Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It was a Good Idea at the Time...

Thank you Unkle Lancifer for directing me to this fun article at Den of Geek called 10 Films That Seemed Better When I was a Kid. The TVMs The Intruder Within and Starflight One (aka Starflight: The Plane That Couldn't Land) made the list! I have to admit, I haven't seen either of these films, so I can't comment on whether or not it is better to watch them in the more formative years, but I always love seeing TVMs getting a mention.

Although I love Gargoyles I think it is a film that is helped greatly if a re-viewing is attached to childhood memories.

Can you think of any TVMs that fall into this category?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dark Night of the Scarecrow has Been Nominated for a Rondo!

Apparently, this Rondo nomination happened awhile ago, but you have until the 27th to vote for Dark Night of the Scarecrow, which has been nominated for Best Commentary and Best Restoration! Please follow the links within to cast your vote! I'm so glad that not only did Scarecrow get its well deserved DVD release but it's also getting a ton of love! Yay!

Also, check out Christian Seller's review of Trapped, which is that crazy little James Brolin TVM where he battles a pack of guard dogs! I should write about this one myself ... Oh I did! Here's a link to the capsule review I wrote for Camp Blood! I had mostly negative words for it, so I really do need to revisit it and see if my opinion has changed.

As you were.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Are You in the House Alone? (1978)

Network: CBS Original
Air Date: September 20th, 1978

Randy Stumpf, where are you? I know him best as Andy, Billy’s sleazy co-worker in Silent Night, Deadly Night, but Randy was all over the airwaves in the 70s and early 80s. I just watched him on the first episode of The Brady Brides and I also remember seeing his mug in several other shows. According to IMDb, Deadly Night was Randy’s last foray into world of celluloid, and goshdarnit, I kind of miss that lug. Like, I didn’t know I missed him until I revisited this awesome little potboiler, but I do.

That's Mr. Stumpf next to Mr. Quaid! I could just die!

Randy is E.K. Miller in Are You in the House Alone, and he’s red herring #1 or #2, depending on how you list your red herrings. Too obvious to truly consider him a potential rapist, he’s still got that sleaze thing down pat. He’s the one you love to hate. The other red herring just oogs you out. Big difference. OK, so let me get to the plot here. The beautifully petite and buxom Kathleen Beller is Gail Osborne, a fun and studious teenager who has been looking for love in all the wrong places. E.K. is one of her exes and he’s pretty pissed that he’s no longer a current. When she hooks up with the gorgeous Steve (Scott Colomby from the Porky’s series) E.K. gets pretty indignant. But Gail’s got worse problems. Someone is stuffing creepy notes into her locker and these "love letters" are followed by disturbing phone calls. Gail reaches out in different ways to the principal (Ellen Travolta!), her parents (Tony Bill and Blythe Danner) and even her BFF Allison (Robin Mattson), but they all suggest she simply ignore it. Eventually everyone will come to regret that advice, and Gail’s eventual assault comes with a heavy price for everyone.

I said a large pizza and please hold the psycho, thanks.

Are You in the House Alone is based on a young adult novel by Richard Peck, and while the adaptation (written by Judith Parker) does indeed have an Afterschool Special tinge to it, the underlying message is rather empowering. Gail’s assault, triumph over adversity and the crafty way which she catches her rapist seem rather fresh, considering the 70s was a decade where women were still being held as accountable in the crime as their attacker (A Case of Rape is a great example of this problem). Things don’t come out exactly as good-beats-down-evil, but it does encourage women to own their lives instead of giving it up to fear.

You are, like, early Johnny Depp to me

I don’t know why, but House is often put into the horror genre, and sometimes it’s even narrowed down more into the slasher sub-genre. While what happens to Gail is certainly horrific, there’s not much in the way of true horror here. What we’ve actually got is a solid thriller with lots of build up and a nice payoff thanks to director Walter Grauman's sense of pacing. The cast is amazing, and a young Dennis Quaid really stands out. Between this and Seniors, he was, like, the hottest thing the 70s saw. I’m telling you, he’s got star written all over him! I’ve always adored Scott Colomby and he’s really giggle-worthy here and a great match with Gail. Of course Randy is the perfect sleazeball - I am seriously in love with that guy. The relationships in House are really strong, whether it is Gail and her teachers, Gail and her parents or Gail and her friends. There’s a genuine sense of closeness and safety in her life that makes the attack that much more brutal, and in TV land less has to be more. The only real issue I had was accepting Tony Bill playing a father with a teenage daughter. Seriously, wasn't he the mid 20s-ish studly teaching assistant in The Initiation of Sarah (which also aired in 1978)? Crazy. Oh yeah and that weird photography class where Gail is forced to act sexy in front of the camera is just plain creepy.

There's always someone lighting up Gail's life...

While I don’t remember seeing the original airing, I did catch House a couple of times on TBS in the early 90s and loved it. I remember really enjoying it when I revisited it in the early 2000s, around the time I was reigniting my love of TV movies. And now, after almost another 10 year time span, I still really appreciate this taut little thriller. It works not just because I love that “Have you checked the children?” scenario but also because it’s really well put together. The story is intriguing and I really like the way it all plays out. Beller made a few good TV movies, including No Place to Hide (1981) and Deadly Messages (1985), before she walked away from films to raise her children with her husband Thomas Dolby! How cool is that? Anyway, she is greatly missed. She was always instantly likable and had a true girl next door appeal. Kathleen is perfectly cast here in a movie that has actually been making the rounds online and even on television. Currently, it’s part of Netflix’s Instant Streaming section and it’s also been streaming on Hulu for what seems like forever. And it's shown up on This TV and Encore on Demand. If you love TV movies, and you haven’t seen this, there is really no excuse not to visit it, so let’s get going, K?

And one more plea: Come back Randy. Do it for the ladies...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Listen to Me Talk About TV Movies

Catch me this Saturday, the 19th at 8 pm EST on the Movies About Girls podcast. This podcast supports the super cool Movies About Girls blog (btw, this site is definitely not safe for work). Even cooler is their new sister blog TV Shows About Girls. The topic will be one of the most far-out chick flicks of the 70s small screen, A Vacation in Hell, so I'm really looking forward to discussing all things Priscilla Barnes!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When Michael Calls (1972)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: February 5th, 1972

Small town. Halloween. Creepy phone calls. Dead kid. Now that's a recipe for success!

Based on the novel by John Farris (who would go on to write the screenplay for The Fury), the setting and premise of When Michael Calls may seem fairly trite by today’s “let’s make a music video” standards, but the more traditional horror films tended to rely heavily on meticulous pacing and mood. The premise for Michael sets up what may or may not be a tale of the supernatural and the second half falls into somewhat predictable territory, but the old-school atmosphere makes up for the little kinks in an otherwise solid little thriller.

Michael? You are one creepy kid.

Ben Gazzara is the unfortunately named Doremus Connelly. He is also unfortunately divorced from Helen (Elizabeth Ashley with a cute Klute-ish haircut), as it’s obvious that he still longs for his ex. Doremus is a decent guy and a good father who finds a way back into Helen’s life when she starts receiving disturbing phone calls from her nephew Michael…

Oh, did I mention Michael died 15 years ago?


The voice on the other end of Helen’s calls is odd. It is obviously meant to sound like a little boy and I’m not sure it was the filmmaker’s intention or not, but it’s got a real fake quality to it. However, it’s that phony intonation which make the calls seem that much more disturbed. The fact that Michael calls Helen “Auntie-My-Helen,” also adds a real sense of creepy closeness between dead kid and disturbed aunt.

Smoking and rotary phones. Those were the days!

Director Phillip Leacock had a rocky TV movie career. He’s the man behind the excellent suspense Dying Room Only, but he also helmed the not-so-good Baffled that same year. He seemed more at ease with claustrophobic potboilers and he creates a grand amount of ambiance here, with dark, windy nights and those eerie phone calls. He’s also aided by an excellent cast, including those mentioned and a young Michael Douglas proving that I think men in glasses should make passes… at girls like me! Yes, he’s super cute here in this movie which premiered just a few months before he became a household name on Streets of San Francisco. However, the most interesting person involved in Michael would have to be James Bridges, who adapted the script from the novel. Bridges was a powerhouse in Hollywood through much of the 70s and 80s and wrote and directed such films as The China Syndrome (also starring Douglas) and the incredible Urban Cowboy! He also wrote and directed one of my favorite 80s flicks, Perfect. Seriously. I could watch Jamie Lee Curtis work out all day. The original novelist would get into film himself and his directorial debut and swan song was the incredible Dear, Dead Delilah, a movie that is often considered to be a made for TV movie (it isn’t), showing he had some interesting small screen-like chops.


While never gory, which is the case with most TV movies, there are a couple of surprising murder scenes, and the set ups are fantastic. I also loved the small town and slightly depressed feel, and the idea that a school for disturbed children is just down the road only adds to the thick atmosphere of dread.

This ABC Movie of the Week actually got a DVD release under the name Shattered Silence, although the quality is rather questionable. There are some fairly affordable vhs copies available at Amazon and it was recently shown on Fox Movie Channel (sometime last year), so keep your eyes peeled! You definitely want Michael to call on you!

A New Lizzie Borden Movie!

I came across some news on Fangirltastic regarding a new take on The Legend of Lizzie Borden, which is undeniably one of the greatest small screen achievements of the 70s. Chloe Sevigny (Big Love) has been cast as the removed and creepy Lizzie. I have not seen Big Love, but check out this photo:

She looks pretty darn perfect for the part! Chloe was amazing in Boys Don't Cry and The Last Days of Disco and I think she's been well cast here. Tom Hanks is one of the producers and the project is being made for HBO. It is still in development but it looks like the expected release date is sometime in 2012 and will be a mini-series.

The Legend of Lizzie Borden captivated a generation with its methodical pacing and an eerie and absolutely brilliant performance by Liz Montgomery. This project looks like it's going to be a good attempt at capturing the story for a new generation. And who knows, maybe it will spark a much-needed DVD release of the original. While I don't think much could compare with the 70s version (which is TV movie royalty as far as I'm concerned), I feel like this project is in great hands and I'm really looking forward to catching it next year!

Monday, March 7, 2011

One More Link for the Road

I have a new review up at Fangirltastic! I watched (and wrote about) the B-movie-gender-bending-Dirty-Harry-rip-off Sudden Death. It's actually way more Death Wish, but I guess no one was around to tell 'em. It's actually a pretty good little 80s revenge flick.

I'm also smack dab in the middle of mid-terms but hope to be back and blogging next week during Spring Break! Sure, some people hit Ft. Lauderdale and drink til their blood turns to tequila, but I'll be watching TV movies and figuring out how Stefanie Powers gets just the right amount of poof in her hair! Hey, it's how I roll...