Prey for the Wildcats (1974)

Do you want to see Sheriff Andy Taylor as sociopath? Do you want to see a spineless, suicidal Captain Kirk? How about Mike Brady as a bastardly dolt of a husband? Or Marjoe Gornter (Starcrash and The Survivalist) with a knocked up girlfriend half his age? How about a movie where they’re bedding and cheating with Angie Dickenson (Dressed to Kill) and Lorraine Grey (Jaws)?

Aired on ABC-TV January 23, 1974/image courtesy of blue-ray.com.

Well, Robert Michael Lewis, who made his network teleplay debut with 1972’s The Astronaut, and cut his teeth with episodes of ABC-TV’s The Mod Squad and McMillan & Wife, answered that question with this, his fifth telefilm. The scribe behind the scenes, Jack Turley, was known for his work on Rawhide (where Clint Eastwood got his start), The Fugitive (starring David Jannsen of Inchon), and the show where he met Lewis: The Mod Squad. The duo also worked together on their next telefilm, 1974’s The Day the Earth Moved (starring Jackie Cooper from The Astronaut).

Andy Griffith (No Time for Sergeants) is Sam Farragut, a businessman who hires William Shanter (Big Bad Mama), Robert Reed (Haunts of the Very Rich), and Marjoe Gortner’s advertising executives for an ad campaign shot in Baja, California. But before he’ll sign on the dotted line, Farragut pressures the trio to take a dirtbike trip though desert to “search for just the right location.” Desperate for business — and with no camping or dirtbiking experience — they accept, as the deal could save the agency.

Yeah, you guess it.

Farragut is a reckless sociopath and adrenalin junkie that dragged them into the desert for a little “human death sport” of his own making. The “game” goes sideways after a couple of American hippies at a Mexican bar smart mouth Farragut . . . and now the “Wildcats” are not only Farragut’s game pieces, but murders on the run.

Obviously, not the actual 1974 trailer, but a very funny send up.

Surprising, unlike most high-rated TV movies, this one actually made it to video in 1987. The caveat is that the only official DVDs are the 2012 versions issued on the now-out-print 8 Movies for the Man Cave – 4 and the four-movie Andy Griffith Collection: America’s Favorite Actor sets (which features the TV films A Song for the Season, Street Killing, and Daddy & Them). Any single-DVD issues you find are grey market burns, so emptor that caveat when you buy.

This movie is a really fun watch, as we get to see Andy Griffith as we never seen him before, along with the range of the underated shakespearean trained Robert Reed (Gene Hackman was orginally cast as Mike Brady; when Hackman hit paydirt with The Conversation and The French Connection, it gnawed at Reed until his dying day), and Bill Shatner going way, way out of his comfort zone.

There’s several rips of varying quality on You Tube, but with the way uploads come and go, we’ll give you three to choose from HERE, HERE, and HERE.

There are more TV movies to be had with our “Week of Made for TV Movies,” “Lost TV Week,” “Son of Made for TV Movie Week” and “Grandson of Made for TV Movie Week” tribute spotlights to those films that, in many cases, are even better than the movies that played in theatres.

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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