Monday, November 28, 2011

Initiation of Sarah is on Impact on Demand!

If you have Comcast cable and you love TV movies, today is a good day! They are currently airing The Initiation of Sarah!

Impact is a great little on-demand channel that airs mostly 80s and 90s B action movies with a little soft-core erotica, comedy and horror thrown in for good measure (and obviously, some stuff from the 70s pops up as well). It's all about balance, right? I was happily surprised to see Sarah is available to an audience who may have missed it the first time around. Impact's YouTube channel wouldn't let me embed the video, but you can watch a clip preview of what they are showing this month here. And you can keep up with their schedule additions on their Facebook page.

Sarah is also streaming on Netflix as well. And you can read my review here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The People Have Spoken: TV Movies are In, In, IN!

I'm not kidding... Today just may be the official Made for TV Movie Day. I'm calling my representative.

The A.V. Club tackled the lost respect for classic television in their awesome article We Need a TCM for Television. It's mostly about series television but there is definitely some love of the oft-maligned classic TV movie. And for the record (and just in case you couldn't guess by my blog theme), I agree with every word. God bless and goodnight, right?

And as luck would have it, The New York Times, of all places also took on the world of small screen films in their article Made for TV Movies, Reborn on Cable. Sure, it's about the new, invigorated state of the made for TV movie, but there's some nice history in there, including a mention of one of my all time favorites, Seven in Darkness!

While I would prefer a return to the fun, sometimes sentimental (in all the right ways, mind you) world of TV movie horror and romance, I am thrilled beyond words to see so much attention turning to a piece of history which seemed all but forgotten.

And now I have a question, if the higher powers decided to actually give us a TCM for TV, what kind of programming would you like to see? Movies and otherwise. Please leave a comment and let me know what you want to see back on TV!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Winter Kill (1974)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: April 15th, 1974

There’s no doubt that Andy Griffith did his best to shun his good natured country boy persona by making some very interesting, and often quite dark, made for TV movies during the 70s (and of course A Face in the Crowd… I know a little bit about other movies sometimes too). He lent his performances as the bad guy some dark justice as audiences would see in both Pray for the Wildcats ("I'm a hippie with money!") and Savages (both released in 1974). In Winter Kill he returns to his more recognizable good guy shtick, but there’s not much of his signature joviality to be seen as he finds himself on the trail of a cold-blooded killer in a small, snowy mountain town.

Griffith is Sheriff Sam McNeil, an officer of the law who is caught off guard when a mysterious sniper starts picking of the locals. After each kill the menacing marauder leaves the number of the victim behind, painted in the snow or in some visible spot, and McNeil attempts to link all the victims together. In a voice over, the audience is given snippets of a diary belonging to a wide-eyed teenager named Cynthia (Elayne Heilveil). This device puts us one step ahead of the sheriff - and one step behind the killer. There is no shortage of suspects and Mayor Bickford (Eugene Roche) is hot on the heels of McNeil to catch the culprit so they can open their town to tourists without fear of losing business (It’s like Jaws on dry land with a sniper!) As the evidence begins to unfold, a serious of odd happenings also take place, and then there are a couple of twists galore! In short, my kind of flick.

Directed by ex-DGA president Jud Taylor who was a stalwart of the TV film (and served as president of his guild from 1981 – 1983), he also directed the stylish and creepy Shelly Winters TV horror flick Revenge. Winter Kill is no less stylish with its serene, snowy, small town settings which place a stark contrast on the cold blooded murders (no pun intended!). Shot mostly in Big Bear, the old school architecture of the snow town elite looks fantastic on Warner Archives DVD.

Winter Kill is an excellent film. The acting is fantastic, with lots of interesting and likable characters. Sheree North plays MacNeil’s main squeeze and the gorgeous John Calvin is his right hand man. The best performance might be Joyce Van Patten who always makes the snow just a little more icy with her bitch-perfect delivery. Lawrence Pressman, Tim O’Connor, Louise Latham, a young and studly Nick Nolte and of course, Roche, are all given some nice moments as MacNeil works his way through his population of suspects.

The opening murder scene is tense and frightening, and really sets the pace for this underrated thriller. There is a murder a little later that quickly turns into something far more devastating, in one of the slick twists.

The movie was intended to be a pilot for Griffith, and although it was not picked up, the actor repackaged it as a show called Adams of Eagle Lake, but only two episodes aired before it was replaced by The Rockford Files. He then managed to repackage this idea again (and again, it turns out!) with two more TV films. Girl in the Empty Grave and Deadly Game were both released in 1977, but no other series came of them. Grave was definitely a far more light-hearted version of Winter Kill, and if I remember correctly, a pretty fun film.

While looking up this movie I found an interesting article about how two such famous television faces – Andy Griffith and James Garner – could have such opposite results when they returned to television. This article poses the theory that Maverick and Garner aren’t that separate, while Griffith attempted to considerably alter his familiar television image, which turned off television audiences. Something to think about, eh?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Columbo is on Me TV!

I should have posted this a few weeks ago, but Me TV added Columbo to their schedule recently. It airs at 8 pm on Sunday nights, and like the tried and true Columbo fan I am, I still enjoy watching the episodes on television (even though I have most of the DVDs). I'm old school...

Anyway, Me TV has a truly fabulous schedule and if they are in your area, please check them out!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wyatt Knight (1955 - 2011)

I had wanted to wrap up my This Blog Possessed theme for Halloween and as you know, time got away once again. But once I read of the passing of Wyatt Knight, I had to set some time aside to say something.

Wyatt was best known as Tommy Turner from the Porky's series. Without question, Porky's II is the greatest teen sex comedy known to man, and part of that is because Wyatt was such a gifted actor. I actually remember the first time I laid eyes on him, because my teenage crush went into overdrive! He was funny and adorable and always great fun to watch.

While I've seen the Porky's trilogy numerous times, I only remember seeing one other performance of his, which was a brief appearance on The Waltons where he played a soldier in a 1979 episode titled The Torch. I was much older at this point, and just getting to know The Waltons for the first time via TV Land. Did my heart do an extra pitter-patter when I saw him? It sure did.

It turns out Wyatt had a pretty nice career on TV and appeared in some TV movies. Here is a list:

Murder in Texas (1981)
Dirty Work (1985)
Promised a Miracle (1988)
Those She Left Behind (1989)
Family of Spies (1990)
The American Clock (1993)
Maniac McGee (2003)

Maniac McGee was directed by Porky's director Bob Clark, who passed away in 2007.

He was also on Family Ties and Chicago Hope, among many other shows.

In the early 2000s I corresponded with Wyatt because he had made a movie with David Naughton that I was hoping to write about. I believe the film was called Rave, but never came out (and indeed, the credit has been removed from Wyatt's IMDb page). He saw that I wrote under the name Amanda by Night and joked that I should call myself Amanda by Knight, which as you can guess, made me giggle... and still does. He was always very kind in his emails, taking the time to answer my questions while throwing in a couple of jokes if he could squeeze it in. I never met Wyatt face to face, but I really treasure our brief correspondence. I was absolutely devastated when I read that the police believe Wyatt committed suicide, leaving behind a wife and two children.

The last time I corresponded with Wyatt was when Bob Clark died. He wrote to me, "There are no words." And that's pretty much all that can be said here.

RIP Wyatt. You will be missed.

Wyatt wrote and produced and starred in a short film called Stages in 2002. His co-star was Cyril O'Rielly who was also from the Porky's trilogy. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube, but here is Part One:

UPDATE (11/17/2011):

Wyatt's wife released a statement about his suicide and she said he was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-hodgkins lymphoma and had endured much pain. You can read her statement here.

I've been thinking a lot about Wyatt and his family and I just wanted to extended my deepest sympathies to his family and friends. I am so sad he is gone.