Monday, July 11, 2022

Sexy Occult 70s TV Movie Review Round-Up

The 70s--such a great time for supernatural-themed TV movies, usually on ABC. These old mellow vibe-casting fading star-studded thrill rides can seem mighty slow and uneventful to today's audiences, but if you get the context, i.e. you were a kid in the age before VCRs and cable--when everything came over network TV, censored, edited, studded with standards and practices alterations and commercials and never meant to compete with the rougher stuff over a the drive-in--then it's a fond and comforting and slightly unsettling blast. These were films meant to scare old folks, parents, and children alike. Through it all, the occult thing soared. As the witchy 70s began, Satanic cults full of the elderly or the very hip Californians fiddled with demonic possession of children and teenagers being harassed by their peers and laying on their telekinetic vengeance; all the time staying close to the witchy occult roots.

Marked by an avoidance of anything like sex or gore, a low-budget, reliance on commercial breaks for pacing (which makes their video and digital versions seem strangely incomplete, as if 'the good parts' are missing)--at their bests these films are classics of comfort food opiate reassurance for a certain generation, and maybe just cool relics for everyone else. B-list character actors from past cult favorites evoke the bygone classics while the scripts dole out just enough scares and suspense to keep dad from changing the channel at the next commercial break.

Here are a few I love or like or at least don't mind. They're all re-edited from older posts here on Acidemic. But I'm working on an all-new post that will cover LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENED TO ROSEMARY'S BABY, KILLDOZER, and SATAN'S TRIANGLE!  

ABC - Dec. 11, 1973
Dir. Curtis Harrington

For the classic horror fan by a classic horror fan, a B-star-studded tale of Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, freed after thousands of years when an amulet necklace is stolen off her mummy by a drunken Keye Luke. All who touch the amulet shall be mauled to death by this mummy cat god woman returned to life. Written by supernatural TV movie veteran Robert Bloch, directed by thew great Curtis Harrington, Cat Creature rocks a dreamy mix of supernatural romance and cop show vibes, spiked with heavy doses of classic horror and Satanist/Egyptian set dressing. And the cast!: Kent Smith (the dope in Cat People) as a murdered archivist; Gale Sondergaard as shady occult book store owner; John Carradine as a flop house desk man; the marvelously creepy Milton Pearson (he played the escaped lunatic in The Hidden Hand) as a coroner;  John Abbott (The Vampire's Ghost) as an Egyptologist. And after each murder..... a cat silhouette!
Investigating detective Marco (Stuart Whitman) realizes the murders center around a missing cat amulet so he recruitst archaeologist Roger Edmonds (David Heddison) and together they tool around LA, talking to each other with their great gravelly TV male 70s smoker voices, searching the flop houses and antique shops. Turned on by the mystery (Agatha Christie is his favorite author, he tells Marco). Roger vibes with the shy cute new clerk at Sondergaard's store, 'Rena' (Meredith Baxter), little guessing the occult connection.

I love the little weird details here: the skulls and weird old Universal horror props in every corner of the frame; the meowing violins, pensive percussion, slow sustains and yowling gongs in Leonard Rosenman's score; the cool-creepy green horror font of the credits: the eerie chanting of the exit music. From the plaster Egyptian 'artifacts' to the autumnal palette, Harrington ensures every frame is a-drip with classic horror fan / 70s childhood manna. Best of all is the way the odd sense of isolation, the superb contrast of run-down LA studio backstreets and Addams Family / Christine McConnell-style posh interiors finds a doomed resolution in the sadness in Baxter's Rena. When she tells Roger of her centuries of being alone in the dark, getting closer and closer to him in a romantic slow gravity pull, you feel just how tempted he must be to take her up on her offer and just go racing out of town, living forever with a cat goddess. Masterfully underplaying as she goes, she conjures a grown-up Amy from Curse of the Cat People- history all set to repeat itself (Rena being clearly taken from 'Irina'). Taking a page perhaps from Lewton, Harrington ably syncs the mellow rhythm of 70s TV to the languid sense of timeless affection that develops between them--evoking that SHE/MUMMY ages-echoing amor. As so often happened with prime time TV movies, despite the cool font and chanting-Morocco-style desert wind fade out, it might end better if you go upstairs before the last five minutes and watch a happier ending safely from the embryonic depths (otherwise it gets a little ridiculous).

ABC (1973) TVM Aaron Spelling & Leonard Goldberg)

Future Angels Cheryl Ladd and Kate Jackson are students at an all-girls boarding school where there seems to be only two teachers: Dr. Delacroix (Lloyd Bochner) goes crazy imparting the secrets of mind control via a relentlessly-squeaking rat maze; and laid-back Dr. Clampett (Roy Thinnes) teaches art and encourages the girls to embrace their own hallucinatory perceptions: "What we think we see is as real as what we actually see." Dude, that was like the mantra of the 70s. The less-cool Delacroix meanwhile talks about how terror makes people irrational and suggestive. Put them together and you can't tell what's real anymore. Anyway, girls are dying--apparently committing suicide if you believe the coroner--and student Jaime Smith-Jackson (who'd just come off Go Ask Alice!) worries she may be next and drops to the hallway floor shrieking in terror between classes for no conceivable reason. Pamela Franklin (the girl-child in The Innocents who'd just come off shooting Legend of Hell House) is Elizabeth, at the school to secretly investigate the supposed suicide of her sister (Terry Lumley) whose ironed dirty blonde hair and red sweater / denim jacket ensemble kick things off perfectly in the paranoid opener. Jackson--wearing devilishly long straight black hair, is the smart angel who helps Elizabeth with the mystery while espousing the wondrous powers of professor Clampett ("he can't help you if you fight him"). Ladd-- full of her patented vivacious charm--is another student who worries about the disappearances and gushes over Clampett. The all-of-a-piece low-key acting (only Jo van Fleet's conflicted headmistress hams it up) and lengthy scenes of crackling thunder and blowing wind as girls walk around in their nightgowns in the dark-- a lantern illuminating their scared but determined young faces--all add up to laid-back 70s TV horror movie heaven, or... the other place...

If it's the other place, Satan, where do I sign?

A smooth occult TV movie prelude to both Charlie's Angels (1976) and Suspiria (1977), this Spelling/Goldberg joint stems from the halcyon days of relaxed morality. Free love and occult practice were mainstream. The handsome male teachers at all-girls boarding schools could host wine parties, and tell the students to "condemn nothing.... embrace everything... and hang loose" and it was all alright. Watch out though --if Satan is around. 

Relative to most horror movies made today, the prime time occult TV movie is totally tame; it's something the whole family can mildly enjoy. There's no kissing or nudity or blood (a few metonymic body parts aside) and best of all, there are only pretty girls and a few adults with liberal attitudes, and old character actors making cameo paychecks. One day, when a first-rate transfer/restoration is undergone, and all that beautiful long straight 70s hair glows like a Terence Malick sunset, me and the seven other people who love this film will chant and dance 'round the altar in ecstatic surrender. Condemn nothing...

ABC (1978) TVM

Here's a Friday Night TV movie nearly every kid remembers from the tumultuous year of 1978 on ABC.  It's a comforting and distinctly 70s mix of leisurely Love Boat meandering (sunny poolside bathing beauties, sunny Caribbean scenery, marital or other two-handed dramatic scenes playing out amidst the passenger list of fading movie and rising TV actors) and cross-pollinated occultism (Bermuda triangle, satanic possession, mummies) and Poseidon Adventure-style disaster tropes. All very familiar and welcoming, aside from one thing so strange it burned in our memories: the source of the "terror" of the title turns out to a breathing child-size Egyptian sarcophagus!  I don't mean you can hear breathing inside of it, as if the mummy within is breathing. The whole sarcophagus breathes in and out as it works its evil. We never see inside it--no one opens it. It's just.... breathing.  

In their mad craze to monsterize the landscape, 70s TV movies gave an evil spirit to all sorts of things. There was the possessed stone altar fucking up the elevation of a jumbo airplane via a green puddle on the carpet (Horror at 37,000 Feet), for example. There was also a killer bulldozer (Killdozer). But a breathing sarcophagus on a "pleasure" cruise to Mexico? I imagine the idea was probably born from some writer dropping acid at the "Treasures of Tutankhamun" exhibit which was then all the rage. Add an ominous synth version of "Dies Irae" as the theme (predating Wendy Carlos' version in The Shining by two years) and you have a memorable night in, sure to help a doped-up, literally cotton-mouthed boy (I'd just had my wisdom teeth out when I saw it) and his six highballs-in dad laugh with giddy joy.  

Recovering alcoholic Robert "Charles Townsend" Forsythe co-stars as a hieroglyph-reading missionary priest on a cruise with his sexually frustrated, lingerie-wearing wife (Lee Meriwether).  She needs a real man--not some intellectual deity! In the next cabin in a busy stockbroker (Christopher George) who needs to uplug from the stock market with real-life wife Lynda Day George. Stella Stevens as a hot to trot slightly mature breed of fox with eyes on the captain, Jo Ann Harris is also aboard, a nerd frightened of her own shadow looking for a quick tryst or just some fun in the sun. And what's this? Noted archeologist Ray Milland is on the ship, headed to Mexico to prove Egyptians left tombs there. Round it up with a random physicist named Matt Lazarus (Frank Converse), a crusty captain Andrews (Hugh O'Brien), and handsome first mate Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica) who knows all too well a good young virile sailor's duty as "the 'entertainment committee."

But what is the strange curse hanging over the ship, causing freak accidents--near being thrown overboard after being harassed by the ship's cat;  three lovely snorkelers (wherever they go there's pretty coral reefs) almost killed by a "vicious" shark (any child of the Jaws knew right off the shark on display was a harmless "blue" variety). Then, the ship breaks down in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, conveniently right over the spot that just happens to be over the very same missing tomb sought by Ray Milland's archaeologist (after Lazarus fixes his math. "Two degrees off our present course!")

If you're a fan of 70s TV movies then you know the 'disparate slice of humanity, usually with at least one disillusioned priest and a bickering couple and a reliable patriarchal figure who takes charge. The 'forced to work together to survive' plot line was almost inescapable thanks to the popularity of Airport, Poseidon Adventure and 1977's Day of the Animals. The decade also loved 'group isolation + prolonged terror = torches and mob rule' humanist critique. Also, there's a much freer attitude about sex, far less judging and guilt or shame. Players like Dirk Benedict aren't depicted as sleazes in need of canceling so much as guys doing their manly duty to please the perfectly acceptable and natural desires of the female passengers. If--in our current climate--you think that can't possibly be true, catch an episode of Love Boat, where the crew are all basically allowed and encouraged by the captain to bed down with the guest stars -- it's practically part of the job! And there's nothing tawdry about it. Mainstream America had what Alexander D'Arcy's gigolo piano teacher in 1937's Awful Truth calls "a continental mind." 

But here, it's there. No sooner has the baby sarcophagus come aboard than Forsythe is already urging them to throw it overboard ("God is pitting me against the supreme evil one. I won't fail him again this time!"). His wife is fed up! She wants sex. And she knows where to get it. Countering Forsythe's bland gospel that they throw it back in the sea l is Milland ("I do not believe in biblical fantasies!") and the captain (Hugh O'Brien) who tries to explain all the deaths and storms and ship failures as coincidence. People will hook up, including the captain and Stella, and Lee and the physicist. When she starts snarling and trying to strangle her husband while shouting ancient Babylonian (I'm guessing) you'll realize you're in high TV movie heaven.

The 70s will all end soon enough, just like the prescription to those sweet child-size opiates I got for my wisdom teeth the night Cruise into Terror premiered on ABC. The age of Pisces gone deep to Davy Jones', where it began. But was the evil of libidinal freedom vanquished, or was the good of libidinal freedom stifled? Either way, we can catch 70s ABC TV movies any old time, forever and ever.... safe at the bottom of the PG sea. 

ABC (Dec. 3, 1976)
Spelling-Goldberg Productions

A black magic-dabbling Hollywood star from the 1930s (or 50s? It's never clear) named Lorna Love (Marianna Hill) reaches from beyond the grave to fuck up her married biographers in this priceless 1976 made-for-TV film. Kate Jackson and Robert Wagner play the couple, who move into Love's crumbling mansion (i.e. "Love House") to soak up the atmosphere and groove on the vast cache of mementos and clippings. While Kate finds cult-style daggers lying around and someone in a robe stalks outside her window or tries to kill her with a gas leak, Wagner--like Dana Andrews before him--finds himself falling in love with a corpse, using the thick atmosphere as an excuse to to drink and brood over Lorna's life-size portrait. In a sublimely macabre Hollywood Babylon-worthy touch, Lorna's still-beautiful corpse (or is it?) is even kept on display in a glass case out in the backyard. Her enemies and acolytes alike drift by to spew venom or awe and gaze. It's a pretty toxic scene--right and left old character actors hamming it up about how Lorna was "bigger than life!"-- and poor Kate finds herself behind the 8-ball when Wagner is too out of it to respond to her cries for help.

Though relegated mostly towards playing a gaslit innocent, Jackson looks quite sleek in her silk scarves and slacks, her straight black hair. Her youth all but crystalizes the air around her with fuzzy magic. A smart sweater worn over a collared shirt adds nerdy class to her beautiful 'smarts' and nurturing soul. We feel her pain. She's way too sweet to be deserve being menaced by a phantom in a pentagram-covered purple robe who's either trying to kill her or just scare her out of Love House, and worse to have her husband (son of Lorna's late last live-in lover) dismiss it all as her imagination,

In a funk so many of us can relate to, Wagner drinks booze and moons over the Love 'haunting' portrait (it looks like a pastel drawing that took some ABC art dept. five minutes to dash off0 and obsessively screens her old films via a home projector on the wall, he winds up distracted by conveniently-timed hallucinations of ghostly Lorna whenever Kate's in danger in another room. In the most awesome moment, Lorna comes to life in a slow motion, a gold-tinted mirage, smiling and calling his name from inside the film he's projecting! As someone who--as a child--believed he could make Kate Jackson fall in love with him if he stared hard enough at her picture, I caught the meta frisson from this scene, big time.

 Adulthood is supposed to wake us up from such naive, hopeless wishful fantasies but--as we learn at the House of Love--alcoholism lets a writer sleep on, swimming in the boozy bliss of the projected image. And the more Wagner drinks, the ruder, more patronizing, and dismissive of Jackson's legitimate worry he becomes. He thinks she's faking that someone is trying to kill her--she's jealous of Lorna's spirit or something--and has left a Satanic knife in her drawer and cut her own face out of their author's photo, all for attention. As Kate is so rational and intelligent, you start to imagine what Charlie's Angels would be like if every suggestion, clue, or even event the Angels reported was dismissed by Bosley and Charlie as womanly hallucinations and hysterics. Ick, right? They'd need more than an hour to solve the case, that's for sure... Then again, she should be calling the cops and/or moving out--so her attitude is odd. Then again, these films were always too short to have such plot points. It usually goes a) couple moves into old house b) wife hears strange noises c) husband thinks wife is imagining it. d) repeat (b)-(c) several more times; d) add a guest star as a patient detective walking around in search of signs of a break-in; e) shocking revelation! 

It's a shame there's no good copy of this floating around the internet as it would be great as a remastered WB DVR (the DVD from Cheezy Flix is the same blurry mess as currently on YouTube so don't bother). Old, familiar faces abound, as befits the place and subject: John Carradine is Lorna's old Svengali-style director (he hated her); Sylivia Sydney is the nicotine-voiced housekeeper; Joan Blondell is Love's #1 stan; Dorothy Lamour... OK, I forget what she does. And Marianna Hill is Lorna. You may remember her as Fredo's trophy wife in GODFATHER 2, an alien in a couple of original STAR TREKs, a track groupie in RED LINE 7000 and the star of the awesome MESSIAH OF EVIL. Hot damn. She's got a cult, all right... (FULL REVIEW

1973 - TVM / CBS

In order to earn the primetime runway slot at the Nielsen airport, a CBS 70s horror TV movie had to triangulate three pop culture trends and make it all work in under 80 minutes. This is why, for Horror at 37,000 Feet, we get: 1) The Occult: A druid curse (an invisible presence) attached to an ancient artifact; 2) Social Commentary, i.e. "the real monster here is human panic"; 3) Disaster movies, i.e. Airport. This last one provides the framework, and its style bracketed a large swath of star-studded 70s TV movies. Passenger lists always include aging 30s-50s stars, aging 30s-50s character actors, young actresses on their way up, and granite-jawed TV actor authority figures like Christopher Plummer, David Jansen, Chuck Conners, or Clint Walker. Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your safety belts and prepare for take-off. Destination: A demonic wind tunnel.

The vehicle is jumbo jet luxury cargo-passenger "airplane" hauling a massively heavy Celtic altar exhumed from its sacred grove in Ireland (which we never see). A small passenger list is dwarfed by the vast interior; the downstairs storage freezes; a dog is frozen solid. A bunch of icky green goo bubbles up through a reverse leak from below, And then, the plane becomes suspended at 37,000 feet, trapped in a crossfire of winds, providing an ingenious explanation of why the plane interiors never once give the impression of movement or it being anything but a breakaway set. Luckily the stewardesses all wear hot white go-go boots and the booze flows free (to keep the passengers mollified). Too bad the only hard drinker is an unbearably smug William Shatner as a self-defrocked (what else?) priest, who sews a button on his jacket, sips from a big silver flask, and generally carries on like he doesn't quite know how to play 'drunk, fatalistic and bitter' so just shouts and sulks a lot. His delivery of a groaner line like "I didn't lose my faith - it lost me," makes one long for Richard Burton's drunk priest in Exorcist II. 

The cast is solid and notable or eye-rollingly cliche to the point of originality: Chuck Connors and Robert Forster are in the cockpit. Tammy Grimes is the wild-eyed crypto-pagan who knows all about the altar's colorful human sacrifice-enriched past and that the spirit can only be calmed again by a blood sacrifice of one of the original clan's descendants, i.e. Jane Merrow, whose rich architect husband (Roy Thinnes) insisted on bringing the altar to the US in the first place; Lynn Loring (with a Mia Farrow-in-Rosemary's Baby-style short red hair cut and big teary eyes) is Shatner's panicky wife; Paul Winfield is a mild-mannered physician who lacks the strong speaking voice of a natural moral leader for the panicking passengers. Shatner does (but he doesn't want the job); Buddy Ebsen (Jeb, move away from there!) is a cranky Texas millionaire always ready with a homespun witticism and naturally is one of the first to grab up to symbolic pitchfork and torch, alongside fellow hick-made-good Will Hutchins. Playing a western B-cowboy coming back from Italy (ala Rick Dalton!) with a terrible towhead mop top wig, garish red rodeo shirt, Hutchins has a habit of shouting all his lines (his attempt to flirt with a nameless female passenger is painful). Add a child and her dolly (they sacrifice the doll as an effigy!), burning books to stay warm. They're going to run out of gas stuck up there in mid-air! As Forster says to Connors: "Here, take another pain killer. No point in saving them." Shatner realizes he can terrify Mrs. Pinder by waving his Zippo lighter in her face. ("Fire.. To burn witches!") Yikes! He's not very PC --he even sneers at people who "believe jimson weed will make them immortal!" Dude, no one who does jimson weed would ever think that. But Shat should know, having helped teens recover from the withdrawal symptoms of LSD-addiction in Go Ask Alice. 

I ain't complaining about how bad it is as far as continuity (such as a single shot wherein Shatner is seen wearing a priest collar and vestments instead of his civilian sweater and jacket during his long walk to the back of the plane), I love it for its idiocy. It represents a kind of uniquely 70s TV movie zero point wherein some smoke and bubbling green and white house paint wafting up from a hole in the carpet and the occasional Val Lewtonian shadow substitutes for any kind of monster or concrete threat. The strange fascination with sub-zero temperatures on a plane (just touching the door makes pilot Chuck Connors' whole arm go numb) goes well with the array of locked-in ensemble types waiting for their chance at a terse "Why doesn't somebody do something??!" outburst. Playing like the under-rehearsed confusion of an off-off-Broadway audition, it seems like something written by Rod Serling's slow-witted nephew, who, incidentally, has never actually flown on an actual plane. Brrooooom! Brooom! 

It all works because as bad as it is, it moves pretty fast (especially without commercials). Fans of Italian horror can luxuriate in the Bava red lights of the cockpit and everyone can appreciate the wild-eyed hysteria with which Loring rises to the occasion, furiously cutting off Jane Merrow's hair to stuff in the child's doll and wrapping it up in her clothes. ("And some of your fingernails!") before burning it. When that doesn't work, it's time to actually sacrifice Merrow! Great hammy stuff with Shatner wobbling around drunk and all the actors wondering what else to do in this under-rehearsed single set shoot to 'portray' their types. 

Those of us who were around in the 70s and remember when this first aired are far less likely to care about that the film can no longer hide its poverty in an analog cathode ray blur.  We love it for its faults. I was seven but still remember laughing with my dad over the monster being essentially a pile of melted green ice cream with someone blowing bubbles up through it. For me this is as precious a memento as a family album. Maybe more so. In short, if you saw it back on ABC in '76, it's a must-see as an adult. If only Satan's School for Girls or Death at Love House would one day get the same respectful remastering HD treatment.  (FULL)


ABC - Jan 27, 1978
Rankin/Bass Productions

A kind of oceanic ghost story, Bermuda Depths sails the same currents as Curtis Harrington's Night Tide, Corman/Hellman's The Terror, and even the doomed romance between Bonehead and Lorelei in Beach Blanket Bingo. Maybe it's because I'm a Pisces, but I love it more than all of them put together. Shot on location in beautiful Bermuda with crystal blue skies,  crystal white beaches, clear turquoise water, coral reef footage--all humming with moody folk love song theme (courtesy Rankin-Bass), beautiful young lovers dripping with salt water, mostly tranquilized sea levels and oceanic temperatures, and giant (and I mean giant) turtle occasionally rising like Moby Dick x Gamera to bump his head on an unconvincing helicopter, The Bermuda Depths pulsez with Jungian archetypal symbolism and heavy myth/dream power. The film as a whole lingers in the mind like one of those dreams so good you almost wish you never had them as the longing to return to it makes you weep and lament all the rest of the week (because you never get it back... ever).

Jennie Haniver (Connie Sellecca) appears at first like a distant black flame, framed in the picture window of a rocky outcrop (below): walking closer through the eye of the island to a rock where Michael Pitt-lipped wanderer Magnus (Leigh McCloskey - the dislikable EPA guy in Ghostbusters) doth nap. The heartbreaking guitar of Vivaldi's "Concerto in D major for Lute and Strings RV:93 Largo"plays as eh gazes down at him with loving eyes (is he dreaming her?), evoking a stirring flashback of their time as children on that same beach, raising a giant sea turtle together, even carving a heart with their initials on its shell. One day, while also napping, he woke up to find her swimming away on the turtle's back. He almost drowns trying to swim after her. That night his marine biologist dad decides to conduct some ominous experiment in a grotto under their beach cliffside house. In response, an unseen leviathan knocks half the foundation on top of him while Magnus frets upstairs in his childhood bed. So many questions, but save them. Let it flow.

Everything is just right, free of any voiceover trying to situate the imagery-- no words spoken for the first 12 minutes of the film- only Vivaldi, and that achingly lyrical folksy theme song already burrowing into our souls and leaving us with a plaintive spiritual ache for our own lost ocean animas.Jenny....

Magnus, now grown, is back in Bermuda. He and Jenny meet again, along the day-for-night shores; we're as obsessed with her flawless raven-haired beauty as he is. But he's only back in Bermuda to do a stint on a marine research vessel helmed by Burl Ives and Carl Weathers, two marine biologist collaborators with his Magnus' late father. Ives is researching gigantism in ancient triangle species, i.e. a turtle the size of a football field, i.e. the animal familiar of Jenny, or maybe a guise of the Devil, her master, dictating her relentless lure of smitten sailors to the briny depths... of the Bermuda Triangle. She's an unsinging siren! 

Note similarity in outline of the rock to his hatted head as he sleeps,
Jenny emerging from his pineal gland, or where land meets ocean;
maybe the most beautiful photographic image in the history of Jungian archetypal symbolism?
(female/dream/ocean vs. conscious/man/sky.
ABC Friday Night TV movies like Depths made deep and lasting impressions on children like myself (I was 12), who had no voice in the prime time choices. Lucky for me my dad loved this kind of shit (unless football was on). We all loved In Search a movie this weird and wondrous couldn't be missed. Somehow, though, I did. I have no memory of it. What else would we have been watching?

After its initial premiere, this weird intensely haunting film lay dormant for decades, gradually considered to be a folk myth, so different was it from everything else on TV. But decades later, through the giant claw machine of the Warner Archive, it has been dredged from the depths, and it is a treasure. Though only a TV movie, its filmed on location and Bermuda has never seemed so beautiful. Jerry Sopanen's brilliant cinematography evokes, among other things, Dali's magical paintings of Costa Brava. We can even see the sinews gleaming in shirtless Weathers' beautiful black shoulders (more)

NBC (1972) 
Dir. Phillip Leacock

One of those pre-X-Files TV movies that could function as a possible pilot (if it's a hit) or just a TV movie of the week (if it's not). This one pairs Leonard Nemoy as a former race car driver turned psychic by a track accident concussion with smart Brit investigator Susan Hampshire to explore the possible crimes yet to happen. Both are headstrong and quick thinking -- what a team! She has a trenchant investigative zeal and he has weird flash forwards to strange murders somehow tied in with an a secret occult group. "The House of the Wolf." 

BBC costume drama darling Hampshire is a very cool chick: animated, assertive, fearless, funny and forthright, bouncing around the spooky scenes in her 70s peasant frocks until a a bewildered Nimoy can't help but laugh in fond admiration. Nimoy seems to be having wry fun breaking out of his stoic Spock persona but hes still otherworldly looking even without the ears. Set largely on old estate-turned-lodging run by character actress Rachel Roberts, the guest include Vera Miles as the woman Kovak sees in his premonitions--she's falling out of an attic window to the rocks below! Her daughter (Jewel Blanche) comes under the sway of her absentee father, a totally terrifying Mike Murray, who gives Nimoy a run for his money in Satanic countenance. Murray rocks the cruelest haircut I've ever seen, and a glint in his eye that could freeze lava. He is supposed to be dead or missing but he shows up in the greenhouse in an attempt to convert his and Miles' daughter to the dark side with the help of a mystic wolf amulet. 

Richard Hill's score is strangely bouncy when it should be scary and scary when it should be bouncy, but the subtextual mockery of human emotions is invigorating if you like cop show pumping. We get lots of fancy British cars driving around the grounds to make sure that aspect of Nimoy's character fits in (with some adorably unconvincing rear projection thrown inside the vehicles). And most of all, I like that the chemistry between the actors and the characters is there but without that 'sexual' awkwardness we get in much of today's similar fare. Instead they're allowed to focus on the mysteries, and bond in intense platonic ways that paradoxically were much more common in the 70s when sex itself was more liberated and therefore less of a big deal. 

For a weird double feature with another co-ed psychic and investigator duo teaming up to prevent a calamity in some town in the middle of nowhere), check out Lucio Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. (1980).

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