Crowhaven Farm (1970)

The ABC Movie of the Week for November 24, 1970, Crowhaven Farm embraces two trends of the 70s. One, the feeling that the hippy movement was over and a return to some small town normlacy was the only way to heal after the last few tumultuous years — indeed, it seems like several decades pass between 1963 and 1969, with tentpole events like the Tate-LaBianca murders and Woodstock occurring a week apart. And the second, and for our purposes most critical piece of the 70s was that the occult was no longer saying mantras and lighting candles and enjoying white witch magic. The true black arts were here, they wanted your soul and they would crush you using your elders. Remember that ironic pin you wore, “Don’t trust anyone under thirty?” Now you’re living it.

Maggie and Ben Porter (Hope Lange, who had an Oscar for Peyton Place and years of TV fame on a much friendly visit into the world of the supernatural, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir; Paul Burke, the lead on ABC’s 12 O’Clock High and Naked City, as well as Lyon Burke in Valley of the Dolls, later found innocent of a racketeering scheme with Harry Connick Jr.’s dad and after that the grandfather of Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat) inherit a farm in New England, a place that another family member wants so badly that he heads up before them, nearly hits a ghost girl with his car and dies in a fireball.

Aren’t the young meant for the city? Well, Ben’s been trying to get his art career off the ground. Crowhaven Farm just seems to inspire him. But Maggie can’t stop seeing the past of that town and the 15th century seems even more restrictive and oppressive than the white picket fence Eisenhower America that the Love Generation was running from and now to.

The last remnants of that Love Generation, the weekenders as they call themselves, come to town and use it for a place to swing, baby. And while it seems like Maggie is barren, taking care of a girl named Jennifer (Cindy Eilbacher, who is in Shanks, but also between this movie, Bad RonaldThe Death of RichieThe Force of EvilCity in Fear and The Ghost of Cypress Swamp can lay claim to some degree of made for TV movie royalty) seems to make up for their lack of family.

But ah, Crowhaven Farm is an odd place. And as soon as Old Hollywood shows up, much less John Carradine as an eerie handyman, you know that Maggie is doomed. So while Jennifer attempts to become more than just a daddy’s girl and really daddy’s girl, she’s haunted by the spirits of Satan loving Puritans that she sold out for a child centuries ago, which makes her willing to release herself of her marriage and rush back to the city with the child she wants and without the husband too quick to believe that one of those swingers knocked her up or that she’s been giving it up to her boss.

All this plus a blink and you’ll miss it cameo by Willaim Smith as a policeman!

Director Walter Grauman filmed quite a few TV movies in the 70s, including Daughter of the MindThe Old Man Who Cried Wolf and Are You In the House Alone? Writer John McGreevey’s career started back in 1951, writing two episodes of Lights Out and included movies like Hot Rod Girl and TV like eighteen episodes of The Waltons (my own personal hellscape), Charles & Diana: A Royal Love StoryNight Crossing and The New Adventures of Heidi.

This is the perfect example of what a TV movie can do, providing sinister feelings and true fright within a tight, taunt under two hour runtime.

You can watch this on YouTube.

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