Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Cradle Will Fall (1983)

Network: CBS
Original Air Date: May 24th, 1983

I discovered The Cradle Will Fall at some point in the mid-80s when I was officially in lust with Ben Murphy. I think it came on the afternoon movie and the second I saw his name in the credits I grabbed a bag of microwave popcorn and hit the couch but hard! The other plus was that although I was a gawky teenager, I was already developing a knack for slick thrillers with sophisticated ladies in high-powered positions. It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to work for the District Attorney's office like the main character in this, but I did want to wear some of those clothes. And of course, I longed for a boyfriend that would be equally as professional, and hopefully as adorable as Mr. Murphy. We’d enjoy a glass of wine in our downtime and the screen would fade to black just before…

Yes, my fantasies were totally PG.

But back to the movie. I was instantly enamored with the premise, which involved an ambitious and chic attorney named Kathy DeMaio (Lauren Hutton). She’s smart, sexy and great with the last word - at least in the courtroom. Her personal life isn’t quite as fruitful. Kathy is a recent widow and hesitant to get too involved with Dr. Richard Carroll (Ben Murphy), a medical examiner who she often works with. Aside from losing her husband, Kathy is also haunted by her father’s death and suffers debilitating nightmares while also harboring a pretty mean dislike of hospitals. This is a problem since she suffers from severe dizziness and blackouts, which, of course, tend to occur at the most inopportune moments - like when she’s driving. She ends up in the dreaded hospital after an accident and dreams of her father’s death. In a trance-like state she sleepwalks to the hospital window just as Dr. Highly (James Farentino) is stuffing a body into the trunk of his car. And the thrills begin.

Dr. Highly is an insane jerk with a total God complex, giving depressed older women some kind of serum intended to help the vain maintain their youth. It wreaks havoc on Vangie Lewis (Deborah Mooney), a once stunning 40-something who is now bloated from the serum and unable to conceive the child she so desperately desires. When she threatens to expose Highly he kills her and attempts to make it look like a suicide. Now he thinks he’s been caught in the act by Kathy and the rest of the film is basically a cat and mouse chase, except the mouse has no idea she’s being stalked.

Based on the 1980 bestselling novel b Mary Higgins Clark, Cradle is a good, sophisticated thriller with Hutton putting in yet another strong performance on the small screen. She is probably best known to TV movie fans for her performance in the underrated John Carpenter tele-film Someone’s Watching Me! and she brings that same likable persona to this film. The entire cast is good, but really it’s about the small screen trifecta of Hutton, Murphy and Farentino, all of whom possess great charm. Doris Belack, who plays Highly’s annoying and somewhat drunkard of a secretary, is also a standout as the woman who doesn’t know that she knows too much. You will also see a young William H. Macy (credited as W.H. Macy) in an early role as Richard's sidekick. James Farentino was drawn to his “mad-scientist” character because he felt it went against type for the handsome actor. In an interview to promote Cradle he said he was fit with green contact lenses that let just enough of the natural brown color through and “that gave it an interesting feeling.” Farentino also said he sought to infuse sincerity into his portrayal, and indeed Highly comes across as a charismatic and somewhat professional lunatic.

Cradle is a bit of an anomaly because the film features six characters from the daytime drama Guiding Light peppered throughout the film. The six actors reprising their roles were: Charita Bauer, Carolyn Ann Clark, Joe Ponazecki, Elvera Rousell, Peter Simon and Jerry ver Dorn (I would come to love Jerry later when he played Clint Buchanan on One Life to Live from 2005 - 2012). While the film was shot in Nashville, it takes place in GL’s fictional hometown of Springfield, and their hospital is featured prominently. The actual hospital was the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which was under renovation at the time of shooting, allowing for some of the more creepy locales. To make the crossover even more interesting, Murphy actually did three episodes of Guiding Light as his character from Cradle to promote the movie! Farnetino was also asked to do a little work in the daytime drama but in an interview the actor remarked, “I said I would do it if I could direct one show. I thought that would be a perfect opportunity for me to break in as a director. I had also asked for a lot of money, knowing I could say forget the money and let me direct. They said 'we’ll pay the money but we won’t let you direct.'” Farentino never ended up on Guiding Light and Murphy’s scenes seem lost to us now. I find both of these facts sad.

Many tele-films utilized daytime stars to garner viewers, such as with the small screen slasher Fantasies, or the melodramatic TV movie Woman on the Ledge, but this is the only character crossover I’m familiar with. There was a 2004 remake of Cradle which had no soap connections and starred Angie Everhart. It is available on DVD while the original lingers in that unfortunate vhs limbo.

For more images of The Cradle Will Fall, please visits this image gallery, which is featured on Ben Murphy's website.
A promo still of Murphy and Ver Dorn for Guiding Light:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Review at Retro Slashers!

After a nasty hacking, Retro Slashers is finally back up and my newest review is for the TV movie Isn't it Shocking? This awesome little movie topped a list I made of TV Movies that need a DVD release.  And I meant it! Anyway, please stop by RS and enjoy the review and all the other slasher-ific content that is just waiting for you!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dallas 2012: Hot Stuff!

The word is out: Dallas gets a big thumbs up! At least these two fans gave it the green light. I’d like to thank Caffeinated Joe and Chad for taking the time to put some thoughts to word doc for me. I, too, have seen the new Dallas, so I’ll throw in my two cents at the end, but seriously, these guys said everything I was thinking.


Beware: Minor Spoilers

Caffeinated Joe: 

My wife, my kids and I recently watched the first two episodes of the new TNT Dallas. I have to say we loved it! My daughter is coming at this from the point of view of a newbie, she has never seen an episode of the original series. She loved it, she was scared of J.R. and she thought the theme was imposing and epic. Wow! And those reactions are from this new Dallas!

My wife and I watched the original show back in its heyday and were just as pleased with this new take. Bobby is the same old good guy we have always loved, trying to do the right thing by his family, even by his scoundrel of a brother. And J.R. is slowed down and not on top - right now at least - but you can see the dastardly glint in his eye. He does not like being played for the fool and John Ross and the fake Marta have both done that - look out! Good to see Sue Ellen, too, even if she didn't have too much to do. Hope she does in the future. Even great to see Ray and Lucy at the wedding, hope there are more visits from other past cast members in the future, especially Cliff Barnes and "his" company, Ewing Oil! (Amanda By Night note: You will definitely see Cliff!)

Christopher and John Ross are also characters we knew and loved in the old show, even if they are played by new actors. These recasts aren't jarring, since the previous actors in those roles were basically kids. We can accept that these two are what those kids grew up to be. Love how they mirror their fathers, even if they aren't consciously trying to do so. The young ladies are good as the romantic interests for the boys, even if they are both kind of model-pretty and similar. Interested to see what Rebecca and her brother are up to! Lastly, Ann is a great wife for Bobby. She is not a victim or a wallflower, but comes across as an equal to him, and also comes across as a great mistress of the manor, the role Miss Ellie played for years at Southfork.

Seeing the family at Southfork is also a big plus. This was the setting for so much of the drama, I truly hope Bobby has a change of heart and keeps the ranch in the Ewing family. So, obviously I am happy with the "remake/retake/continuation" of the Ewing saga. If the quality holds up like these two episodes, I am sure we are all in for another long ride with our favorite Texas family!

Chad Williamson: 

So many things to say about Dallas!!! I'll start with the opening. It doesn't have the wonderful "3 Panel" opening that used to start the show, but it does use the traditional theme song with cityscape views of Dallas. Interesting new opening, which I kind of liked, but I did wish that they had also done the "3 Panel" opening that I'm used to. (I was always disappointed as a kid if they hadn't used new photos/video clips in the opening credits of the first episode of the season!)

The older characters are all exactly what we remember. Honestly, it was like those actors just walked back into their roles. From JR's mischievous smile to Bobby's playful manner to Sue Ellen's amazing voice and beauty. If I'm waxing poetic, I apologize. It was just a treat to see them recreate these iconic roles. (Amanda By Night note: Sue Ellen is totally foxy, wax away!)

The new characters are all interesting too. I like both actors that are playing John Ross and Christopher. They're both good actors and easy on the eyes. The two new love interests, Elena and Rebecca, are equally talented, but I did have to warm up to them. I also really like Brenda Strong's performance of Anne Ewing. She's gorgeous and nice and you really see that the writers have made her the "perfect" match for Bobby, in spirit and love.

I won't ruin the plotlines because I hate it when people do that, but I will say that they wasted no time in starting the official "backstabbing" that made the show so much fun.

There were a couple of mentions to Pamela (which I thought was nice) and many reference to Miss Ellie. I hate it when shows don't recognize their heritage/past history. I love that the writers embraced the history of the show and didn't try to write a completely different version of what has happened in the past. I think they're smart for recognizing that fans of the original show expect a certain amount of history and mention of past events that have shaped who the characters are and where they've come from. Oh, and also, you'll see a couple of cameos from past characters. (Not enough of those, if you ask me!)

All in all, I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by the effort that they've put into it.

Amanda By Night: What can I say? The fine folks at TNT made Dallas available through iTunes, and I got myself a season pass. I am pleased to support the show, but if anyone doesn’t want to pay but is still interested in seeing what the new Dallas may bring, the first episode is available for free. Who could say no to that?

I’m not sure what I was anticipating, but I think I had pretty high expectations. Dallas is not just a show I love, I treasure it because it’s given me a place to escape to when times have been tough. I love the dysfunctional antics at Southfork and look at the Ewings as part of my own crazy family. I thought I might be setting myself up for a big letdown, but what is life for if you can’t hope for something, right? So, I just went with it. I’m pleased to say, I was not disappointed one bit by the new show. Joe and Chad summed up most of it, but I’ll just say where I agree:

Ann is a fantastic match for Bobby. My favorite moment was when she pointed a rifle at an intruder’s head and promised him she never misses a target! She’s feisty, much in the same way Pam was, but is also unique enough I don’t feel like it’s Pam Part Deux. I also liked the two young female leads more than I thought I would. I thought Rebecca, played by Julie Gonzalo, is going to turn out to be a surprise, and the love triangle emerging with Jordanna Brewster’s character Elena and the two cousins, John Ross and Christopher (Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe) is sure to be tasty. We’ve got class issues, romance problems, deception and mystery. It’s wonderful.

Speaking of the cousins, I just want to say I think John Ross is a fantastic character. Henderson is really working the part with a slight drawl and a whole lot of repressed anger. I also love that he’s forever agitated by his dad. In that respect, he’s completely relatable. Whenever he rolls his eyes at J.R., I have to smile. He doesn’t know what he’s in for, does he?

And of course, the original cast members are amazing. Larry Hagman is the obvious stand out. He lights up the room and hasn’t lost an ounce of dark charm. I agree that Sue Ellen was not utilized enough, and I too hope that changes. Bobby is still handsome and still na├»ve. I am glad these folks are back in my lives!

And I could go on and on. Time will tell if they can keep the balance of retro soap and contemporary drama, but they are definitely off to a great start!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Strays (1991)

Network: USA
Original Air Date: December 18th, 1991

If we’ve learned one thing since the invention of the interwebs it's that we love cats.  Boy do we love cats. If you have a Facebook account I’m sure you’ve seen at least one of a gazillion kitty memes that pop up on an hourly basis. And then of course there are the cat videos. Arguably, there is none so cute as the one with the cat watching a Chuck Norris flick:

Yes sir, we adore cats and we’ve elevated them to a somewhat mythical status as the bitchy constant in our lives. Sure cats give ‘tude, but they give the cute too. How many times have I grabbed my cat and screamed “You’re so cute!” Too many is the answer (just ask my cats!). But during this feline reign of power no one has questioned the darkness that apparently lies within. Well, no one except Shaun Cassidy who wrote the made for TV thriller Strays in 1991.

I would name this little guy Mookie

Cats can indeed be a little creepy if you have the right cat actor, and Strays definitely employs one mean mutha (i.e. Mookie), but ultimately while the film is fun it is never really scary. Timothy Busfield plays Paul Jarrett, dedicated husband and successful lawyer. His wife Lindsey (Kathleen Quinlan) is a full time mom and they’ve decided to move out of the big, mean city and make a home out in the idyllic middle of nowhere. The house is a steal (as they always are in these kinds of movies) and as the small family begins to settle into nuclear family bliss, some strange things begin to happen. Just where did that phone repairman disappear to? And what happened to their dog? Well, it looks like some strays have also take up residence in the house and plan to keep it to themselves. 
Kitty death

The lead cat is indeed menacing and he perpetrates the violence occurring around the property, but his rag-tag band of kitty misfits are mostly adorable and I think I said “Awww” more times than “Ack!” Alas, anyone who sits down to watch a movie about violent feral cats must be aware of what they’re getting into, and Cassidy’s script, along with some good direction by John McPherson and a straight faced cast make Strays pretty entertaining stuff. Certainly the premise is far-fetched, but I also think if you are willing to just let the movie roll and take it as it is, there’s definitely some rainy afternoon fun to be had. I also think you could probably grab a beer with some friends and have a decent self-made MST3K session, so it’s a multi-purpose kind of movie. However, Strays is never boring. The last third of the movie boils down to man vs. feline and it’s done rather well. Props to Quinlan for playing the role as realistically as possible. She grounds the outlandish into something a lot more tangible, so while it’s loopy as all get out, it’s maintains the suspenseful moments - and there’s a great little tribute to Jaws 2 at the end! OK, that part was definitely hysterical and I do hope one day Shaun does an entire interview about his love of one of my favorite shark attack flicks, cuz I just know in my heart that he wants to.


Last Call at Southfork!

If you'd like to write a review of the new Dallas, please email me at by Wednesday morning at 10 AM (EST, preferably) so I can get it up by the evening. I have already received two wonderful responses, and as luck would have it, iTunes uploaded the first two episodes so I'm also going to chime in on what I thought.

And don't worry TVM fanatics, I'm going to be posting a new movie review either tonight or tomorrow. Thanks all for indulging my Dallas obsessions!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Help a Dallas Fan Out!

Tonight is the night, gang! I am soooooo excited for the new Dallas, I can't even begin to form the right words. But check this out: I don't have cable. Since I went back to school I learned the hard way that cable is a luxury. This makes me sad, but I know the new Dallas will eventually show up on my doorstep (hopefully via Hulu or iTunes).

However, my sadness will surely turn to gladness if you lucky cable subscribers would email me your thoughts on the show. It's easy: Email me at and let me know what you think of the new millennium's most dysfunctional family.

Your reviews can be big or small, positive or negative (although any unfavorable positions should be worded without the normal vitriol that is reserved for other sites/blogs), just be honest and please let me know what you liked or disliked, not just that you thought it was good/bad, por favor. I will cobble together the best parts and create a community driven review. And I will link to your site if you like, so please forward your url along with your thoughts.

I will live vicariously through you, and honestly, if I can't be there myself this is the best way I can  think of to enjoy Dallas 2012!

Who knew the end was just the beginning?
(ad courtesy of Vintage Toledo TV)

Monday, June 11, 2012


Dallas was more than just a television phenomena, it was also a merchandising goldmine. Everything from Who Shot J.R. (or the alternative, I Shot J.R.) tee shirts to jigsaw puzzles found their way into many a home during the run of the series. I’ve managed to acquire a little of this awesomeness myself, so I thought it would be fun to look at Dallas-mania as told through Spencer’s Gifts!

 I recently received a copy of the aptly titled book Dallas: The Official Biography of the Ewings by Laura Van Wormer What makes this book so interesting to me is that it takes a look at the characters as though they were real. I know there have been several novelizations, but this is just a fictional biography of the most dysfunctional southern family of all time (and that’s saying something!). My friend David Felter got me a copy of this for Christmas and indeed, receiving this gift was one of my more religious experiences. It’s a large paperback with tons of photos, and it takes you up to 1985, just missing the dream season by two years. Certainly that would have made the bio rather interesting! As it stands, it’s a fun page-turner and highly recommended for Dallas crazies!

As I mentioned, there were several novelizations released as well… A dozen came from a division of the Pioneers Communications Networks called Soaps and Serials, Inc. In an interview with the owner of Pioneer, Sid Seltzer explained that the books ran together in themes. The subplot or sub-theme of the previous book would carry over into the next one, and they used actual scripts for their stories. Soaps and Serials released many books, including a novelization of One Life to Live, which I found for $1 at a used bookstore last year! Yes, I’m bragging. Anyway, I also have one Dallas novelization titled Ardent Memories. I paid a little more for that one, but they are offered at reasonable prices on Amazon. Here is the list, in order:

Love Conquers Fear
Ardent Memories
Love’s Challenge
Power of Passion
Dangerous Desire
Double Dealing
Hostage Heart
This Cherished Land
Power Play
Winner Takes All
Reality Strikes
Shattered Dreams

The series starts with Season 2 and runs through that season alone. According to Ultimate Dallas (that site is must for Dallas fans, btw), Dell Publishing also released a book by Lee Raintree. One cover featured the cast and the other version did not. I need the cast version, like today!

And then there were the board games. I will just link to this site so you can see what there is. I have two of these games, but I’m not quite sure which ones… I need to unpack, no? My good friend Joanna from Christmas TV History gave me one of the two board games I own… Some people know me so well!

And let’s not forget the awesomeness of the Dallas Trading Cards. Released in 1981 by Donruss, they came seven to a pack (along with bubble gum!). As far as I know, I have the entire series (and thank you John from Kindertrauma for supplying me with a few of them!).

But perhaps of the most awesomest of things one could own in the world of Dallas memorabilia, I cannot think of anything cooler than the portrait of Jock Ewing, which hung proudly at Ewing Oil for so many years. The painting, which was owned by Larry Hagman, was recently auctioned for $39,680! It had only been expected to wrangle around $3,000, which just goes to show you how passionate we Dallas fanatics are!

The new series begins on Wednesday, June 13th at 9 PM EST. Come and catch the fever!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dallas on the Family Feud

It was indeed a truly wonderful moment in TV when the cast of Dallas joined Richard Dawson, along with Eight is Enough (well, in this case five will do just fine) and the crazy crew at One Day at a Time for game show mayhem! The air date was Monday, October 8th, 1979 and several shows, including the ones mentioned and Benson (of man, I adore Benson!) all gathered to raise money for their favorite charities. The Dallas crew went with Charlene Tilton's charity, the Kennedy Child Study Center, located in St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica.

This was the first time the cast of Dallas appeared on Family Feud and they took it all the way to the $10,000 grand prize! However, the highlight of the show happened when Richard Dawson said he thought he recognized Charlene and she told him a story about meeting him when she was seven. Apparently he offered her candy and a smile, and the dirty jokes flowed for the rest of the show! Charlene was only 19 during this taping and she seems both amused and slightly uncomfortable about the way the story unfolded in front of our sullied eyes. In short, it was awesomeness. Richard, of course, handled everything with just the right touch of humor and all in all, this is what we call great TV! Here are a bunch of images from the episode which available on The All Star Family Feud DVD!

Let's start The Family Feud!

The crew are literally holding up JR! 
However, the Eight is Enough cast look like they have problems of their own! 
 Here are the gorgeous Dallas contestants:
Don't fret guys, the Speed Round makes us all nervous! 
The One Day at a Time cast hopes to botch J.R.'s grand success 
Has Dawson finally stumped J.R.?
Nope! Even Mizz Romano had to give J.R. a hand! 
 Speed Round #2: Same actors, same success! 
 J.R. puts another notch on his belt! Only this time it's a good notch!