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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This episode of "The Sixth Sense" was made and aired in 1972! Joan Crawford makes her final acting effort in this tale of ESP and strange happenings! Joan Fairchild(Crawford) crashes her car near a house and must stay the night there till it can be pulled out of a ditch. Joan soon realizes shes in for the night of her life! The residents of the house practice ESP and try to put their skills to the test by making Joan see images of her dead daughter who died in a boating accident. Joan soon realizes they are trying to scare her to death and quickly befriends a young girl who lives in the house that is deaf and afraid of the water. The other residents of the house try to set the young girl out in a lake on a boat after they punch a hole in the bottom because she was going to try to help save poor old Joan! Joan uses her "Sixth Sense" to mentally contact the girl and tell her there is a life jacket hidden on the boat. The original title of this 52min episode was "Dear Joan, We're Going To Scare You To Death". At the end of the program Crawford shares her own ESP story with host Gary Collins in a short interview! Great Joan Crawford TV show and the last acting performace she gave of her career! You can sometimes see the 22min "Night Gallery" syndicated version on TV where many Joan Crawford scenes were cut out leaving the story kinda confusing. A short intro by Night Gallery creator Rod Serling with a cool painting were added at the beginning. I have seen both versions of this show and the 52min version is much superior!
This wasn't a bad episode by any means, but when Joan Crawford is the guest star, I expected more fireworks and memorable scenes than what I got. I'll assume there was major editing, because the version I just watched has no Dr. Rhodes(Gary Collins)at all, although from what I just read on here, Collins interviewed Crawford before or after this segment regarding psychic phenomena. Joan Fairchild(Crawford)has visions of her dead daughter, who drowned from a boating accident; soon after one of these visions, she crashes her car near an old mansion(naturally), which houses these stuffy, snotty young adults who eventually decide to scare Joan to death. Motive anyone? Not really. It was downright rude to invite Joan to spend the night after the crash, give her a false sense of security, then torment her. There's a strange twist of a deaf woman at the house, but I don't remember why she's there, and when she tries to escape the house, one of the idiots pokes a hole in her boat, because she can't swim. Chalk this up to ignorance on my part, but can a deaf person speak perfectly normal, as she does? At least there's one guy, Paul(David Ladd),who objects to the group's plan, and eventually sets things right, after being a chicken at first. The full episode was probably better than the condensed one, but there's the fact that it was Crawford's final acting appearance, so fans of hers can perhaps appreciate that.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
PLOT SPOILERS I was fortunate enough to come across an unedited version
of this episode. Aside from being a classic example of 70s-era TV
horror, it also features the last role that Joan Crawford ever played
before her death.
The episode features Joan as a woman named Joan Fairchild, who is driving along a dark road through a wooded area when her car breaks down. When she gets out, she has a bizarre hallucination of a ghostly young woman floating toward her out of the woods. Emerging from the woods, she comes across a foreboding house populated by five young people, four of whom are groovy 70s-types and another who is a gentle deaf woman. Joan, of course, finds that she must stay the night, but what she does not realize is that she has stumbled into a group of psychics. The four of them have been experimenting with their abilities, sending distressing images using the deaf girl as their guinea pig. Excited that they've connected with someone, they set their sights on Joan instead, sending her frightening images of her deceased daughter in an attempt to scare her to death.
Eventually Joan bonds with the deaf woman, but the psychics grow more and more threatening until they attempt to drown the deaf girl in a boat and frighten Joan into a fatal asthma attack. A sympathetic member of their group spoils the plan, and Joan finds herself required to summon her own psychic abilities in order to save the deaf girl. To save herself, she simply summons the police.
Amusingly, Joan appears in a candid epilogue alongside series host Gary Collins, where she discusses the show with Collins and admits her own interest in psychic phenomena, recounting an experience where she had a psychic premonition about her pet poodle.
Although fairly tame by horror movie standards, this teleplay is more than a little bit creepy. What interested me most is the fact that the episode is titled "Dear Joan, We're Going to Scare You To Death", and it borrows heavily from the similarly-titled film "Let's Scare Jessica to Death". I wonder if there is a deeper connection here. Scenes of Joan's drowned daughter reappearing to her in visions of a lake recycle several of "...Jessica..."'s jolts, including one where she pulls Joan herself underneath the water.
Great stuff if you can find it. I was lucky to get the unedited version of this episode, since the version shown as part of the "Night Gallery" syndication package is heavily cut and nearly incomprehensible.
This is 70's TV at it's worst, at least the 22 minute version (cut for
a 30 minute TV slot). This is the version I watched, but it is hard to
imagine how adding another 15 or 20 minutes of footage could have saved
this piece of ****. (In the longer version I understand that part of
the time was used for the story and part for an out of character "real
world" interview of Joan by Gary Collins about her own personal ESP
experiences. Well, um, whatever.)
None of the story makes sense. It is not scary. The bad guys have no motivation for being bad, they just decide to murder someone for the fun of it, but there is no real sense of sociopathy. Joan just runs around, and although she knows the group is trying to kill her she doesn't just leave. etc. etc. etc. There is a very contrived bit about a deaf young woman and a boat that is so silly that it moves beyond camp.
Perhaps the longer version fills in some of the holes but there are so many of them, but I am guessing that it just would make for a longer period of pain. OK, it is Joan's last performance so you might want to see it just to see how far gone she was. That is the only reason I watched more than ten minutes of this. Her acting, makeup, and hair are so cartoonish that I wondered if everyone involved behind the camera was trying to make her look ridiculous. She is in her late 60's, I believe, when this was filmed; and she is playing a mid-40's character. Quite unconvincingly.
On the good side: The 70's clothes and hair are perfect period pieces (well except for Ms. Crawford's who was dressed in a bunch of ugly but colorful suits). A couple of the guys and girls were attractive.
But other than marveling at just how far Joan Crawford fell and watching a quintessential 70's look and feel, this is basically unwatchable.
was able to provide her with the right feeling about appearing on this series and consequently we are left with the final jigsaw piece of camp that completed Crawford's 1000 piece set. It's beyond criticism really, no one could possibly argue that it's in any way superior television. She's game, I guess, in a trouper sort of way. But it's a nervy, jagged way to take a curtain call (though there is a moment where she conceals herself from her would be attackers behind a curtain. Gee, I would never have thought to look there. So much for a Sixth Sense). You feel bad for the woman, you really do. And yet, determined as she was, maybe she left us with an enduring legacy, a message ...wait...I'm getting something...yep, ''keep on keeping on until you can give no more''. Any sane actress would have called it quits after this, so we can have no doubt about Crawford's lucidity in her final years. That should give us a certain solace.
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