CBS Schoolbreak Special: Portrait of a Teenage Shoplifter (1981)

CBS-TV’s young adult programming block first aired in December 1978 as CBS Afternoon Playhouse and went through a revamp during the start of its 1983 season with the “Schoolbreak Special” moniker. After an 18 year run—and like everything else killed off by the multi-channel cable universe and the Internet—it was cancelled in January 1996.

Image screencap by R.D Francis via Timmy Faraday/You Tube

Under the old banner, CBS aired this lesson regarding teen crime on December 1, 1981. The cast stars Katherine Kamhi (later of Sleepaway Camp and Silent Madness), Laura Dean (a two-year stint as “Sophie” on NBC-TV’s Friends), and Maureen Teefy (Alan Parker’s Fame, Grease 2, and Supergirl ’84.)

Teefy is Karen Hughes, a high school ballet dancer and cheerleader dealing with the usual boyfriend problems, a snotty head cheerleader, and nagging parents. To compete with her better well-to-do friends and the popular girls, she develops a shoplifting addiction, gets caught, and jeopardizes her future. Of course, the friend that got her hooked (Laura Dean) leaves her high and dry.

Made during the days when stores relied more on human eyes and not so much the technological eyes of security cameras—she’s almost caught by none other than door guard Joe Spinelli of Rocky and Maniac fame (and yes, he’s a creepy lech). This is one of the darkest-ending young adult anthology movies you’ll ever watch—no happy ending here. This ain’t The Brady Bunch, after all.

Other standout episodes from the CBS series include Year of the Gentle Tiger (1979; starring iconic TV actor Lance DeGault; U.S. Army Colonel Roderick Decker on TV’s The A-Team), and the Dan Curtis-produced I Think I’m Having a Baby starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Helen Hunt (Trancers, Twister), and Tracy Gold (TV’s Growing Pains). Another adored episode was Welcome Home, Jellybean, which starred Dana Hill (Audrey Griswold from National Lampoon’s Vacation) as a special needs teen that moves back with her family (her put-upon brother is Christopher Collet from Sleepaway Camp, First Born, and The Manhattan Project).

You can watch the CBS Schoolbreak Special episodes mentioned in this review—and more—on a pretty nifty catch-all playlist we found on You Tube.

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.

The Old Man Who Cried Wolf (1970)

Luther Davis wrote Across 110th Street and this nihilistic TV movie, originally airing October 13, 1970. It’s directed by Walter Grauman, who was behind more than fifty episodes of Murder, She Wrote.

What a cast — from Jay C. Flippen (a former blackface vaudevillian known as “The Ham What Am”), Martin E. Brooks (Dr. Rudy Welles from The Six Million Dollar Man, the role originated by Martin Balsam, who is also in this), Ed Asner and Sam Jaffe to Percy Rodriguez (Genesis II, as well as the voiceover artist on the trailers for The ExorcistChopping MallHouseThe Great Outdoors and many more), Ruth Roman (The Baby), Diane Baker (Lorraine Warren in The Haunted), Balsam and Edward G. Robinson.

Robinson is an old man who watches his friend die and no one believes him. When he keeps telling anyone who will listen that they were attacked, his relatives try to get him psychiatric help. He decides to try to find the killers himself, but someone is watching his every step and the story grows darker and darker.

If you want to watch a real downer, the kind of rough ending that only the 1970’s can give you, this movie is on YouTube:

Police Story: A Chance to Live (1978)

Okay. Alright. Settle down, everyone. Yes, we’re reviewing a David Cassidy movie for this latest “TV Week” installment here at B&S About Movies. Sam said it was okay, really. Just be grateful Danny Bonaduce’s role in the 1975 Police Story episode “The Empty Weapon” wasn’t spun off into a series.

Knock “Keith Partridge” if you will for the “Cassidymania” that swept American in the early ‘70s, but how many artists can you name that played to two sellout crowds of 56,000 each at the Houston Astrodome in Texas over one weekend and sold out New York’s Madison Square Garden in one day in 1972? Cassidy was the Beatles. He was Kurt Cobain. But he was also on his way to becoming the Knack.

The turning point in his career — a tragic one — occurred on May 26, 1974. A gate stampede at a show in London’s White City Stadium resulted in the injuries of 800 people in a crush at the front of the stage. Thirty were taken to the hospital, and a 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Whelan, died four days later at London’s Hammersmith Hospital.

The tragedy haunted Cassidy until the day he died, as he blamed himself for Whelan’s death. And he stepped back from music and acting. Then an opportunity to return to the small screen — in an adult role — was offered.

The story begins with NBC-TV’s hit anthology crime drama series Police Story that aired from September 1973 to May 1978 and was developed by East Pittsburgh-born Joseph Wambaugh. Upon his retirement from his fourteen year career with the Los Angeles Police Department, he turned to writing. And when it came to true crime stories in the ‘70s, Wambaugh was the man. His 1971 novel The New Centurions was turned into a 1972 hit film starring George C. Scott, and the rest of his novels became films in quick succession: The Blue Knight (1972/1973), The Choirboys (1975/1977), The Black Marble (1978/1980), The Onion Field, and The Glitter Dome (1981/1984).

Just prior to the cancellation of the series, David Cassidy starred as undercover police officer Dan Shay in “A Chance to Live.” As result of his youthful appearance, Shay was recruited to infiltrate a high-school drug ring as a fellow student. After his typecasting as a teen idol during his four year run on The Partridge Family, the episode was his triumphant return to acting, as he earned an Emmy nomination for “Best Dramatic Actor.” Courtesy of the award nod and the show’s high ratings — as everyone was intrigued to see Cassidy in an adult role — it led to the development of a series: David Cassidy: Man Undercover.

While he was once again praised for his acting, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Partridge albatross: the show was cancelled after 10 episodes. Many believe the decision of having Cassidy record the show’s theme song, in lieu of a traditional instrument theme song (think “The Rockford Files,” “Starsky and Hutch,” or “S.W.A.T“; each which became U.S. Top 40 hits), gave the show a “teeny bopper” feel. Others felt prefixing his name to the show’s title was a mistake. Everyone stayed away. And, as with the White City Stadium tragedy, the failure of the series always gnawed at him — especially when FOX-TV copied the formula with 21 Jump Street and it launched Johnny Depp’s career.

Keen eyes will notice Dee Wallace (Stone), later known for her work in The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, Cujo, Critters and, of course, E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial, as Cassidy’s wife in the telefilm. She was replaced in the series by Wendy Rastatter, later of another well-regarded TV movie, Midnight Offerings. Keener eyes will notice David’s squad commander is Simon Oakland of Psycho (1960), Bullitt (1969), and TV’s The Night Stalker. Comic book fans of all things Marvel know the telefilm and series writer/producer Larry Brody for his work on the late ’90s animated Spider-Man and Silver Surfer franchises.

Seriously, don’t let the David Cassidy connection deter you from watching. Not only was Police Story a high quality piece of work, Cassidy is excellent throughout. He deserved for it to be a hit. He deserved a hell of a lot more than the hand he was dealt.

You watch the full movie on You Tube and see why.

Oh, since we’re on the subject of teen idol actors and musicians: Be sure to check out our reviews of Lane Caudell (Getaway) in the ’70s Drive-In favorites Goodbye, Franklin High and Hanging on a Star, along with ex-Jeff Beck Group vocalist Kim Milford (Laserblast, Wired to Kill) in the Don Kirshner-produced TV movies Song of the Succubus and Rock-a-Die, Baby.

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.

A Christmas to Remember (1978)

A Christmas to Remember is a TV movie that aired on the CBS-TV Network on December 20. 1978, starring Jason Robards (A Boy and his Dog, Something Wicked This Way Comes), Eva Marie Saint (Martha Kent in 2006’s Superman Returns), and Joanne Woodward (Mrs. Paul Newman, 1947’s A Double Life). The screenplay was based on the 1977 novel The Melodeon by Glendon Swarthout, whose novels Bless the Beasts and the Children, John Wayne’s The Shootist, and the beach romp Where the Boys Are were turned into films.

The screenplay was adapted by Stewart Stern, who wrote James Dean’s defining film, Rebel Without a Cause, Dennis Hopper’s 1971 directing flop, The Last Movie, a 1973 multiple-Emmy winning adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Managerie (Tommy “The Room” Wiseau’s favorite playwright), and the 1963 Marlon Brando vehicle directed by George Englund, The Ugly American (ironically, Wiseau’s favorite actor). The holiday effort also served as the second-to-last directing effort by George Englund, who closed out his directing career with Rock Hudson’s The Vegas Strip War for NBC.

Rusty McCloud (George Parry, who ended his career with 1981’s The Burning; if you’ve seen The Burning, you’ll understand why) is sent by his economically-strapped mother (Joanne Woodward) to live on his grandparents’ farm one winter during the Great Depression. The grandparents, Daniel Larson (Jason Robards) and his wife Emma (Eve Marie Saint), are still grieving the loss of their son in World War I, and Grandap Larson is resentful of his grandson. However, a bond gradually develops as they work to deliver a melodeon (a pump organ) left by the dead son to the local church as a surprise Christmas gift.

Originally filmed in 1976 and intended as a theatrical release, this is an old fashioned Christmas they way they don’t make them anymore, with a stellar cast and comes highly recommended. You can watch a pretty decent taped-from-TV VHS rip for free on You Tube. And it’s the only way to see it, as it was never released on VHS or re-issued on DVD.

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.

A Christmas Movie Christmas (2019)

I have a confession to make, which isn’t necessarily a confession as most of my friends already know this, I was obsessed with the TV series Pretty Little Liars. I binged about 4 seasons to catch up before the 5th season back in 2014. I have bought most of the seasons on DVD, I think I’m only missing the 7th and final season. I recently watched The Jurassic Games, which stars Ryan Merriman from Pretty Little Liars. This led to me looking up other films he was in. This is how I came across A Christmas Movie Christmas. A Christmas Movie Christmas (2019) is written by another actor from the show, Brant Daughtery who played Noel Kahn. Not only did Brant write it, he also stars in it along with Ryan who played Ian Thomas. 

The film is about two sisters, Eve and Lacy Bell, Eve loves Christmas movies and Lacy doesn’t really care for them at all. After Eve blows a breaker with her numerous Christmas decorations the girls go for a walk where they make a wish to Santa. They wake up the next morning in full makeup in a strange home. The girls have been thrown into an actual Christmas movie! 

This movie lambasts almost all of the typical romantic Christmas movies you see on the Hallmark Channel and the like during November and December. It does it in a playful and charming way with lots of hammy acting and cheesy romantic sentiment. Eve is played by Lana McKissack and her sister Lacy is played by Kimberly Daughtery while their romantic interests are played by the guys from PLL.

The town they are transported to in the film is called Holiday Falls and it is the midst of preparation for its annual Christmas Festival. In typical Christmas movie fashion there are multiple love interests for one of the main protagonists, some stuck up girl who is ruining Christmas with her catty attitude, an adorable child, and a scrooge-like character. Everything is made right by the end of the movie as well because holiday films deserve happy tidy as a bow endings. 

This movie is everything you want in a cheesy made for TV holiday movie and I’m glad that my obsession with Pretty Little Liars led to its discovery. If you are feeling particularly down during this world health crisis and want to escape into some holiday fun then this movie is certainly in your wheelhouse. It can be viewed on the Pluto TV app on demand.

CBS Wednesday Night Movie: The Killing of Randy Webster (1981)

Considering its juvenile delinquency plot and rock soundtrack (like an even bleaker Over the Edge), this was certainly made for young adults, but was far too dark for CBS-TV’s Schoolbreak Special young adult programming block. And it’s one of the greatest TV movies ever made. Yeah, I know we say that a lot about the TV movies we review here. But wow. This friggin’ movie.

Once again proving that all actors have to start somewhere: Sean Penn stars in a support role in his first feature film. Before he gained notice for his supporting Tom Cruise in the military school drama, Taps (1981), and then blew up with his roles as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Bad Boys (1983) as Mick O’Brien, he was the undercard in this cautionary tale based on journalist Tom Curtis’s award-winning article “The Throwdown.”

The teleplay was written by prolific TV scribe Scott Swanton in his feature film debut. Regardless of his ratings successes on TV, Swanton only moved into theatrical features — once — with Racing for Glory (1989), a bike racing flick starring Peter Berg (who you know as an actor from Shocker, but as a director from Hancock and The Losers). But on the small screen? Wow. Swanton brought his A-Game with the Calendar Girl Murders (1984; Tom Skeritt/Sharon Stone) and Nightmare at Bitter Creek (1988; Tom Skeritt/Lindsay Wagner). Great TV movie stuff!

The rest of the cast is a who’s who of ’70 and ’80s films and television. Of course, you recognize the adult leads with the always welcomed Hal Holbrook (Creepshow, Rituals) and Dixie Carter from her wealth of TV series. But you also get Barry Corbin of WarGames (as Holbrook’s work partner) and an early roll for Jennifer Jason Leigh, who just came off her support role in Eyes of a Stranger (1981), and on the way to her breakout roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Easy Money (1983). And there’s Anthony Edwards, also of Fast Times, and on his way to Top Gun (1986) with Tom Cruise.

The rest of the cast is filled with the familiar faces of Chris Mulkey (a cabie witness), Scott Paulin (portrays writer Tom Curtis; yes, he was Red Skull in Captain America ’90) and Anne Ramsey (trailer park witness). Uber keen eyes will also notice the familiar John Dennis Johnson (48 Hrs., Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park) and Nancy Malone (too many TV series to mention), and James Whitmore, Jr. (now a prolific TV director, most recently for the NCIS franchise). And do we really have to go into the acting resume of director Sam Wanamaker? Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977) and “Luigi Patrovita” in Raw Deal (1986) ringing any bells?

Courtesy of Getty Images/Made for TV Movie Fandom Wiki.

Sorry. I know. I get carried with the backstories and casts with these old TV movies. You’d probably like to know the plot now, right?

Randy Webster (Gary McCleery; who vanished from the biz after roles in Baby, It’s You (1983) and Matewan (1987) for John Sayles; oft confused with Paul Clemens of The Beast Within and Michael Kramer of Over the Edge: that settles that argument) is a troublesome high school student (his buddies are the nebbish Penn and Edwards) who, after a fight with this mom and dad (Carter and Holbrook) and his girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on the same night, decides to let off some steam by breaking into an auto showroom and steal a van — and it ends with his death at the hands of Houston police officers. To cover up the incident, the cops use a “throwdown”; Holbrook and Carter are determined to clear their son’s name and prove he was murdered.

Oh, I almost forgot. The soundtrack. Oh-ho-ho, this friggin’ soundtrack!

Since this was a Canadian-made movie and April Wine just released their mainstream breakthrough album, 1981’s Nature of the Beast, half of the album was used in the film, most notably, “Crash and Burn” during the culminating cops vs. van chase.

And now, I go off the rails with April Wine love: No hard rock collection is complete without copies of their ’80s “big three” of Harder . . . Faster, First Glance, and The Nature of the Beast (honorabe mentions to ’75’s Stand Back and ’82’s Powerplay). The ‘Winers made their soundtrack debut with their two best-know hits, “Just Between You and Me” and “Sign of the Gypsy Queen,” in the Canadian comedy Gas (1981; back when Howie Mandell had hair and worked as an actor). One of their later, last and lesser and weaker hits, “Rock Myself to Sleep,” was used in vampire comedy Fright Night (1985) (and became a hit cover for the Jefferson friggin’ Starship; just to show how far the ‘Wine whoosed and slipped off the hard-rock tracks).

Hollywood’s music consultants eventually come to realize the majesty of the ‘Wine, with the Canadian rockers earlier tunes “Say Hello,” “You Could Have Been a Lady” and “Oowatanite” appearing in numerous films. “Roller” from First Glance has appeared in Joe Dirt, Machine Gun Preacher, The Heat, Grown Ups 2, and Game Night, while “I Like to Rock” appeared in Nick Cage’s Drive Angry. Most recently, “Say Hello” turned up in the 2019 Dave Bautista-starring action flick, Stuber. And it looks like I’ll have to music consult a film myself to finally get the epic Brian Greenway-penned tunes “Before the Dawn” and “Right Down To It” on a soundtrack. . . .

Okay. Geeze, R.D. Here’s the friggin’ Charmin. Clean yourself up already.

Anyway, The Killing of Randy Webster is one of the few TV Movies that, during the video ’80s insatiable appetite for shelf product, was issued on VHS — with gaudy, sensationalistic sleeves, natch — and you can easily find a copy on Amazon and eBay. But watch out for those DVDs, as they’re grey market rips. What makes this movie work is that scribe Scott Swanton used the Akira Kurosawa Rashomon approach (like Alex Cox’s recently released Tombstone Rashomon) to investigate what really happened on that Houston highway. Just a beautiful film on all quarters.

There’s two clean VHS rips uploaded to You Tube. One with commercials — the for the full retro-TV experience — and one without commercials. And we found this pretty nifty catch-all playlist featuring a plethora, a virtual analog cornucopia, of the “Big Three” network’s TV movies of the ’70s and ’80s. Enjoy! And rock to the soundtrack of The Killing of Randy Webster, aka April Wine’s The Nature of the Beast.

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.

ABC Afterschool Special: Hewitt’s Just Different (1977)

Before NBC and CBS eschewed adult soap opera programming and started programming divisions concentrating on weekday, young adult programming, ABC-TV blazed the trail with their Afterschool Special that ran for 25 years from October 1972 to January 1997. The series topics, which touched on illiteracy, drug abuse, bullying, spousal abuse, and teen pregnancy, earned a record-breaking 51 Daytime Emmys.

The series has far too many standout episodes to mention, but here’s just a few of them, starring actors you know all too well.

Santiago’s Ark (1972), about a 14-year-old Puerto Rican boy who builds a boat to sail around Central Park, co-starred Bill Duke (Predator, Commando; recently in American Satan and Mandy). Child actor René Enríquez would go onto star for several seasons as Lt. Ray Calletano on NBC-TV’s Hill Street Blues.

Other standouts include Me and My Dad’s Wife (1976; Kristie McNichol), Schoolboy Father (1980; Rob Lowe), Stoned (1980; Scott Baio), and Dinky Hocker (1979, the late Wendie Jo Sperber from Back to the Future). Then there’s Rookie of the Year (1973), which starred Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane) as an 11-year-old girl who joins her brother’s Little League Team.

Image courtesy of randy rodman/eBay/MeTV

But it’s this first episode of the sixth season that aired on October 12, 1977, that we loved the most. You’ll recognized Russell “The Professor” Johnson from Gilligan’s Island and a then 16-year-old Perry Lang, later of Alligator, Spring Break, Eight Men Out, and 1941.

Lang is Hewitt Calder, a mentally-challenged teen cared for by his father (Johnson). Hewitt comes to make friends with Willie Arthur (Moosie Drier, later of American Hot Wax, Hollywood Nights). Together, they overcome the school bully, Nully (played by Tom Gulager, the son of Clu, the star of Return of the Living Dead and Hunter’s Blood), and teach the neighborhood kids that “Everybody Matters.”

Image courtesy of coolcanoga/eBay

Sadly—even with all of the uploads of Afterschool Special episodes—this one’s missing. And that’s a damn shame, because Perry is incredible in his acting debut. He’s long since moved into directing, with credits across all three major TV networks, along with the 2018 Christian-based film, Interview with God.

You can watch the episodes mentioned in this review—and more—on a pretty nifty catch-all playlist we found on You Tube.

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.

Bay Coven (1987)

Remember Heroes, that show that had such an amazing first season and then never did anything ever again? Well, that show and this movie were both written by Tim Kring.

Jerry (Tim Matheson, Buried Alive) and Linda (Pamela Sue Martin, who once was Nancy Drew) are sick of the big city, so when their friends Josh (Jeff Conaway!) and Debbi (Susan Ruttan, who has been in so many movies, butyou know that I’m going to bring up Bad Dreams) tell them all about a place called Bay Cove out in the country that seems a little too perfect.

Woody Harrelson is in this as Linda’s friend Slater, way before anyone really knew who he was. There’s all manner of sinister occult goings on, as there always are in TV movies where city folks move to the country.  He’s the Hutch of this movie.

Speaking of Rosemary’s Baby, Barbara Billingsley fulfills the role of the Old Hollywood — in this case, TV Land — star who surely is in cahoots with the Left Hand Path. Surely Beaver and Wally had no idea just what their mother was getting up to. Or down to, as the case may be.

I kind of love that the guy who played Old Man Klein, John Dee — not the scriber of angels — has an IMDB resume made up of roles like Old Man in Adventures In Babysitting, Old Man in Park in Mom, the Wolfman and Me, Old Man in Lobby in Switching Channels and Old Man in Jail in City of Shadows.

Also, because I’ve watched way too much television, I instantly recognized Nigel Bennett, who was Lucien LaCroix, the vampire who turned Nick Knight on Forever Knight.

Director Carl Schenkel also made The Surgeon and Tarzan and the Lost City, which starred Casper Van Dien which I knew without the benefit of IMDB because I have issues, as well as the TV movie remake of Murder on the Orient Express.

You can watch this on YouTube:


The Astronaut (1972)

As the credits roll, you’ll notice this production is headed by Harve Bennett and produced by Universal Television for the ABC-TV television network, which aired this as their “Movie of the Week” on January 8, 1972.

Of course, we all know the connection between Universal Studios and ABC-TV with 1978’s Battlestar Galactica*. But you’ll also notice several familiar names from Bennett’s next production: The Six Million Dollar Man, which aired as a 1973 TV movie, then as a 1973 to 1978 series on ABC. (And near the end of both series, Bennett gave us the coolest do-it-yourself astronaut with Harry Broderick in another great TV movie (and ill-fated series), Salvage 1.

The lead in The Astronaut, Monte Markham, portrayed the Seven Million Dollar Man (as Barney Miller/Hiller in “The Seven Millon Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Criminal” episodes). Of course, we remember his co-star, Richard Anderson, as Oscar Goldman in the series. You’ll also recognized several familiar TV and film support players, such as Susan Clark (Colossus: The Forbin Project; ’80s TV Webster), Jackie Cooper (the original Perry White in 1978’s Superman), and Robert Lansing who, ironically, starred as General McAllister the 1989 TV movie, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman — but we remember him for the trash classics of 1977’s Scalpel and Empire of the Ants, 1980’s S*H*E and Island Claws, and 1988’s The Nest. (How is it that I watched all of those Lansing movies? I don’t know if that makes me cool, or just very sad). Keener eyes will pick up on ubiquitous TV actor John Lupton (Airport 1975), along with the he’s-everywhere James B. Sikking (TV’s Hill Street Blues, Outland, the ’80s Star Trek movies) as one of the ill-fated Mars astronauts.

The Astronaut was the film, well, teleplay, writing debut for TV scribes Charlie Kuenstle (who went on to write Airport ’77), Gerald Di Pego (who wrote the 1974 pseudo-giallo W, the beloved 1974 Linda Blair TV romp Born Innocent, and a couple The Incredible Hulk TV movies), and Robert Biheller, who continued with his prolific TV acting career (but also worked as a staff writer on TV’s CHiP’s and Charlie’s Angels). Robert Michael Lewis wrote a slew of TV movies throughout the ’70s and ’80s, most notably: 1974’s highly-rate Prey for the Wildcats (yep, with Andy Griffith from Salvage 1) and The Day the Earth Moved (with Jackie Cooper). (Remember that, at the time, Watergate was the crime of the decade, and you’ll see that conspiracy-cover up concept the frames of the teleplay.)

Monte Markham is Col. Brice Randolph, the first man on Mars (in an Apollo rocket and LEM, just like the later Capricorn One from 1978). As Randolph sets foot on the surface and begins to explore, the TV coverage is abruptly cut off. Officially, the story is that it was a slight communications glitch and the crew is heading home. Unofficially, Mission Control officer Jackie Cooper and a few top-ranking officials (Richard Anderson) know the truth: Randolph died on the surface due to a bacterial infection.

If the news of his death gets out: goodbye space program. So, instead of faking the mission or killing off the astronauts in a cover up (as in Capricorn One), NASA recruits a fellow officer, Eddie Reese, and — with a little surgery and a switcheroo at the splashdown site — passes him off as Randolph. But the plan begins to fall apart when Randolph’s wife (Susan Clarke) starts to realize something’s not quite right about her “husband.” And when the Russians announce they’re going to Mars, will the U.S. warn them of the dangers of the Red Planet?

(And if this all sounds a bit like the 1999 did-anybody-actually-see-it Johnny Depp box office bomb, The Astronaut’s Wife, it probably is.)

Markham went back to the moon — alongside Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, Re-Animator) in the 2016 English-language Serbian-Korean-Slovenia co-production The Rift: The Dark Side of the Moon (not to be confused with the underwater Alien ripoff, The Rift, or the better, other Alien ripoff, The Dark Side of the Moon). The plot concerns a sleeper CIA agent in Belgrade dispatched as part of a multi-national team to secure the remains of a crashed satellite in Eastern Serbia. The team comes to discover the satellite has vanished and they work to discover the truth behind the crash and their ill-fated mission. As you can see by the trailer, the production values and acting are of a high quality. (I liked this one, but opinions vary — to the side of “suck,” so you know how that goes.)

The VHS and (grey market) DVDs for The Astronaut are out there, if you want a hard copy for your sci-fi collection, but you can watch an okay taped-from-TV VHS rip of The Astronaut for free on You Tube. You can also watch The Rift: The Darkside of the Moon as a PPV on You Tube and Vudu.

And by the way: We reviewed a pretty cool German variant of the Capricorn One concept with 1977’s Operation Ganymed. Put all three together for a night of viewing.

* Be sure to check our our two-part, month-long Star Wars ripoffs and galactic droppings blowout “Exploring: Before and After Star Wars.”

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.

Vampire (1979)

Before he made  Hill Street BluesL.A. Law and so many more shows, Steven Bochco made Vampire, a made for TV movie featuring so many of the people beloved by this site. This movie is a revelation, as I had never seen it before.

Richard Lynch stars as Anton Voytek, a handsome millionaire vampire who has used his undead power over women for centuries before coming into the orbit of vampire hunters John Rawlins (Jason Miller from The Exorcist, ironically the father of two future vampires: Joshua John Miller played Homer in Near Dark and Jason Patric was Michael in The Lost Boys) and E.G. Marshall.

The vampire’s lair is disturbed when a new church breaks ground, but his hoarded wealth allows him to quickly move up in modern society so that he can hunt down Rawlins, the architect that he blames for being awake.

Kathryn Harrold (who battled vampire bats in Nightwing and Luciano Pavarotti in Yes, Giorgio), Jessica Walter (Arrested Development), Barrie Youngfellow (also in the vampire film Nightmare In Blood), Michael Tucker (who would later be on L.A. Law), Jonelle Allen (who would one day play evil witch Lucinda Cavender in The Midnight Hour), Scott Paulin (who was the Red Skull in the 1990 Captain America) and Joe Spinell (if I have to tell you who he is, please never come back) all appear.

Originally airing October 7, 1979 on NBC, this was directed by E.W. Swackhamer (the original Spider-Man made for TV movie, Terror at London Bridge) and was intended to be the pilot for a continuing series. After all, Voytek escapes at the end.

1979 was a big year for vampire movies, with Herzog’s Nosferatu the VampyreNocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula, Frank Langella’s turn as DraculaLove At First BiteThirst, Salem’s Lot and The Curse of Dracula, which was part of Cliffhangers!, an NBC-TV series that gave birth to multiple made for TV movies that were re-edited from the episodic content like Dracula ’79 and World of Dracula.

This is way more than worth your time. You can check it out on YouTube: