GRANDSON OF MADE FOR TV MOVIE WEEK: The Demon Murder Case (1983)

Originally airing on  March 6, 1983 on NBC, The Demon Murder Case was based on the trial or Arne Cheyenne Johnson, better known as the Devil Made Me Do It Case. It was the first court case in the United State in which the defense sought to prove innocence based on the defendant’s claim of demonic possession.

The story starts on November 24, 1981 in Brookfield, Connecticut when Johnson was convicted for the first-degree manslaughter of his landlord. The Glatzel family claimed that their 11-year-old son David was possessed and after the aid of Ed and Lorraine Warren (you knew they’d get involved here), as well as some Catholic priests, the demon was cast from their child’s body. Unbeknownst to them, it went into the body of their daughter’s boyfriend — Johnson — before caused him to kill said landlord after an argument.

The day after, Lorraine Warren informed the Brookfield Police that Johnson was indeed possessed when the crime was committed. Soon, the media got involved — fueled by the Warrens — who began working on a book, lectures and movie deals.

The major motion picture never happened, but Gerald Brittle, with the assistance of Lorraine Warren, published The Devil in Connecticut. While Lorraine Warren stated that profits from the book were shared with the family, it’s claimed that they only got $2,000 for the book.

Members of the family claim that the possession story was a hoax concocted by the Warrens to exploit a mental illness. The famous demonologists also claimed that the story would make the family millionaires and would help get Johnson out of jail.

For what it’s worth, Johnson and Debbie got married and still support the Warrens’ account of demonic possession and have stated that her family is just out for money.

I told you all that so that I can tell you about this.

You have to love a movie where a demon is described as looking like a cloven-footed man burnt from head to toes, wearing ripped jeans and a flannel. You also have to love this cast! Eddie Albert as an exorcist delivering priest? Cloris Leachman? Ken Kercheval? Kevin Bacon as the killer? Andy Griffith and Beverlee McKinsey as Warren stand-ins Guy and Charlotte Harris? And who is that doing the voice of the demon? Harvey Fierstein in his first screen role, just using his normal indoor voice!

For being a TV movie, this one has some pretty great VHS box art.

This also has good direction from William Hale, who was behind several Night Gallery episodes and the two Lace mini-series.

It’s not going to be the best demonic possession movie you’ve ever seen, but for a TV movie, it’s pretty fun. No one spits nails or anything. But it has some fun scares. I found it on YouTube, seeing as how it’s never been released on DVD or streaming. Come on — why are these great TV movies being withheld?

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