NBC Monday Night Movie: Angel Dusted (1981)

As with our yesterday’s review of CBS-TV’s The Killing of Randy Webster, this NBC original movie held a young adult appeal, yet was far too dark for their weekday, Special Treat young programming block that also dealt with the issues of drug abuse — but not like this.

Dick Lowry, best known for his Kenny Rogers song-to-TV movie adaptations and NBC-TV’s In The Line of Duty film series, directs a script by actress Darlene Craviotto (feature film debut in Zoltan: Hound of Dracula, aka Dracula’s Dog) based on the biographical book Angel Dusted: A Family’s Nightmare by Ursula Etons.

Jean Stapleton and Arthur Hill stars as Betty and Michael Etons, while Stapleton’s real life son John Putch stars as the drug addicted Owen. Helen Hunt (Trancers, Twister, As Good As It Gets) appears as his sister, Lizzy. Percy Rodrigues (Primus Isaac Kimbridge from Genesis II, the “voice” of the Loknar in Heavy Metal!) stars as one of the doctors treating Owen.

Okay . . . this is where, as with the mix up of actors in The Killing of Randy Webster, we need to clear up the Helen Hunt-confusion with Angel Dusted.

Helen Hunt, after making this cautionary juvenile delinquency tale in a supporting role, headlined — alongside Diana Scarwid (Mommy Dearest) and the who’s who cast of Tom Atkins, (pick a John Carpenter movie), Sam Bottoms (Open House), Art Hindle (Clint’s Dirty Harry movies), and Diane Ladd (Something Wicked This Way Comes) — the other “Angel Dust” cautionary tale, Desperate Lives, for NBC in 1983 . . . and Desperate Lives is the movie where a drug-crazed Helen Hunt “touches the grass” and jumps out of a high school’s third floor window (clip).

There. Glad that’s settled.

Now back to the other PCP movie with Helen Hunt.

In this tale, John Putch (Sean Brody in Jaws 3-D; now a director banging out American Housewife episodes for ABC; Scrubs for NBC) is a doted-upon son who finds solace from the pressures of excellence from his affluent parents by developing a drug addiction. And he falls into a drug-induced psychosis after smoking pot laced with PCP.

While Putch is stellar in his acting debut, this is clearly mom’s show. For anyone who’s never experienced Jean Stapleton outside of her Edith Bunker character on CBS-TV’s long running All in the Family, they’ll be amazed at this master thespian’s range.

While the doctors just go through the motions — plying Owen with even more drugs-as-antidotes, such as the schizophrenics Haldol and Thorazine — Betty Etons struggles to hold her marriage and family together as she tries to nurse Owen back to a life of normalcy.

You can watch a pretty clean TV-taped VHS rip of Angel Dusted on You Tube. And since it’s owned by Warner Brothers (they provide an official trailer) this one is readily available to purchase for your collection of Jaws ephemera. Warner Bros. also owns Desperate Lives and since released it on VHS and DVD; that is if you’d like a copy for your ’70s juvenile delinquency film collection.

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. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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