piece), but I know him best for the work he brought to the small screen.

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My first exposure to the greatness of Matheson came in the mid 1970s when, on one balmy Saturday afternoon, I came into the house for lunch. My parents were watching the Afternoon Movie and seemed transfixed by whatever was on the screen. From my point of view, I could only see their faces and the back of the TV. As I walked towards them, I distinctly remember turning around and seeing a woman running hysterically around her apartment. I was probably about seven at the time, and as with any kid that age, I was instantly drawn into the scenario playing out on the screen. I don’t think anyone in the room moved until the credits rolled, and at that point I was near tears. I had no idea what I’d just experienced, but to think that such terror could exist when the sun was shining so brightly outside, brought a new sense of fear into my life (I had a similar experience when I was even younger watching Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, that I’m only now recalling as I write this), and, needless to say, I loved it!

Eventually, I came to see the entire Trilogy of Terror film, and always loved when it would show up on the local channel. During this time, in the late 1970s, Matheson was all over the television, although I’m sure I had no idea I was watching his work at the time. I have distinct memories of being enthralled by Duel, loving the Martian Chronicles and gasping in terror during William Shatner's major freak out in the Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. I had no idea all of these great stories came from one brilliant mind. In fact, I’m not really sure when I made the connection, but it was probably as a teen when I was beginning to venture into the world of slashers and other late 80s stonewashed horror madness. The fans of those films always brought up Matheson, Dan Curtis, demented fetish dolls, and of course, Kolchak. As I started digging back into my dusty childhood memories, I was astonished by all the Matheson stuff I had seen growing up. And of course, I was still seeing it. From Jaws 3D (I know, what’s up with that one?!?) to Stir of Echoes, I was constantly pleased by the Matheson output (and yes, that means I love Jaws 3D, even if Matheson didn't).

George Grizzard and Barbara Eden in The Stranger Within

In the early 2000s, Matheson spoke to one of my horror writing classes. He was a bit frail, but very kind and signed everything the students brought for him. What I remember most about his talk was that he encouraged us all to avoid saying the word “try.” He said if someone asks you if you are a writer, just tell them you are, never say “I’m trying to be one.” I can’t even imagine how many great writers have surfaced thanks to Matheson’s inspiration.

Aside from his tremendous work as an author, his tele-plays continue to fascinate those interested in the fantastic worlds of “What if?” I know that whenever I’m considering zooming past a large truck on a deserted highway, I think twice about it. Thank you Mr. Matheson for making me afraid to look under my bed, or even out of an airplane window. Thank you for making me believe in vampires, and for making me run away from kids named Bobby. Thank you for opening up my imagination, and for terrifying me to the very core. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Here's a look at some of my favorite Matheson tele-films:

Duel (1971): This certified classic originally aired as an ABC Movie of the Week on November 13th, 1971, and the world didn’t know what hit them. Directed by a then-unknown Steven Spielberg, and written by the master of suspense, Richard Matheson, Duel pits David Mann (Dennis Weaver in top form) against a malevolent truck with an unseen driver. Sometimes referred to as the Jaws of the highway, this film certainly positions man against the unknown, and manages to make the long stretches of road feel about as claustrophobic as a boat that may need to be bigger. This is perfect filmmaking. End of discussion. Duel is on DVD!

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The Night Stalker (1972)): Based on the unpublished manuscript The Kolchak Papers by Jeff Rice, Richard Matheson brought vampires into our homes on January 11th, 1972 in another ABC Movie of the Week. Although Kolchak would go on to become a beloved small screen figure (and inspiration for The X-Files), according to The ABC Movie of the Week Companion, Darren McGavin thought the series was not going in the right direction. Saul Fischer says, “He felt like it should have been The Fugitive with Kolchak chasing the undead, as opposed to the monster of the week format.” However, before the series, the movie was a knockout success. Even by 1980, eight years after the film’s initial release, it was ranked as the 27th highest rated movie to air on television (tying with The Ten Commandments Part One!). This was also the first team up for Matheson and the great Dan Curtis (Curtis produced, and the other small screen great, John Llewellyn Moxey directed). Click on the link to buy the DVD!

The Night Strangler (1973): Dan Curtis replaced John Llewellyn Moxey in the director’s chair for this ABC Movie of the Week, which originally aired on January 16th, 1973. The sequel features Kolchak chasing after a 100-year-old alchemist who is draining women of their blood. According to IMDb: “Director Dan Curtis and screenwriter Richard Matheson had actually planned to do a third Kolchak movie set in NYC. In New York, Kolchak was going to discover that Janos Skorzeny - the vampire from the first film - was not only not dead, but active again! This film was going to complete a planned trilogy of Kolchak movies, entitled The Trilogy of Terror.” What could have been (and what was, considering they eventually made a Trilogy of Terror)! Pick up the Night Strangler on DVD!

Dying Room Only (1973): I was introduced to Dying Room Only pretty late in the game, when a friend (intensely) recommended I see it. He was right, and I couldn’t believe I had gone all those years without laying my eyes on what I consider a pretty perfect little suspense film. What works best about this ABC Movie of the Week that originally aired on September 18th, 1973 (because so many things do work) is Leachman’s everywomen character. I was with her through the entire ordeal, and felt every second of fear and frustration that she encountered. I’m sorry I didn’t see this when I was younger, but Warner Archives has righted a wrong, by making this little film available on DVD for anyone to see. And anyone means everyone, because it needs to be seen. Click on link for my review.

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Scream of the Wolf (1974): I just saw this one last summer as a double feature with Moon of the Wolf. This was another re-teaming of Curtis and Matheson, but to lesser results. The cast is great (and of course, I have to give a special nod to Phil Carey who always makes me smile). The movie, which was yet another ABC Movie of the Week and aired on January 16th, 1974, was based on a short story called The Hunter by David Case. Ultimately it feels like a riff on The Most Dangerous Game, and lacks that oomph that normally made both Curtis and Matheson so fascinating. Still worth a watch for the cast. But Scream of the Wolf on DVD!

The Stranger Within (1974): Wow, the ABC Movie of the Week definitely loves Matheson! The author adapted the tele-play from his own short story, and it’s a doozy (both versions)! Stranger, which originally aired on October 1st, 1974, is no political thriller, but it certainly speaks to many of the most pertinent issues of the era as it taps into all of those motherhood anxieties, plays on the fear of hospitals and subtly comments on Roe v. Wade. It’s also beautifully shot, wonderfully creepy and led with dignity and style by Barbara Eden. It’s must see TV for sure (or at least must see DVD)! Click on title for review.

Trilogy of Terror (1975): It shocks me that I have never written a proper review of this ABC Movie of the Week, which originally aired on March 4th, 1975. Probably because it’s so famous, and so well regarded that I can’t imagine what I could possibly add to the pot. That said, I think the first two segments, Julie and Millicent and Therese probably deserve a little love, and now I’ve inspired myself to get back on the ball. OK, at any rate, this is probably my favorite film on this list, because that doll obviously had a heady effect on Amanda By Night’s love of horror. Go Zuni! Buy Trilogy of Terror on DVD!

Dead of Night (1977): Richard Matheson and Dan Curtis teamed up yet again for another anthology that aired on NBC on March 29th, 1977. Much like Trilogy, it's the final segment that everyone terrifyingly recalls. Bobby is one knock-down drag out short that still gives me nightmares. In some ways it’s damn Zuni-esque, but that’s all I want to say in case you haven’t seen it. Click on title for review. And click here to buy Dead of Night on DVD.

Here are some links that will lead you articles on Matheson’s life and work: has a wealth of info on Matheson. A must read. 
Here's a link to the New York Times obit.
i09 pays tribute to Matheson.
John Kenneth Muir has written a series of articles on Matheson's career

I desperately wanted to writing something about The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver, but it's been so long since I've seen it, it is only a hazy memory. This one is sitting pretty high on my "To (Re)Watch" pile, so hopefully I can give it some proper love soon.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

From the Made for TV Mayhem Dusty Bookcase Files: Action TV Tie-ins

I love that one's love of retro TV doesn't just mean sitting on your duff watching old vhs tapes or DVDs (when you are lucky enough to find something in that format). You can also sit on your duff and read books that either inspired classic television or were adapted from tele-plays. It's an endless cycle and one that I'm happy to find myself stuck in the middle of!

Through the years I have collected not just books about television, I've also amassed a small library of tie-ins and novels. They range from the mainstream (who doesn't have a copy of When Michael Calls?) to the more obscure (I treasure my copy of Griffin & Phoenix: A Love Story) to the absurd (I'm saving those titles for later!). I decided to feature some of my collection in a series of themed articles that I quickly and probably not-so-cleverly dubbed The Dusty Bookcase Files. Below you will find what I have sitting on my bookshelves with regards to Action TV. I haven't read any of these yet, but the Charlie's Angel's book is looking mighty tasty right now.

Any suggestions?

Charlie’s Angels by Max Franklin: Max Franklin was a pseudonym used by noted author Richard Deming. He often wrote under various pen names, including Ellery Queen and he wrote most, if not all, of the Charlie’s Angels adaptations (he and also penned the Starsky and Hutch novelizations!) In short, he's super cool. Deming, who passed away in 1983, also wrote a few produced tele-plays including scripts for M Squad and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This book is adapted from the pilot episode of Charlie’s Angels, which aired on March 21st, 1976 and it’s pretty high up on my reading pile.

The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. #2: The Blazing Affair by Michael Avallone: Avallone was another established author who wrote popular thrillers under several names, including the pseudonym Ed Noon (or Edwina Noon if he was feeling frisky). He worked on several novelizations under his real name, and penned the two Girl from U.N.C.L.E. tie-ins. This adaptation seems to be an original story based on the characters created for the series. According to the back cover, our favorite girl takes on TORCH (The Order of Reich Crusade Hierarchy!), which is an organization looking to create a super race! There were only two tie-ins published (the first one was titled Birds of a Feather Affair), but there was also a series of comics released in the late 1960s. Gah-roo-vey, baby!

Kung Fu #3: Superstition by Howard Lee: Here’s a nifty piece of trivia – Although Howard Lee is the credited author of all of the Kung Fu novelizations, these tie-ins were all written by different authors. Ron Goulart, who wrote the Superstition tie-in, worked heavily in the sci-fi genre and may be best known as the ghost writer of William Shatner’s TekWar series. He adapted both the 2nd and 3rd Kung Fu books. This adaptation was taken from the tele-play of the same name, and the episode originally aired on April 5th, 1973. The story focuses on a mine project that unearths an Indian burial ground! Of course, some hijinky supernatural stuff happens and, presumably, our Caine saves the day! He’s cool that way.

Mod Squad #3: The-Sock-It-To-Em-Murders by Richard Deming: Deming, who also wrote the Charlie's Angels tie-in did not use a pseudonym to pen this novelization, which seems to be an original story based on the Mod Squad characters. According to TV Obscurities, this novel is a pretty darn good read, and was easy to follow although the reviewer had never seen the series. I have to admit, I have only seen a few episodes myself, so I’m curious to see how well it represents the Mod Squad to a newbie like me. Plus, I love the cover. Another one to put on the top of the pile. 

Policewoman #1: The Rape by Leslie Trevor: This book, which was published in 1975, was based on Edward DeBlasio’s Policewoman teleplay titled Warning: All Wives, which originally aired on September 27th, 1974 (the original title was Seven Veils to Murder, but it seems to have been changed before it aired). According to the back of the book, this novelization is about Pepper’s search for a criminal who is assaulting the wives of men who are convalescing in the same hospital. Trevor adapted several of the episodes into novels, which as you can see by the cover, offers “enough action to satisfy the world!” Holy molie, I’m not saying that places my expectations high for this book, but yes, my expectations are high.

S.W.A.T. #1: Crossfire by Dennis Lynds: The author of Crossfire is best known for writing mystery novels under the pseudonym Michael Collins. Lynds adapted an episode of S.W.A.T. titled Red September. This title was apparently changed prior to the airdate and it now known as Death Score, and it originally aired on April 7th, 1975. The story about kidnappers who hold an entire basketball team hostage in exchange for a hearty ransom sounds mucho action packed-o! Oh yeah.

Which one would you read first?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

TV Spot Tuesday: Just Me and You (1978)

Road trip, people!

It never occurred to me that Louise Lasser and Charles Grodin might be two great tastes that taste great together, but then I stumbled across the promo for the NBC tele-film Just Me and You. This quirky comedy which originally aired on May 22nd, 1978 appears to be a bit of a Planes, Trains and Automobiles precursor. According to Arvin H. Marill's Movies Made for Television, the film is a "comedy-drama about a slightly daffy New Yorker with a compulsion to talk who shares a cross-country drive with a down-to-earth salesman."

I will admit that I have not dipped my toes too deeply into the world of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, but I've been a big fan of Lasser ever since I caught Isn't it Shocking (aka one of my favorite made for TV movies of all time) years ago. Her career has been one that has always intrigued me. Aside from Shocking and Mary Hartman, Louise has appeared in everything from the splat-tastic horror film Blood Rage (aka Nightmare at Shadow Woods) to the camp classic Frankenhooker to the quirky and disturbed Todd Solondz tragicomedy Happiness. She has always charmed me with her offbeat beauty and great comedic timing. And well, Grodin is just adorable. But I wonder, is it bad that the thing I remember him best for is his cameo as himself on Laverne and Shirley? Hey, that's how I roll.

I was doubly pleased when I discovered that Lasser also wrote the screenplay for Just Me and You. She said it was a way to work out some personal angst. In an interview Lasser remarked, "I'd like to feel, uh... less anxious,,, all the time about what I'm gonna do this day or this night or this holiday or this Sunday. I don't want to worry about that."

She began her script while Mary Hartman was in production, and resumed writing after going into seclusion when the series was cancelled. She decided that Just Me and You should be her next project despite the fact that her original script was nothing more than 300 pages of conversation. The writing was cathartic for Louise who noted that the character Jane started off very flighty, but as the actress calmed down, the character also took a chill pill (Lousie played Jane in the movie as well). She gave the original script to an executive producer at NBC named Deanne Barkley, and she encourage Louise to work on it. Critics found that final product to be "warm," "enchanting," and most importantly, "funny."

Just Me and You was the 1st of what was to be a three picture deal with NBC. However, this remains the only produced script that is solely Louise's (in 1966 she co-wrote What's Up, Tiger Lily). That seems really sad to me. This film was obviously a labor of love, and I would have liked to have seen more scripts by this charming and lovable actress. Just Me and You did enjoy a VHS release.

Update (3/15/2014) The promo was removed but I found this clip for Just Me and You: 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Marcia and Jan Brady vs. Frank Hardy

Picture it. February 6th, 1981 just happened to fall on a cold Friday, and all you've got that night to keep you warm is the prime time television schedule. In fact, just to set the mood, here's a look at the general weather patterns on that day:

Who'd want to go out in that? Looks like you've got some serious viewing decisions to make. The ABC Friday Night Movie was premiering This House Possessed, and NBC was bringing the world the long awaited Brady Bunch reunion, featuring  Jan and Marcia tying the knot in The Brady Girls Get Married. Also on CBS we had the much beloved Friday night institutions The Incredible Hulk, The Dukes of Hazzard and Dallas.

Who knew that February 6th, 1981 was a night full of such excruciating choices? Although I consider myself a fairly stalwart Brady Bunch fan, I know for certain Parker Stevenson got all my love that night. I have distinct memories of not just watching House but of also waiting for the premiere, so I could continue my undying love for all things Frank Hardy (and to be honest, I'm not even sure the schedule over at CBS even tempted me on this night, that's how much I love my Bradys and possessed houses). House is still my favorite made for TV movie of all time. Eventually, I got around to the pilot and subsequent series for The Brady Brides, and loved it. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a crush on Jan's pragmatic beau, Philip. But he would never win in a death match against Parker. No one would.

 So, which movie did you choose?

Did you know that Made for TV Mayhem, along with several other bloggers, dedicated a week of love to This House Possessed?