Scream of the Wolf (1974)

In a sleepy town along the coast of California, an unknown animal begins killing people, beginning with a ‘70s version of Dana Carvey. The local sheriff (All My Children’s Philip Carey) recruits local writer John Wetherby (Peter Graves) who used to earn his living as a big game hunter to help track the animal.  Baffled by the presence of both four and two-legged tracks, he approaches his shifty ex-hunting buddy Byron (Clint Walker) for assistance who refuses to cooperate. As more people die, the townsfolk begin to believe there’s a werewolf in their midst. 

 A few weak red herring characters peppered throughout the story aside, Byron is the prime suspect. Not only was he bitten by a wolf, he has a strange obsession with the exchange of power between predator and prey. He hates John’s new “emasculating” life of leisure and possesses a rather creepy yet swaggering demeanor. 

Based on the story The Hunter by David Case, Richard Matheson’s teleplay is better than the average TV movie script. On the surface it appears to be a standard whodunnit supernatural mystery. It was only upon further scrutiny I noticed the anti-hunting message and sexual subtext. Both of the protagonists are professional hunters. One becomes civilized and changes careers. The other sticks with it and grows into a psychopath who masks his feelings for another man through hyper-masculinity and violence.  

The sexual tension between John and Byron isn’t just palpable. It’s downright steamy. The long knowing gazes, Byron’s unexplained hatred for John’s girlfriend Sandy (Jo Ann Pflug), the passive aggressive references to their time together alone in the Canadian wilderness and the arm-wrestling match where Byron challenges John, to “last seven minutes” are all very obvious references that Byron just can’t quit John. I kept waiting for them to embrace in a passionate kiss and walk off into the sunset together, carrying their very long rifles at waist height. 

 Alas, this is a ‘70s TV movie, so their past is never fully revealed. Instead, we get a nice double twist where first Byron fakes his death and pins the werewolf murders. After returning to confront him, Byron reveals himself to John, who assumes he was the werewolf all along. Not even close.  In fact, it isn’t a werewolf at all that’s been mutilating people. It’s a German Shepherd, tortured and trained to hunt humans by Byron. Why? To awaken John’s “urge to action” and get him to go off to South America with him on another “hunting trip.” It doesn’t work. After a chase reminiscent of The Most Dangerous Game (1932), heterosexuality wins out. John outsmarts Byron and shoots him with a hidden handgun after a nice bit of dialogue where Byron tells his prey, “You wanted me to stalk you.” and John replies, “Let’s just say I didn’t want you to leave.”  

By the time Scream of the Wolf aired, director Dan Curtis was already well-known for working in the horror genre, having made Dark Shadows and The Norliss Tapes. Whether he was aware of the subtext in the teleplay is unclear, but he directs the stalk-attack sequences with his usual skill, and is very unsettling even for a TV movie. As journeymen actors, Graves, Walker, Pflug and Carey are all very good in their respective roles. The musical score is another highlight, with a groovy yet suspenseful theme that’s a combination of Enter the Dragon and Friday the 13th

While not as well-known as Trilogy of Terror, which arrived the following year, Scream of the Wolf is an overlooked gem that made the rounds on cable about 15 years ago. It’s never been given a proper DVD or Blu-Ray release, but it definitely deserves one. It’s got a good script, plenty of dead bodies, good acting and subtext so subtle it probably flew right over the average ‘70s ABC viewer’s head. Fans of Dan Curtis, or older men arm-wrestling will enjoy it. Did I mention Peter Graves drive a sweet Corvette? The cherry on top. 

Come Die With Me (1974)

I’m loving these Dan Curtis produced ABC Wide World of Mystery TV movies, which are shot on video and appear like maniacal soap operas but are infused with so much murder and menace that you’re shocked that they played on regular TV.

Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock from Clue) stars as Mary, a housekeeper who yearns for a man of her own. But she realizes that she’s not the most attractive fish in the sea, so to win over her handsome boss Walter (George Maharis, TV’s Route 66), she blackmails him. Sure, he might be a murderer, but he’s attractive and has seen so much more of the world than she ever will.

Look for Nick Ferrari (Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off), Charles Macaulay (who was the Dracula who turned Prince Mamuwalde into Blacula), Alan Napier (Alfred from TV’s Batman) and Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans from Curtis’ Dark Shadows).

This was directed by Pittsburgh native Burt Brinckerhoff, who also helmed plenty of episodic TV like Lou GrantRemington Steele7th Heaven and Alf, as well as the TV movie Can You Hear the Laughter? The Story of Freddie Prinze. He started his career as an actor and appears in The Greatest Story Ever Told.

I really dug this one — it feels like an Americanized giallio — minus the directorial flourishes, but certainly with the twists, turns and psychosexual drama inherent within the genre. There’s a great scene where Mary asks Walter about his experience with orgies and drugs. You can really sense that she both wants to know everything and wants to hear nothing. It’s really well done.

You can order this from Modcinema or watch it on Amazon Prime.

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.

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.

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats (1974)

To celebrate his birthday, wealthy Patrick Davenant (Chris Avram, The Eerie Midnight Horror ShowEmanuelle in Bangkok) brings his friends to his family’s unused theater — empty for a century, which is how long his family has been cursed, which in no way is taken from The Red Queen Kills Seven Times.

There’s his sister Rebecca (Eva Czemerys, Escape from the Bronx) and her lover — look how ahead of its time Italian giallo in 1974 was — Doris (Lucretia Love, who was in The Arena and the astoundingly titled When Men Carried Clubs and Women Played Ding-Dong). And he’s also decided to bring his ex Vivian (Rosana Schiaffino, once called the Italian Hedy Lamarr) and her new husband Albert (Andrea Scotti, Terror Express), along with Patrick’s daughter Lynn (Paola Senatore, Ricco the Mean MachineEmanuelle in America (1977) and Eaten Alive!; due to an unplanned pregnancy and being hooked on drugs, she ended her career by appearing in an adult film, Non Stop… Sempre Buio in Sala before being arrested for possession and trafficking of drugs) and her boyfriend Duncan (Gaetano Russo, Crazy Blood), as well as Patrick’s fiancee Kim (Janet Agren, City of the Living Dead), her ex-boyfriend Russell (Howard Ross, otherwise known as Renato Rossini, The New York Ripper) and finally, to finish off this cast of gorgeous people who all hate one another, some dude no one can really figure out where he belongs (Eduardo Filpone, Flavia the Heretic).

Oh yeah — there’s also a caretaker played by Luigi Antonio Guerra from Spasmo.

Before you know it, everyone starts getting killed, including one death via stabs to the lady business and their cranium being nailed to a board. You’d think with all this mayhem, the movie would be pretty interesting, but sadly, it drags.

The mysterious stranger — when he’s not looking funky fresh in blue blazer and fancy medallion — is given to saying things like, “You know what I like about you people? … You’re so civil to each other as you tear each other apart.” and “I spent a night here a hundred years ago” and “The actors are present and now the play may start…”

Janet Agren gets to act out a scene from Romeo and Juliet before she dies at least.

You know how people decry American slashers because they punish anyone who enjoys sex or drugs or any behavior deemed aberrant? This movie takes that notion and delivers it in spades. Of course, it also presents sin in all its glory but uses violent death as the square up reel.

This is the last movie that Giuseppe Bennati made. It fits in with post-Argento giallo, but doesn’t add much to the form other than a great title and poster.

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974)

By 1974, the giallo was waning and the poliziottesco was starting to win over the Italian box office. This offering is a hybrid of both — unlike many giallo, the police are not presented as ineffectual or non-essential. Instead, they’re followed for most of the film.

Massimo Dallamano (The Night Child) made What Have You Done to Solange?, a giallo that exists outside of the Argento archetype. He’d follow it with this rougher and much darker — somehow that’s possible! — semi-sequel.

Deputy Attorney Vittoria Stori (Giovanna Ralli, The MercenarySex with a Smile) is a rarity in giallo. She’s a woman in command of the police and never presented as a victim. She’s in charge of the murder investigation of Sylvia Polvesi (Sherry Buchanan, Dr. Butcher M.D.).

Found hanging in an attic, her suicide is anything but, as Inspectors Silvestri (Claudio Casinelli, Murder RockHercules) and Valentini (Mario Adorf, Short Night of Glass Dolls) soon discover. And oh yeah — there’s soon a leather jacketed biker using a meat cleaver to gorily off his or her victims. And a peeping tom, too! And teenage prostitution! And Farley Granger, showing up to class up the proceedings!

Obviously, the look of the killer in this movie would influence a movie that has no interest in classing up the giallo — Strip Nude for Your Killer — and an American movie that gets so close to a giallo but is missing the murderous set pieces — Night School.

It’s a shame that Dallamano died in a car accident at the somewhat young age of 59. As the cinematographer for Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, he certainly had an eye for action and movement, as evidenced by the hallway chase scene in this film that seems as steady as, well, a Steadi-Cam shot (it isn’t!).

The Giallo Files site compared this movie to an episode of Law and Order. That’s an apt comparison. It’s a good movie to introduce someone to the genre with, as while it has some twists and turns, it doesn’t descend into plot hole jumping or an abundance of red herrings as some films of this genre.

You can grab the Arrow Video release of this movie from Diabolik DVD.

Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll (1974)

This movie is also known as House Of Psychotic Women, which is an edited version for U.S. audiences. There’s also an even further edited TV version called House of Doom. I’ll tell you, this is the only movie I can think of where the children’s song “Frere Jacques” plays during murders.

It was directed by Carlos Aured, who would also make Horror Rises from the Tomb, Curse of the Devil and The Mummy’s Revenge with this movie’s star and co-writer, Paul Naschy.

Naschy plays a ne’er do well named Gilles who wanders into a French town looking for work but ends up getting a ride from a woman named Claude (Diana Lorys, Fangs of the Living Dead) with a fake hand. She soon hires him to put in some work on the house that she shares with her sisters, the insatiable Nicole (Eva Leon) and the wheelchair-bound Yvette (Maria Perschy).

Oh yeah — it’s giallo week. I forgot to mention that a black-gloved killer is murdering only blue-eyed women and putting them eyeballs into glasses of water. The top suspect? Lucio Fulci. No, no, it’s Gilles.

All those eyeball scenes earned this movie a spot on the section 3 video nasty list. Trust me — it’s not as rough as many of the films on that list, but it probably disturbed enough people that it got picked. It’s an odd film with a strange atmosphere.

You can grab this as part of Shout! Factory’s The Paul Naschy Collection set.

The Killer Wore Gloves (1974)

I am consumed by near-constant nerves and worries, pains that can only be assuaged by late-night viewings of only the rarest and most deranged examples of film. So when I see a movie with the titles of Hot Lips the KillerLe Calde Labbra del Carnefice (The Hot Lips of the Executioner), La Muerte Llama a las 10 (Death Calls at 10) and The Killer Wore Gloves — because it’s a giallo and dammit the killer better wear gloves — then all my being up at 3:15 AM like the haunted bastard son of Ronnie DeFeo all pays off.

Peggy (Gillian Hills, A Clockwork OrangeBlow-Up) is worried that she hasn’t heard from her boyfriend Michael for months as he’s been covering the dangerous war in Vietnam. She’s also rented out the loft in her apartment to a friend of a friend of a friend named John Kirk Lawford, whose body shows up dead. And where’s our heroine On the way to meet Michael at an abandoned airplane hangar when a gloved killer — the movie MUST live up to its title, right? — tries to kill her. And now, another man shows up with the name John Kirk Lawford and a whole bunch of money shows up in our heroine’s apartment

Peggy wears the type of outfits — and lives in the type of bonkers apartment, complete with a fabric Frankenstein’s monster hamper — that only exist in 1970’s giallo. Let’s face it. Our girl has a giant egg in the middle of her flat.

Poor Peggy. Every man in her life is absolutely horrible and despite people shooting at her and showing up dead all around the place, she never informs the police or seeks any help. Oh to be a giallo heroine, constantly having to wear leather mini-dresses and have all manner of skeevy men offering you money for sex, just plain sex or sex with lots of violent death as a side dish.

Director Juan Bosch also wrote Secta Siniestra, in which a woman pregnant with the Anti-Christ is menaced by Satanists — you’d think they’d want to make that pregnancy go a little simpler, am I right? — and directed Exorcismo, which stars our favorite Spanish actor Paul Naschy.

A Spanish movie imitating an Italian film based on German krimi movies taken from a British author starring an actress from the UK. If you ever wondered, “Why can’t we all just get along?” then you haven’t been watching much mid-70’s giallo, hmm?