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Sweet, Sweet Rachel (1971)
Another Key ABC 'Movie of the Week' Pilot!
This was the pilot for the short-lived ABC series called 'The Sixth Sense'. By the time the series got under way, actor Gary Collins took over the part of Dr. Darrow. This character was primetime's first paranormal psychic investigator - way before another ABC favorite, 'The Night Stalker'. At any rate, the history of 'The Sixth Sense' is a very unhappy one. It's hard to get the original episodes of the series, if not impossible. It was chopped up and reedited into Rod Serling's 'Night Gallery', according to the accounts of many fans and people who know much more about the show's history.
The series was basically about Dr. Darrow getting to the origins of certain paranormal disturbances and hauntings in various places. It was a great show, from what I remember of it. Too bad the original episodes can't ever be seen again. All we are left with are the re-edited versions that were incorporated into 'The Night Gallery' series. Sometimes you have to wonder where Hollywood's mind is. They deliberately ruin good shows for reasons beyond our comprehension!
Satan's School for Girls (1973)
A Little Disappointed With Ending
Another of those flicks inspired by the success of 'Rosemary's Baby'. When that movie came out, the nation developed an obsession or preoccupation with the devil or the whole concept of evil in general. I even remember seeing a '60 Minutes' segment at that tender age which reported that while many people were less religious or didn't believe in God, many others believed in the Devil. At least, that was the synopsis given by Mike Wallace's opening segment voice-over.
'Satan's School For Girls' is one of those ABC titles that can be easily found today compared to, say, 'The Screaming Woman'. Sometimes you pick up a bit of trivia by watching these old television movies. When I watched it a few years ago, I didn't realize that Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd, who was using her old surname of Stoppelmoor, had acted together before 'Charlie's Angels'.
Kate Jackson is superb in her role as the level-headed, innocent Roberta, who appears to be the only person Elizabeth can trust. I have a problem with the ending, though, which gives the viewer the impression that Roy Thinnes, as the cult leader, not only has special powers but isn't of this world at all. But hey, it's a movie about the devil, black magic, satanism and the disturbing reality that good doesn't always win - at least, not totally. That was another thing which became common in entertainment: allowing evil to win. I guess this was a product of the nation's loss of innocence and disillusionment with events like the Kennedy and King assassinations, Vietnam, and the Watergate scandal. We all sort of 'grew up fast' after those events.
The Screaming Woman (1972)
A Shocker At The Time!
Yes, this was one of ABC's more graphic 'Movie of the Week' thrillers. What shocked me was seeing a woman buried alive still being able to communicate as dirt is falling down on her face. A few years ago, I had acquired this longing for finding most, if not all, of the ABC movie titles I had grown up watching, and this movie was hard to find! I managed to get a grainy but still watchable copy through Ebay after bidding and losing on it a few times.
This is another one of those flicks which hasn't been rebroadcast in over thirty years. The great thing about this movie was that the son seemed more sympathetic to his mother's story. It's almost as if he never wanted to believe that she was crazy to begin with. The daughter-in-law, on the other hand, comes across as a greedy you-know-what who is anxious to have Laura committed for the sole purpose of getting control of the estate through her more reluctant husband. One gets the feeling that she hates her mother-in-law and only married the son because he comes from money.
The scene where Laura bribes a kid to dig up the area where the voices are coming from is unforgettable. She gives the kid two dollars, I think, to do it, but he is scared off by the shock of such a gruesome discovery. Great movie!
It is too bad that the Hollywood industry doesn't see fit to preserve television movies or give them the same consideration. Back in the 70's, the television movie was still a relatively new art form that left a great deal of room for experimentation. Perhaps that's why many of these features still strike a chord with many folks today.
The Green Man (1990)
*A Great From the 90's!
I've never read the novel this movie is based on either, but the movie made its impression on me from its debut. A BBC production that was released on the A&E channel, 'The Green Man' takes the old haunted house story and throws in a main character fighting his own personal demons, a little pseudo-lesbianism, plus an interesting mix of minor characters. Great scene where the other-wordly being pays a visit to Maurice to give him advice on dealing with Dr. Thomas Underhill! I can't decide whether the being was an angel, fallen or otherwise, or simply a messenger. We're all kept guessing as to that one! If anybody knows ghosts, it's the British. Not that we don't have our share, but there is something special about the United Kingdom. It remains a place of enchantment: the history of the Celts, Druids, and the Arthurian legends.
Incidentally, even though I wasn't the one to donate it, Riverhead Free Library has this excellent video in its catalog!
Ghost Story (1981)
* Despite Incosistencies.....
* (Riverhead Free Library) ...'Ghost Story' is still a good flick if you're in the proper mood. The only thing that ruins the potential is seeing the rotted corpse of Alma Mobley too often. That device should have been used sparingly just to build suspense - allowing the viewer's imagination to do more of the work. Seeing her corpse frequently lessens the impact throughout the movie. I've never read the novel to this day, but the movie does win points on creepiness, foreboding, and semi-Gothic overtones. The vagrants living in her old house are a nice touch in the film. It's the old theory that the mentally ill are sometimes blessed (or cursed?) with being in tune with the other realm - something that goes with the territory of their mental defficiencies. Something they really have no control over, I suppose. Conversations between the local cop and another character about the vagrant reveals that the guy had gotten mixed up in some occult group - which was probably why he went mad. In any case, it is creepy when he says that he and the boy are on good terms with the owner! For a dead woman, Alma Mobley sure gets around, even doing mortal things like taking a job! A great contradiction there when you think of ghostly presences, but somehow it still works. If one believes that Alma Mobley is capable of pulling others into her own reality, not just making her presence known and felt. John Houseman is great as the Chowder Society member who, in adulthood, is still calling the shots and pushing others around just as he did in his early youth when the tragic crime happened. Somehow, one is not sorry to see him become a victim.
Night Gallery (1969)
* Another Great Movie & Series
*(Riverhead Free Library) This is another series that didn't lose the spirit of Rod Serling, although Rod was eventually separated from any creative control, sad to say. However, this is another donation I made to the library, but I had to go through different channels, so to speak, to get the pilot movie with the three stories. When I ordered the series from Columbia House, they didn't have the pilot where a very young Spielberg directed Joan Crawford in the story of a rich, cruel woman who wanted to see again at any cost. Great stuff! This is where a lot of you can be instrumental in supporting your library. Track down those hard-to-find classic TV gems and donate them so future generations can see what good television was all about! Incidentally, the library also has 'Twilight Zone' episodes on hand.
The Night Strangler (1973)
*For a Sequel, This Kicks Butt.....!!!
*(Riverhead Free Library)
Kolchak is back and better than ever! After being forced to leave Las Vegas under the threat of a murder charge for killing the vampire, Carl finds himself in Seattle, Washington. And wouldn't you know it, he runs into Vinchenzo, who, for some unknown reason, gives Carl a second chance by helping him land a job at his paper.(For more details on this second pilot, see my comments for 'The Night Stalker'.)
One of the great things about the series is the enduring, albeit, troubled relationship between Carl and Vinchenzo. The two are friends - perhaps not in that smarmy, fuzzy way, but the two men seem to be kindred spirits of a sort. Usually, sequels are a major disappointment, but this second pilot for the series breaks that stereotype. I'm sure the ABC network realized that it had a hit and a potential gold mine on its hands back then.
****************************************************************** However, I'd like to digress to say a few words about another matter. I just received the video for the second pilot in the mail today from one of the Ebay stores. Those of you who read my commentary know that I'm a big supporter of Riverhead Free Library. I'm happy to say that the 'Night Stalker' series, pilot movies and episodes are complete once again. The two pilots had been missing for a considerably long time. I had originally donated the entire series to the library about two or three years ago. Somebody took them out and never returned them.
Please support your library by not only returning materials on time, but making donations of videos, books or money. Remember, it's your tax dollars. When somebody steals from the library, they steal from all of us.
In this day of disappearing job security, and people who can't even afford cable, more reliance is falling upon libraries for everything from special classes to entertainment. I'm a classic television and film nut, and donating movies and series to my library is my way of sharing that joy. In fact, quite a few of the supernatural flicks I comment on can be found at Riverhead Free Library. I'll begin to leave a symbol marking the films that can be found at Riverhead if you're ever in the neighborhood and want to see them.
The Changeling (1980)
*Okay, How Do I Write This Review....?
*(Riverhead Free Library)
And the reason I titled my comments this way is because I strongly feel that describing a movie this great - even a little - might ruin the fun for everyone. This movie blends the traditional ghost story with some detective/mystery techniques. George C. Scott is great as the most unlikely recipient of supernatural happenings - due to his past portrayal of figures such as 'Patton'. A Christopher Walken could have possibly played this role, but Chris would have looked 'too much at home' in the setting. Scott is a very practical-minded character who is unwillingly drawn into finding the truth behind the disturbances. His character has a noticeably gruff exterior which would mislead the viewer if not for the opening of the movie. It's clear that John Russell, played by Scott, is ripe for such an experience perhaps because of the recent tragedy in his life. The pain of losing not just a wife but a child makes him the prime candidate that the restless spirit of Joseph will reach out to. And that's all I'm going to say. It's a very stylized, well-done movie, and wouldn't you know it, just the sort of class act that isn't run too often on television stations around the country!
The Christmas List (1997)
This One Quickly Became A Favorite With Me from Day One!
...as well as a holiday tradition! Kudos to Merv Griffin Enterprises...
Who can not love Melody Parris, the main character? Yet, the main point of the story is how everything came together for her when she decided not to 'wait' for anything anymore. It was only when Melody stopped wishing and actually did something that all the pieces fell into place: like going to that swanky restaurant even though she had no escort, and joining in the fun with the other diners.
Favorite moment: Melody's honest, heartfelt plea to the cops who were about to tow her car away - 'if you take away that car, you will ruin whatever luck I have', or words to that effect. And you know...it worked! Second most favorite moment: Melody dumping dinner in George's lap.
I'll never get tired of watching this one. And, for the record, I still watch 'It's A Wonderful Life', though many have gotten sick of it, sad to say.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)
Second Most Memorable ABC Flick
One reason ABC plays such a key part in my childhood memories is because we were a captive audience, in a sense. My family and I moved to Sag Harbor in 1971 - a then unknown town on eastern Long Island. Cable was in its infancy back then, and if you didn't have it, well there was ABC, the only network that came in clear as a bell. CBS and NBC were always snowy or fuzzy. So, I remember a lot of ABC programming, whether it was 'Movie of the Week', 'The After School Special', and the many prime time dramas and sitcoms that aired on the network - even those which were short-lived. And even before we moved from the city, I had memories of racing home from parochial school to catch 'Dark Shadows'.
The house in Sag Harbor had a real fireplace, not one of those gas jobs like the house we had in our old neighborhood of Springfield Gardens. Well, the allure of a real log fire wore off quickly when I saw 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark' at the age of 12. I didn't go near our fireplace for about a week afterwards! It creeped me out that much. In spite of the movies disappointing ending, it's still good for what it is: one of ABC's best forays into the supernatural.
A Christmas Story (1983)
One of Those Flicks I Never Tire of Watching.....!
It hits on all cylinders as far as childhood memories go, folks. Everyone can take something away from this movie: the problem with childhood bullies, desperately wanting some toy that seemed like a big deal back then ---- and everybody has tried to suck-up to the teacher in the hopes that it would make life easier at home! This movie puts a skewed and funny spin on what is normally not pleasant. We can all laugh at the characters and ourselves.
Nobody else could have played the dad like Darren McGavin, an old favorite for many audiences.
Favorite quote from the movie - Darren McGavin: 'He looks like a deranged Easter bunny....a pink nightmare!' (Ralphie modelling his aunt's homemade present of a cute bunny costume..)
Favorite moment: when years of humiliation, fear and a feeling of being short-changed by life finally come to a head, and Ralphie gets angry and beats up the neighborhood bully. And doesn't get in trouble for it, either. A rite of passage, or sorts....
As a woman who enjoys her food, I would have taken a sawed-off shotgun to the Buttkuses'(?) unruly hounds after they made off with that turkey. I would have acted very differently from just quietly settling for Chinese dinner on a major holiday, let me tell you... PETA could go jump in the lake.
I'm glad that some stations have marathon showings of 'A Christmas Story' during the holiday season. This has become very common with a lot of networks: like SCI-FI channel's marathon showing of 'Twilight Zone' from New Year's Eve to New Year's Day.
Great Romantic Comedy
I'd watch this again and again if TV stations would run it more often. I love Barbara Eden, and this movie can be seen as another variation on the 'Cinderella' tale with some quirks thrown in.
Eden's character doesn't go to great lengths to hide who she is. Her only crime is not correcting the assumptions her new society friends have of her.
She drives her beat-up car to these society affairs without being intimidated by the valet(s) who have to park it! One might assume that if she was hell-bent on deceiving people, she would have borrowed or rented a nice car to go to these fancy affairs. Even when she is found out, she refuses to shirk her responsibilities with the charity auction.
Anybody can identify with a character that is put upon by family members who rely on her, yet continue to make little digs or comments suggesting that she's a failure in some respect. Hellooooo? I'd love to see the symbolic hands raised in the audience during those scenes in the movie! Kathy's well-to-do sister, who happens to be married, doesn't lift a finger to help 'baby-sit' their father, who, by the way, doesn't seem all that incapable of taking care of himself. To me, he's just downright lazy - a typical male from that generation. Doesn't want to get a cup of coffee for himself if he can get some female to serve him. (My dad was the same way.) Then there's the toady co-worker at the supermarket who thinks that Kathy shouldn't ask for anything better out of life. She should just settle and accept her lot - and, hint-hint, go out with him on a date, even though she sees him strictly as a friend. 'People like us should stick with our kind', he says, or words to that effect.
Great writing, great progression, great unfolding of the characters, who finally put all their cards on the table at the very end! Hope I haven't told too much. But even if you think I did, I want you to watch this flick anyway if your local station is showing it!
Prince of Darkness (1987)
'Prince of Darkness' More Like 'Prince of Confusion...!'
Okay, here's the deal. I've seen this Carpenter flick twice. Although many say it surpasses 'The Fog' in terms of special effects and jolts, the story is somewhat disjointed and all over the place, so to speak. Not even the appearance of rocker Alice Cooper as one of the homeless-turned-zombie can save this flick. It's like Carpenter couldn't make up his mind where he wanted to go, and by the time he did, it was too late either because of budget concerns or getting the film released on time.
My original take on this flick was that a bunch of university students are called together to, perhaps, study the nature of evil from different perspectives. The students represent a good cross-section of disciplines: mathematics, physics, philosophy, psychology and, of course, theology. The green goo in the cannister (or whatever it is), is merely a vehicle.
The idea that somehow somebody captured Satan's essence and placed it in - of all places - a church in Los Angeles, as opposed to a location in the Vatican struck me as odd. I mean, just the idea of Satan in a can made me think of the old 50's phone prank: 'Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Well, you better let him out before he suffocates.' There were enough elements for a good story here, but for me it fell apart, especially with that stupid ending.
I guess I prefer films that put the emphasis on good storytelling. Call me a purist in that way. I still think great storytelling is of supreme importance, not special effects, be they low-key or high-tech. Whereas 'The Fog' can be forgiven its inadequacies because the story is coherent and more enjoyable, 'Prince of Darkness' simply makes no sense...to me anyway. It's not a flick I would watch - even if nothing good happened to be on TV, sad to say. I'd sooner pick up a book from the library - even if it's a book I read before and enjoyed.
Pray TV (1982)
The TV Movie Rev. Falwell Was Afraid Of...
I saw this movie once, and it was an okay commentary on the whole business of televangelism. There wasn't anything particularly memorable about it for me. What I found more interesting was the controversy which took place around this movie.
This was one of two ABC flicks that the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who was gaining momentum with his newly-formed Moral Majority, not only objected to but tried to keep off the air. He made big noises about how religious people would be portrayed and the movie's inherent criticism of TV ministers in general. Also, I believe it was the first time I saw John Ritter in a serious role, despite the actor's past work before 'Three's Company'. Not being a big fan of 'The Waltons', I didn't know he portrayed a minister on the show until much later. Obviously, John Ritter wasn't exactly covering new territory in this movie.
What was the other flick Falwell had gripes with? It was the much-talked about 'The Day After' - speculation about the effects of a nuclear holocaust.
The Cat Creature (1973)
Great Story!....(Despite Any Inconsistencies)
This was another ABC television movie. Great modern take on the old Egyptian mummy curse idea. When the movie opens, the appraiser is going through the late millionaire's collection of Egyptian artefacts, some of which might have been smuggled. We are left to assume that the collector simply died from natural causes. We don't see the collector in the movie at all. We're given a quick overview of why the appraiser is there and that's it.
The murders don't start until a thief steals the heavy gold amulet from around the mummy's neck, if you remember. Said mummy was a priestess from the cult of Bast, the cat goddess, and the amulet was meant to imprison the spirit of the priestess.
Elements of the old detective story are blended with the supernatural in this tale. We are kept guessing until the very end as to the identity of the mysterious killer.
Great special effects in the scene when David Hedison finally has the showdown with the cat creature!
'Help Wanted: Live-in Housekeeper, Very Short-Term'
This might have been an ad that Mrs. Marrable ran in the local papers. But prospective applicants would have been better off applying for work as stable hands! This was an independent film. Although it wasn't one of ABC's television movies, it quickly became a favorite on the the 'Movie of the Week' line-up because of its suspense factor. It still creeps me out to this day. Nobody can play disturbed female characters like Geraldine Page! She even starred in an episode of Rod Serling's 'Night Gallery'.
The irony of the film is her finding out that she didn't have to go through all that trouble to keep living comfortably. Turns out that her late husband's stamp collection - that she used to bribe the next door neighbor's son - was a lot more valuable than she thought. I absolutely loved this movie!
Teresa Graves started out as one of the bikini-clad dancers on 'Laugh-In' before she landed this somewhat forgotten role. This was another ABC network pilot which seemed to test well. It's significant in that she was the first black actress to have a leading role in a prime time police drama. The series was enjoyable although short-lived. In one episode, she showcases her singing talent where she covers the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out".
I loved this series because - let's face it - there weren't many characters of this sort on prime time television. Black females were often portrayed as the usual stereotypes: the mother on welfare, the noble hardworking maid or housekeeper, the hooker, etc. Never a cop before 'Get Christie Love!' as far as prime time television goes.
After the series failed, Teresa Graves left acting to pursue missionary work in Africa among other things. I was sad to find that the actress died a few years ago at the age of 54 from a fire in her home. Incidentally, she died the same year (2002) as another alumni ABC actor Dennis Patrick - from 'Dark Shadows'. This stands out to me because Mr. Patrick was scheduled to make an appearance at the 2002 "Dark Shadows" Halloweenathon convention in Tarrytown - normally held in October. He too, ironically enough, died in a fire that broke out at his home.
Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell (1978)
Well, They Could Have Chosen a Better Title.....
I've seen this movie more than once. It was on par with a lot of the spooky stuff that was being shown in television movies back then. The only problem I had was with the title for the obvious reasons... One immediately thinks of the famous snack cake by Drake's! Leaving off the first part, 'Hound of Hell' would have sufficed.
Richard Crenna always manages to bring a sense of seriousness to anything he does, anyway - whether the plot is good or bad. But this was an enjoyable Halloween fare offered by the CBS network. I loved the part where Crenna takes a flight to some obscure country to find the mystic who would help him conquer the evil beast. He asks the cab driver how to find this guy. Great dialogue between the native cab driver and Crenna in terms of the cabby dissing his own people's ethnic beliefs. 'Aw, Mr. Barry, I left that stuff behind when I came down from the mountains...' - referring to the mystic who rarely sees or advises people, and nobody knows how to really contact him.
As far as supernatural fare goes, this movie is still enjoyable.
The Uninvited (1944)
Great Old Classic!
One can say that this was the first movie to treat the whole subject of ghosts and hauntings seriously. It will still hold up today - especially on a rainy afternoon.
Some people compare this to Hitchcock's 'Rebecca', but I don't know why. 'Rebecca' had no supernatural element to it. The suspense in that movie is tied into a young woman's suspicions about her new husband - suspicions that deepen when he refuses to tell her too much about the first wife and what really happened between them. Add into the mix a psychotic housekeeper like Danvers who was fiercely loyal to the first Mrs. de Winter -(even though she was less than perfect) - and you really have a great story. There is a hint of a lesbian undertone in that movie - perhaps between Danvers and the first wife. Then, there is the added threat of Jack trying to reopen the case surrounding the death of Rebecca in the hopes of implicating Maxim and sending him to prison. It is suggested that Rebecca, Danvers, and Jack had inappropriate relationships with each other. There's a sense of evil about all three of them and they all hated Maxim for their own twisted reasons.
In 'The Uninvited', you have a young woman who could never quite figure out her family history: certain things don't make sense. The two women who played a key part in her childhood are still at war with each other, even in death - which explains the haunting. There is even a slight educational bent in the way of the paranormal. One gets to see how early 'ouija boards' were constructed using household objects: an upturned wine glass being used as a planchette. It was also a treat to find out more about Alan Napier and what he was doing before his stint as Alfred on the old 'Batman' series!
Anyway, this movie might have typecast Ray Miland, who went on to play characters in similar creepy or atmospheric movies later on.
By the way, Riverhead Free Library also has this video - compliments of yours truly!
What Is A 'Golem?'
I saw this movie only once. For those who might be wondering about the creature itself, I'd like to add some background. This British horror movie uses the concept of a being from Jewish folklore, really. The Golem is a creature that is not really alive - the Jewish equivalent to the zombie. However, it usually appears on the scene with some sort of mission: to help somebody living wrap up unfinished business, or to act as a protector, avenger, whatever. According to Jewish folklore, the creature is made out of mud or stone and is controlled by placing a tiny sacred scroll in its mouth (if the person controlling it is brave enough!) The movie was interesting to watch, but it could have been better. It only stands as a period piece from that decade when all sorts of low-budget horror flicks were being made.
Better Late Than Never (1979)
Pure Escapist Fun w/ Underdog Sentiments
It wasn't often that you saw a movie where the rebellious types were a bunch of senior citizens - considering society's attitude about old people. This was a fun movie to watch with a bit of tragedy thrown in. It surprises me that John Carpenter, of all people, was one of the writers! One doesn't think of him as doing light-hearted fare. In any case, they don't show this one too often, if at all, on TV anymore, and it was done in the early 80's! Larry Storch is funny in the role of the exasperated sheriff who always seems to be caught in the middle between Mrs. Davis (Tyne Daly) and her crusty charges at the nursing home. I only saw this once, and it just seemed to have disappeared.
Very Early ABC 'Movie of The Week' Title
Here's another title that's on the MIA list. "Killdozer" is an interesting little tale based a short story of late sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon. Very unusual that the setting of the story where this bulldozer runs amok is an island somewhere in South Africa. Too bad the movie doesn't go into detail about the strange force that possesses the machine and starts it on a murderous rampage. But watch for a very young Robert Urich - way before his stint on 'S.W.A.T.', 'Vegas' and 'Spenser; for Hire'. My mother and I enjoyed this movie along with others such as 'Duel'. There's a sub-plot to Clint Walker's character: trying to overcome his battle with the bottle which led to a certain fall from grace in the company he works for. One gets the impression that he was sent on this construction job as a sort of punishment. Much as I'd like to think all the vintage ABC programming is seared into my memory, it has been so long since I've seen this movie, I could be mistaken about one or two points.
Additional note: Clint Walker fans should also see another ABC movie title the actor did called 'Scream of The Wolf'.
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
The Most Memorable of the ABC 'Movie of the Week' Series
Well, rather than repeat what has already been said, I feel that this flick still gives me pleasure today. I'm glad it's one of the easier titles to find, compared to so many others which are out-of-circulation or lost.
1975: I was a geeky kid still adjusting to the eastern Long Island town my family recently moved to: Sag Harbor. I just know that the morning after 'Trilogy's' debut in 1975, everyone in my homeroom at Pierson High School was talking about it! I will call this the "Psycho" of the small screen, and it will live in my memory forever!
Ironically enough, I read somewhere that Karen Black was not so keen on doing this movie originally. She only changed her mind when then husband Robert Burton was offered a part too. He played the blackmailing college student in the first (or second?) story. About six or seven years ago, I came across the actual doll --- or a very good replica --- that somebody was selling on Ebay! I wish I jumped all over it. It would have made a great piece of TV memorabilia.
Beg, Borrow, or Steal (1973)
Very Interesting Plot..Ahead of Its Time
Just in case childhood memory can't be totally relied upon, I'm rating this an '8'. This is one of a few flicks I've only seen once - at its debut. Unfortunately, this falls into the category of those television movies that haven't been rebroadcast in over 30 years. I wish somebody could track it down or find a copy someplace. That way, we could refresh our memories. I think that the three disabled characters were either former TV actors who played cops, or real cops who were forced to turn to crime when their disabilities get in the way of them finding work (people turn them down). Remember this came out way before the many pieces of legislation enacted to encourage people to hire the disabled. Maybe somebody can find a copy of this on Ebay or some similar website.
The Fog (1980)
*Still My Favorite Ghost Flick!
*(Riverhead Free Library)
(I would like to print a sort of retraction here. I said that I had never seen any other John Carpenter movie, but I fibbed. I remember seeing 'Prince of Darkness', and wasn't too impresed by it, despite all the neat special effects. I'll reserve further comment for that page.)
My bias runs towards the traditional ghost story and variations on that theme.
All the elements of a good ghost story are in 'The Fog': an ancient crime, retribution, foreshadowing, atmosphere and discovery of why things are going wrong. The film is most powerful because of what is not shown or explained. It's not even necessary to see the faces of the drowned lepers - just the glowing eyes and the sense of rotted bodies is more than enough thank you!
Antonio Bay is celebrating its anniversary as a town. However, the residents don't know the terrible secrets behind the founding of their township. 100 years ago, Blake, a rich man, was afflicted with the disease of leprosy. He wanted to use his own money to establish a colony for him and others like him. The town fathers back then, though, didn't want a leper colony close by. They pretended to be sympathetic, then hatched a conspiracy to lure Blake's ship to the rocks where it crashed and all on board drowned. The town fathers had nothing against taking Blake's gold, however.
You see, this is one of those movies where you have to pay attention - sometimes that is asking a lot with the public's short attention span of today. Pay particular attention to Hal Holbrook, who plays Father Malone, when he is reading from the diary that falls out of the church walls. That will go a long way in explaining the ending.
I also love this movie because it was made before all the advances in computer technology. There is an 'organic' feel and look to the special effects - very unlike all the computer-generated tricks you see in movies of today. People had to be more creative back then. Today, technology is so relied upon that many in Hollywood have become lazy. (I still marvel at how Demille did the parting of the Red Sea in 'The Ten Commandments - way before all these computer advances!)
My main complaint with the fog is that the progression of events is a bit choppy and uneven, but that doesn't stop you from enjoying the movie. Also take note of how this is one of those flicks where you can read all the credits and know who did what.
It annoys me that today's movies, when they run them on television, do this split-screen nonsense and roll the credits so darn fast you can't see who worked on the film.
Consensus is mixed on this film. Some say it's Carpenter's worse. I can't say that because I haven't many of his films. I'm not a fan of the slasher-type stuff. I love the more subtle chilling effects, the power of the unspoken word or a certain look, etc.
I'm 43 now, and when I'm talking to the 20-somethings about scary movies from years ago, I make it a point to bring up 'The Fog'!