The Legend of Hell House (1973)

John Hough knows how to make a horror movie. The IncubusTwins of Evil?  American Gothic? Yeah, I’m a fan.

Richard Matheson? Yes, him too.

Man, team them up and throw in AIP producer James H. Nicholson, making one of two non-AIP pictures before he’d die, and you get some magic.

You don’t have to look up the other movie he produced. It was Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.

Dr. Lionel Barrett is enlisted by eccentric millionaire Mr. Deutsch to look into life after death at the Mount Everest of haunted houses, the Belasco House. It was once owned by “Roaring Giant” Emeric Belasco, a huge pervert and millionaire who tortured and killed enough people at his home that it’s filled with ghosts long after his disappearance.

He brings his wife and two experts: mental medium and spiritualist minister Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin, NecromancySatan’s School for Girls) and medium Ben Fischer (Roddy McDowall!) who is the only survivor of the last time someone tried to get to the bottom of this house of secrets.

Fischer is soon battling not only the advances of Barrett’s wife, but also the spirits of the home, including Daniel, the son of Belasco. His ghost not only sexually assaults Florence, but then dumps a giant crucifix on her.

Man, the reveal of this movie is so berserk that I don’t feel like sharing it here, despite this movie come out a year after I was born. I’m old, so imagine!

There are some lessons here. Don’t go to haunted houses. Don’t neglect your wife sexually. And if a ghost cat attacks you, leave.

You can get this from Shout! Factory.

The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973)

Someday, scholars will speak in awe of the post-Star Trek Satanic twosome of Shatner films, which would be this movie and The Devil’s Rain! Until then, maniacs like me will yell into the uncaring silence and tell you that for a shining moment — or literally two — the once and future Kirk would die twice (spoilers be damned, again literally) while facing off with the Lord of the Flies.

Originally airing on CBS on February 13, 1973, I first learned of this movie in a TV Guide Book of Lists that featured Anton LaVey discussing the most Satanic TV moments of the last decade. This movie has it all: Mario Bava lighting, a cursed altar, Shatner drunk and railing againt humanity, and finally, a bunch of Old Hollywood actors daring to sacrifice a young child to the Left Hand Path.

Sure, the flight from London to New York is supposed to be mainly cargo — that druid altar I hinted at before — but the plane still has plenty of talent on board. There’s Captain Ernie Slade (Chuck Connors), as well as an architect (Roy Thinnes, who would enter this territory again in The Norliss Tapes) and his wife (Jane Merrow, Hands of the Ripper) who have placed said altar on board. There’s also Paul Kovalik (Shatner), a priest who has lost his way, and super rich Glenn Farlee (Buddy Ebsen, who makes it awesome as it’s basically Jed Clampett and Barnaby Jones against Satan). You also get Tammy Grimes — whose daughter Amanda Plummer looks just like her — as well as Lynn Loring (also in the occultist Black Noon), Paul Winfield, France Nuyen (Code Name: Diamond Head), Will Hutchins, Darleen Carr (she’s in the TV remake of Piranha), Russell Johnson (The Professor!) and H. M. Wynant (Hangar 18).

Shot on the sound stages at CBS Studio Center, some people have the wrong idea that this is Shatner’s worst movie. They’re wrong. This movie is everything. My wife looked at me near the end and said, “This is pretty intense for TV.” I told her that life was cheap in 1973.

Director David Lowell Rich would also make Satan’s School for GirlsSST Death Flight and The Concorde … Airport ’79, all movies that some people would make fun of. Not me — this is my bread and butter. It tastes delicious.

You can watch this on YouTube:

The Cat Creature (1973)

Originally airing December 11, 1973 on ABC, this Curtis Harrington-directed, Robert Bloch-written take on Cat People was originally planned as a starring vehicle for Diahann Carroll. However, her ABC contract ended and the film needed to be rewritten.

It’s such a tribute to Cat People that Kent Smith, who starred in that film and its sequel, The Curse of the Cat People, appears.

Smith plays an appraiser who finds a sarcophagus in a house that he is surveying. Inside is a mummy wearing a solid gold cat’s head amulet that has a curse attached to it. Just then, he’s killed by a cat creature and a thief played by Keye Luke steals the amulet.

David Hedison — who played Felix Leiter to two different James Bonds — is a cop on his trail. Showing up for support are Meredith Baxter as a salesgirl,  John Carradine as a hotel clerk and Stuart Whitman as a police lieutenant.

Gale Sondergaard, who played Universal’s Spider Woman in two films, is also here as an occult bookstore owner named Hester Black. It was one of the first movies that she had made since 1949, thanks to the blacklist and her support of husband Herbert Biberman.

The day after shooting wrapped, she was called back for some closeups. It was all a ruse When she arrived on the set in makeup and costume, Charlton Heston presented her with an Academy gold statuette to replace one that she had won for 1936’s Anthony Adverse.

Want to check this out for yourself? Here it is on YouTube:

Dying Room Only (1973)

Phillip Leacock also directed When Michael Calls and Baffled!,two other TV movies of note, in addition to this taunt little thriller.

It was written by Richard Matheson, who wrote the scripts for House of UsherThe Legend of Hell HouseSomewhere in Time and some great TV, like “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel” for The Twilight ZoneThe Night StalkerThe Night StranglerScream of the WolfTrilogy of Terror and so much more.

Bob Mitchell and his wife Jean (Dabney Coleman and Cloris Leachman) are on their way to Los Angeles when a detour takes them to the nearly deserted Arroyo Motel, which only has two people there: cook Jim Cutler (Ross Martin, Artemus Gordon from The Wild Wild West) and a customer named Tom King (Ned Beatty). Both of them are beyond rude and Jean feels like something is wrong.

She’s right. When she comes back from using the phone, Bob is gone and soon, someone is driving off in their station wagon, leaving her trapped between the diner and a hotel, which is manned by another untrustworthy local named Vi (Louise Latham, Marnie).

Dana Eclar (Condorman) plays a lawman and Ron Feinberg (Fellini from A Boy and His Dog) is another shady character. A tiny cast for a big feeling movie that honestly escapes the small screen and could have played theaters, Dying Room Only fits neatly into the early 70’s genre of films where city folk using the new highways and byways of America run smack dab into small town backwoods menace.

Originally airing on September 18, 1973, the film faced criticism for how Leachman’s character is nearly destroyed by the loss of her husband, feeling that the movie had no aspiration toward feminism. There were also other reviews that it embodied the worst aspects of regional and cultural prejudice, which is pretty much what every movie in this genre does.

Wrestling Queen (1973)

Wrestling Queen is less about Vivian Vachon, the titular rassling royalty, than it is about early 1970’s pro wrestling. This movie near-instantly puts a lie to the rewritten Vince McMahon Jr. history of wrestling that big crowds and families didn’t attend wrestling shows until the rock and wrestling connection of the early 80’s.

Vivian comes from the legendary Vachon family, which includes Paul the Butcher and Mad Dog Maurice, both of whom show up here. They’d eventually come into the WWF fold at the start of the USA Network era and Vachon daughter Luna would become a memorable part of the Attitude Era.

The most important reason to watch this movie is to see a behind the scenes and in-ring portrait of some of the most famous names of wrestling’s past, including Andre the Giant, Baron Von Raschke, Dory Funk Jr., Dick Murdoch, Bill Watts, Danny Hodge, Blackjack Mulligan, Killer Kowalski and more.

There are some interesting moments with fans, who compare it to other sports like baseball, while some opine that women are there to hook up and the son of a female wrestling explains why he still thinks that it’s real. It’s not the best documentary on wrestling that I’ve seen, but still a fascinating time capsule.

You can watch this on YouTube:

Tiffany Jones (1973)

Pete Walker (Die Screaming, MarianneFrightmareHouse of the Long Shadows) directed this movie, which is based on the comic strip by Pat Tourret and Jenny Butterworth. It fits nicely into both the comic book and spy genres.

Anouska Hempel was one of the Angels of Death in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, plus she had roles in Scars of Dracula and Black Snake before becoming an interior designer and a member of British society.

Here, she plays Tiffany Jones, a model by day and secret agent by night. This movie lives up to the tagline, “Presidents want her, Revolutionaries seek her, And that’s why she’s always taking off!”

Perhaps that’s why Hempel bought the UK rights to the film, preventing any future DVD releases or TV showings. I’m sure she’s very unhappy that it’s on Amazon Prime now.

It’s not great, but it is a time capsule of London in 1973 in a way that the Austin Powers films can only hope to create.

Wonder Women (1973)

Dr. Tsu (Nancy Kwan, The World of Suzie Wong) and her army of women have captured 14 of the worlds greatest athletes, selling their organs, body parts and even bodies to rich old men who want to live forever.

Mike Harber (Ross Hagen, The Hellcats) is the insurance investigator who stumbles in on her mostly nude, all female, all karate kicking army.

Roberta Collins (Unholy RollersDeath Race 2000) is in this, which makes it worth watching. Shirley Washington, the first black Ms. America, is in this as well. She was also in Darktown Strutters. There’s also Sid Haig, playing someone named Gregarious. And one of the girls is played by Maria De Aragon, who was Greedo. Yes. That’s correct. And Vic Diaz! Oh man!

There are also cockfights and something called brainsex. Ah, the Philippines. May the movies that come off your island always be so strange.

This was directed by Robert Vincent O’Neill, who was also behind the first two Angel movies. He also wrote Deady Force and Vice Squad.

You can watch this movie with Rifftrax commentary on Tubi.

Live and Let Die (1973)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

Fans of James Bond all have their favorite era. Live and Let Die (1973) is the eighth Bond film in the franchise and the first to star Roger Moore. Having cut his teeth on the British TV shows The Saint and The Persuaders, Moore proved himself to be a perfect Bond and went on to play the character six more times.

Released at the apex of the blaxploitation era, the film features many African-American stars from films in that genre, some used to great affect and others not so much. Yaphet Kotto is great as Kananga/Mr. Big. The clever gangster who -through the use of an alter-ego- both produces and distributes heroin throughout the United States. Julius Harris plays the Henchman Tee Hee with snarling delight, using his sharp metallic hand to great effect. 

 As with most Bond films, Live and Let Die is filled with beautiful locations and beautiful people but has a terrible script. When several MI6 agents are killed while monitoring his activities, they send Bond in to investigate. It’s odd that crimes having nothing to do with the UK would interest them but it’s so entertaining that it suspends disbelief. 

The female characters during this era were treated pretty badly as well. 

Gloria Hendry plays Rosie Carter, a CIA double agent working for Kananga. Although the film’s Wiki proudly boasts her as being the first Africa-American to sleep with Bond in the series, the film wastes her talent. She’s given nothing to do other than look scared displays an astonishing level of ineptitude despite being a highly trained CIA operative. Frankly, it’s insulting. Not only to Miss Hendry, but to the audience. To see Gloria flexing her acting chops and her fists, watch Hell Up in Harlem (also 1973) or Black Belt Jones (1974). Films on which her salaries were likely smaller, but the material she had to work with was far better than what they gave her here. 

Young Jane Seymour is perfect as the naive Solitaire, Kananga’s tarot-reading mystic ward whom Bond rescues from captivity (and virginity.) The film includes a lot of mixed references to occultism and Voodoo in a confused mash-up that services the study of neither. In the film’s big reveal, Bond discovers Kananga has been producing heroin and is protecting the poppy fields by exploiting the San Monique locals’ fear of Baron Samedi, but played here memorably by Geoffrey Holder but given greater depth of exposition in 1974’s Sugar Hill.

In the finale, Kananga strings Bond and Solitaire up over a pool filled with sharks (without frickin’ laser beams) and then expands into a comical balloon that floats up and explodes after a fight where James shoves a gas pellet into his throat. All accompanied by the best soundtrack of the entire series. Did I mention there’s a redneck sheriff? Yeah, it’s got that going for it, too. An over-the-top stereotype meant to amuse African-American and British audiences alike. 

To sum up, the movie looks great and sounds great. The boat chase is still one of the best of the series and although Q does not make an appearance, his gadgets are still prominently featured. Pardon the pun, but the plot is literally a pale comparison of the actual Blaxploitation crime films it tries to imitate. An enjoyable way to kill time? Definitely. It’s ‘70s cinema junk food at its best.

Frankenstein (1973)

Written by Sam Hall and producer Dan Curtis, this made-for-TV Frankenstein adaption was directed by Glenn Jordan, who would also be in charge of Curtis’ The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Originally airing on January 16, 1973 on ABC, this show was forgotten due to another more expensive TV film, Frankenstein: The True Story.

Robert Foxworth, who was Questor in The Questor Tapes, stars here as Dr. Frankenstein, determined to give life to dead tissue. He’s also in the TV movie The Devil’s Daughter with Johnathan Frid and Shelley Winters.

Bo Svensen makes for a great monster that you both feel for and are afraid of at the apporpriate times in the script. He’s joined by Susan Strasberg (Sweet Sixteen), Robert Gentry (Dear Dead Delilah) and Curtis favorite John Karlen (who is in just about every TV movie that Curtis woud produce).

You may or may not like the shot on video look of so many of Curtis’ productions. I personally love them and make me wistful for an era of TV that is long gone.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973)

Originally airing on April 22, 1973 on ABC, this Dan Curtis-produced adaption of the Oscar Wilde book was like going back to the Dark Shadows well. After all, Quentin Collins also had a portrait that had kept him immortal. He was born Grant Douglas in 1870 and if you reverse those initials, you get the same ones as Dorian Gray.

It was written by John Tomerlin who was the scribe for the Twilight Zone episode “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” as well as episodes of Thriller. Glenn Jordan directed and you may remember him from the Kim Milford-starring TV movie Song of the Succubus.

Shane Briant (Demons of the MindCaptain Kronos: Vampire HunterFrankenstein and the Monster from HellHawk the Slayer) is the perfect Dorian Gray, at once sure of his actions and the other yearning to escape from his life of sin.

Charles Aidman, who worked for Curtis in The Invasion of Carol Enders and as the narrator of When Every Day Was the Fourth of July, appears, as does William Beckley (Gerard the butler from Dynasty), Nigel Davenport (No Blade of Grass), Vanessa Howard (Some Girls Do), Linda Kelsey (TV’s Lou Grant), a very young Kim Richards (when she wasn’t escaping Witch Mountain or getting shot outside Precinct 13 as a child, she was falling in love with Mr. Gray) and Curtis favorite John Karlen, who played Willie Loomis on Dark Shadows.

This is a mannered take on the story, so don’t expect much excitement. But there are a few really great scenes between Davenport and Briant. It’s worth a watch.

You can see it on Amazon Prime and Tubi.