Monday, November 29, 2010

Must See Streaming Movie of the Week: The Initiation of Sarah (1978)

First things first: Thank you to Stacie at Final Girl for choosing this as the Film Club pick, and an extra big thank you to Netflix for streaming The Initiation of Sarah , which is simply a slice of TV movie paradise! For the record, my stills are from my trusty vhs print (I own the clamshell release, no less!). The streaming quality is much better! And please make sure you stop by Final Girl where you'll find links to more reviews.

As you were…

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: February 6th, 1978

I love Carrie riffs. From Jennifer to The Spell to Aenigma to, yeah, I’ll say it, even to Zapped, the put-upon-nerd-gets-revenge tale is one I hate to pass on. As a goofy teen turned slightly goofier adult, I always found a kinship with the underdog and love all films where the little guy comes out big. Even if it means the massacre of everyone on school grounds! Makes me edgy. At the same time, revenge becomes totally awesome when the bad guy is of the love-to-hate- ‘em variety. It’s one thing to watch the comeuppance of a villain, but it’s even sweeter when you find yourself cheering for their downfall. As much as I love Morgan Fairchild, I truly loathe her in her bitch-perfect portrayal of Jennifer, the beautiful sorority girl who uses tight turtlenecks and her perky little nose to hide the deep shades of black lurking within. God, I love her! Oh wait, no, I hate her! Oh, I’m so confused!

I love my stanky ho-bags!

Kay Lenz is Sarah, the shy wallflower who lives in her extroverted sister Patty’s (Morgan Brittany) shadow. Sarah is adopted and although Patty is her close confidante, she feels pretty distanced from the rest of the world. Getting into the ANS house, which is the coolest sorority on campus, would mean the sisters could stay together, but because Sarah is kind of frumpy (but has great bone structure), she also pledges at the PED house, which is where the smart, out of the loop girls hang. Unfortunately, the ANS house says PED is short for Pigs, Elephants and Dogs and their utter refusal to play nice makes them the arch enemies of nerdy girls the world over. The PEDs are led by the eccentric Mrs. Hunter (Shelly Winters), who gives off an extra weird vibe when she lets on that she knows a thing or two about Sarah’s parents. She’s also known for dabbling in witchcraft and this draws Sarah in because she’s been tangling with some secret extra sensory skills herself. Mrs. Hunter uses these powers to even the score with ANS, and Sarah becomes an unlucky pawn in a dirty game of witchcraft vs. bitchcraft.

My pet Mouse

The Initiation of Sarah has a lot going for it, and like its earlier theatrical counterpart, Carrie, it works because the downtrodden are likable and sympathetic. Tisa Farrow plays Mouse and she’s so sweet and demure and sad that you just want to take her home, wrap her in a blanket and watch Facts of Life with her. Hey, when the world never seems to be living up to you dreams…

Lenz was extremely well cast in the lead. Although it’s obvious the actress is completely gorgeous, she really embodies that shy, awkward thing that many real young women possess as they try to find their way in the cold, cruel world of college. She brings the PED girls together in a way no one had been able to, so you see there is a hidden strength that doesn’t rely on telekinesis, but her inability to keep her powers at bay make her that much more tragic.

Shelley eyes the scenery she is just about to chew!

The theme of longing and acceptance permeates many teen films, and there’s obviously a reason why we keep seeing it. The added mixture of mass slaughter is a little newer, but it only demonstrates the ugly, unharnessed power of repression. And for those of us who were always last picked for the teams during P.E., there is a bittersweet feeling of victory to be gained.

Sarah is one of the better remembered Made for TV movies of the 70s, and there is a reason why. It’s got a timeless story, the acting is tops (I love my Morgans!) and I have to say it’s aged rather well. Sure the plaid skirts might look dated, but the message of acceptance and the thrill of revenge never gets old. Maybe we should be worried about that…

The revenge will be oh-so-sweet

Read my my review of the 2006 remake at CampBlood!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Must See Streaming TV: The Facts of Life!

I usually save my Must See Streaming TV moniker for any crazy good TV movies I find online, but I was so jazzed to see Facts of Life on Hulu that I thought I'd make a special post. I do believe Facts of Life has been streaming off an on for awhile, but it was just recently I re-caught my obsession for all things Blair! There are currently 22 episodes available, but what just about sealed the deal of totally crazy awesomeness was that they are running one of my all time favorite Very Special Episodes called Runaway, which featured a young Tammy Lauren as a teenage hooker attempting to lure Tootie to the dark side!

Luring young virgins, one cup of cocoa at a time

As if her teenager-y hooker-via-Flashdance look wasn't enough, this cautionary episode is so absolutely serious that when I first saw it, I quickly learned to beware of any friendly teen with feathered hair, a rabbit fur coat and leg warmers. This may have certainly saved my life.

There's a few of the classic episodes streaming right now, but this is the only one I've been able to sit down and enjoy. I'm really looking forward to watching Fear Strikes Back, which is the infamous Natalie-dresses-like-Chaplin-and-gets-accosted episode! Good stuff indeed!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Have a Happy Waltons Thanksgiving!

I know I keep losing my horror cred whenever I get all schmaltzy, but that's part of my allure (I hope!). I love a feel-good TV special just as much as the next guy and there is nothing, I repeat, nothing, better than what the Waltons can serve - Turkeys and all! Apparently, the math of the kid's ages is all screwy so they could set the TV movie in 1963, around Kennedy's assassination, but when it comes down to it, who cares? It's the Waltons! Oh and John Boy is a reporter. Does he go by John Boy? One can only hope!

Anyway, that was just my long-winded way of saying Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Special Report: Streaming TV Movies!

I am so glad that I love to surf the net! Yesterday I was looking for information on something completely unrelated to the awesomeness I stumbled upon. There is a wonderful website called and they are streaming some pretty awesome TV movies! The set up is still a little bit scatterbrained, so let me direct you to where I found the bulk of the films. Simply go to their Drive in Movie section and scroll down to Tube Star Theater. This is where you will find the bulk of the awesomeness, including Who Killed Joy Morgan, Paper Man and Shell Game (yay!) among many others. But poke around, there's some fun stuff to found in almost every nook and cranny!

I was so thrilled to come across this site and then, things got about 1,000 times cooler when I read this press release announcing that is producing new episodes of Celebrity Bowling! I mean, I'm not so into new celebrities, but I love the idea of it! It looks like TV4u is one to watch!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yet Another Faboo Poll!

Just in case you missed it and were curious, The Night Stalker blew away the competition in last month's John Llewellyn Moxey poll! At first, it looked like Home for the Holidays might create some waves, but then the Kolchak fans came to the rescue and left the rest in the dust!

The Night Stalker is back and this month's theme is The ABC Movie of the Week! I did my best to narrow it down to the 10 I felt were the most famous and/or popular. I won't even try to guess how this one turns out! This poll runs through the entire month of November. That gives you just enough time to revisit any film you may not remember!

Beg, Borrow or Steal (1973)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: March 20, 1973

Mike Connors is Vic, a down on his luck paraplegic Vietnam veteran who hits hard times when he’s let go from a swanky security job at the local museum. He lives with Cliff (Michael Cole), who has no hands and Lester (Kent McCord), a blind man. Cliff uses mechanical hands, and with excellent dexterity I might add, but he weirds out his employers and has to jump from job to job. Only Lester has any kind of steady work, and that's a gig collecting parking money at the beach. Because Vic knows the museum and because he knows how a good security system is devised, he decides he’s going to steal some jewels from a new exhibit. He plots this caper with Cliff, and eventually (and begrudgingly), they bring Lester into their fold. The plan is definitely risky even if these guys weren’t dealing with handicaps, but they also know there’s not much ahead for them work wise. The trio had once owned a laundromat and this is their last chance to grab that dream again.

That's Ron Glass as The Heavy!

Beg, Borrow or Steal is an excellent ABC Movie of the Week that has everything from serious social commentary to a nail-biting bank heist! And they did it all in 74 minutes! The story immediately throws the viewer into the plight of the three men, yet they never make them seem pathetic. Even down on their luck, they are given a lot of dignity, brains and charisma. The most sympathy arises when Cliff is let go from his job. He’s a good worker, but once he sees “the look” in his boss' eyes, he knows he’s down for the count, and he’s resigned to it. There’s not much backstory given to the characters' time in Viet Nam, but there’s no doubt it was a horrific experience, and their survival instinct emerges in the form of an elaborate robbery!

The heist itself is the high point of the movie; it’s extremely suspenseful and seriously brilliant. While I was watching these men work their magic, I wondered how this TV movie would wrap up the story. I didn’t feel like they could make them criminals who skirt the repercussions for stealing, no matter how sympathetic the characters were. And indeed the filmmakers agreed. I thought the conclusion was probably the weakest part of the film, although I didn’t really mind the sweet and unrealistic ending. Those guys deserved a break!

Plot hatchin'!

David Lowell Rich, who had his hand in many made for TV movies (Crime Club, Satan's School for Girls), directed Beg, Borrow or Steal with a lot of heart, from a story by Paul Playdon and Grant Sims. With the minor quibble regarding the ending aside, this movie makes the characters sympathetic without pandering to their disabilities. They are also extremely likable and you’ll be totally rooting for them to get those jewels!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

All Random!

There's some really fun retro TV stuff going on right now.

Some friends of mine who are the go-to-girls for all things Jon-Erik Hexum put together a ridiculously incredible tribute site called Tenafly Guy. I suggest you stop by and click on the Making of a Male Model page, where you'll see some quotes from a review I did! Thanks ladies!

In other news (well, not really news...), a couple of weeks ago I went to the Chiller Theater con in New Jersey and got to rub elbows with the likes of Linda Gray, Larry Hagman and Roy Thinnes (Norliss Tapes, Horror at 37,000 Feet)! Of course meeting Sue Ellen has probably been the greatest achievement of my life, and I have to say, she was completely wonderful! We had a very nice chat and I said a lot of stuff like, "I love you," and "I admire you," and she managed to make it an interesting conversation anyway! I did ask her about the makeup job for The Two Worlds of Jenny Logan and she told me they had to shoot her "old lady" scenes in one day and the makeup itself took four hours! Stan Winston was brought in to do this and Linda said they put the mold on her face and did that straw in the nostril trick and she got extremely claustrophobic! I was so pleased she gave me so much info about it.

I just watched the movie and am hoping to review it soon. By the way, The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan is on DVD, so go get it now!

Fangirltastic posted some early stills from the Woman in Black remake, featuring Daniel Radcliffe looking all growed up! I'm actually pretty excited about this movie. According to the article, it's going to be fairly faithful and of course, it's produced by the revamped Hammer Studios! All of this spells rockin'!

And just because it's on my mind, does anyone else here remeber the short lived NBC soap opera called Generations? It ran from 1989 - 1991 and featurned a predominantly African American cast. I aquired six random episodes at Chiller (yes, I bought a bootleg of a soap opera at a horror con... I'm complex, you know) and just adored the pilot. The first few minutes are set up to be some of the most over-the-top antics on daytime and then we see it's really just a soap within a soap! Clever, kiddos! I wonder why this show only lasted two years? It was pretty groundbreaking stuff, and actually probably would be today as well.

Intimate Agony (1983)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: March 21st, 1983

Intimate Agony is one of those movies that seem to be begging for ridicule. I mean, it’s about an epidemic of herpes amongst the locals of an island paradise! However, there are two things about this movie that kept me from putting on my Mock Hat: 1. It’s actually a very well made and acted piece of film and 2. It harkens back to a time when the worst sexual disease we had to worry about was herpes. Dreaded at the time, it felt like a death sentence and Intimate Agony came out right before the woes of the then-unknown killer HIV began making headlines. Although this film is often of work of morbid fantasy (a herpes epidemic at a resort?) and takes every possible ugly situation and uses it for dramatic purposes, it’s still a time capsule that takes a rather straight faced and often moving look at the last of our sexual innocence. Didn’t expect me to get so serious, did you?

Harmon making the moves!

Anthony Geary is Dr. Kyle Richards, an up and coming medical rebel who takes a job at a tropical tourist hot spot for the summer. He runs into his old friend Tommy (Mark Harmon with a silly machismo-laden mustache), who is the local tennis instructor and town stud. He’s only interested in one thing and if you’re not willing to put it out, he wants you to get out. There are some other unrelated locals as well, such as the na├»ve and pretty Katy (Cindy Fisher) whose father, Dave (Robert Vaughn), runs the show on the island. Her parents are all about what it looks like rather than how it actually is, which until now hasn’t bothered Katy one bit. There is also Nick (Brian Kerwin) who is working on the island for the summer and he’s brought his very pregnant wife (Lori Lethin) with him. And there’s Judith Light who is a single mother working as a waitress, and constantly turning down Tommy. Although not connected in any substantial way for the most part, each one of these characters will be deeply affected by their new disease.

Melodrama at its best!

Intimate Agony is an effective film. I know it gets some flack because, let’s face it, anything made in the 80s always meets some sort of “ironic” antagonism and because the premise is admittedly pretty out there. Yet, I found it to be moving. It’s full of swinging singles (and some swinging marrieds!) in discos, on tennis courts and just about any place a swinging single should be located. If HIV had never happened, maybe this movie would seem more absurd but as it stands, it’s a very bittersweet film about a devastation that was soon to become not so devastating. Anthony Geary is fantastic as the doctor trying to contain the virus as it spreads to his friends and strangers and Mark Harmon is great as the superficial hot guy who has to let go of the one thing that gave him any kind of sense of self. I also really liked Cindy Fisher as the teenager whose life comes to a complete stop and, to top it off, the pregnancy storyline with Lori Lethin almost made me cry. I know, call me Softie! I thought the subject matter was very well handled and of course at the time, this hot button topic was making some serious waves. I distinctly remember an Afterschool Special called A Very Delicate Matter where they wouldn’t even use the word herpes, because back then it was just too controversial. At the time most sexually transmitted diseases were referred to as V.D. on the tele, regardless of the severity of it.

Maybe I should have said something, I dunno, maybe nine months ago...

It’s always interesting to see prime time movies featuring a lot of daytime soap actors. This type of melodrama, which was so popular back then, is perfectly suited for this type of acting style. It’s engaging, even if it’s sometimes a little over the top. There’s an art form there, one I find truly underrated, and Intimate Agony is a good example of why melodrama is so compelling.

According to my all time favorite book Movies Made for Television by Alvin H. Marill, Intimate Agony was originally called Lovesick the Herpes Story. I think it’s safe to say that this review might have been slightly different had they kept that title!