The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968)

Directed by Charles Jarrott (Condorman), written by Ian McLellan Hunter (he won the Oscar for Roman Holiday, which was really written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo; Hunter was later blacklisted as well) and produced by Dan Curtis, this made for ABC TV movie originally aired on January 7, 1968 as part of ABC’s Wide World of Mystery.

Rod Serling wrote the original draft of the script, with Jason Robards set to star. The actor was unhappy with the script and there was a technician’s strike in London, so eventually, Robards just walked away and Jack Palance took over the role.

Palance — born Volodymyr Palahniuk — had the tough guy edge to be a perfect Hyde. His Jekyll is what really makes this role, that he can be two totally opposite sides so well. Credit also goes to Dick Smith, who not only created satyr-like makeup for Hyde, but subtly fixed Palance’s nose so that he appears more handsome as Jekyll.

Denholm Elliott — later to be Marcus Brody in the Indiana Jones movies — shows up, as does Torin Thatcher, Billie Whitelaw (Mrs. Baylock from The Omen!) and Welsh entertainer “Two Ton” Tessie O’Shea.

If you watch the later scenes in this movie, you’ll notice that Palance is only using his right arm. that’s because he broke his left during a stunt gone wrong.

Dark Shadows viewers will pick up on the fact that most of the music in this comes directly from the show. When Jekyll goes to the bar for the first time, listen for “Quentin’s Theme.”

You can watch this on Tubi.

Shadow of Fear (1974)

Danna Forester (Anjanette Comer, The Baby) is a rich woman in a kept relationship with the much older Mark (Jason Evers, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die). They’re both having affairs, including her way close friendship with Mark Brolin (a very young Tom Selleck). One night, as she returns home, sinister messages are painted all over the walls of their house. The cops can’t help, but perhaps ex-cop Styran (Claude Atkins!) can put it all together.

Then again, maybe Danna isn’t all that tightly wound as it seems. Or perhaps she really is and all of this is one big ploy.

Herbert Kenwith is mainly known for his long associations with Norman Lear (Different StrokesThe Facts of LifeGood Times, One Day at a Time) and Mae West, for whom he directed theatrical presentations. He had an amazingly rich directing career, even if it was mainly for the stage and television. Reading his IMDB biography brought a smile to my face.

Writer Larry Brody’s career has plenty of interesting cartoon scripts on it, including the pilot for the European Diabolik cartoon, Spider-Man UnlimitedSilver Surfer, as well as live action shows like Super Force and The Fall Guy.

This is another Dan Curtis produced episode of the ABC Wide World of Mystery. There aren’t many episodes that have survived, but this is one of them. It’s wild — shot on video and filled with the twists and turns of a soap opera.

Good news — you can watch it on Amazon Prime.

 

The Invasion of Carol Enders (1974)

Gene R. Kearney wrote one of the first made-for-TV movies, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, as well as the movie Night of the Lepus and scripts for several TV shows like Night Gallery and Kojak. He was joined by Merwin Gerard, who wrote the TV horror film The Victim and several episodes of One Step Beyond to create this 1974 TV movie.

It was directed by Pittsburgh native Burt Brinckerhoff as well as an uncredited Dan Curtis, who was also the producer.

Carol Enders (Meredith Baxter from Family Ties) is having more than a bad day. No sooner than her boyfriend tells her that he can’t be engaged any longer, a man emerges from the woods and attacks her. She ends up in the hospital, where the spirit of a dead woman named Diana Bernard must find her ex-husband Dr. Peter Bernard (Charles Aidman, who narrated the 80’s Twilight Zone reboot) to figure out who killed her.

Fans of Italian genre cinema should check this out, as Christopher Connelly (Night of the SharksAtlantis Interceptors1990: The Bronx WarriorsManhattan Baby) and Tony Russel (The Secret SevenThe War of the Planets) both appear in this movie.

Dark Shadows fans will also be pleased, as John Karlen (Willie Loomis from that Gothic soap opera, as well as Daughters of Darkness) plays David Hastings, the angry second husband of the dead woman and prime suspect.

I love the look of this movie, which was shot on video and has a very soap opera feel. It’s like a self-contained Dark Shadows arc, which you can get through in a little over an hour.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Nightmare at 43 Hillcrest (1974)

This is based on a true story and all about the Leyden family and how they went up against the law.

One evening, Gregory (Jim Hutton, Psychic KillerThe Green Berets), his wife Esther (Emmaline Henry, Elise Dunstan from Rosemary’s Baby) and their daughter Nancy (Linda Curtis, daughter of director/producer Dan Curtis, who would sadly die a year after this film aired) are having a quiet evening when the cops burst in. The reason? Heroin.

Yes, police commissioner Clarence Hartog (Peter Mark Richman, so memorable as teacher Charles McCulloch in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan)has made a mistake, but he’s not going back on it. It was supposed to be a bust at 43 North Hillcrest, not 43 Hillcrest. But now, he’s shredded all the evidence and forced one of the cops, Sandy Bates (Don Dubbins, From Earth to the Moon), to be part of his scheme.

This made for TV movie also features Mariette Hartley (who was in all those Polaroid commericals with James Garner) and John Karlen (who was also on Curtis’ Dark Shadows as Willie Loomis).

Wiilie Katz wrote this, but he’s perhaps better known for the song “Mr. Touchdown U.S.A.,” which was used in Some Call It LovingYes Man and Jackass 3D. Lela Swift, who also directed several episodes of Dark Shadows and Ryan’s Hope, provided co-direction.

This is a great artifact of 1970’s TV, shot on video and filled with dark themes of uncaring police and a downer ending. It’s one of the few commercially released episodes of ABC’s The Wide World of Mystery. Sadly, not many episodes are available, which makes me upset. These hour-plus mini-films are just plain awesome.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Alien Lover (1975)

An entry in ABC’s Wide World of Mystery (Rock-a-Die, Baby) this quick burst of shot on video is way ahead of its time and way worth watching. Produced by Dan Curtis, directed by Lela Swift (who also helmed Dark Shadows and several of these ABC mini-movies) and written by George Lefferts (whose made for TV career includes several of the 1960’s Special for Women specials and episodes of afterschool specials for both ABC and CBS), it’s all about an orphan (an incredibly young Kate Mulgrew) who discovers an alien TV signal and falls in love with Marc, a man from another dimension played by John Ventantonio (Private Parts).

Sure, she may have just left the mental institution, but who is to say what’s real and what is not in her world? And man, if you only knew Pernell Roberts as the kindly Trapper John, get ready to be upset.

Sadly, so many of these genre TV shows have never been released and many of them are lost. Thanks to YouTube, you can watch this.

Trilogy of Terror II (1996)

More than twenty years after the original Trilogy of Terror, Dan Curtis would return to the portmanteau with a sequel that takes not only its framework from the original, but even one of the stories from another Curtis anthology. No matter — I devoured this film.

We jump right in to the first story, The Graveyard Rats, which is based on Henry Kuttner’s short story. A wealthy man (Matt Clark, Tuff Turf) learns that his wife (Lysette Anthony, Krull, the 1990’s Dark Shadows) is sleeping around with her own cousin (Geraint Wyn Davies, who was Nick Knight on Forever Knight).

The rich man threatens blackmail; the young man proposes murder; the woman shoves her husband down the steps. After some duplicitous actions by all, the access to the dead man’s money is lost, lovers attack one another and giant rats devour everyone. You know how it goes.

The second story is the Richard Matheson story Bobby, which also appeared to great effect in the Curtis movie Dead of Night. Anthony takes over the Karen Black role here, reappearing in all three stories, as she wishes for the return of her drowned son to horrifying result. This story is just as impactful as it was in the first iteration and has some moments of sheer terror. Well done.

Finally, another Matheson tale, He Who Kills, is quite literally the sequel to the original Trilogy of Terror crowdpleaser Amelia. Yep — that lil’ Zuni warrior is back and the story pretty much follows the same format as the one you know and love. There’s a fun meta moment where a security guard is reading a Dark Shadows comic that made me laugh.

Trilogy of Terror II is a decent movie, but it’s the sequel to a film that’s been the gold standard of made for TV horror for decades. Go in with the knowledge that it can’t live up to that and have some fun.

Here’s the entire movie on YouTube.

The Turn of the Screw (1974)

Originally airing on ABC on April 15, 1974, this Dan Curtis-produced and directed film takes the videotaped look of Dark Shadows to the Henry James novel and wraps it all up in a little under two hours. And if you love that gothic fiction soap opera, good news. Music cues from it are all over this made for TV movie.

Lynn Redgrave stars as Miss Jane Cubberly, is hired by Peter Quint and sent to look after young Miles and Flora after the deaths of their parents. Yet wickedness (that word will be used often; I chased my wife around our house screaming dialogue from this movie in my horrible British accent) abounds and perhaps Jane should have never made her way to the Bly house.

The issue with The Turn of the Screw happens with every adaption: people have been trying to figure out the novel since it was first written. The story, the revelation at the end and the characters’ motivations are all up to the individual reader, which makes it difficult to film a movie for everyone.

Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played Maggie Evans on the original Dark Shadows and has written many of the books that have kept the show alive, is in this as Miss Jessel. Megs Jenkins, who plays Mrs. Grose, also had the same exact role in another adaption, The Innocents.

Here’s a great fact: Redgrave is one of four members of her family to appear in an adaptation of this story. Her father Michael was in The Innocents, her brother Corin was in the 2009 version and her niece Joely Richardson played Darla Mandell in the recent version, The Turning.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

A Cry for Help (1975)

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.)

What is all that stuff? Well, those are carts, cart decks, reel-to-reel decks and VU meters, you adorable, little Spotify youngins. The “radio” in this is, of course, excellent, and Robert Culp did his homework.

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?

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.

 

Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate (1971)

Oh Ted Post. You made Beneath the Planet of the Apes. You directed Magnum Force. On TV, you were in the director’s chair for episodes of Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Wagon Train, Rawhide, The Twilight Zone, Combat!, Columbo, 178 episodes of Peyton Place and the TV movie that launched Cagney and Lacey.

You made The Baby.

If that alone didn’t make us adore you, you also brought together four grand dames — Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Mildred Natwick and Sylvia Sidney — and gave us some hagsploitation fun on free TV. These four silver-haired troublemakers invent a woman for the new world of computer dating and jazz up their meet-ups by discussing the fictional world that their invented modern girl lives in.

Of course, their fictional girl has raised the ire or a serial killer named Mal, played by Vince Edwards. Yes, the very same man who was once the kindly Ben Casey. Now he’s figured out that our plucky foursome is behind his mystery woman and all the gin fizzes and old fashioneds won’t save them.

A year after this movie aired (original air date: November 9, 1971) NBC brought back Hayes and Natwick as The Snoop Sisters, a two-hour television film about two aged sisters who write mysteries as well as solve crimes.

This is based on a novel by Doris Miles Disney, whose book Family Skeleton became the 1950 movie Stella.

You can watch the movie on YouTube.

Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)

I love Jillian Bell. She elevates everything she is in, from Workaholics to 22 Jump Street. So I was excited to see her star in a film, despite it seeming like pure formula from its trailer. The good news is it that it’s anything but.

Paul Downs Colaizzo was born in Pittsburgh, but raised in Georgia and got his BFA at NYU. His plays Really Really and Pride in the Falls of Autrey Mill got his name out there, plus he sold a pilot called LFE to CBS and was part of their MacGyver reboot.

This movie is based on the real story of his roommate, Brittany O’Neill. You can check out her story  in Runner’s World.

Brittany Forgler is 28, can’t keep a man, works a job that is at best dead-end and drinks, parties and abuses Adderall to get by. She can’t even afford a gym so that she can get healthy, like her doctor demands. So she just starts walking, which her influencer roommate Gretchen (YouTuber Alice J) thinks is all a joke.

Soon, she bonds with other runners like Seth and Catherine. And her dog sitting job introduces her to a man who is either going to be her enemy or lifemate, Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar, who originated the Aaron Burr role in Hamilton in the script readings).

My favorite character in this is Lil Rel Howery as Demetrius, Brittany’s de facto father figure, as the rest of her family is such a mess.

This is a movie with no easy answers for its characters. They make mistakes. They say the wrong thing. They screw up on a scale that is monumental. But you still feel love in your heart for them. You want them to do better. In short, it feels real.

Jillian Bell lost 40 pounds during the filming of the movie, just like the character she is playing. As someone who has worked hard to lose 60 pounds this year, I celebrate not only the way the movie treats the pain of losing weight, but that sometimes, even when you lose the pounds, you still have mental work left to do.

Amazingly, this is the first non-documentary to ever be shot during the New York Marathon. Fellow runners and race watchers thought that Bell was really injured during the climax and cheered her on, not knowing that this was all a movie shoot.

You can learn more at the official site and official Facebook page. And you can watch Brittany Runs a Marathon on Amazon Prime.