Saturday, January 31, 2009

Three On a Date (1978)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: February 17th, 1978

Two of my favorite television formulas mixed and matched in Three on a Date: The game show and star studded one hour episodics like Love Boat! Seriously, does it get any better than that?!? It’s a rhetorical question, but feel free to yell out “No, it doesn’t!” if that gives you some closure.

Good god!

Three on a Date
, a whimsical little romance comedy, takes several contestants from The Dating Game and puts them on a chaperoned trip to Hawaii with hapless production assistant Stephanie Barrington (Forbesy Russell, quite possible the greatest name ever!). Real life game show host Geoff Edwards plays… a game show host! He’s only at the beginning, but as you know, I’m coming hot off the heels of my Hawtest Game Show Hosts list, so I was pleased to see I had chosen to watch a movie about game shows featuring a hawt game show host (regardless of whether or not he made the list)!

The couples are all odd matches indeed – pin-up Loni Anderson and nerdy comedy writer John Byner, ordinary secretary Meredith McCrae and famous heartthrob Patrick Wayne (whoa! Now this guy is HAWT!), down-home charismatic writer Ricky Nelson and shy Didi Conn and freewheeling June Allyson and uptight Ray Bolger are all fixed up and sent out on a trip full of hijinks and guffaws! The plane, which is actually two floors (question: did those ever actually exist?) features a runway show for hot new bikinis! OK, so we’re about 20 minutes in and we have an actual game show host and a fashion show! Oh, and I almost forgot… Gary Crosby as a potential bad guy.

At this point, I decided heaven does exist!

A fashion show on a double-decker plane! Brilliant!

From losing luggage to luaus to Loni’s apparent abduction, this movies is fun, fun, FUN! I loved every second of it. A lighthearted, capricious goodtime, Three on a Date is meant to be nothing more than fluffy romance and scores at just about every turn. The great Bill Bixby directed this sweet little ditty with effortless flair. The jokes don’t always work, but do most of the time, which is more than you can say about a lot of romantic comedies (yeah, I’m talking to you Maid in Manhattan!). And aside from that, Three on a Date presents really likeable characters who are fun to watch and who you will find yourself rooting for. Maybe because this movie was based on the autobiographical book by Stephanie Buffington, there’s a lot of thought given to the characters and what could have been a bunch of cardboard sketches (the pin-up, the actor, the shy girl…) ends up being much more.

Come to mama!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dead of Night (1977) and then some!

Network: NBC
Original Air Date: March 29th, 1977

With the release of Dark Night of the Scarecrow later this year (fingers crossed!), and this release of Dead of Night on DVD today, the made for TV movie genre is getting some well deserved love. These choices are stellar. Dark Night is arguably one of the greatest achievements in the history of TV horror movies. Dead of Night might not ever receive as heady of an honor, but it is a wonderful anthology film that is both fun and terrifying. And if that ain’t some kind of icing on your cake, the DVD also comes with a second bonus feature, the pilot Dead of Night: Darkness at Blaisedon. YAY!

Dead of Night is an unofficial sequel to Trilogy of Terror, which we all know is not only one of the best made for TV horror films of the 70s, but also features one of the scariest mofos this side of, uh, Bubba from Dark Night of the Scarecrow (funny how that film keeps popping up)! Dan Curtis handled the direction for both anthologies, and he brought back Matheson, who penned the Zuni Fetish doll segment Amelia in Trilogy. Let's face it, Curtis and Matheson are like peanut butter and chocolate. Yeah, you know it – two great tastes that taste great together!

Like Trilogy, Dead of Night features two good - but not great - stories, with the third bringing on a gut-punch of a finale. This time, instead of a crazed, possessed voodoo doll, we’ve got an innocent child named Bobby. Uh, OK, maybe not so innocent, as we will soon find out!

But what of the first two films, you ask? Well, Second Chance stars Ed Begley Jr. as a fan of old roadsters who fixes up an antique car so good, it takes him back to the year the automobile was first manufactured – 1926! Now that’s a grand restoration! This is a non-horror fantasy tale about fate and it’s clever, if not overly memorable.

The second story, titled There’s No Such Thing as Vampires features a scared-witless Anjanette Comer as a possible buffet for the local bloodsucker. Her husband (Patrick Macnee) is a man of science trying to solve a mystery that is surely most un-scientific before his wife completely succumbs to this vamp. He calls upon one of his colleagues and things turn deadly. Besides Macnee and Comer, this short also features the wonderful character actor Elisha Cook. Also, this segment is an adaptation Matheson did from his own short story. Another fun, slightly flamboyant short.

Then we hit Bobby, or rather Bobby hits us! With his brass knuckles! Bobby stars the incredible Joan Hackett as a grieving mother who raises her child from the dead, only to find that he’s not exactly the same. Two actors, one set, minimal special effects and a wow-bang-punch finale! Awesomeness ensues. To say more would ruin what is sure to be an amazing discovery if you haven’t already seen this terrifying short.

The coup de grace of the DVD though is the spectacular extra feature, which was co-written by Mr. Curtis. A fun shot-on-video pilot which originally aired on ABC on August 26th, 1969, Dead of Night: Darkness at Blaisedon has some great Dark Shadows vibing along with a few truly suspenseful moments. Marj Dusay is Angela, the lovely lady who inherits a haunted mansion and who also finds out that she’s a medium. She hires two parapsychologists, the studly Seth (Thayer David) and his partner Sajid (Cal Bellini), and together they uncover the dark secrets of Blaisedon. Damn, I love this stuff!

Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you are already aware of and are a fan of Dan Curtis’ work. If you’re not and this is all new to you – well, first of all I’m jealous – Dead of Night is a great way to discover the master at work.
Read another review of Dead of Night at Kindertrauma

Read more about Dan Curtis at Kindertrauma

Also, check out the latest issue of Rue Morgue magazine which features a great look back at Curtis’ career as told by his fellow friend and cohort, William F. Nolan

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Top Five Totally Hawt Game Show Hosts!

Although I loved watching them as a kid, it hasn’t been until recently that I really came to understand the great-googily-moogily-goodness of game shows. They are, in my opinion, the most interactive way to watch television. Guaranteed you’ll hear me screaming “Higher!” or “Lower!” when watching a good luck of the draw on Card Sharks. I can’t help it. It’s also one of the best ways to look at how people really looked in the 70s and 80s. Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love Kate Jackson’s turtlenecks, but seeing real people in bell bottoms with feathered hair is really the best taste of the way it was.

And let’s face it, a lot of game show hosts had it goin’ on! Besides wooing me with their groovy three piece suits, these hosts also had to exude a likability that actors didn’t. They had to make you like the person they were – not the character they were portraying, they had to be able to set the contestants at ease, and most importantly, they had to have a love of the game. Maybe that’s why there just aren’t a ton of hosts. Many of the most popular ones moved from game show to game show because they had a quality that few possessed. If that doesn’t up their machismo factor, then nothing does!

So, I humbly present the Top Five Hottest Game Show Hosts (and a little bit on why I adore them!):

5. Bill Cullen (1920 -1990): OK, maybe Mr. Cullen isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you hear the word “hawt”. But may I present these facts: Cullen was born with polio so he walked with a limp. He wore coke bottle glasses and sported pock marks from acne scars. He also loved a good pun. And my friend, he has hosted more game shows than any other host in the history of games shows (My fave being Blockbusters)! In short, he’s the American Dream. He overcame just about every odd someone could throw at a guy looking to be on television, and he became the number one most successful person at it. And to top it off, he came across as a sincere, likeable fellow. Therefore – hot. And that picture of him in the potatoes just makes me smile!

4. Bob Eubanks (1938 - ) & Jim Perry (1933 - ): This was a tough one, so I decided to make it a tie (confession: I just really wanted to add Bill Cullen cuz I love him so damn much!). Both Eubanks and Perry hosted Card Sharks in their different incarnations (as well as Bill Rafferty), but obviously Eubanks is most famous for ringleading the Newlywed Game, and for saying “Makin’ Whoopee!” I love that guy. Jim Perry is best known to me for Card Sharks. And for being Canadian. His version of CS, which ran from 1978 – 1981 had to have the greatest theme song ever! Anyway, Jim is also referred to as “Big Jim” because he’s over 6’ 4” tall! Both men seemed to put the contestants at ease and often made cute jokes while reading the questions. And Bob made silly faces! I guess I like that…

3. Chuck Woolery (1941 - ): The original “two and two” guy hosted a show I never thought of as a real game show, but it is one indeed. Love Connection, which has over 2,000 episodes (!) to its credit, featured people from all walks of life looking for love on the small screen. Love Connection was absolutely hilarious, thanks to some candid revelations from the contestants and of course, Chuck’s honest to goodness reactions to some of the more spirited dates! He found so many things odd and interesting and often took sides, while remaining a complete gentleman. Oh, and he’s hot.

2. Richard Dawson (1932 - ): Dawson is the quintessential suave guy. Charming and brimming with debonair style, he was never at a loss for words, always respected those he spoke to and had a genuine interest in people (mostly women judging by all the kissing he did on Family Feud!). He instantly put folks at ease on Match Game and his own show, Family Feud. He even went on to marry a contestant! Dawson may have started off an actor (Hogan’s Heroes) but the sexiest role he ever played was as himself.

1. Bert Convy (1933 – 1991): If you have ever stopped by my blog, you may have noticed I have a slight crush on Mr. Convy. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. I grew up watching Bert as an actor and a host. I think my fondest memories come from the days he hosted Win, Lose or Draw, but since I’ve been catching up on my Super Passwords, I’m finding that the honestly hilarious Convy always exuded an indefatigable charm that often made him more interesting than the game itself. He was also king of the goofs, constantly messing up the game, and sometimes even forgetting what he was doing! This clip may well be his shining moment, proving that he could roll with the silliest of circumstances, guaranteeing to make even the dourest of viewers smile (and Rip Taylor helps too!):

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Catching Up!

                                                              All this and I'm catching up on my reading too!

Yo! I’ve been really busy with work and things and just haven’t had much time to dedicate to my blog. I have a couple of new articles up on other sites and hope to get back to it on Made for TV Mayhem. For now, check out these links:

I have a new review for my Lifetime Kills column at Pretty Scary. This time I review Sex & Lies in Sin City

Also, in celebration of the release of My Bloody Valentine 3D, I have a list of the Top Ten Horror Remakes at Horror Yearbook. It’s all controversial and stuff.

As for MBV 3D, well read Neal Penaflor’s review at HYB. I’d say I mostly agree… A fairly meh film all dressed up in updated technology. Harry Warden, you let me down.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Howling in the Woods (1971)

Network: NBC
Original Air Date: November 5th, 1971

Much like Barbara Eden's other suspense thriller The Stranger Within, the set up in A Howling in The Woods creates an agonizing build to a strong climax. Perhaps it's not the wow-punch-kill of a lot of faster paced films, but fans of the TV movie format will not be disappointed in this superb chiller.

Eden is Liza Crocker, successful fashion artist by day, unhappy housewife by night. She escapes the drudgery of her big city life and heads out to her father's old hotel where he lives with is new-ish wife Rose (Vera Miles - those cheekbones!) and her son Justin (John Rubinstein). Dad's gone away on a hunting trip but Rose is more than happy to give Liza a place to sleep & think. And Liza would think if she could get passed the cold shoulder the town she grew up in is throwing at her. And if she could get that dog to quit howling.

The most innocent victim

Things have certainly changed in this town. Seems there's one big doozy of a secret that they are not willing to let out, and some of the townspeople will do anything - even murder - to make sure it stays a secret.

Expertly crafted by Daniel Petrie (Sybil), A Howling in the Woods is small screen suspense at its best. The elements are all there, along with the clues. I won't lie, you don't have to be a Mensa member to figure out the secret, but the film is played out in such a way that you will either get swept up in the story and forget to try to figure it out, or you will simply find the build up good enough to justify a semi-predictable ending.

Look at that hat! So fab!

I've said this several times before, so why not say it again? Barbara Eden is a fantastic dramatic actress. She proved herself ten times over with this and Stranger. She also has that sophisticated style that I envy so much. This girl looks good in anything! She even wears culottes and owns them, you know?

John Rubinstein is great as Justin. He appeared in a lot of TV movies and always brought a sense of fun to his parts. I think my favorite role is still in Killjoy, but I liked his hair better here! He just did the mommy complex better in the other one. Larry Hagman co-stars as Eden's maybe-soon-to-be-ex, which was a clever little bit casting, but not just because he was her "Master" just a few years earlier in I Dream of Jeannie, but because the two have such a sweet rapport together. They also appeared in a couple of episode of Dallas. I mean, why let go of such a good thing?

Oh, to run my fingers through that!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Friendships, Secrets & Lies (1979)

Network: NBC
Original Air Date: December 3rd, 1979

Friendships is a definite precursor to Lifetime movies, but like even before Lifetime was a twinkle in cable TV’s eyes. Even before cable was a twinkle in cable’s eyes. I mean, maybe it’s the movie that inspired television for women. In fact, Friendships does it one better by featuring a cast with no men. Not one. Nada. Of course, these women talk endlessly about men, and basically about how the male species is the reason for their downfall. Yup, total Lifetime. And I love it!

An old college sorority house is being demolished to make way for a new building. During construction the bones of a baby are unearthed. Nosey reporter Jessie (Sandra Locke looking great!) decides to make this tragic unsolved crime an issue of Pro-Choice. With a bit of poking around she is able to pin down the one summer that the murder most likely took place. This particular summer there were only six sorority sisters and a housemother living there, including Sondra’s co-worker Martha (Cathryn Damon of SOAP). The women (and housemother, who is now a maid for one of the sisters!) reunite and through the broken and unbroken bonds, they uncover the mystery behind the baby’s death.

Crack whore Prentiss ruing kids across the land!

Although it’s stated part way through Friendships that these women hadn’t been together since college, a good portion of them are seen hanging out at the beauty parlor gossiping and avoiding any real work at the beginning of the film. Weren’t the 70s grand?

Friendships has a lot on its plate. Each of the six women has ended up leading lives they’d never dreamed of living. Pretty much left destitute emotionally (thanks to what else? Men, of course - well, one of them is a lesbian), they all accuse each other of aborting the baby during a time when women weren’t left with much options regarding an unwanted pregnancy.

Friendships is a rather clumsy attempt at presenting an important opinion. The premise is interesting, but there are so many soap opera antics going that the main point kind of gets all lost in the drinking and cavorting and arguing. But really, I didn’t want a movie with strong political message. I just wanted some drama and maybe a bit of suspense, and I got it. One of the directors, Marlena Laird was most famous for directing General Hospital in the 80s. I should also note this film was co-directed by another woman named Ann Zane Shanks and written by Joanna Crawford based on a book titled The Walls Came Tumbling Down which was written by Babs H. Deal. Talk about solidarity. I admire that a film tackling women issues with an all female cast was penned and filmed by women. That’s putting your money where your mouth is!

Even a brutalized Stella Stevens can't look bad!

The entire cast, which includes Loretta Switt, Shelly Fabares, Tina Louise and Paula Prentiss among others is in fine form with the sometimes hackneyed storytelling. Louise is particularly incredible as the crazed widowed housewife who finds out one of her sorority sisters was schtupting her old man. Prentiss, who is normally gorgeous, looks like a crack fiend and kind of acts like one! Her character is the most grating and I kept wishing she’d been the one they found under the house (ye-ouch!). Switt plays the lady who loves having babies, Stevens is the one who gets beat up by her husband and Fabares rounds out the cast as the token lesbian. It’s kind of obvious, but you know a woman in a smart suit could just be pragmatic, right? And actually her “coming out” scene is dealt in a progressive manner.

Damon is of course fantastic as is Sandra Locke, whose character is the catalyst for blowing the whole ordeal out of proportion. She turns the issue into a pro-women’s rights issue which is what draws all the women together and inevitably outs many long kept secrets. The reveal is not all that revealing but a good choice which helps cement the idea that even the most together of women can make one simple mistake.

The mistake of LOVE.

I know, I love a good dramatic build up!

The beautiful Cathryn Damon being beautiful!