Friday, November 17, 2017

The Alamo Drafthouse's Terror Tuesday Presents The Made for TV Mystery Movie! I'm Co-Presenting Too! Hooray!

OK, so the title pretty much tells you all you need to know! But just to reiterate, I was asked by Joseph Ziemba of the Alamo Drafthouse if I'd like to help him program some mystery tele-terrors every few months as part of the Terror Tuesday programming (normally held at their Ritz Theater location). Well, of course I would! Our first screening is January 30th, 2018, and you can get all the details here.

There's not much else to say, except that I'm thrilled and honored. And if you are in the Austin area, please come by and say hello. I can't reveal what the first film will be, but I do think you'll love it!

As you were!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Let's Talk Summer of Fear: An Interview with Lisa Holmes of Music Box Films/Doppelgänger Releasing

 Lee Purcell as Julia Trent in Summer of Fear. © Micheline Keller/Courtesy of
Doppelgänger Releasing

Ummm... can we just call 2017 the Year of the TV Movie? With the release of The Spell, the announcement of The Burning Bed coming out and Music Box Films/Doppleganger Releasing, uh, releasing the most excellent Wes Craven joint Summer of Fear on Blu-Ray, it seems that the oft-maligned telefilm genre is getting its due, and with all kinds of neat bonus features... The love!

Of course, I'm an obvious champion of these movies, and have a particular soft spot for Craven's small screen flicks. I wrote extensively about them in an essay I penned for my book Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999, and I've also reviewed his big three telefilms here, if you want to read my thoughts on Summer of Fear (and Invitation to Hell and Chiller... and you can listen to a podcast episode dedicated to these films as well). I'm so pleased this film is getting a second chance at a new audience, and I should mention it comes with the original Wes Craven commentary conducted on the TV movie's original DVD release from a few years ago. So many great tidbits coming the master himself, a new interview with Linda Blair, and a gorgeous new transfer of a great film! Hooray!

Lisa Holmes, the Director of Sales, Home Entertainment of Music Box Films/Doppleganger Releasing took some time out to discuss the release, which is today, y'all. Go pick up your copy (link above), and leave a review!

Carol Lawrence as Leslie Bryant and Jeremy Slate as Tom Bryant in Summer
of Fear. Courtesy of Doppelgänger Releasing
Amanda Reyes: Why did Music Box/Doppelganger decide to release Summer of Fear?

Lisa Holmes: We saw it as a diamond in the rough, and a great way to start a new direction for the Doppelganger Releasing label. If you look at our catalog, you’ll see that we gravitate toward what I like to think of as a little interesting and different. Summer of Fear fit that bill for us.

AR: It's fantastic that you were able to acquire the original commentary that Wes Craven did for the DVD release in 2003. Out of curiosity, I'm wondering if it is difficult to procure previously released extra materials that were done for another distributor?

LH: We got very lucky in this instance. It always boils down to underlying rights and with older properties in particular, it can be a difficult proposition.

Lee Purcell as Julia Trent in Summer of Fear. © Micheline Keller/Courtesy of
Doppelgänger Releasing
AR: Wes Craven's TVM work has largely been ignored. I'm wondering if you have any general thoughts on his four telefilms, Summer of Fear, Invitation to Hell, Chiller and Night Visions, and how they fit into his overall filmography?

LH: I wonder about that too. I’m no scholar on the subject, but as a viewer I’ve always been of the opinion that Wes Craven’s work was smart and well-crafted regardless of the medium. I never feel like he dumbed anything down, which makes it more interesting. He was willing to go against certain horror tropes – and clearly with the Scream films had no problem making fun of them too.

I think too, unfortunately because he has passed away, people are taking the time to dig in to the broader scope of his work because there won’t be any more. If you want to look at his work completely, the TV films need to have their due as well as the big theatrical releases. On a total side note, one of the things I love about all four of those projects are the casts. It’s totally worth trolling IMDB to see who was in all of those movies. For Summer of Fear, I knew about Linda Blair and Lee Purcell of course, but Fran Drescher and Macdonald Carey were like the cherry on top of the ice cream with the cake. Bobbi Flekman and Dr. Tom Horton in the same movie? My head just exploded.

Lee Purcell as Julia Trent in Summer of Fear. © Micheline Keller/Courtesy of
Doppelgänger Releasing
AR: I was speaking to a couple of people who work for companies that have released TV movies on DVD/Blu Ray and they said they noticed an uptick in interest in the genre. Have you noticed that as well? If so, why do you think that is?

LH: I remember when the moniker “Made for TV” had a certain quality to it that people looked down upon. Perhaps in these days of truly excellent, original television content, viewers and labels alike are keeping a more open mind and are looking at previous made for television films with a new perspective as valid works of art. Of course, it may be driven too by people in my generation who are feeling nostalgic as well. Member Berries anyone?

Linda Blair as Rachel Bryant in Summer of Fear. © Micheline
Keller/Courtesy of Doppelgänger Releasing
AR: I don't want you to give away anything in the interview you conducted with Linda Blair, but can you tell us how she generally looks back on the film, and maybe working with Wes?

LH: Just as a point of clarification, I did not personally conduct the interview. I wish I had! I will say this, when you see the interview I think you cannot be anything but impressed with how professional she is now and how professional she was at such a young age. I wish I could be that professional now. I loved that she spoke of working with Wes Craven as if it were yesterday rather than almost 40 years ago. I hope everyone enjoys the interview!

AR: Do you have plans to release any other TV movies?

LH: Can I say “stay tuned” here without it sounding like a bad pun?

AR: Do you have a favorite TV movie?

LH: SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM! As a Gemini, I reserve the right to pick two that come to mind right away. The Boy In the Plastic Bubble and KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park left lasting impressions. Salem’s Lot. How do you stop?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Staying AfterSchool with Lance Guest

It's so difficult not to gush here. I'm a life long lover of Lance Guest, having discovered him as a teenager in The Last Starfighter. I remember his stint on Lou Grant, and always love when he shows up in something, like The X-Files (and am unashamedly beyond thrilled when he doesn't die in the Halloween 2 TV edit!) I'm so very excited and frankly, a little honored, that Guest took some time out to answer a few questions about working on the ABC Afterschool Special and television in general. He had a lot of interesting things to say about his time on the small screen, and he gave some great insight into the Afterschool Special, which was this month's topic over at my companion podcast, The Made for TV Mayhem Show! He also name drops some awesome TVM titles at the end! Thank you Lance, and everyone else... enjoy!

Guest and Sean Astin in the harrowing Please Don't Hit Me, Mom
Amanda Reyes: Please Don't Hit Me, Mom was one of the first things you did in film or television. Were you aware of the importance of the Afterschool Specials when you auditioned?

Lance Guest: First of all, no one ever asks about these shows, which were largely part of what I remember to be a late 1970's-era attempt to deal with problems kids might be having in a format that was marketed directly TO kids. Although I hadn't seen many, as they were a little after my time as an adolescent, I remember that, for the most part, they tried to address some serious problems honestly, with a kind of PBS idealism that was unique to that time period of American TV culture. I believed very strongly at that time that TV had a huge influence on kids and was worried that the industry's commercial profit motive would ultimately overshadow any "message" or "value" that the show may want to put across if it contradicted the pro-consumer agenda that fuels the TV industry. It was a transition period from the 70's-era of social commentary, dominated by the likes of Norman Lear, toward the Reagan-era period of so-called Conspicuous Consumption, characterized by kitschy primetime soaps about the particular dramas of wealthy people, which basically served as its' own commercial for a more material society.

Yeah - I wasn't even 21 years old. So, yes, not only was I aware of the "important" intentions of these pieces, I was very much in favor of them, as they were right in line with what I felt was the best use of my skills as an actor. The unfortunately titled Please Don't Hit Me, Mom was originally penned without the Please, which was later added in an apparent attempt to avoid sounding unintentionally humorous (the title was still lampooned by my college friends) but I was proud of what was a pretty damn good show, and, which was in fact produced by Norman's company.  (I would eventually work on one of these goofy prime time soaps for almost a year, about 10 years later -which, to its credit, and in its own way I must admit, tried to address some of the same social concerns,occurring, as they did, in the early 90's).

Guest in Please Don't Hit Me, Mom
AR: That was a really intense episode. Did you do any research on child abuse, and what kind of research would that have entailed? For instance, was there something like a child psychologist on set?

LG: As I remember, there wasn't a psychologist on the set of the show, but in that day, the issue of child abuse was not a complicated thing to understand, and sadly did not require a ton of research, especially as it was presented to young teenagers. Pretty much everyone knew what was up. Nancy McKeon was about 6 years younger than me, and always seemed to have a pretty clear grasp of it. She may have done some research, but as I remember, it was Anna (Patty Duke, Anna was her real name) that did most of the heavy lifting, as she took a lot of the storytelling and the presentation of the pathology on herself (as well as the supporting cast of doctors and parents) I think it was my third or fourth professional job, so I just concentrated on my own stuff.

AR: Are you aware if there was any impact on the audience after it aired?

LG: I don't know if there's a way to gauge the audience impact of something like that. It's not really an issue that people are known to come forward with, but our job was to, I guess, raise awareness, so that people that saw it would come forward. Or a least to recognize behavior that might point to the protection of another. (I am answering these questions not having seen it in over 35 years) I think it won an award or was aired in prime time - much like the one I did later, One Too Many.

AR: So, of course I have to ask about working with Patty Duke. What was she like?

LG: Anna was very serious, I should say she took it very seriously, as her own nine-year-old son Sean played the abused child. I had always thought she was a tremendous actress, and I very much looked forward to working with her. As I said, she wanted to be very precise with the pathology and very honest with the emotion. I don't know what she drew on for this as she is admittedly a survivor of Manic Depression Disorder and alcoholism, but I don't believe she had personal experience to draw on for this show. By the time I met her she was a mother in her early 40's, and a fairly repentant former wild child, as were many in her occupation and generation.

TV Spot for One Too Many:

AR: I am going to repeat the first two questions and ask about the Afterschool Special One Too Many. Was there any kind of research or preparation involved for working on a film about drunk driving? And do you think the special had any influence on the teenagers who watched it?

LG: One Too Many. I am proud to say that I'd had no experience with drunk driving personally at the age of 24, and very little experience with actual drinking. I required very little research to be "the sensible one" of the duo of Val's character and mine. I'd had best friends that were "adventurers" in high school and middle school, but I was very much on the straight side in those years. Also, I don't want to sound as though I never did any research or back story work on my characters. It was just after about 1983 when I had studied with a great acting teacher, Jack Fletcher, who had stressed the importance of research. Prior to 1983, I just had high school and college theatre, neither of which had impressed the concept of "research" on me (which it turns out, is a very creative tool - more than you would think). My biggest acting challenge on that show was 1) to keep a straight face - believe it or not, Val Kilmer is one of the funniest individuals I have ever encountered - and 2) not to fall madly in love with both of my remaining co-stars Mare Winningham and Michelle Pfeiffer. Besides failing miserably on all three counts, I was happy with the result. Obviously the combination of drinking, driving and teenagers has always been a bad one, and there have been anti-drinking propaganda films for as long as I can remember, but it still remains a problem. Perhaps in the age of Uber and Lyft, we will see less incidents. I felt the twist at the end of our story hit pretty hard, and the acting and writing was overall pretty damn good. I think the show was not only bumped up to prime time, but was selected for some US Congress' official film to be presented to schools. So we were government-approved.

Guest and Val Kilmer in One Too Many
AR: You were in three Afterschool Specials. Did you have to keep auditioning for the roles, or did they just bring you in when they thought you were right for a part?

LG: The Director, Peter Horton, had cast Val, Mare, and Michelle, and was looking for my part when he saw Last Starfighter on an airplane and called me up. So, I didn't have to audition. My follow-up movie to Last StarFighter was about to shoot, and I was in LA for a few weeks. That follow-up fell apart financially and sadly never got made. That's when I went up to  Toronto to do [the telefilm] My Father My Rival

AR: What was production like? For example, did you get a lot of time to rehearse and work with the other actors and filmmakers or were these very quickly made?

LG: In general. low budget TV production - which is always what Afterschool Specials were - is always fast, which means usually very little rehearsal. That said, I feel like we got enough, since the object of these shows is not so much profit but accuracy, so although it was fast and cheap, I always felt properly rehearsed. Just in general, it felt good to be a part of something that had as its motive some sort of message or awareness instead of straight up entertainment. Martin Tahse produced many of them, and on Between Two Loves, I experienced the joys of video-assist, which meant all takes were "printed,"meaning that they had a complete record of ALL takes so they didn't have to print ones they didn't use. Very reassuring to the actor and very economical, as film was expensive and by editing on tape first, printing costs were limited to the handful of takes actually used. This was 82 -83(?) - way before the digital camera.

Guest and Karlene Crockett lighting my fire in Two Loves for Jenny (aka Between Two Loves)
AR: In Two Loves for Jenny (aka Between Two Loves) you play the violin quite well. Are you a violinist or did you have to have some training?

LG: I [have been] a guitar player for almost 50 years, and can pass on drums, piano, bass, and banjo, but I had to learn to fake the violin. I can do the fingering pretty convincingly and had to be taught proper bowing technique, but what they did was loosen the strings and put Vaseline on the bow, so that it was completely silent and I just memorized the dynamics and thrashed away to playback. Air-Violin - if you will. I love the way the violin sounds and I saw my "teacher/coach" play a Tchaikovsky concerto once that was so outside it convinced me that he was the Jimi Hendrix of the violin. 

Guest in Two Loves for Jenny
AR: I have to tell you, Loves has three of my favorite actors. You, Robert Reed and Karlene Crockett. What was it like working with them? Do you know what became of Karlene?

LG: It sounds like Karlene still does theatre. Her husband was a teacher and friend of a bunch of my friends and my cousin Jarion up in Mill Valley. He sadly passed away recently. I just remember her being very good. Robert Reed judged/sponsored a Shakespeare competition back when I was at UCLA which my girlfriend Kerry and I won in 1980 as undergrads. It was $500 that bailed me out of a jam when I was down to $9. So I was able to thank him for that. That was fun.

AR: Having worked on three specials, what was your overall experience on those projects, and being a part of the Afterschool Special legacy?

LG: As I stated before, it was really more important for me at that time to be part of something that at least intended to have a positive effect beyond just entertainment. I thought that everything was political. I was over-critical of most of Hollywood's output then, and even though we got paid very little, it made up for a lot of the less noble things that all young actors have to be a part of.  If I saw them all now, I might find them a bit earnest, but compared to what my friend calls the "Get the Nerd Laid" movies that ruled the 80's landscape for 20-something actors, it felt rewarding, probably because I remember seeing the first good ones when I was younger.

Making tough teen choices in Two Loves for Jenny
AR: Which of the three episodes if your favorite? And why?

LG: I would say all three have their good and bad points. Please Don't Hit Me, Mom (That Title!) was probably the most daring subject to tackle, but I was not that experienced an actor, so I don't remember how great my performance was, but I respected it a lot. One Too Many: [It] was fun to work with all those great actors and director, [and] was probably the most comfortably realistic dialogue for those things, but my role was subdued and the least colorful, but still fun. And Between Two Loves was the most dynamic character of them all, but the issue was considerably softer, being just one of jealousy and competition and love.

AR: You've worked in both film and television. I know film likes to go big while TV tends to go small. As an actor, do you feel you have to approach your roles differently, depending on the medium?

LG: Not really, especially between those two. On stage you have to be bigger, or nobody gets it.  I disagree that film requires bigger. A lot of times film requires you to be smaller because the screen is so big.  TV can be 8 feet wide at the largest and cellphone-sized at the smallest. Honestly, I don't make any adjustments. I try to be truthful first and foremost and amp it up if the director asks me to. Which is most of the time.

Guest in Lou Grant

AR: The character of Lance Reineicke appeared on several episodes of Lou Grant during the final season. What do you remember about working on that series?

LG: Again, my very first job (I was Mark the year before, but they just remember Lance so that guy went into the next season). Talk about setting the tone for what i wanted to do with my career. Lou Grant was regarded as having loads of integrity, coming on the heels of All the Presidents Men in terms of the public's taste for political news stories. Great writers, directors, and actors. Everything I came to expect from the industry was introduced to when I did Lou Grant. Most of the cast was fairly radical politically, and Ed, who was SAG president at that time came out (as a private citizen) with financial support for the so-called Marxist rebels in El Salvador, while the US government was supporting the other side. He got into all kinds of hell for that, and I was on the show during the time he would show up for work after having received various death threats. Ed has reconsidered his behavior some since then, but I thought he was super cool. I was 20 and had just left college. My character was not so much radical as kind of high-energy, dorky and impulsive. I had some great scenes with Linda Kelsey, Bobby Walden, and Darryl Anderson, all of whom I really respected. I was totally intimidated by Ed, who I had practically grown up with, watching  the Mary Tyler Moore Show. It was a great first job. 

TV Spot for Confessions of a Married Man:

14. So much television seems to be lost. I couldn't locate the telefilms Confessions of a Married Man or My Father, My Rival. What can you tell us about working on telefilms in this era and if you feel there is an importance to making these projects more accessible?

Ok, well, like said before, I think, The writing tended to be better on TV movies, than on many series. They often tackled important subject matter. I auditioned for a movie about nuclear holocaust and one about the nuns who were killed in El Salvador during the Sandinista Rebellion. I was very excited about them but for the first one, after having a perfect "nailed it" audition, they cast a guy who looks as much like me at the time as anyone, so much that I thought they might've thought he was me) and for the second, they hired my director for One Too Many, Peter Horton (who is a good actor/director and a cool guy). But interestingly, the director of that project, Joe Sargent, remembered me for when he directed Jaws: The Revenge, and offered me a lead part five years later. So, you never know what happens in an audition.

Promotional still for Confessions of a Married Man (dat cast!)
Confessions of a Married Man originally started as An Affair to Forget about a middle aged, indecisive, somewhat neurotic intellectual man who wants to leave his down-to-earth wife and two children for a more mentally stimulating younger woman. The writer wrote it originally for John Cassavettes, but the network chose Robert Conrad. Depending on how old you are, you will either get the irony or not. When you read the script, you could hear rhythms of Woody Allen or Alan Alda, and Bob was just not really that guy. Bob Conrad is a macho Old School Hollywood tough guy from The Wild Wild West and Black Sheep Squadron (who used to quote Steve McQueen on Hollywood: "Where else can you live this well without a gun?"). I thought, "Well this is gonna be interesting." I got along with Bob really well, though and steered clear of any political discussions.

I played a non-intellectual  high school football offensive lineman who has a five page scene at the end of the movie, which was supposed to bring Bob's character to tears, and convince him not to leave his family. When we got to the scene, they were going to cover Bob first, and he announced ,in his Chicago-ese "No way am I cryin' in this scene. Forget it. You're gettin' one take - and you'll get what you get!" The director comes up to me and implores me, "We have to get this. The whole movie doesn't work if he doesn't cry, and he won't take the drops.  It's on you." I was 22 years old. We did the scene and Bob cried. He was great. Then he just walked off the set. Classic. I'll always like him for that. Plus he was the star of one of only three TV shows my actual fighter pilot Dad would watch (Black Sheep Squadron) So that was fun. I had great scenes with my Mom, played by Jennifer Warren (who was Awesome). I used those scenes on my demo reel, instead of Last Starfighter for years. Don't know why. I guess I couldn't decide which ones to use. I don't know if anyone saw that movie, but I was happy with how it came out.

The same goes for The Roommate, which wasn't really, by format, a TV movie from the outset. Originally it was produced for PBS American Playhouse, which had been a pretty prestigious program during the 80's. It was based on a John Updike short story from the 50s, and the writer/producer Neil Miller and director Nell Cox decided they would shoot this low-budget piece in 35mm and try to make it an indie feature. They already had a deal with PBS but the extra production value of the time period would kick it up a notch. It was basically a 1952 college-roommate Odd  Couple, Barry Miller played beatnik purist Ghandi-disciple Hub from Portland OR, and I was uptight, religious, All American weenie Orson from South Dakota. It certainly played more like a feature than most TV movies, although it had a smaller "scope" as my screenwriter friend would say. And sadly it was never released commercially, but we did win the Grand Prize at the LA Indie Film Festival in 1985.

The Roommate
As a film experience it was unlike anything I had ever done, or will ever do. Updike's original story tended to be heady and deliberately uncomfortable, while the demands on a college-age target-demographic for a commercial film shared more with the college memoir comedies of that time, although certainly not as obvious. Those of us that thought we were making an "art film" shuddered at the incorrect notion that we would be making another Porky's. We were totally overreacting, but it was often contentious. Barry, an outspoken perfectionist, and I were solid with each other and would often stay up till four in the morning rehearsing, trying to get what the scenes were about, often suggesting alternate "beats." I must say, the writer/ producer and the director respectfully listened to our ideas, and sometimes used them, but the overall feeling was that we were all collaborating. It was the most fun I've ever had making a movie. By the end we didn't know what we had, but when I saw it, I felt like everyone really got what they wanted.

It won other festival awards, in Chicago and Toronto, I think, but was never released commercially. It aired on PBS in 1985. My parents liked it. I was so proud of having done an independent film that I used only this show on my demo reel for a few years, inadvertently causing my only auditions to be for solely uptight Midwestern weenies.  I was so naively anti-studio and anti-mainstream that I only wanted to appear in independent films. This was about 3 or 4 years before indies were really hip (in the late 80s early 90s).

Guest in Lou Grant
The next year, after I was told Last Starfighter didn't make any money at the box office, and a couple weeks after after my follow-up project (another indie film) fell apart, the newly founded HBO original programming department offered me what was presented as another Afterschool Special, but was really another TV movie for HBO. The original title had been Dark But Full of Diamonds, about a kid who loses his mom at 12 years old and falls in love with his swimming teacher, maybe 6 years his senior, who then starts dating his dad. when my character is 6 years older - so, at 18. My character was a lot of fun to play and I was working with Wendy Crewson, who I liked a lot as an actor. I played all the "Pissed off at Dad" notes with all the Freudian indignant transference and awkwardness, and it ended up pretty well. I had a great time in Toronto, where we shot it, although the fine director, Claude Jutra, didn't speak much English. The title was changed to My Father, My Rival, in my opinion, another title a little too "On the Nose."

So that's all I can say about the TV movies (or Movie Of the Week, as they used to be called) that I had anything to do with. I had been a fan of them when I was a kid in the 70's: Duel, Tribes, The Night Strangler, Sunshine, Melvin Purvis: G-man are the ones that stick out. But as the 80's went on, the TV movie demographic was identified as the "shopping housewife" so, whether that was deserving or not, the content, as a result, became exclusively stories of divorce, cheating husbands, murdered girlfriends, rape cases, lost children, poor little rich girls, etc. And usually by page 75, the leading female character has a "make-over montage" that is supposed to signify her "moving on," conveniently, providing a custom "commercial between commercials" to satisfy the sponsors. But the original reputation of the TV movie had been earned by more original content. Nowadays, with a company like HBO, the content seems less driven by commercial interests, and more pure story, or niche genres.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cry Rape (1973)

Network: CBS
Original Airdate: November 27, 1973

Fresh off of the daytime drama, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, Andrea Marcovicci took another dramatic turn in the harrowing but flawed Cry Rape, which predates the better known (and, frankly, better made) A Case of Rape by mere months. In Cry Rape, Marcovicci is Betty Jenner, an unassuming young woman who comes home from a normal day at work and is attacked by a serial rapist. Mustering up the energy to follow up the assault with police action, Betty is run through a system that seeks to continually victimize the victim. After a man is apprehended, more women step forward, but as the trial and investigation continues it becomes apparent that these women have wrongly accused the defendant.

Both Cry Rape and A Case of Rape landed in the top ten most watched telefilms of the 1973-74 season, with Case coming in at #2, boasting a 33.1/44 rating, and Cry settling in at #8 with a rating of 27.6/43. Almost half of America was finally opening their eyes the problems of a justice system that may have good intentions, but used very poor methods to solve a heinous crime. In this respect, Cry Rape is an essential film. It does indeed offer a fairly realistic look at the system, and does so through a strong character determined to see that justice prevails. Unfortunately, Betty only bookends a movie that is all about the misidentified culprit and his plight to prove his innocence (or more aptly, the police department’s plight).

Novelization for Cry Rape
In an interview to promote the movie, screenwriter Leonard Freeman stated that he was aware of the production of A Case of Rape and hoped it would change the system. He said, "Look at the newspapers, the news magazines, the legal journals - the concern about the growing incidence of rape, our antiquated laws on rape, the horrible treatment by the police and the courts of women who are willing to press charges... No, I'm not in the least surprised that these two stories would emerge simultaneously. I am surprised that both of them are in prime time where they will be seen by a wide audience - not hidden in some Sunday afternoon ghetto."

In the end, I had very mixed feelings about the way the film played out. I appreciate the effort to bring attention to a sensitive topic that absolutely needed addressing. However, disregarding Betty for more than half of the film is troubling. It reminds me of 1976’s Revenge for a Rape with Mike Connors. In Revenge, the assault takes a backseat to the heady action scene at the end, which features Connors, not the victim, "getting revenge" (and, if memory serves, has a similar twist). With this approach, the survivor is put under question when it’s revealed that she accused the wrong man. In both of these films, rape is merely a plot device.

At the same time, I did like the ending of Cry because it doesn’t just pat Betty on the back and assume life will resume some kind of normalcy for her. In this respect, it is reminiscent of Are You in the House Alone?, which does a better of job of telegraphing that notion, and, of course, that telefilm is told from the female’s point of view, giving it a gravitas and a sense of realism that Cry lacks.

This is not to say that Cry Rape should be completely disregarded. It’s a very watchable telefilm, with great acting, especially from Peter Coffield and Joseph Sirola (who I know best from his many appearances on Quincy). As a mystery film, it does have its intrigue, and it is an efficient, and sometimes energetic entry into the early days of the telefilm. Mostly though it is an important cultural artifact, because it got to the gate first, and made an honest attempt to depict the horrors of sexual assault. The scenes with Betty are harrowing, and I appreciate that the script makes sure that not every male character is a jerk. It also invites us (all to briefly though) into another survivor’s life, and manages to give viewers something to think about. I just wish those moments were longer, and the mystery aspect played down.

Cry Rape is available through Warner Archives!

Andrea Marcovicci discussing Cry Rape:

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Here I am, with yet another update, but I will posting a new review soon too! Hooray! I've really missed this place.

That's my name on there!!!
I think the biggest news that I haven't posted here is that I provided the commentary track to Shout! Factory's Blu Ray release of the 1977 telefilm The Spell! It's available! Please buy it! You don't have to listen to my commentary (but you know, if so inclined, go for it!), but we need to support the legitimate release of telefilms! This is just one of several TVMs coming out. Exciting times!!! Let's keep this rolling!

And, I'll be back in England at the end of October to present a short paper at the At Home with Horror conference at Kent University!

I've been running around the web-o-sphere like the devil! I've guested on a few more podcasts, was interviewed and contributed to an article (or two, I'm forgetting).


The Film and Water Podcast invited me on to talk about the small screen giallo Honeymoon with a Stranger
website | iTunes

Just One More Thing had me on in an attempt to figure out all that was wrong with the pilot TVM for Mrs. Columbo
website | iTunes

I also talked to the Aussie podcast The Sixth Dimension about the world of the telefilm
website | iTunes

The dog-eat-dog world of podcasting... or Hack-o-lantern?
And I got to hang out with more Australians over at the Dr. Snuggles show, where we talked about the direct-to-video erotica flick Emmanuelle Through Time: Sex and Chocolate
website | iTunes

I did a couple of guest spots on The Hysteria Continues, where we chatted about the classic telefilm Don't Go to Sleep, as well as one of my favorite late entry slashers, Hack-o-lantern!

Don't Go to Sleep: website | iTunes
Hack-o-lantern: website | iTunes
Patreon special episode Humanoids from the Deep: website

(*btw, Justin mentioned me on The Hysteria Continues commentary track for Madhouse! Thank you! That was neat!)

Because it's always 5pm somewhere...


I was interviewed by one of my all time favorite people, Jeremy Richey for his gorgeous print magazine Art Decades!

I was interviewed by Samm Deighan on Diabolique Magazine's website for the upcoming book Yuletide Terror! There's lots of talk of holiday horror for both the big and small screen.

The Austin Chronicle conducted a brief interview with me regarding a screening of Fantasies that I curated and hosted for the Austin Film Society! OMG. That was amazing. And a big shout out to all the people that showed up. We only had a few seats left when the movie started!

I was also interviewed by Vanessa Morgan on her site Celluloid Diaries. This one is about my book, Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999 (which is available on Amazon!). I would like to mention that Vanessa published an essay I wrote on the early 70s telefilm Locusts in her excellent book When Animals Attack!


I co-wrote an article with Lance Vaughan on a slasher I love, The Slayer for Kindertrauma!

I also did a Name that TV Guide Ad for Kindertrauma. See how many you can identify (answers in the comments section).

There's been a few absolutely lovely reviews for my book as well:

Starburst (OMG!)
Film Trap


I've got one or two more things coming up, and will post accordingly! Keep an eye on this blog over the next week because...

As I mentioned, I've got a new review coming (yes, it's true), and...

The Made for TV Mayhem Show is going swimmingly (the RSS feed is located on the upper right sidebar). We're reconvening on September 28th to talk about the ABC Afterschool Special. The big news is that this space will be hosting an email Q&A I conducted with Lance Guest! He was very kind about taking time out to answer a few questions from a goofy fan. So excited!

I feel very fortunate to be here right now, and I've gotten so much love and support from a lot of people who were once strangers. Thank you again for your patience with my blog updates and for listening, reading and/or whatever! It means the world to me!

Finally, I just want to say that I'm absolutely heartbroken over losing Bernie Casey. A wonderful actor, and mascot to this site, and a stalwart small screen companion. Thank you, Bernie. You are loved and missed.

Monday, August 7, 2017

An Element of Truth (1995)

Network: CBS
Original Airdate: September 26th, 1995

After taking a couple of years off from her bad girl role as Abby Cunningham Ewing on Knots Landing, Donna Mills revisited her femme fatale roots in the 1995 true crime drama An Element of Truth. Based on the story of con artist Glenda Elizabeth Bell, Mills is a somewhat fictionalized version named Vanessa Graves. From the start of the film she plays up a sympathy act, claiming on a job interview that her husband and daughter were killed in a car accident and she’s desperate to start over. Later, at an office party the story starts changing. Yes, her husband and daughter were killed in an accident, but this time it’s a plane crash. Sometimes it’s a boating accident. It’s whatever she needs to say to suit the situation. Vanessa visits a video dating service and eyes the kindhearted Sidney Wiltz (Peter Reigert, and I’m wondering if “Wiltz” is a play on his wilting nature?), who, of course, is instantly drawn to the gorgeous but grieving “widow,” taking her in almost immediately.

Don't fall for it, Sidney!
Vanessa tells Sidney she works as a secretary at an investment firm, but only holds the lowly position as a way to cover up her real reason for being there: She is, according to her own story, allowed to secretly invest in ventures as long as she does it in cash. So, Sidney starts forking over the big bucks, and Vanessa prints out legitimate looking Word docs indicating great financial growth. Fancy cars, pretty things, big houses, and life in a moderately fast lane seem pretty good and one might even think she actually likes Sidney, but then his garish but handsome (and down on his luck) buddy, Peter (Robin Thomas) shows up and begins an affair with Vanessa. However, it appears the con artist has met her match as he bilks her of all the money she’s collected from Sidney. This means Vanessa has to up her game, and no one is safe from the blonde flimflam as she shakes and shimmies her cold-heart through the rest of the telefilm. And honestly? It’s kind of glorious!

The 1990s was an oddball time in the world of the television film. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, and appreciate it more as time passes, but the true crime telefilm of that era seems infinite, and it’s easy to see why An Element of Truth has flown under my radar for the last two decades. There’s not necessarily a lot going for it that helps to distinguish it from similar fare, and there are admittedly more entertaining small screen examples, such as Death of a Cheerleader (Tori Spelling 4lyfe!), and Deadly Vows (John Ritter 4lyfe!), but that’s not to say it’s not a fun little potboiler, with some great photography and a really entertaining performance by Mills, who knows how sink her teeth into hustler roles. She’s captivating, looks ridiculously gorgeous, and despite playing a detestable character remains charming and watchable.

OK Sidney, you can fall for her.
In fact, the entire cast is quite good with a lovely Perry Reeves putting in an incredibly sympathetic turn as Maizie, Vanessa’s awkward coworker who develops a crush on Sidney. The film has a couple of really sweet moments as we see their relationship develop. Galdarnit! He deserves a good woman!

Love and money do not go hand in hand with these con artists!
Bell, the real con artist, not only managed to snake over a million dollars from her unsuspecting hubby before running off and remarrying, but she also faked a cancer diagnosis as part of her trickery! But the seedier true life elements of Bell's treachery were removed because the powers that be felt that audiences wouldn’t believe those things really happened! Stranger than fiction, folks!

Vanessa works the puppy dog eyes.
Produced by Miss Mills herself, this was just one of several TV movies the beauty took on after Knots Landing as way to help audiences separate her from her infamous Abby Ewing character. Donna Mills Productions, which was founded in the late 1980s, did quite well for itself, and Mills had 10 projects in development with ABC by 1993 (although not all of them came to fruition). While An Element of Truth puts her closer to Abby than any of the other roles I’ve seen, there’s something more sinister about Vanessa, although she is just as gleefully man-eating! It’s an interesting turn for Mills who manages to make Vanessa unique and even disarming at times. And, it's a decent time waster to boot.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Talking TV at the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies: The Films

For those of you interested in what I discussed whilst I was in London last week attempting to sound scholarly (see how I used "whilst"... I've become so British!), or if you came and were interested in checking out some of the titles I mentioned, here is a list of what I discussed, or screened, along with the topic I placed them under (some titles linked to my reviews or episodes of podcasts where we featured that title):

Topic: TV Movies as an Event

Opening Bumper Reel:
Deliver Us From Evil
KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park
Trackdown: Finding the Goodbar Killer
Midnight Hour

Topic: An Overview of the History of the TV Movie
Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring
Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver
See How they Run
Seven in Darkness

Topic: Popularity of the TV Movie (Nielsens)
Dr. Cook's Garden
Crowhaven Farm
The Girl Most Likely To...
Cry in the Wilderness

Topic: Important Filmmakers:
Dan Curtis
Richard Matheson
John Llewellyn Moxey
Aaron Spelling

Movies discussed (very briefly):
Satan’s School for Girls
Trilogy of Terror
The Night Stalker

Topic: Marketing the Horror Telefilm
Look What Happened to Rosemary’s Baby

Promo clip reel:
Born Innocent
Deadly Lessons
The Intruder Within
Someone’s Watching Me!
Invitation to Hell
Bad Seed
Look What Happened to Rosemary’s Baby

TV Guide Section:
The Babysitter
Dying Room Only
This House Possessed
Bridge Across Time (aka Terror at London Bridge)
Midnight Hour
No Place to Hide
Are You in the House Alone?

Topic: So Many Subgenres!
Invitation to Hell (Satanic Panic)
Legend of Lizzie Borden (True Crime)
The Stranger Within (Sci-Fi)
Five Desperate Women (proto-slasher)
Ants! (Nature Runs Amok)
Bad Ronald (Evil Kids)
Mazes and Monsters (Propaganda)
Killjoy (Thriller)

Topic: Popular Subgenre - Supernatural
Subtopic: The Haunted House/Ghost Story Telefilm, and the Intimacy of Grief:
Fear No Evil
Daughter of the Mind
The House that Would Not Die
Don’t Go to Sleep
This House Possessed
She Waits
(*all of the above had companion clips, with the exception of The House that Wouldn't Die)

Subtopic: The Paranormal TVM and Second Wave Feminism
The Spell
Midnight Offerings (included clip)
Initiation of Sarah
Night Cries

Subtopic: Tiny Monsters and the Domestic Space

Tiny Monster reel:
Dead of Night segment: Bobby
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell
The Intruder Within
Trilogy of Terror

A clip reel I didn't get to show: Big Monsters!

Conclusion: The TV Horror Film from 1985 to Present:
Kicks (revamp of ABC Movie of the Week)
Bad Seed (revamp of ABC Movie of the Week)
The Haunting of Sarah Hardy (USA Original)
Murder by Night (USA Original)
Tainted Blood (USA Original)
The Haunted (included clip)
Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive
Mark of the Devil (re-purposed Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense)
Spring Break Shark Attack (revival of the horror movie of the week)
Locusts (revivial of the horror movie of the week)
Rosemary's Baby miniseries remake (the telefilm as an "event" continues)

The End!

I'd like to thank Kier-La Janisse and Jennifer Wallis, as well as my publisher, David Kerekes of Headpress, and the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies for hosting such an incredible event (the folks at the Horse Hospital were pretty great too). We almost sold out of the book I edited, Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999 (which is now available through Amazon), and I've had some wonderful feedback. Also, two new real life friends, Tom Elliot from The Strange and Deadly Show and Chris Brown from The Last Horror Podcast (along with his gorgeous wife) made the trek from Liverpool to ensure the whole thing was even more memorable. I am so grateful for the last few months, and I hope you continue to join me on this little small screen adventure!