GRANDSON OF MADE FOR TV MOVIE WEEK: Invitation to Hell (1984)

If seeing the names Robert Urich, Joanna Cassidy, Susan Lucci and Wes Craven all together on one movie doesn’t get you interested, I have no idea why you’re reading this site. This movie is everything ridiculous and awesome and wonderful about why I watch these kinds of movies. To wit, Robert Urich donning a spacesuit so that he can see who is a demon and who isn’t as he descends to hell through the country club he probably shouldn’t have joined.

Originally airing May 24, 1984 on ABC, this is the kind of movie that starts with Susan Lucci’s character Jessica Jones getting run over by a limo driver distracted by bikini girls, rising to her feet and roasting the man alive. It gets better from there.

Just watching the credits is enough to make one get excited. Kevin McCarthy from Invasion of the Body Snatchers! Joe Regalbuto from Murphy Brown! Michael Berryman from, well, every 80’s direct to video movie and The Hills Have EyesThe Bad Seed herself, Patty McCormack! And look — Punky Brewster herself, Soleil Moon Frye!

We’re not done yet! Here comes the hero of The Never Ending Story Barret Oliver! Sid Fields, who Jerry adopted on Seinfeld, also known as character actor Bill Erwin.

If this looks better than a run of the mill TV movie, that’s because it has Wes Craven in the director’s chair, during the same year he made A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Hill Have Eyes Part II. It was written by Richard Rothstein, who also brought us Universal Soldier and Human Experiments. Dean Cundy was the cinematographer, so again, this makes the movie look way better than you’d think.

How did this all come about? Well, when Lucci renewed her contract with ABC in 1983, she was guaranteed a movie of the week in the hopes that after years of her gimmick of being always nominated for the lead actress daytime Emmy and not winning, she’d get to win a real Emmy. This film was specifically written just for her.

Whoever saw this movie as award fodder had to have been doing the best drugs that 1984 could produce. Aerospace engineer Matthew Winslow (Urich), wife Patricia (Cassidy) and their two young kids (Oliver and Moon Frye) are reaping the benefits of his big promotion for inventing a fireproof spacesuit that will take man to Venus.

So, of course, his family wants that good life, which includes the Steaming Springs Country Club that keeps you young forever, possesses young children to destroy their toy bunnies and turns wives into sex-crazed maniacs.

Lucci is Lucci in this, out of control and dressed like a character out of V, as Urich dons that suit — it’s actually a G.I. Joe figure for most of the effects — and battles her. That suit comes from the MGM Studio collection, the only one of its like that had official NASA suits at the time. The suit they got was missing a backpack, which had to be designed and made so that Urich didn’t overheat. For this and more insane behind the scenes stuff, this movie’s IMDB trivia page shames nearly every other IMDb trivia page.

Why would the Devil be Susan Lucci? Why would they put the gateway to Hell in a health club? Why wouldn’t Urich just leave his wife when she callously kills the family dog? Why is everyone close to him getting replaced and he’s just fine with it? Why doesn’t anyone realize that the grown up and more dangerous than Satan Rhoda Penmark is in their midst? Aren’t 80’s computer graphics the best?

Most importantly — why are you not rushing to Amazon to buy this?

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