Here’s another winner from the awesome “Big Three” network TV movie-era of the ‘70s. Also known as End of the Line in its overseas theatrical and later U.S TV syndication runs, A Cry for Help stars Robert Culp (Calendar Girl Murders, The Gladiator, Spectre) as Harry Freeman, a cynical and acerbic, Don Imus-styled radio talk show host who abuses his on-air callers. When one of those callers, a troubled young runaway, threatens to commit suicide, Harry dismisses her, but informs the police anyway. However, when the cops dismiss him, he comes to realize his mistake. So he recruits his audience to help him track down the girl—but is it to assuage his own guilt or as a ratings gimmick?
Involved in the mystery are lots of familiar ‘70s and ‘80s TV faces with Bruce “I’m not Bruce Jenner” Boxleitner, Gordon Jump (WKRP in Cincinnati), Michael Lerner, Chuck McCann, and Ralph Manza (you’ll know him when you see him; his career goes back to the mid-‘50s), and Ken Swofford (Black Roses and Hunter’s Blood). You’ll also notice TV actor Julius Harris (Cannon, Ellery Queen, Harry O) from his Blaxploitation resume with the likes of Black Caesar, Friday Foster, Let’s Do It Again, Shaft’s Big Score, and Superfly, and as Tee Hee alongside James Bond in Live and Let Die. (Look out! April is “James Bond Month” at B&S About Movies.)
If this ABC-TV production plays like a ‘70s TV detective yarn, only with a disc jockey instead of a private eye, that’s because Executive Producers William Link and Richard Levinson were behind the popular TV series Columbo, Ellery Queen, Mannix, and Murder, She Wrote. Writer Peter S. Fincher wrote and directed episodes of Baretta, Columbo, and Kojak, while director Daryl Duke came from the Columbo family as well. Duke also directed the highly-rated 1973 TV movie The President’s Plane is Missing* and the 1978 Elliot Gould-starring theatrical The Silent Partner. And for the country music fans: Duke directed 1973’s Payday** starring Rip Torn as a burnt-out country singer.
You can watch A Cry for Help for free on You Tube. Caveat emptor on those grey market DVDs, as this has never been officially released on video. There’s no trailer, but you can watch a 14-minute film clip on You Tube.
What’s that? Where can you get more TV movies? Not a problem, we love the TV movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s here at B&S About Movies. Be sure to visit our “Week of Made for TV Movies,” “Son of Made for TV Movies Week,” and “Grandson of Made for TV Movie Week” explorations. And there’s even more TV movies to be had with our upcoming “Dan Curtis Week” on March 22 through March 28. And again: April is “James Bond Month,” so join us, won’t you?
* Ugh. Too many movies! How did we miss that one during any of our “TV Movie Week” blow outs or our “Airline Disaster Week” homage?
** Once again! How did we miss that fers errs countryfied “Hicksploitation Week” of reviews?
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.