Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Radio Show about TV Movies!

Sorry for the late notice, but I just heard that the radio series, TV Confidential is going to be discussing TV movies tonight! Yes, yes, and YES!

From their website:

"Joseph Dougherty and Dan Farren will join us in our first hour for a roundtable discussion on the made for TV movie — a staple of television for more than four decades (particularly during the era of The ABC Movie of the Week) that has all but disappeared from network TV in recent years. We’ll talk about that, but we’ll also take a look at some of the great Movies of the Week from the 1970s that have stayed with us for one reason or another." 

Check out the rest of the deets here. TV Confidential airs in several cities and can also be accessed through iTunes, so don't forget to tune in!

And thank you Dominic for bringing this to my attention! Always love the TV movie love!

Update (6/11/2013): TV Confidential posted links to their discussion, and you can access their show by clicking either here, here or here (if you're using the iTunes option, look for the show that is labeled with the date 5/28/13). Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TV Spot Tuesday: Bionic Showdown (1989)

You know what they say, you can't keep a good robot down.

Er, or something like that!

I love the Bionic reunion movies, and remember Bionic Showdown fairly well (not small feat, considering I haven't seen it about 15 years!). It stands out because the powers that be cast a very young and adorable Sandra Bullock as a handicapped woman fitted with the latest state of the art bionic technology. A series featuring Bullock was planned but sadly never came to be. Can you image what her bionic powers could have done to that bus in Speed? The mind boggles.

Bionic Showdown was the second of three reunion movies. The first, titled The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman came out in 1987, followed by this showdown, and then followed again with Bionic Breakdown in 1994! That's a whole lot of electromechanical parts!

While Bullock is as cute as a button, I think the failure to get a new series off the ground only proves that you can make things all shiny and tech-y, but that one-of-a-kind-chemistry that both Majors and Wagner possessed cannot be replaced. On their separate shows they were fantastic, but together... Oh yes!

Bionic Showdown premiered on April 30th, 1989 on NBC, and it came in #11 on the Neilsen ratings for the week. If you are going to admit to your shortcomings in life on a blog, I have to confess that I did not see this airing. I caught it a few years later on a Bionic Movie Marathon that the local station was hosting (gawd, I miss local TV). Honestly, that's probably the only way to watch these crazy silly fun flicks!

 Here are two promos: 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Cry in the Wilderness (1974)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: March 26th, 1974

I wasn’t old enough to watch A Cry in the Wilderness when it originally aired as a Tuesday Movie of the Week back in 1974, but I do have hazy and warm memories of catching this awesome little thriller on our local channel. However, I had mostly forgotten about Wilderness until just a few years ago when a friend of mine took me to meet the director, Gordon Hessler! I’m not quite sure how I got invited to that event, but I do openly admit to drinking Manhattans with Mr. Hessler and talking about movies. I had a total flashback when the title came up.

Skunk Gone Wild
Hessler dabbled in both small screen and B movie fare, and Wilderness is a decent combo of the two. At times I felt as though I was watching a potentially caustic drive-in flick, while other times felt oh-so-TV-movie. And I loved it! George Kennedy is Sam Hadley, a rough and tumble big city factory worker who longs to return to his country roots. He buys an isolated piece of land and dreams of selling fatted cows at the local market. Dream big, Sam! He brings his wife Delda (Joanna Pettet looking every bit the big city girl) and their son Gus (the adorable Lee Montgomery who was not so cute when he played Bobby in Dead of Night) along for the ride. They have only been enjoying the outdoors for about a month when Sam is bitten by skunk while pulling out a tree stump. Since they are about two days from civilization, Sam puts off a doctor visit until he finds the skunk dead. Apparently this little guy had traces of rabies and now Sam might find himself in the same predicament.

George Kennedy Gone Wild
Like all sensible farm folk, Sam chains himself to a pole in the barn and sends his wife off for help. He know the emblems of going rabid-cray-crazy, and warns his son that if he shows any sign of hydrophobia (a fear of water), or tries some kind of sly Tom Foolery on Gus as a way to get unchained, he’s gone off the deep end and Gus should run. Of course, this coincides with a flood heading straight towards their home! So is Sam going insane or just protecting his family and property? 

Chained to his love
Wilderness was beautifully shot by veteran Harry L. Wolf, who worked primarily in television. I won’t kid you, this movie relies on a threadbare plot, but it is visually stunning and that helps move the film along. The flashback scenes are eerie, and there is a great shot of Delda in a car with a potential rapist. Good lord! Her story almost veers into total exploitation, but luckily it's prevented from going too far thanks to FCC standards. Never thought I’d thank the FCC, but there you go.  At any rate, it's intense

The storm before the calm
The entire cast is in fine form, making the most of what little was offered to them. And despite focusing heavily on Sam and Gus, Wilderness crams in a few hillbillies to give it that B movie edge. Overall, it feels surprisingly epic, maintains its suspense and works despite its total WTF ending. Let’s give a point to the rabid skunk for a job well done.

She's looking for the nearest Vogue fashion shoot
Oh and by the way, Wilderness is available on DVD. Yay! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TV Spot Tuesday: The French Atlantic Affair (1979)

Ah, it feels so good to get back to this segment!

I have not seen the French Atlantic Affair, which originally aired on ABC on November 15th, 16th and 18th in 1979. Based on the novel by Ernest Lehman, which was published in 1977, the story revolves around crazy Father Donleavy (Telly Savalas) who runs the Church of the Cosmic Path (best named "church" ever? I think so). The Cosmic Path cult infiltrates a Love Boat like cruiser, and it's up to Harold Columbine (Chad Everett) and other awesome TV-movie-friendly faces to save the day! That sounds like three nights of awesomeness, yes?

Here are a couple of newspaper promo stills:

The rest of the cast includes such wonderful actors as James Coco, Carolyn Jones, Richard Jordan, Donald Pleasance and much, much more! Warner Archives recently released the mini-series on DVD! Oh. Yes.

I want to thank Matt aka Billy Witch Doctor, for the scans from TV Guide, which I posted below. This artwork was done by Bob Peak, who did a lot of great work for the magazine. Bob posted some of his covers on his website, so stop by and tell 'em Amanda By Night sent ya! And thanks again Matt for the awesome scans. 

Aaaaannnnnddddd, after all of that, here is the original TV promo. It also features some clips from 240-Robert, which I'm sad to say I was completely unfamiliar with until about two weeks ago. Where was I in 1979? Not where I should have been, I'll tell you that much!

Update 5/12/14: Ugh. The promo has been removed, but Warner Archives posted this fun Preview Clip: 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Summer of Fear (1978)

Network: NBC
Original Air Date: October 31st, 1978

In the 70's, a renegade filmmaker named Wes Craven was making a name for himself at the drive in circuit with Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. Looking for something mainstream, or perhaps just looking for a good paycheck, Craven's next project was Summer of Fear, which was based on the Lois Duncan young adult novel of the same name. Craven cast Linda Blair as the spunky but put-upon Rachel Bryant. The Bryants are welcoming Rachel’s cousin, Julia (Lee Purcell) into the family fold after her parents are tragically killed in a car accident. Shy but beautiful Julia manages to work her way into the hearts of everyone around her, including Rachel's hunky beau, Mike (Jeff McCracken). Peppy Rachel is the only one who seems to think that there’s something wrong with Julia and her strange Ozark accent (she only spent her summers there). It appears Julia is wielding her magic on all who come across her. And I think you can figure the rest out...

Obviously, this is not nearly as shocking or unnerving as Craven’s previous work, but Summer of Fear is still an enjoyable little thriller with much to appreciate. On the commentary track, Craven admits to being drawn to the family structure aspect of the movie and the idea of treating someone involved in the supernatural as though they are just like any other outsider welcomed into a working class family.

Linda Blair is up to the challenge of playing the likeable teenager who solves the mystery. She’s cute as ever here (even with the bad perm) and her knowledge and love of horses adds to one of the more gruesome moments of the film.

Lee Purcell is also perfectly cast as Linda’s nemesis. You know Julia is evil but you are never quite sure what her motives are or where she'll strike next. Just a few years later, Purcell would go from a young woman in Summer of Fear to a seductive mother in Valley Girl! My goodness, she is ageless (and still looks fantastic)! Rounding out the affable cast is a then-unknown Fran Drescher, soap opera legend MacDonald Carey and Jeff East, pre-young Clark Kent in Superman.

The main audience of Summer of Fear will be people, like me, who remember seeing it as a kid. It was so successful when it originally aired on Halloween in 1978 (could that Halloween have been any better?!?) that a theatrical version, titled Stranger in Our House was released overseas.

But most importantly, the film is a wonderful trip down memory lane. Summer of Fear brings to mind the heyday of the made for television movie. Very few titles have gotten their dues on DVD, but the now-defunct Artisan label has made a pretty good disc for nostalgia buffs. It has a beautiful, if slightly flawed, transfer with crisp, clear images – A nice change from the blurry dubs I usually see of TV movies.

The commentary track, featuring Wes Craven and producer Max Keller, takes a casual but informative look at the work that goes behind the making of a small screen film. Fans of Craven may also be interested in his other two TV movies Invitation to Hell (go Susan Lucci, go!) and the thought provoking Chiller, both of which have also been released on DVD but to lesser results (click here for a review of Chiller). For those of you with a taste for bitchy witches try doing a double feature of Summer of Fear with the sadly obscure but wonderfully fun TVM classic Midnight Offerings.