Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm Going on a Hell Ride

Believe it or not, the newest Quentin Tarantion Presents project pertains to Made for 70s TV Movies. How cool is that?!? While I wish someone (someone like Tarantino actually) would remake an awesome TV Movie in the hopes it might turn on non loving TVM folks... well, scratch that. Most remakes suck... but you get where I'm going... I am thrilled to see that Tarantino's latest, Hell Ride has been directed by TV stalwart Larry Bishop. Bishop actually starred as Julian, the belligerent handyman in Condominium, one of my favorite characters in the movie. He also popped up in the other TVMs The Third Girl From the Left (1973), All Together Now (1975) & High Midnight (1979), as well as appearing on such awesome television shows as I Dream of Jeannie, Laverne & Shirley & Love, American Style. If I can put a little icing on the cake, Larry was also in theatrical movies with hot titles like Angel Unchained, Shanks and The Day the Lord Got Busted (is that the best title ever, or what?!?).

Larry is the son of Joey Bishop (who ruled on Match Game!) and is himself a huge hog enthusiast. Hell Ride also stars Michael Madsen and Dennis Hopper (an obvious but nice nod to Easy Rider).

Here's an interview with Larry at FirstShowing.net.

I'm sorry, it's geeky, but knowing that Larry had a big hand in Hell Ride makes me want to see it even more.

Catch it in theaters on August 8th!

Quite possibly the coolest poster ever!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Crawlspace: The Novel & The Movie

Novel Release Year: 1967

Network: CBS
Original Air Date: February 11th, 1972

Richard Atlee (Tom Happer) is a quirky young man who invites himself into the crawlspace of Albert & Alice Graves' house (the couple are portrayed deftly by Arthur Kennedy & Teresa Wright). At first The Graves are fearful of their new tenant but begin to soften as Richard becomes like the son they never had. Things start off slow but eventually Richard moves upstairs into his own room. While the Graves are delighted to bid Richard into their lonely fold, the townspeople aren't quite so taken with this new interloper. When push comes to shove, Richard will defend himself and his new family at any cost, and things turn deadly.

A novel like Crawlspace is perfect for a television movie adaptation. It's small, intimate and claustrophobic. Both the book and the movie are suspenseful and dynamic with strong characterizations. The big difference, besides two completely different endings (or shall I say the movie ends a bit before the novel does, leading the viewer to ascertain a different outcome), is that while the movie feels like a comment on the disillusionment of youth in a post-hippie culture, the book clearly paints Richard Atlee as someone who never belonged to anything, counter-cultural or otherwise.

The movie depicts the Graves as people who, although full of regret over never bearing children, are close and at least fulfilled in their relationship with each other. The book describes the couple as more distant and deeply missing something between them.

Otherwise, there isn't that much difference between the novel and adaptation. Minus some stuff in the book that might make the running time of the movie too long, Crawlspace is both an excellent read and a fascinating and moving film.

With both versions the viewer is left to decide exactly what made Richard the way he is. The book expounds upon his background much more, but there's still something absent in the mystery. I like that because it adds an air of realism to it. Do we ever really know why anyone does anything?

Crawlspace the movie is fantastically cast with Arthur Kennedy putting in a superb performance as Albert. He's the crux of everything, and he plays Albert as an understanding but firm father figure who can't quite get through to Richard. Eugene Roche plays the bigoted sheriff Emil Birge who comes across as a little more mean-spirited in the novel. He's great here in another serious role (see The Possessed). As for Teresa Wright and Tom Happer, they expertly fill out the small cast. Happer didn't go on to do much else in television or film, and it's a crying shame because it's obvious he has a true depth with characterization. He makes Richard creepy but never completely unsympathetic. The novel makes him out to be a bit wilder, but he's perfect here in a tough part.

So many adaptations leave out the meat (and sometimes the point) of their original source, but Crawlspace adroitly captures all the fine layers of loneliness, fear in your own home and the feeling of wanting to belong and being rejected from those you love. The movie was released by Wild Eye Releasing on DVD last year in a pristine if bare bones disc and is really worth checking out. It's an amazing television movie that, for whatever reason, fell between the cracks and never got to the classic status I believe it deserves. The book itself is available used on many online sites, so why not treat yourself and pick both up?

This is what my copy looks like. Interesting, ain't it?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One Month Old...

... and loving it!

This is fun and it also give me an excuse to use photos like this:

If you come across this place and enjoy it, please leave a comment!

Smash-Up on Interstate 5

Network: ABC

Original Air Date: December 3rd, 1976

I have to admit, Smash-Up on Interstate 5 was a lot different than I was expecting. The title led me to believe it would be something in the vein of Death Car on the Freeway, which is essentially a serial killer movie where the villain uses a car as his weapon (sounds like Tarantino was inspired by it when he made Death Proof). But Smash-Up was completely different. It's like the Final Destination movies if they were dramas and told its story in reverse. Smash-Up starts with the devastating accident and then Robert Conrad begins a voice over narration about statistics and how they don't relate to human casualties. The movie then winds back 48 hours and we learn about several of the victims and how they came to be on the Interstate at that very life-changing moment.

The stories are captivating and most of them are tinged with sadness. Take the Huttons (Sian Barbara Allen & a very young Tommy Lee Jones). She's delivering their first child at the very same moment he's gun downed during a random car check. And then there's newly divorced Erica (a stunning Vera Miles) who is nearly raped by a biker gang (TV Movies were much tougher back then), only to be saved by Dale (David Groh in an excellent performance), a much younger man who becomes her suitor. There is also Lee (Scott Jacoby) who finds himself on the run with the childlike beauty Penny (Bonnie Ebsen, Buddy's daughter). My favorite story is the one about the Pearsons (Buddy Ebsen and Harriet Nelson). She is dying and he steals her away to a quiet beach house where she tries to kill herself to prevent prolonging her departure. The end of their story is nothing short of pure tragedy.

Maybe it's kind of weird to sit here writing something so serious about a movie titled Smash-Up on Interstate 5, but that was how I felt watching it. Well, not exactly serious, but very taken with the characters and interested in their outcome. I found myself rallying for several of the cast members' fate.

It's an interesting movie because it's layered with stories that all have a beginning, middle and end. Nothing gets dropped and every character provides some importance to that fateful day on the 5. Robert Conrad serves as a thread that connects most of the cast, although some have crossed paths through other means.

I looked this movie up on IMDb and everyone calls Smash-Up a disaster flick. Although I believe this is correct, I personally never felt for once this fell into that popular subgenre, even though things do end up pretty messy. I think for me Smash-Up captured that part of life that is about lost souls searching for each other and the randomness of finding love (and sadness) at the most inopportune times. The accident became almost an afterthought as far as I was concerned.

I know what you’re thinking. “But what about the money shot?” The smash-up in question is quite spectacular and even shocking to a degree. I keep forgetting that movies from this era pulled more punches and this one went right for the gut. 

Is it just me, or was Buddy Ebson ALWAYS 100 years old?



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Paper Man (1971)

Network: CBS
Original Air Date: November 12th, 1971

Paper Man
is a prophetic television movie that captures the primitive look and feel of the early computer systems with a far more elaborate and modern storyline that is just now coming into play in a big way.

Paper Man is about a group of college students who create a fictional person with the school's computer to obtain a credit card. Mostly done for laughs, things seem pretty mundane, if illegal. Only when an unknown someone in the group buys a gun with the card, do ears start to perk up. Then, one by one each of the students begins to turn up dead... killed by some electrical or computerized force (the scene with the killer robot is absolutely chilling).

Paper Man came out all the way back in 1971 (the year I was born!), when a mainframe took up an entire class room. There's lots of blipping lights and funky noises, but the overall theme of the film remains quite relevant. At the time, credit card fraud/identity theft via the computer must have seemed the thing of science fiction (hence the premise) but is sadly an every day occurrence in our modern times.

The cast is great, with Dean Stockwell, James Stacy and one of my all time favorite actresses Stefanie Powers leading the way. The mystery of the killer is solid and is played out nicely. Walter Grauman's direction is top notch. The scene featuring a death by elevator is gruesome and quite suspenseful.

Paper Man is one of the lucky television movies to find a home on DVD. Granted, it's been released on those cheap $1 discs you find at various car washes, drug stores, etc... but it is such a treat when you do come across it! If you see it next time you are buying shampoo, do pick it up! 

This is the version I found

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Join my TV Movie Community

I started a forum on TV Movies. It's still a work in progress, but if you want to talk made for tv horror (or any other kind of horror, or just want to chew the fat), this is the place for you!

Here's the link kiddies:

Made for TV Mayhem Fourms

Start a post, join in a topic and make yourselves at home!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Possessed (1977)

Network: NBC
Original Air Date: May 1st, 1977

A defrocked priest named Kevin Leahy (James Farentino) finds himself at the Helen Page School for Girls after a series of unexplainable fires wreaks havoc across the campus. The school is run by two sisters, Louise Gelson & Ellen Sumner (Joan Hackett & Claudette Nevins, respectively) who are preparing to make the all girl’s school co-ed for financial reasons. They are also tackling the current group of rebellious female students, including Ellen’s daughter, Weezie (Ann Dusenberry, not Isabel Sanford) who is getting all friendly with a handsome biology teacher named Paul Winjam (a young Harrison Ford). Could the oversexed atmosphere of the school be causing things to go up in flames? Leahy eventually uncovers the most sinister of sources, Satan himself, and will have to battle to the death to save these lost souls.

An interesting concept and one of the better possession movies of that time period to do a riff on The Exorcist, The Possessed is quietly disturbing and the shocks are surprisingly effective. Like the Linda Blair classic, this movie is about sound, or moreso, lack thereof. With nary a score and lots of eerily quiet scenes, The Possessed might not feature some of the more outrageous images but there’s just something working to get inside of you.

The cast is incredible. A young Harrison Ford is probably the most recognizable face, but Ann Dusenberry, Diana Scharwid, Eugene Roche, Dinah Manoff, the always reliable Joan Hackett and PJ Soles all show up and add that extra bit of consistency to an otherworldly plot.

Relying on archetypal pacing and traditional storytelling with just a touch of 70s sexed up sordidness, The Possessed is a creepy classic.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shark Kill (1976)


Network: NBC
Original Air Date: May 20th, 1976

After Rick (Phillip Clark) warns rig divers that a great white attack is imminent, a shark immediately does some damage to the crew, killing one and maiming another. Cabo (Richard Yniguez), a co-worker and brother of the maimed diver, and Rick head towards dark waters to exact revenge.

Shark Kill is an unexpected delight. Fans of shark attack movies will find a nice addition here. The movie, although standard TV fare in many ways, is also an interesting precursor to Open Water. The two leads are pretty much thrown into every water disaster scenario (including just floating out in the ocean for a period of time) and in between they learn to understand each other and become friends. In fact, there is a bit of political agenda to be had with Shark Kill – Cabo, a Chicano, will beat the tar out of any white man giving him grief, but ends up showing a great lust for life and a need to survive as well as helping Rick, the polar opposite of himself, brave the rough waters too. And whitey ain’t so bad either.

Not from the movie, but scary, no?

There’s nary a shark attack after the initial assault, but there’s a couple of good moments and lots of great real shark footage.

I love shark attack movies. I just do. The good, the bad and the ugly all usually manage to find a place in my heart (minus Sangue negli abissi, which just blew!). I found Shark Kill to be particularly engaging and loved the use of real shark footage. That beats CGI predators any day! 



Scary Part II


I want to marry this picture!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sing It!

Two weeks and counting! YAY!

I doubt I can keep up this pace, but as of right now... at this very moment... I'm enjoying this SO much!

If you visit here and you enjoy it, please leave a comment. If you don't enjoy it, please leave a comment - but be kind!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Maneaters are Loose (1978)

Network: CBS
Original Air Date: May 3rd, 1978

A traveling carnival worker (who is also a suicidal drunk) releases his two tigers just outside a small town. Once they get a taste of human flesh, it’s up to Steve Forrest and Tom Skerritt to even the score. Unfortunately, the frolicking tigers seem more cute than dangerous. Still, the hunt is on! And along with uncovering the tigers, some small town secrets also come up for air.

Maneaters are Loose is another one of those nature gone amok flicks that were so prevalent in the 70s. There are only two “man eaters” in question, so the mayhem is kept to a minimum. That makes some of the running time feel really padded out, however, there are some interesting twists. As word of the escaped tigers spreads across town - so do random scandalous secrets which threaten to doom some of the more upstanding citizens - that is if the tigers don’t get 'em first! What starts out as an extra-marital affair leads to an animal attack and ends up liberating all kinds of hidden stuff about the locals. This is a nice change of pace for the animal amok genre, as most of them strictly follow the Jaws route for all it’s worth.

When it comes to these kinds of movies, I always wonder what the initial reaction was among adults back in 1978. My connection to these movies is mostly based on childhood recollections and often I find that I can still watch these movies through the eyes of a child (which makes it tough to be critical, but I’m not here for that). It’s fascinating to think about the thousands of grown ups who were glued to the television when this aired. Fluffy tigers attack town while Harry Morgan goes nutso. Musta been fun!

The cast is great, with Morgan putting in an extra nasty turn as Toby Waites, the lecherous preacher. His comeuppance is most deserved and roused a cheer from me. Lots of other famous faces abound too like Forrest, Skerritt, Dabney Coleman and Diana Muldaur (I LOVED HER!) who all warmly round out the cast of seasoned players. This movie was based on a novel by Ted Willis simply called Man-eater, which I just ordered online for under a dollar! This will make a nice addition to my growing collection of books that were spun into TV Movies.

Yeah, I’m that much of a nerd.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973)

Network: CBS
Original Air Date: February 13th, 1973

Maybe I’m easily impressionable (alright, there’s no maybe about it!), but I saw this movie when I was a kid and boy did it haunt me! Horror at 37,000 Feet is about a small group of people on a GIANT jet that is also carrying bits of a haunted abbey. The new owner and his wife (Roy Thinnes & Jane Merrow) are on board, along with the woman (Tammy Grimes) who tried to stop them from taking the artifact in the first place. To make things complete, William Shatner has also joined the flight as a weary ex-preacher (his lady is played by Lynn Loring who was Thinnes wife at the time). The rest of the cast play potential victims when the supernatural forces take over, forcing the plane to just meander in the same space in the sky. One murder, one frozen dog and one terrified stewardess later, the passengers start to give in to their more primitive thoughts leaving Merrow to worry if she’ll be the human sacrifice the spirits are calling for.

Supremely fun, if a bit incomprehensible, Horror at 37,000 Feet is one of those horror films you had to have seen as a kid to really be taken away with it now. It’s dated for sure, with a great matte screen death at the end, but if you can look past the pill box hats and wide lapels, you’re in for a real treat. Personally, I kind of like the simple effects. Some might call them laughable but I call ‘em unfussy.

The Shat likes the drinky-poo right before fighting demons!

William Shatner gets most of the notice from this film, and don’t get me wrong, he’s wonderful but the cast is just chock full of fun performances like the ones from Paul Winfield, Roy Thinnes, Buddy Ebson, Chuck Connors, Russell Johnson and Tammy Grimes (piece of trivia: She is Amanda Plummer’s mom) – whatever happened to Tammy anyway? I just never forgot her from this movie and when she delivers her sharply whispered “Sacrilege, sacrilege” line, I have to imitate her for about 20 minutes afterwards!

It’s hard for me to say any bad things about Horror at 37,000 Feet, although I know it’s quite flawed and thoroughly silly. It just brings back too many good memories of sitting on the floor of our family den with my jaw agape at the terror presented before me. I’m sure it played a big part in why I love horror movies so much now. For me, this film is perfection. Oh yeah, and Roy Thinnes was machismo on a stick!

Say it like Nah-bis-coe - Mah-cheese-moe!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Condominium (1980)

Network: Syndication
Original Air Date: November 20th, 1980
A glitzy, glamorous television disaster mini-series? Yup, and it's just about all it's cracked up to be.

Condominium purports to be a "Playing ground for the rich," but most of its tenants are living on fixed incomes. But never you mind, these blue collar workers manage to fit all kinds of scandal into their everyday existence in the most shoddily built condo building in history...

Steve Forest (with a slightly masculine John Waters mustache) is Gus Garver. Recently retired, his wife Carrie has just suffered a stroke. Enter Sam Harrison (Dan Haggerty), Gus' best bud and a kick-ass-world-traveling-construction-and-engineering-man. He's shown up to Fiddler's Keys, Florida to help Gus out with Carrie (Virginia Leith). Instead, he gets introduced to the tenants of the condominium. Brash, snotty and extremely unhappy, this bunch loves to complain about the state of the building but refuse to leave for fear of losing their investment. Still, if they can get the homeowner's board to listen, they will bitch and moan as much as possible.

To make matters worse, the lecherous building manager, Julian Higbee (Larry Bishop), ain't working for the tenants and anything that needs to be fixed can be paid for on the side or they can try talking to Marty Liss (Stuart Whitman), the owner of the company who built the building. Anyway, Julian is too busy either napping or schtuppting this nurse named Bobbie (Carlene Watkins) who lives in the building, much to his wife, Lorrie's (Mimi Maynard) chagrin. The general hatred for Julian can be detected when the spicy Carlotta Churchbridge (Linda Cristal, who seems to be the comic relief) actually starts slapping him around. And he still won’t fix her plumbing!

Life continues on for the tenants but things start to heat up when Gus gives Marty and his lovely assistant Drusilla (Pamela Hensley looking divine) a visit, bringing a thinly veiled threat that the tenants will vacate the building all at once if Marty doesn't fix the problems.

But Marty is too busy stabbing the mob in the back to really care what these moderately successful dwellers want or need. Sam starts doing some quiet investigating on the structure of the building in the hopes that he can help his old friend Gus begin legal action. What Sam finds is that when the next big one hits, this building will be the first to go down.

Condominium is an interesting mixture of romance, scandal, drama and disaster. Viewers might be put off by the nearly 4 hour time length, but there's enough soapy goodness to make the time fly. Barbara Eden is particularly engaging as Barbara Messenger and the story involving her dying husband (Ralph Bellamy) and a probable triangle with Sam is dealt with in a suprisingly unsleazy and thoughtful manner. Some of the subplots are really out there though. Like the one with Thelma (Ana Alicia) and Jack (Don Galloway). Thelma is this childlike creature who wanders the neighboring forest communing with nature. When Lis pulls a fast one and begins to tear up the land, Alicia falls into a hysterically hysterical fit before she goes into a catatonic state. Don't get me wrong. I love Alicia for her over-the-top hysterics, but when put up against the caliber of the rest of the cast, her overwrought performance can't keep up, leaving Galloway with little more to do than act angry.

The most dignified performance comes out of Pamela Hensley who adds a real touch of class to her part as a woman who isn't as evil as she'd like us to think she is. Her character also develops the most and is by far the most interesting to watch (although I prefer Eden's wardrobe to hers).

The disaster part is great. The money shot is offered up via miniature sets and a nifty "Hurricane Party" with the tenants who refused to vacate the building. Well, I don't have to tell you how that one turns out, but I will say its messy!

Condominium is an enjoyable romp through the world of early 80s television melodrama that never ceases to entertain... a feat in and of itself. Based on the novel by John D. MacDonald, this movie has fist fights, lesbian sub-text (OK, not so sub), hot pants, lots of liquor and Artie Johnson as the geeky guy. What more could you ask for?

Don't minatures rule?!?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

One Whole Week...

             He looks scared, but he's just celebratin'!

... and nine whole reviews!


Not sure I can keep up this kind of pace, but I'm pleased that I've gotten this far.

I have some reviews on the backburner and an article or two about television movies that are (hopefully) going up on other sites. I will post the links when they go online.

Is there anything greater than a Movie of the Week and a glass of wine? Tis a very glamorous way to live!

Hope all visitors enjoy it here and come back for more!


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Revenge (1971)

Network: ABC

Original Air Date: November 6th, 1971

Like so many made for television movies, Revenge never got a video release, much less one on DVD. It’s a crying shame too because this movie is an elegant supernatural thriller featuring a knock out performance from Shelly Winters as the grieving mother from hell.

It’s never made quite clear if Frank (Bradford Dillman) is the correct man or not, but Amanda (Shelly Winters) is positive that this is the chap who deflowered her daughter and then dumped her, which resulted in her suicide. Amanda kidnaps Frank and keeps him prisoner in a cage in her basement. Frank’s wife, Dianne (Carol Eve Rossen) turns to famed psychic Mark Hembric (Stuart Whitman), only to have him confess that he’s a charlatan! Strangely, Dianne begins developing her own psychic powers and along with some help from Mark, she searches for her husband.

A clever and lush film, Revenge is pretty amazing. There are some shocking moments (like when Shelly attempts to axe Bradford!), but mostly it’s a terrific paranormal mystery that unfolds neatly in front of its audience. 

The cast is great. Of course Winters rules the known universe and brings a lot of compassion to a part that might be played out as purely psychotic by a lesser actress. Dillman is good as the befuddled husband and Whitman is always a welcome face in these movies. Carol Eve Rossen is new to me and she’s really good. I’d love to check out some of her other stuff. Fans of General Hospital will enjoy the short scenes with Leslie Charleston who is still playing Monica Quatermaine on that show to this day. 

I hope one day this television movie, along with so many others, will get a legitimate release so it can find the audience it deserves.


OK, not from the movie, but boy doesn't Mr. Whitman still look swarthy! **sigh**


Cruise Into Terror (1978)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: February 3rd, 1978

Lesson learned by watching Cruise into Terror: Vengeful men who worship the dark are just asking for trouble!

Seriously, I don't think I knew that!

This Aaron Spelling production featuring several attractive TV stars such as Stella Stevens and Dirk Benedict as the passengers on a trip into hell, also features Mr. Spelling’s panache for semi-hip dialog, sexual innuendo and as much T&A as one can get away with on television (i.e. not much). However, despite its superficial trappings, Cruise has some decent special effects and an overall creepy vibe. I mean, on a three day trip there’s a woman overboard, an attempted shark attack, an underwater archeological dig, demonic possession and the awakening of Satan’s son. Not to mention Lynda Day George in some spicy lingerie! Lucky Christopher (her hubby co-stars as her hubby)! All of that couldn’t have been included in the price of the ticket!

The more I think about it, the more I think this movie has a lot in common with the other cool satanic television movie Horror at 37,000 Feet - except no William Shatner falling out of a plane. Too bad, but you can’t win ‘em all, eh?

In his place, we have John Forsythe who puts in a days work and then some as Reverend Mather. He’s great, if perhaps slightly off kilter with an over the top performance. Still, he could never reach Shatner’s depth of scenery chewing… And the world breathes a collective sigh of relief!

I love the cast of this movie. The friendly face of Roger E. Mosely, the hunkadelic Hugh O’Brian and the stalwart Ray Milland all lend a hand in making this movie a bit better than it probably had any right being. Of course, I reserve a special place for Christopher George who was simply machismo on a stick. He’s pretty great here, even if I wish he had more screen time. He was (obviously) always at ease with his wife Lynda and together they made some of the wildest horror movies of the 70s into early 80s until his untimely death. I just get such a kick out of watching him in these movies because he was always the attraction. He was the one who always played it straight and made movies that might be considered subpar rise above their means. He didn’t have too work to hard here because all in all Cruise is an enjoyable ride all on its own.