DISMEMBERCEMBER: Home for the Holidays (1972)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This holiday giallo was first on the site many years ago, all the way back on December 16, 2017.

Originally airing on November 28, 1972, this ABC-TV movie was produced by Aaron Spelling and debuted on VHS in 1986. It’s packed with future talent and is at the center of what we love most here: TV movies, Christmas movies and horror.

Benjamin Morgan (Walter Brennan, Rio Bravo) is rich and dying and suspects his wife, Elizabeth (Julie Harris, one of America’s most famous stage actresses), of poisoning him. He sends his oldest daughter, Alex (Eleanor Parker, Eye of the Cat) to find her three sisters and bring them home — the first time they’ve been back since their mother’s suicide.

The three sisters are Freddie (Jessica Walter, Arrested Development), Joanna (Jill Haworth, The Brides of Dracula) and Christine (Sally Field, Steel Magnolias). Their father tells them that they must kill their stepmother before she kills them. At dinner that night, Joanna harangues her stepmother with questions about how her first husband died, while Freddie screams in her room about how their father’s affairs led to their mother killing herself.

This is obviously the holiday get-together everyone hoped for.

Soon after, Joanna tries to leave but is killed by a pitchfork-wielding person in a yellow raincoat. That same killer also drowns Freddie in the bathtub while Elizabeth keeps offering everyone warmed milk and honey. Soon, the phone line gets cut and everyone is trapped with a killer. But who is it?

There are plenty of twists and turns here, as the love between a father and daughter and the love between husband and wife is contested. It’s bloodless, as it’s a TV movie, but it’s also pretty dark, because the 1970’s were the end of the world and the movies made then reflected it. You also get a cast packed with Oscar winners and nominees, all acting within basically one or two rooms, so there’s plenty of emotion and suspense.

You can watch this on YouTube.

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