Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Just thought I'd update everyone on the exciting escapades of Amanda By Night! Well, not so exciting, but I have a few new articles floating around the ether:

My review of The Governor’s Wife is on Pretty Scary. This article is a kick-off to my new PS column I’m calling Lifetime Kills, which will be all about the awesome Lifetime Suspense Thrillers that I can't seem to get enough of.

I wrote a review for a new zombie movie called The Vanguard over at Horror Yearbook. I am planning a column over there too, but until I really get rolling, I won't say what I'm focusing on, but I'm excited about it and it's a sub-genre that just doesn't get enough attention (and some of you will say that's rightly so!)... For those of you who might not have seen it, I also did a list on Slashers that aren’t really slashers but are still slashers! Confused? Take a look and see if you agree…

I have a few posts at Retro Slashers, why don't you stop by and give it a looksy?

In Made for TV Mayhem News, I have NO idea how to do screen caps and boy, do I feel stupid. I've been attempting this screen cap feat for a couple of weeks now. I mean, I know my heart is in 1981, but this is ridiculous. I've been holding off on a couple of reviews because there really aren't any images online to use with the movies and I kind of want something to make things look all pretty. I know, I want the world. So, I will keep plugging away but hopefully, I can get these reviews with their proper pictures up soon!

In other news:

The guys at Kindertrauma have an article about their fabulous site in this issue of Geek Monthly, which should be on store shelves NOW. So what are you waiting for? Read about it here. Also, Kinder just turned One Year Old. Please stop by and say congrats on one year of awesomeness!

Anchorwoman in Peril also just turned 1 years old. Wow, was 2008 a great year or what? So stop by and well wish away!

Through the fabulousness of Kindertrauma, I discovered this blog called Dinner with Max Jenke First of all, the tag line of the blog is New Horror Opinions at 80s Prices, so that should give you an idea of what you are in for! There’s some great Made for TV love over there, so go… Go NOW!

And I think that's it for now. Oh yeah, I still love Bert Convy!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker (1979)

There are so many OMG moments in Diary I just don’t know where to begin! I mean, the cast is to die for! It’s got Christopher Knight, Dick Van Patten, Dominique Dunne, Katherine Helmond, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Sanders and a very young Charlene Tilton in the lead. It’s got chicks in bikinis hitchhiking, scary assault scenes, car chases, a burger joint on the beach and architecture! It was directed by Ted Post who made the wickedly wicked movie The Baby! I mean, it’s got it all! Tilton is Julie Thurston, a pretty small town girl getting ready to cross the threshold into womanhood any day. She works at a burger stand on the beach so she can save up for a car (dad works hard but inflation is unbearable. Uh, can’t his wife get a job?). She also has a tight group of female friends who are ready to party. One already did and is pregnant (Dominique Dunne as Cathy). They all thumb rides to get around and although wary of the dangers that lie ahead, each swears they need to do it to maintain their independence. Sure.

First Cathy is raped and next Dana is killed when the same rapist picks her up and then takes the police on this crazy chase. Still, nothing is going to stop Julie from living her dreams, which she apparently has to hitchhike to. But her ride is just around the corner, if you know what I mean. Totally great exploitation film for the small screen that can’t play up the on the gratuitousness a theatrical could, but still does what it can with the elements – half naked girls who love to party, car chases, violence and Dick Van Patten. I mean, it’s just too much! Diary is a surprisingly good movie, obviously made to cash in on the real life tragedies during the hitchhiking craze in the 70s. Craze is a strong word, but you get what I mean. It was just so in to thumb a ride back then. And in truth, you really were taking your chances. Not only could the person be potentially violent, but they might just be a crap driver. See Foxes for a combination of both. It was interesting to watch the girls attempt to size up the driver before they got in the car. Three times out of four they were correct, but that fourth time… watch out.

I love, love, LOVE this movie. Fantastically 70s from the tee shirts that say X Rated to Peter Brady going off to find himself. A lot of the dialog is ham-fisted, although delivered with heart, but honestly, I couldn’t wrap my brain around the scene featuring Dana and her Dad, Mr. Fogarty (Richard Sanders… yeah, LES NESMAN! A serious OMG moment for me!). Dana is making her dad a shake and he starts to tell her that he loves her but stops and says “I hope I know you a long time,” and she replies, “I always wondered.” Yeah, if you can explain it to me I owe you a soda. But mostly, the girls just laugh, talk about finding themselves and talk shit about Cathy after she’s raped. You see, they’re like all teenagers. Kind of self-centered and under the mistaken impression they know better. Except Julie of course, who is a burgeoning sculptress dating a much older (and richer) man. Julie will teach you all! But even she isn’t against thumbing a ride, until… well you just watch and find out.


I'm such a do-do bird. Seriously. I made my Top Ten Must See Made for Television Horror Movies of the 70s list with a lot of thought... I swear I did. So how on earth did I forget The Legend of Lizzy Borden?!?

It hit me like a ton of bricks while I was compiling a new list (btw, lists = great distractions at work!). Legend is not just considered a classic made for television movie; it also gave Elizabeth Montgomery some real street cred as an actress. She was so far removed from her sweet witch housewife role in Bewitched that folks could never look at her the same way again. And what came afterwards was a string of interesting, if not completely amazing, roles on the small screen.

I haven't seen this movie in many years but it certainly left its mark on me. Based on a true story, Legend traced the path of Lizzie Borden who was accused of brutally murdering her father and step-mother. At her trial witnesses recount what may or may not have happened. Lizzie keeps a poker face through the proceedings and when it's all over you will still be left with questions. Fantastic storytelling made even better with incredible performances from the entire cast (which include Katherine Helmond from SOAP as the mousy sister), but of course most of the movie’s phenomenal success can be credited to Ms. Montgomery who was so chilling your blood is guaranteed to freeze. No joke.

A Terrifying Beauty

Lizzie was nominated for numerous awards including three Emmy's, winning Best Costume Design and Editing. Elizabeth was nominated for best actress but the award went to Katherine Hepburn for Love Among the Ruins. In fact, Elizabeth never did take home an Emmy, even though she was nominated NINE times! The whole thing is beyond me. If one movie has ever paved the way for an actress to break out of a stereotype, it was Legend. Elizabeth also starred in these other made for television movies:

The Victim (1972)
A Case of Rape (1974)
Dark Victory (1976)
A Killing Affair (1977)
Act of Violence (1979)
The Rules of Marriage (1982)
Missing Pieces (1983)
Second Sight: A Love Story (1984)
Between the Darkness & the Dawn (1985)
Sins of the Mother (1991)
With Murder in Mind (1992)
Black Widow Murders (1993)
The Corpse Had a Familiar Face (1994)
Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan (1995)

Elizabeth was a consummate actress who chose her roles wisely. It was obvious that she loved what she did and we loved watching her. She may have never taken home that coveted statue but she endeared herself forever to fans of the made for television movie. And really, isn’t that way cooler?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Top Ten Must See Made for Television Horror Films of the 70s

Are these my all time favorites? Not necessarily, but most of the titles I chose would end up in my top 30 for sure… There’s another list I’ll have to make! This list is just a starter guide or better yet, a catalog of films worth mentioning. And not just here. Most of these films should be in any film lover’s vocabulary. Guaranteed to elicit some doy-inducing reactions from the made for TV set, I still thought it was a list worth putting together, because you never know when someone needs guidance and is afraid to ask. Plus it gives me an excuse to revisit some great films. And what do I always say about excuses? When they come to watching great films, excuses are pretty dang awesome.

Duel (1971) – Richard Matheson is a freaking genius. Steven Spielberg is a mastermind as well. Combine their talents and you’ve got two great tastes that taste great together! The ultra-cool Dennis Weaver plays David Mann (a nice bit of obvious symbolism) who goes up against a malevolent truck in one of the most beloved films of the 70s. Oh wait, even better, Duel is the most beloved made for television horror movie of all time. Isn't that stretching things a bit? Not really. A young Spielberg cut his chops on a simple premise and exposed audiences to his immense talent. In my opinion, I only place Jaws above this title in the director’s filmmography. As for Matheson, I’m not sure I could choose. His assured hand at suspense on the small screen is absolutely unheralded even today. Screw you HBO!

Gargoyles (1972)
Anyone who caught this movie in the 70s was in for a real treat and it’s likely you remember Bernie Casey as the leader of the Gargoyles. That was one bad ass dude, er, gargoyle. The Plusses: A young Stan Winston did the extraordinary make up effects, the actors invited the absurdity of the situation with such glee (including Jennifer Salt as the eye candy who forgot to pack anything but bikini tops and Grayson Hall who gets weird sexual pleasure talking about car crashes!) and some of the set-pieces were wonders of the “less is more” school of thinking. That recipe equaled success and left us with one of the best examples of excellent made for television filmmaking. Click on title for a full review.

Home for the Holidays (1972) –
What good is a list without a slasher movie on it? I’m including shopping lists too (please insert your own Chopping Mall joke here). Yup, they even made slashers for the small screen and when done right, they ruled the known (and possibly unknown) universe. This warped tale of a family so dysfunctional the Ewings would be jealous, presents a lot of twist and turns and some grand, suspenseful kills. The cast is top notch too, featuring Julie Harris, Sally Field and Jessica Walter among others. My favorite director in the whole wide world (or known and unknown universe if pushed), John Llewellyn Moxey slowly builds suspense and keeps you guessing. More importantly, it will keep you on the edge of your seat! And that ending! Wow.

The Night Stalker (1972) – Darren McGavin is Carl Kolchak, a beleaguered reporter set on proving the supernatural does indeed exist. He is also one of the most beloved characters in horror films. This movie was so popular is spawned a sequel and a short lived series with the same title. It also inspired Chris Carter to create a show with a similar riff. You may have heard of it, it’s called The X Files. McGavin even played a recurring character on that show and it was the sincerest form of flattery. In Stalker McGavin is younger, strangely sexy and just fantastic as Kolchak, who is hot on the heels of a scary vampire – in Las Vegas no less (where it’s always day if you lived downtown, so that must have been tough). Yet another treasure from Richard Matheson and John Llewellyn Moxey.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973) –
I inadvertently crossed paths with this little devil when I was a wee pup. It’s one of those flicks that would pop up on the Weekend Afternoon Movie and if you were young enough, BAM! It got you! Kim Darby plays the pragmatic housewife terrorized by little satanic creatures whose heads look like tiny latex hardhats (in retrospect, it’s cute, but back then… brrrr!). These guys aren’t happy just scaring her, they like making her look like she’s one log short of full fledge fire, which isn’t all that difficult. A creepy house, an overwhelming sense of paranoia, groovy special effects, William Demerest as the “You’re all doomed,” character and one of the darkest endings ever, make Don’t a TV movie classic.

Bad Ronald (1974) - Ronald is so bad, yet he’s so good at it. That’s why we love him. This claustrophobic thriller builds tension with an intense performance from Scott Jacoby as Ronald, the deranged teen who just wants to be loved. Ah, ain’t he sweet? Click on title for a full review.

Trilogy of Terror (1975) – No doubt this movie more than likely left an indelible mark on the brains of all young children of the 70s, scarring them for life. And most people don’t even remember the first two stories in Trilogy! For the record, they are titled Julie and Millicent and Therese and both were written by legendary scribe William F. Nolan (Burnt Offerings). Even he’s admitted these were fairly forgettable tales, although they are fun if only to enjoy a reliable Karen Black going over the top in three different roles. It’s the final segment, simply titled Amelia that had television audiences in rapture. Based on Richard Matheson’s short story Prey, this episode featured Black going toe to toe with a Zuni Fetish doll that has come to life and is sharpening up on his hunting skills. It’s 20 minutes of utter chaos ending on such a downbeat gut punching note, it just may be the greatest achievement in 70s television horror. It certainly had an effect on me and just might be the culprit for single handedly making our generation the horror lovers we are. That doll is a doll.

The Bermuda Depths (1978) –
One of the few live action Rankin and Bass films (they did several stop motion holiday specials such as Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy and my favorite, Nestor the Long Eared Donkey), Bermuda is an absolute feast for the eyes. The whimsical story is about a giant sea turtle and a young woman who has been cursed to steal away the lives of random sailors, along with the man who has come back home after his father’s death looking for answers. She turns out to be the childhood love he let go. The movie unfolds almost like images rising from a book of fairy tales. The visuals are stunning, accompanied by a beautiful score and only the minimal of dialog. With the help of some charming miniature effects (and Carl Weathers in some awesome half shirts and hot pants!), Bermuda is a film that is as beautiful as it is unsettling.

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) –
A young John Carpenter honed his suspense skills on this tele-film which was shot shortly after he made Halloween. Here he’s got Lauren Hutton as the strong-willed television producer who is randomly picked by a cunning and terrifying stalker. Somehow he knows exactly what is going on in her ultra modern apartment even when the curtains are drawn. Hutton is in top form and Carpenter’s then-soon-to-be-wife Adrienne Barbeau is great as her #1 compadre. Someone has some truly hair-raising moments, great dialog and a nice build up of suspense so it doesn’t really matter that the ending feels a little forced and abrupt. A rose by any other name would be just a creepy.

Salem’s Lot (1979) – Tobe Hooper’s oeuvre (that’s my big word for the day) has been sketchy at best, but Salem’s Lot is definitely one of his crowing achievements. An eerie movie full of traditional gothic houses, creepy legends and lingering suspense, Salem’s Lot also interweaves startling imagery and one of the freakiest looking vampires this side of Nosferatu! What was even more disturbing is that Hooper got a great performance out of David Soul. I kid because I love.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Male Strippers and the Made for TV Movie

For Ladies Only

Network: NBC

Original Air Date: November 9th, 1981


Network: ABC

Original Air Date: November 9th, 1988

The 80s was the best decade ever. Coming right off the liberal 70s, the 80s was this weird mixture of Reganomics, pastel blazers, the Cold War and Cabbage Patch Kids. It’s the only decade where male stripping was taken seriously as well. What a strange phenomena, that male stripping. I mean, logically speaking it makes sense. Beefcake = awesomeness. But the craze died away, saved for a few “ironic” stripper acts like the Thunder from Down Under. I remember a time when you could buy Chippendale calendars at your local Spencer’s Gifts for crissakes! I was too young to fully appreciate the art form of the waxed chest or this movement that certain women described as liberating (nice excuse), but now I find I kind of long for it. But I’ve been longing for the 80s since, well, the 90s.

Male stripping got some attention in film, and in all places, on television. Funny how a medium that restricts too much skin would spawn two great films featuring hot, oiled up dudes in their skivvies, but it did. And I for one am grateful!

For Ladies Only came out in 1981 and featured a young and extremely handsome Gregory Harrison as an actor straight off the bus from Iowa, hoping to find fame in New York City. Down on his luck, he gets a job as a waiter at Club Max, a male strip club. But he is oh-so-popular and is finally convinced to take it all off for the salivating clientele. This leads him on series of sexy adventures with older woman, including Louise Lasser and Lee Grant, which finally culminates in a “dance off”- and I mean no sexual innuendo by that (btw, the MC wears roller skates. I could die!). The women yell “Take it off,” the men obey and all is well.

Wow, 1981 ruled!

Lady Killers came out in 1988 and featured another handsome actor, Thomas Calabro. Calabro takes a walk down the seedier side of stripping as an undercover cop posing as a male stripper (Brilliant! I could die again!). Someone has been slicing their way through the male dancers at the hot club Lady Killers. I mean, she kills them while they dance! And she wears a Tina Turner wig! And it’s all so amazing. Marilu Henner plays Calabro’s bitchy boss/girlfriend who hates the idea of her man putting himself on the line but secretly loves it, you dig?

I guess 1988 ruled too!


By the way, how weird is it that they both originally aired on November 9th? Coinkydink or is something more sinister at hand? 

For a genre that seldom gets a second life on home video, both made for TV films were released on vhs. For Ladies Only is a pretty good movie with a little bit of extra skin on the video release (most notably a partial look at Marc Singer’s rear… it’s nice). The release of Lady Killers is also just a teeny touch more saucy thanks to some boobage from Marilu Henner and helmet head Susan Blakely, who both have plenty to go around. You don’t see much, but they do ilicit slight OMG moments. Where For Ladies Only feels more like a theatrical film and is better written, Lady Killers is an absolute gas. Its high camp all the way and features some wonderful over the top performances and great dance numbers. Calabro is an amazing looking man but his dancing skills are a little on the knuckle dragging side. That’s where the talents of Harrison come in. Dude is a natural! He should have been a real life stripper. I mean, really

You can’t do wrong with either film. What nice time capsules from an era when made for television movies enjoyed having a bit of fun. I do miss those days…

Beefcake never ages

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jane Doe (1983)

Network: CBS

Original Air Date: March 12th, 1983



I saw Jane Doe for the first time late one night as a teenager. It was one of those movies that comes on at 2 am and you're positive you're the only one watching it. I think I saw the whole film, but all I could remember was that I walked out of that experience hating Karen Valentine.


What's that? I know how can anyone hate her? Well, there was something there that really irked me and for years I steered clear of pretty much everything she did. That was until I started digging into the archives of my mind and re-watching some of these TV movies. I saw her in the Love Boat pilot and then in the excellent "swinger" comedy Coffee, Tea or Me. She was great! And adorable to boot! Maybe I was suffering from some sort of sleep deprived delusion when I made my first assumption. Then I found Jane Doe in one of those nifty vhs clamshell cases that I will buy regardless of what movie is inside. I figured hey, nifty artwork, this will look great on my shelf.

And there it sat. And sat.


I dusted it off this weekend and gave it a spin. I enjoyed it. From a memory of bad acting and lots of forest I ended up (almost) completely rethinking my original opinion, which is shocking because most thoughts formed as a teenager turn out to be right, right?




Jane Doe is about this woman who is found in her nude-it-ity in a shallow grave with lots of neat bruises around her neck. She wakes up in a hospital with no recollection of how she ended up in said grave, or even who she is. Enter tough-as-nails-cop-with-a-heart-of-gold, Lieutenant William Quinn (William Devane, my newest crush). He's been looking for a serial killer who has slaughtered quite a few women the last three months. Determined to find the guy, he attaches himself to Jane Doe's side because she holds the key to everything. Eventually this guy named David (David Huffman) shows up, claiming this Jane Doe as his wife, Victoria. Sure enough, he's correct and she goes home, only to be hunted down by the supposed murderer. Or is he? If he isn't, he sure has a lot of free time. But maybe he doesn't, and he's hiding a big secret, or maybe... Oh whatever!


There are very few twists and turns in Jane Doe and the ending is fairly predictable. Still, it's an entertaining little thriller that keeps the pace moving from kind-of-fast to almost-fast, but never slow.


And how about Karen, you ask? Well, I feel she was miscast here. She's not nearly as bad as I remembered, but those weird scenes of her climbing over beds in hysterical fits are waaay overdone. And I think her awful haircut came into play as well. I mean, she's a super cute girl, but her weird short feathery mullet just made me cringe. I mean, really Karen. I’ve come to expect more from you.

The rest of the cast was terrific, especially Devane and Huffman. I didn't realize that Huffman was the same actor who starred in that underrated horror movie Blood Beach. He's like a chameleon, that one! And Devane, well, he's just fantastic. I like his voice and the way he carries himself and he's not a typically good looking guy, but at the same time, he's an absolute stud. I think I'll keep him.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Bert Convy

I hereby declare today as BERT CONVY DAY! Why? Because he was awesome and I'm jonesing for a little Win, Lose or Draw! You should get the day off next year, it's that official!

Not just a hot babe and game show host, Bert also made some interesting Made for TV Movies. Here's a short list:

Death Takes a Holiday (1971)
Keep the Faith (1972)
Lady Luck (1973)
Black Day For Bluebeard (1974)
The Girl on the Late, Late Show (1974)
Shakespeare Loves Rembrandt (1974)
Love Boat II (1977)
SST: Death Flight (1977)
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery (1978)
Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (1979)
Hanging by a Thread (1979)
Ebony, Ivory & Jade (1979)
Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls (1981)
Help Wanted: Male (1982)
Love Thy Neighbor (1984)
The Murder of Sherlock Holmes (1984)

I had no idea he worked so much as an actor. I always think of him as a game show host (a dreamy game show host!). I'm actually expecting copies of Valley of the Dolls, Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery AND The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in the mail soon. I didn't even know Bert was in 'em! So imagine my surprise when I was all "Bert is so dreamy, I wonder what movies he's been in...," and I look him up and these titles appear like an angel before me. Am I a lucky girl or what!

I am going to do a big thing on the Valley of the Dolls movie. I mean, I just have to.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Give Peace a Chance


I found an interesting sumthin-sumthin while browsing ye ol' internet for tidbits and the like on, you guess it, made for TV movies!

This article, brought to you by the folks at The TV Squad is called The Five: TV Movies They Don't Show Anymore. I could probably argue that they really don't show any TV Movies anywhere anymore, but you know, I'm a picky old broad.

It's a nice list. Not full of the regular stuff. Read for yourself!

"What's that you say? You found a good article on TV Movies?!? Well do tell!"

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dying Room Only (1973)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: September 18th, 1973

I’ve got all my favorite nouns covered in Dying Room Only:

Person - Cloris Leachman. This woman  is a truly extraordinary talent, who brought up the bar in just about every production she graced. And on Phyllis her wardrobe was simply to die for.

Place - The Desert. I'll admit, I'm not a fan of the desert in real life. I grew up in one. It's boring, it's hot... oh, and it's boring. But in movies (the really good ones), there's something so undeniably atmospheric about it. In 70s TV movies in particular, the characters practically insisted on wearing layers of clothes with long sleeves. Yikes! What were they thinking?

Thing – Atmosphere. There’s tons of it here!

In Dying Room Only, the uber-stylish Leachman is Jean Mitchell, a woman who wears, like, three layers of tops (OK, it's more like a black shirt with a white safari type jacket, but I swear it felt like three layers!). She’s a mousy wife travelling across the desert (see, two of those nouns knocked out of the ballpark in the first five minutes!) with her hubby, Bob (Dabney Coleman). The couple stops at a remote cafe inhabited by the overly serious proprietor Jim (Ross Martin) and truck driver Tom (the normally affable Ned Beatty). Jean scoots to the bathroom to freshen up her already exquisite style and when she comes out Bob has disappeared.

Three of the hottest women of the 70s. Could you just die?

What happens afterwards is about 60 minutes of pure suspense while Cloris looks for her man. I think the film takes place within an approximate 1,000 square foot area and it's extraordinary. Like The Stranger Within, Dying Room Only plays up the claustrophobia and plays down bulky effects (in fact, there are none. Zero. Zilch). In place of large visuals and set-pieces is an amazing cast that uniformly brings in brilliant performances. Everyone is in top form here, from Leachman to Martin to Beatty to Dana Elcar as the Sheriff. Dabney has the least amount of screen time but is good as the missing (and forever aggravated) husband.

Written by the always reliable Richard Matheson (who coincidentally also wrote The Stranger Within), what struck me most about Dying Room was the growth of Leachman's character. She's played out here in a realistic manner and goes from weak to loony to strong without missing a note. The situation calls for that, and unlike some "final girls" who seem to go from useless to bold in one stroke of the writer's typewriter, Leachman's dissent becomes her strength, but not without a few freak-outs along the way! I love the part where she loses it and starts hitting Beatty. I admit, by that point, I’d be slapping someone around too!

There’s also a grand sense of xenophobia, although that doesn’t really come into play in the actual story, but Leachman is treated in such a way that she may well just be a suspicious interloper. How those two guys continue to make Leachman look guilty of something is amazing!

So we’ve got our person, place and thing all in place… what about the ending? Well, that might be the movie’s only weakness. Still, even without a big ol’ huge payoff, this movie is the kind that lingers in the mind well after you’ve seen it. Another point for Matheson in an already extraordinary career.

Poor Bess didn't stand a chance!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Turnabout (1979)

Network: January 26th, 1979 - March 23rd, 1979
Original Air Date: NBC

Based on the novel by Thorne Smith, Turnabout was originally made into a film in 1940 before it became a short lived series in the 70s. The story involved a couple who switch bodies through supernatural means, and although well acted, the theatrical version fell kind of flat. The big mistake it made was dubbing the actors with each other's voices. It gets quite irritating, even if it still remains an inoffensive romp. The series was also kind of flat, saved by the great performances by Sharon Gless and John Schuck, who trade genders and effortlessly adapt them to their own bodies.

Gless is a knockout as the butch "wife" who always has a cigar hanging out of her mouth. She was quite a beauty in her day, so it's kind of hilarious to watch her stomping about, all uncomfortable with her femininity. Schuck, a hulking actor, also added a nice girly touch to his masculine physique.

Turnabout becomes a looking glass of the sexism issues that were so prevalent even towards the end of the 70s. Like, the woman gets hit on by her male acquaintances endlessly and is also expected to cook dinner when she gets home from work. The guy basically watches sports and smokes and drinks. Hmmm, which one has it better do you think?

The series ran for six episodes before disappearing into relative obscurity. At some point, Disney took three of the episodes (The Pilot, Penny's Old Boyfriend & Til Dad Do Us Part), removed the laugh track and combined them into a movie. This works and doesn't work all at the same time. The movie definitely feels like three separate episodes but the premise and actors and engaging enough that you'll want to watch it all played out. At the end of this version, there is a tacked on scene where everything is blown off as a bad dream (!), which doesn't really work either.

In pop culture news, Rick Springfield shows up in the last third and I have to admit, it was pretty cool. I forget that Rick did some interesting stuff before he became Noah Drake on General Hospital and simultaneously hit it big with the catchy tune Jessie's Girl. Some of you may also remember him as Apollo's brother Zac in the pilot movie for Battlestar Galactica (which I really need to review here! I actually saw the three hour version in a theater at a revival house a few years back...)

I'd also like to mention the late Richard Stahl, who is most famous to me for playing the straight-faced cook on It's a Living. His comic timing was simply amazing and he is afforded the funniest lines on this series. Sometimes just looking at him made me laugh... and I mean that in a good way!

If any show has ever been saved by a marvelous cast, it's Turnabout! Well worth catching if you can find it, if just for the kitschy premise and the zest with which the actors take on their parts.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Look At: Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Horror Yearbook did a nice retrospective on Dark Night, in preperation for the DVD release due in 2009!



The above picture is of Shannen Doherty at the new 90210 Premiere Party. Looking swank, no? What a shame it was then that they only featured her for about 4 minutes. Nat and Kelly too.

I know, I know, this isn't supposed to be the 90210 we all came to love (or despise) in the 90s. Still, if you're going to get someone like Shannen, who by the way has all but single-handedly gotten huge amounts of press for the new show, then please use her!

I thought the show was alright, but I am committed to watching the next 3 episodes for Shannen, and Kelly's mum Jackie will be appearing next week. JACKIE! Love her!

Also, I was shocked to see a very stunning Linda Gray make an appearance. Next to Shannen, Sue Ellen is the woman who owns my heart. Kudos to the casting director on that coup!

It has occurred to me that Shannen has been in some great television movies:

The Other Lover (1985)
Freeze Frame (1992)
Obsessed (1992)
A Burning Passion: The Margaret Mitchell Story (1994)
Gone in the Night (1996)
Friends Til the End (1997)
Sleeping with the Devil (1997) -
I think this one is my favorite
The Ticket (1997)
Striking Poses (1999)
Satan's School for Girls (2000)

I'll stop there or I'll start to sound modern or something! I am thinking that I might take one month and on weekends feature a Shannen movie. Plus I've been wanting to do a comparison of the Satan School for Girls movies, both of which I liked for different reasons... I love excuses! 

So much Shannen, so little time!

At any rate, I have yet to be won over by this new version of the classic Spelling show, but many of my co-workers enjoyed it, so who knows? One man's Kelly is another man's Brenda!!!

OK, back to your regularly scheduled program.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Normally, I don't write about new television stuff, but c'mon... Shannen Doherty?!? It's all too exciting.

The new 90210 premieres 2nite! And I'm planning on being there or being square. Or maybe being there AND being square... I'm not sure...

How 'bout you?

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Stranger Within (1974)

Network: ABC

Original Air Date: October 1st, 1974


Ann Collins (Barbara Eden in one of her best roles) is an artist who discovers she’s with child even though her husband David (George Grizzard) had a vasectomy. David had the surgery because of a horribly botched pregnancy she had three years earlier. What happens afterwards is truly strange – no doctor can confirm that David’s procedure didn’t take and Ann swears she's been faithful. Then she starts acting bizarrely. She eats salt by the pound, drinks coffee to get drunk and reads entire textbooks in minutes. She takes long walks through the canyons and comes back covered in scratches only to have them disappear in a matter of seconds. She even tries twice to terminate the pregnancy only to have something stop her each time. As her condition advances (she’s only 3 months on but is somehow carrying a 7 month old fetus), things rapidly deteriorate between her and her husband as he unearths the ghastly secret behind the baby.

The Stranger Within is excellent. Sparse and claustrophobic with a knockout score by Charles Fox (Women in Chains, Dying Room Only), this movie keeps the viewer on the edge without any special effects or other contrivances normally allotted to supernatural thrillers. But make no mistake, this is no Rosemary’s Baby (another film to make use of suspense organically), even though many viewers seem to liken them. This film lacks that conspiracy angle. It does however prey on the viewer’s fears of everything from unexpected (even unwanted) pregnancies, indifferent doctors, home and personal invasion… the lot. And it does it amazingly well, with lots of thought and a true sense of dread that carries the film from the first frame to the very last.


Barbara Eden should have been one of those actresses, like Elizabeth Montgomery, that was allowed much meatier fare. This could have been Barbara’s Lizzie Borden but somehow wasn’t. It’s too bad too because such beauty and talent all in one is a rare commodity. David Doyle plays the couple’s friend Bob, an amateur hypnotist and he’s great too. In fact, the entire cast (all five of ‘em!) is fantastic in a movie that needs its characters to be consistent and strong. And the script! Adapted from his own story, Richard Matheson creates a taut, minimalist story that plays with the then-current theme of Roe vs. Wade in a fantastic yet thoughtful manner. Lee Phillips directed this film with a lush eye that makes the film feel larger than it is. 


The Stranger Within is the kind of movie that made me love made for television films of the 70s.  Excellent filmmaking on a small scale that still delivers a wallop! A must see for anyone who loves this genre.