Don’t Open the Door (1974)

Don’t Open the Door! was originally released regionally in Texas under the title Don’t Hang Up in May 1974. It was then acquired by Capital Films Corporation, who re-released it in 1979.

Director S.F. Brownrigg made this movie with producer Martin Jurow (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), using a cast mainly made up of actors from Dallas-based actors.

The story is simple: young girl returns home to care for her sick grandmother and encounters weirdness at every turn. It’s Brownrigg’s skill that makes this movie unique.

Despite the lurid feel of this movie, it still has a PG rating. Life was cheaper in 1974.

Susan Bracken plays Amanda Post, who begins the film assured and cocky before returning to Allerton, the Texas town where she watched her mother get killed as a child. This would be the only theatrical film Bracken would do and it’s a shame because she’s great in this.

We live in a world of caller ID that renders so much of this movie a moot point, such as the reveal that the calls are coming from within the house. While that trope replays itself in so many 70’s horror films, I always find it so delightful.

Larry O’Dwyer, who plays the sinister Claude, was done with acting after this movie too. Again, a shame.

If you were born later than me, you may find this movie slow moving and not as filled with terror as you hope, particularly with the sinister VHS cover image that I attached to this review. Not all movies need to have a killing every two minutes and have geysers of gore. This movie does so much more with less.

If you want to know more about this movie and where it was filmed, watch my friend J.H. Rood’s film Don’t on the Internet Archive.

BONUS: You can listen to Bill Van Ryn, J.H. and me discuss this movie on the second week of our streaming web show, Drive-In Asylum Double Feature.

Prey for the Wildcats (1974)

Do you want to see Sheriff Andy Taylor as sociopath? Do you want to see a spineless, suicidal Captain Kirk? How about Mike Brady as a bastardly dolt of a husband? Or Marjoe Gornter (Starcrash and The Survivalist) with a knocked up girlfriend half his age? How about a movie where they’re bedding and cheating with Angie Dickenson (Dressed to Kill) and Lorraine Grey (Jaws)?

Aired on ABC-TV January 23, 1974/image courtesy of blue-ray.com.

Well, Robert Michael Lewis, who made his network teleplay debut with 1972’s The Astronaut, and cut his teeth with episodes of ABC-TV’s The Mod Squad and McMillan & Wife, answered that question with this, his fifth telefilm. The scribe behind the scenes, Jack Turley, was known for his work on Rawhide (where Clint Eastwood got his start), The Fugitive (starring David Jannsen of Inchon), and the show where he met Lewis: The Mod Squad. The duo also worked together on their next telefilm, 1974’s The Day the Earth Moved (starring Jackie Cooper from The Astronaut).

Andy Griffith (No Time for Sergeants) is Sam Farragut, a businessman who hires William Shanter (Big Bad Mama), Robert Reed (Haunts of the Very Rich), and Marjoe Gortner’s advertising executives for an ad campaign shot in Baja, California. But before he’ll sign on the dotted line, Farragut pressures the trio to take a dirtbike trip though desert to “search for just the right location.” Desperate for business — and with no camping or dirtbiking experience — they accept, as the deal could save the agency.

Yeah, you guess it.

Farragut is a reckless sociopath and adrenalin junkie that dragged them into the desert for a little “human death sport” of his own making. The “game” goes sideways after a couple of American hippies at a Mexican bar smart mouth Farragut . . . and now the “Wildcats” are not only Farragut’s game pieces, but murders on the run.

Obviously, not the actual 1974 trailer, but a very funny send up.

Surprising, unlike most high-rated TV movies, this one actually made it to video in 1987. The caveat is that the only official DVDs are the 2012 versions issued on the now-out-print 8 Movies for the Man Cave – 4 and the four-movie Andy Griffith Collection: America’s Favorite Actor sets (which features the TV films A Song for the Season, Street Killing, and Daddy & Them). Any single-DVD issues you find are grey market burns, so emptor that caveat when you buy.

This movie is a really fun watch, as we get to see Andy Griffith as we never seen him before, along with the range of the underated shakespearean trained Robert Reed (Gene Hackman was orginally cast as Mike Brady; when Hackman hit paydirt with The Conversation and The French Connection, it gnawed at Reed until his dying day), and Bill Shatner going way, way out of his comfort zone.

There’s several rips of varying quality on You Tube, but with the way uploads come and go, we’ll give you three to choose from HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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.

Cry Panic (1974)

Jack B. Sowards created perhaps one of the most interesting parts of Star Trek: the Kobayashi Maru, a no-win scenario for new Starfleet captains that was first brought up in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He also wrote this TV movie which was directed by James Gladstone, whose tie to Star Trek is directing the classic episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” He also was behind the films Rollercoaster and When Time Ran Out…

Dennis Ryder (John Forsythe, who is astounding in this movie) is driving to San Francisco for a job interview when he hits a man who no one will admit is dead. No one — the sheriff (Earl Holliman from Police Woman), Ralph Meeker from The Alpha Incident, the town doctor (Noman Alden, Kansas City Bomber) and certainly not Anne Francis.

Jason Wingreen, who is in this, was also the voice of Boba Fett.

Seriously, this entire town is against Ryder. It’s a taunt 74 minutes and gets more out of that time than three movies today. I’ve heard people say it has a David Lynch vibe, which I can see. It’s intriguing when a man knows that he’s killed somebody and begs the police to charge him.

You can watch this on YouTube:

Leyendas Macabras de la Colonia (1974)

Tinieblas — wearing an awesome brown suit — buys an ancient painting of a dead woman, despite the warning that it is haunted, because he thinks it’ll help him with the ladies.

After a trios match with his partners El Fantasma Blanco (The White Ghost) and Mil Mascaras, they head off to a party with two ladies. Soon, that painting has taken them back in time and they’re battling a witch played by Lorena Velazquez, who was Thorina queen of the vampires in Santo Contra las Mujeres Vampiros. Her mother is the woman in the haunted painting and she’s a living dead woman who demands human sacrifices in her unholy name. She also has an army of conquistadors (no, not Jose Estrada and Jose Luis Rivera) and Aztec warriors who end up coming to our time to wrestle a trios match against our heroes. And oh yeah — she claims to be La Llorona!

I learned from this movie that while Mil has many, many masks, he is no master of history. As they go back in time, he says that they are sometime between 1512 and 1520. The Spanish have already conquered Mexico in this timeline, but that didn’t happen in our reality for many years aftward. Oh that Mil.

Your life is not complete until you watch Mexican wrestlers in all their finery battle rubber suited demonic soldiers.

This insanity comes from Arturo Martinez, who also had another film of Spanish zombies called The Mummies of San Angel. This one has a much better title, which translates as Macabre Legends of the Colony.

You can watch this on YouTube:

Ginger In the Morning (1974)

Oh man, that early 70’s generation gap.

Ginger (Sissy Spacek in her first starring role) is an attractive young hitchhiker who shacks up with a lonely, middle-aged ad guy (Monte Markham, We Are Still Here) who just got divorced.

Can he learn from her free spirit? Will she break him out of his shell? Will his friends act like jerks? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Mark Miller from Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, David Doyle (Bosley from Charlie’s Angels) and Fred Ward — yes, Remo Williams — are all in this.

This is an early version of the manic pixie dream girl trope. Watch it and think about 1974, a time when AIDS was a myth and the only pandemic we were worried about were killer bees.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and YouTube:

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

The fourth and final Bond film directed by Guy Hamilton, The Man with the Golden Gun is everything that was 1974: oil crisises and martial arts films. It was seen by some — at the time — as a low point in the series. And it also marks the last Bond film co-produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, as Saltzman would sell his half of Danjaq, LLC, the parent company of Eon Productions, after the release of the film. As a result, this would be the last Bond film for three years until The Spy Who Loved Me.

The part of Scaramanga, the killer other side of the coin to Bond, was offered to Jack Palance, but he turned it down. Christopher Lee, Ian Fleming’s step-cousin (Fleming had suggested him for the role of Dr. No), would be the man to take the role.

He’s a killer paid $1 million dollars per hit. Supposedly, he’s coming after Bond, but only to throw him off the trail of a MacGuffin called the Solex Agitator. Along the way, Herve Villechaize show up as Scaramanga’s miniature henchman Nick Nack, Maud Adams makes her first Bond girl appearance as the villain’s mistress Andrea Anders, Britt Eklund shows up as Mary Goodnight and Sheriff J.W. Pepper comes back.

When I saw this as a kid, I always thought that Bond defeated his nemesis way too easily. I still feel that way. It’s filled with ridiculousness, a low body count and plenty of moments that Moore didn’t agree with, like pushing the kid into the water and threatening to nreak Anders’ arms.

The theme song by Lulu is alright, but I kind of love that Alice Cooper wanted to do it. His Bond theme is on his album Muscle of Love.

Shatter (1974)

The last film the classic Hammer made, Shatter was also their second film with the Shaw Brothers after The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. It was directed by Michael Carreras (The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb).

It starts Stuart Whitman as Shatter, a hitman who is in the midst of international chaos after killing an African leader and heading back to Hong Kong.

Shatter then learns that he is the next target, as he’s being used by his client for a political agenda. He enlists the help of a martial artist named Tai Pah for help against the many killers coming his way.

This is Peter Cushing’s 23rd and final Hammer film. His scenes were shot by Monte Hellman (CockfighterSilent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out!).

Lung Ti, who plated Tai Pah, would go on to appear in A Better Tomorrow and Legend of Drunken Master. Anton Diffring (The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire) is the bad guy.

This was intended to be a TV series, but it never really even makes sense as a regular movie. Oh well — it has some fun parts at least.

 

Kaiju Week: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

Uh, oh. The Constanzaian Worlds are colliding once again at B&S About Movies, as “Kaiju Week” rear ends April’s “James Bond Month.”

Yes. There’s a Godzilla movie with James Bond-styled spies. And Apes. And not just one movie, but two movies. And my love for each, especially the first, is unbound.

Toho Studios had Godzilla. 20th Century Fox Studios had Pierre Boulle’s apes. And the American studio was kicking the Big Green One’s ass in the Pacific Rim box office. So what does Toho Studios do? They created their own race of sentient humanoid-ape aliens to introduce into the series.

Toho Studios celebrated the Great Green One’s 20th anniversary in style with this everything-plus-the-kitchen sink monster romp featuring the return of Anguirus from Ishiro Honda’s first Godzilla sequel, 1955’s Godzilla Rides Again, a new monster in the form of the good kaiju dog-deity, King Caesar, and a James Bond-inspired Interpol superspy to defeat the aliens. (Angie and King C returned in 2004’s 50th Anniversary blowout, Godzilla: Final Wars, and they should: director Ryuhei Kitamura cites Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla as his favorite Godzilla film.)

And if that wasn’t enough: they brought on the apes.

Toho’s new breed of intelligent apes, who hail from the “Third Planet from the Black Hole,” built a secret, underground high-tech base in Okinawa. And they have the ability to build robots. And they construct Mechagodzilla, a robotic doppelganger of Godzilla equipped with a wide array of weapons and flight capabilities.

Oh, yeah. And these apes enjoy their wine. And they can morph into human form.

The fun begins as an Oriental priestess has a vision of Japan’s destruction by a giant monster. Cue to a spelunker who discovers a chunk of never before seen metal in a cave. A subsequent archaeological excavation to find more of the metal unearths a chamber with a biblical-like prophecy of a forthcoming battle between huge monsters on the Earth.

Of course that errant hunk of metal is the work of The Simians and was used to construct Mechagodzilla to spearhead their conquest of Earth.

As crazy as it seems, it wasn’t 20th Century Fox who sued over this—but Universal Studios. When the film was released in the U.S in March of 1977 under the title Godzilla vs. the Bionic Monster, Universal took issue over the use of the word “Bionic,” as they owned the rights to The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman TV series. That led to the title that we U.S kiddies saw it under: Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster.

Keeping with their “borrowing” of the 20th Century Fox franchise, another race of Toho aliens from the third black hole planet returned in the 1975 sequel, Terror of Mechagodzilla. This time the aliens “aped” the underground disfigured mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes—and hid their disfigurement under rubber masks. Oh, and they brought along another, new monster-partner: the aquatic, non-mechanical Titanosaurus. The Mechagodzilla sequel would prove to be the last of the films until the Big Green One’s 30th anniversary started a new wave of Godzilla films.

If you must have Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla in your collection, there’s the 1988 restored Japanese cut with English audio on a 1988 VHS, a 2004 DVD with both English and Japanese audio, and a 2019 Showa-era Blu-ray issued by the Criterion Collection alongside 15 other Godzilla films released from 1954 to 1975. Terror of Mechagodzilla also appears in that collection, along with its three singular DVD forms issued in 1998, 2002, and 2007.

The epic battle! This stuff rocks no matter how old you are!

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 Movies.

This review first appeared on January 3, 2020 as part of our “Ape Week” retrospective.

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.