Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Missing are Deadly (1975)


Network: ABC
Original Air Date: January 8, 1975


I guess when you watch (and re-watch) as many TV movies as I do, it’s inevitable that titles and stories will blur together. Just the other day I made a total fool of myself during a conversation about Terror on the 40th Floor because I thought the movie they were referring to was the USA original Nightmare on the 13th Floor.

Boy, did I feel stoopid.


And, yet again, I recently thought I knew all about The Missing are Deadly because I had a copy of The Dead Don’t Die. Ummm, OK. So, the second I pushed the play button on Deadly I realized I had once more mistaken one title for another… and frankly, I’m not cool with it. I need my TVM street cred the way others need water. But life is a learning experience… Then I saw the names Ed Nelson and Leonard Nimoy, and the world was OK again. At least for the next 74 minutes. I’m not really sure I knew much about this movie, aside from the title (which I obviously was only half familiar with), and was surprised that this Nimoy flick had not been on my radar. It’s quite fun, if insubstantial.


Ed Nelson is Dr. Margolin, a Nobel Prize winning scientist who has traded in his microscope to deal with the bureaucracy behind medicine, and is now essentially a PR guy for a state of the art laboratory. This lab is run by the cutting edge Dr. Durov (Leonard Nimoy rocking the hazmat suit), who is obsessed with finding a cure for “Mambosa Fever.” Although he’s been asked to postpone his research, he is secretly infecting rats with the disease and then injecting another virus into them in an effort to kill the Fever.


Meanwhile (or "later that same day" depending on your choice of comics), at Margolin’s home everything is a wreck. Even though he lives with his kids, Margolin is an absentee father who spends all day and night at his lab. His oldest son, David (George O’Hanlon Jr.) is essentially raising his little brother, a teenager named Jeff (Gary Morgan) who thinks he’s an alien and eats rabbit food! Everyone calls him “special,” but I think they meant annoying. Certainly, Dad thinks so, and wants to send Jeff off to a school that can handle delusional-alien-wanna-be rabbit-pellet-dieters.


So, for their last weekend together, David whisks his girlfriend Michelle (Kathleen Quinlan) and Jeff off to the forest for a weekend of bonding. But first he stops off at Dad’s lab where Jeff steals an infected rat. Before you know it, Mambosa Fever is spreading throughout the city!


That’s some kind of set-up! Honestly, my synopsis probably takes longer to read than it does to watch. At 74 minutes, it’s all fairly brisk and the bulk of the film involves Durov and Margolin racing to find a cure, and desperate to locate Margolin’s kids before it’s too late. The wrap up is absolutely predictable, and the film just sort of ends as quickly as it starts.


Yet, while Deadly is admittedly a mostly forgettable entry in the ABC Movie of the Week lineup, it has some things going for it. For one, there are no bad guys. The villain in this TVM is the Fever. Even Mr. Warren (Jose Ferrer), the corporate suit paying for the lab, is all about taking responsibility, notifying the public and offering services to the infected. And he doesn’t have to be coerced into it either! Like the movie Heatwave, which I reviewed recently, Deadly wants to see the best in people. Kind of makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. So either that’s a good sign, or I just contracted Mambosa Fever!


And of course, the cast is great. Both Nelson and Nimoy are given little meat to chew on, but they play off each other beautifully. Ferrer has a fairly thankless role, but he’s always a treat, and Quinlan finds herself trapped in the mountains yet again, after Where Have All the People Gone in 1974. Oh, and you might not see her through the hazmat suit, but keep an ear out for Marla Gibbs as a nurse! I can only give Deadly a light recommendation, but fans of the ABC Movie of the Week certainly know what they are signing up for, and those who know the drill will enjoy it.

1 comment:

Francis Barbier said...

THE MISSING ARE DEADLY is an average Movie of the week entry. The Godfather of CONTAGION and OUTBREAK. I liked the supporting cast with well written roles. It doesn't waste any time and go boldly into the action right away. Well done!