INTRO: THE ORIGIN OF SATANIC PANIC
Blame it on the foundation-rattling popularity of The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby if you want, but the 70s was occult down to its bones, wilding out adults and children alike (if we were too young to see them in the theaters, we caught them edited on TV). The devil was--all through the 70s--kid-friendly but legitimately powerful; he carried a current of underground electric jouissance that connected our elementary school playground gossip chakras in a unified field of ouija boards, vividly recounted movie plots, slumber party telekinesis and deep dish absorption of TVMs like Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Crowhaven Farm, Horror at 37,000 Feet and the discussed in this issue, Cruise into Terror. The uncanny magnetism of the neighborhood covens often depicted in these films acted as a sort of tribal mask obscuring the mysteries of adulthood, which lax (in hindsight?) parental guidelines enabled us to often witness firsthand, even with inflexible bedtimes preventing us from seeing many of these films to the end (denied closure, I'd lie in bed and dream the endings, and lurid and dark those endings were, way more lurid and far darker than the chaste denouements rattled off by a half-asleep mom the next morning).
I forgot to mention the preponderance--as holy children's writs---of scary 70s paperbacks. These were so important because if you saw a movie either on TV or the big screen and you loved it, you had to accept the fact you might never see it again. The only way to 'own' it would be to buy the novel or soundtrack album (or the bubblegum cards). The child of the 80s could have his mind blown by the 'horror' aisle at the video rental store, but for the kid of the 70s, it was the supermarket checkout paperback rack that promised the 'real' scares, the ones accessible to us if only we could understand them, the language just a hair out of reach (I learned to read and write basically reading and studying Peter Benchley's Jaws, which is a far dirtier novel than you'd think, replete with an affair between Mrs. Brody and the Richard Dreyfuss character--I underlined all the bad words). We'd stand, hypnotized, by the beguilingly cryptic occult covers, that underground jouissance current snaking right into us, while mom blithely shopped.What an encouragement to learn to read, asap!
That all changed in the 80s, of course, when we could rent stuff far too gruesome or sexual to have ever even graced out TVs before; novelizations died away for the most part. But today... now... these final days, for some of us, The Car, Beyond the Door, and The Devil's Rain and The Legacy, and their comparatively gentle shocks, abide, luring us back through the door of nostalgia and into the tactile, safe pre-CGI world that seems so much more dangerous for being so much less overtly threatening.
Eggar is perfect in the role. Smart as a whip and never totally scared, only horrified. When she widens her round Irish eye in horror they shine right through the spiderweb spiral ironwork (top) from which she watches Stu blow-torch his hand while staring at her in an impressively unwavering, shadowy leer (below), it's as if great and terrible acting meters merge in the gas tanks of some tailspinning biplane and somehow keep it aloft for whole minutes after it should have crashed. Richard Gillis' uneven score at times evokes the ominously advancing synths of John Carpenter; at other times it's fairly generic TV cop show suspense of sub-Herrmann strings, but it's perfect for the times and mood in which it works (i.e. 70s TV movie on 80s drugs), covering many abrupt tonal shifts and sublimely meshing with the nice cinematography, the sporadically shocking gore, bad actor handiwork (!), and the environs of the different victims. So fear not, and take a ride down the left-handed path.... to terror!
------speaking of evil-confronting 70s priests, check out:
There is a devil, there is no doubt,but is he trying to get in usor trying to get out?
DEATH AT LOVE HOUSE (1976)
THE FURY (1978)
GOD TOLD ME TO (1976)
THE LEGACY (1978)
LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973)
MANITOU, THE (1978)