here and here, I have an affection for those vintage TV-movies that aired from the late-1960s through the late-1970s. Often lasting a mere ninety minutes (including commercials), they allowed for more elaboration than a one-hour program, but didn't overstay their welcome by being padded out to two hours (the way virtually every TV-movie has been since the dawn of the 1980s.) They also usually contain movie stars who for whatever reason had been handed off to “the boob tube,” but of course in The Underworld we still adore our favorites, even if much of the rest of the world may have moved beyond them.
He's so enthusiastic and driven with fervor (this is William Shatner we're talking about) that she doesn't get the opportunity to tell him that she's just discovered she's pregnant with their third child. It wouldn't matter anyway, though, because the land was already bought without her input. They join a wagon train for the first part of the journey, eventually breaking off on their own.
Once there, they strive to carve out a home for themselves, building a sod house and trying to plow the unforgiving terrain. Eventually, circumstances lead to Pettet being all alone with her kids, with only neighbor David Janssen on hand to offer help (which she discourages for the longest time.) This was the pilot for a series that never came to fruition, so the storyline leaves room for development at its close.
Women in Chains (1972) is a campy, yet still very arresting (so to speak) flick about the underhanded goings on in a women's prison. Parole officer Lois Nettleton is bothered by the unexplained death of a prisoner she'd been working with and asks her fellow employee Penny Fuller to help her go undercover in the prison to look into matters.
She changes her name and hair color and enters the system for a two week stay. On the bus to the institution, she befriends the meek and petrified Belinda Montgomery, who claims to be innocent of the crime she was arrested for. They arrive at the pokey and are faced with severe, bewigged warden/guard Ida Lupino. Wasting no time in demonstrating who's boss, Lupino encourages a mentally-damaged inmate to destroy Montgomery's glasses.
Killdozer concerns a six-man construction crew working on an isolated island off the coast of Africa. There to prepare a base camp for an oil rig, they soon run into serious trouble.
As demonstrated in the prologue, a meteor has come crashing into our atmosphere and landed on the small island in question. Years later, when the men begin to clear the land, they come upon it and are immediately affected by its presence. First to fall victim to its deadly intent is a young and slim Robert Urich, who is burned horribly by a blue radiation that emanates from the rock. (Urich had been in a movie, guested on several shows and even starred in a sitcom and yet was not given up-front billing here!)
Dack Rambo. He tries everything under the sun to get her to have dinner with him, from getting her car repaired in one day to sending her flowers to calling to all but stalking her (I'd have gone with no encouragement at all!) She eventually relents and they enjoy a lovely Asian dinner during which she tells him how her entire life has been lucky. After the (unlucky) death of her mother in “childbirth,” she proceeded to success in school and in her chosen field of clothing design (all most likely helped along by Lynch and his band of cult followers.)
Dick Davalos) does a great job in one of her better roles. The cast of familiar performers helps, too, and no one could do evil glares like Lynch. However, as a stand-alone film, the result is negligible.
The Disappearance of Flight 412 and, as a diehard fan of movies about airplanes in trouble, it appealed to me at once. However, this is actually a telefilm about a military jet that may have run across a UFO and then goes missing. The chief star (and the only one to really get much of a showcase) is Glenn Ford as an Air Force Colonel. He becomes understandably concerned when a plane carrying four of his men performing a test flight disappears into thin air. The crew includes prolific TV faces Robert F Lyons, Greg Mullavey, Stanley Bennett Clay and the best-known David Soul.
Guy Stockwell (who never once removes his sunglasses) and other familiar actors like Jonathan Lippe, Jack Ging, Edward Winter and Ken Kercheval (who would later star on Dallas from 1978 – 1991.)
Weekend of Terror tells the story of two lamebrained, co-dependent kidnappers (Robert Conrad and Lee Majors!) who have taken a young heiress hostage for a sizeable ransom. While Majors is away, Conrad toys around with her, accidentally killing her! Rather than ditch their plans and get away, they decide to kidnap another girl, make her look like the dead one, parade her around town so that eyewitnesses see that she's alive and then after collecting the money, have the rich uncle who's paying for her arrive at the given site and find the wrong girl!
Under the pretense of towing them all to a nearby garage, he gets them to “his” house (actually a boarded up and abandoned home) where he soon forces the three ladies into the basement at gunpoint. He and Majors devise their plan in which Majors will take Nettleton out to a wig shop and make her select hair like the dead girl and then take her to lunch where he'll say things to the waitress like, “Louise needs more coffee” as if anyone would ever do that under normal circumstances. (And wouldn't the waitress be just as likely to look HIM over and remember his face?!)
The Deadly Dream, which seemed pretty promising considering the cast of actors present. Lloyd Bridges, an absolute fixture of TV-movies of the 1970s, stars as a research scientist, in contention for a Nobel Prize, who is on the verge of a breakthrough in DNA experimentation. His wife, a clothing designer, is played by Janet Leigh, who sports a number of amusing '70s fashions, two of the get-ups including hot pants. Bridges is plagued by hyper-realistic dreams which take place in installments, like a set of cliffhangers. Every time he wakes up, he has evidence that the dreams are real, though somehow he is never able to convince anyone of that.
Mayday at 40,000 Feet! Featuring a stellar cast of quasi-cheesy actors whose careers in show business were in far more danger than that of the aircraft they are traveling in, this is a delight for lovers of amusingly bad movie-making. David Janssen plays a cranky pilot who is distracted by the fact that his beloved wife (Jane Powell!) is undergoing exploratory surgery on her breast while he is 40K feet in the sky. His co-pilot is Christopher George, a responsible guy still licking his wounds from a romance that went south. Flight engineer “Dandy” Don Meredith is a swaggering cowboy, enjoying the benefits of the sexual revolution by collecting stewardesses and other females at every opportunity.
Conspiracy of Terror reeks of “unsold pilot” and has quite an uneven tone. It stars Michael Constantine and Barbara Rhodes as police detectives who are married to one another. They are not only an odd-looking couple physically, but she is twenty years his junior. Adding to the diversity between them is the fact that she is Christian and he is Jewish. They exchange a lot of “playful,” quirky banter, most of which is not particularly arresting or amusing, though the actors seem to be trying hard to put the whole thing across.
The storyline is more than a little serious considering the light-hearted byplay between the leads. (After all, her big case is investigating the theft of eight microscopes from a high school!) It involves a suburban community in which dogs go missing, never to be found, and a disproportionate number of killings have also taken place. The ostensibly idyllic community is the scene of yet another death at the start of this movie when a couple visiting a model home are confronted by a corpse! As Constantine struggles to solve that murder, other cases such as a missing pooch and the theft of one family's entire household full of belongings crowds his plate.
Complicating things for Constantine and Rhodes personally is the fact that his father David Opatoshu doesn't approve of his son being a gun-carrying policeman, nor is he very keen on Rhodes for the same reason along with the differences in age and religion. During an awkward dinner (also Constantine's brother Jed Allen and his wife Arlene Martel), Constantine receives a call requiring him to leave for a crime-related meeting and the tension is accelerated even more.
Sweet, Sweet Rachel (1971) concerned a wealthy woman (the aforementioned Stefanie Powers) whose husband is drawn to hurl himself out the cliff-side picture window of their mansion to his death on the rocks below. Though she doesn't believe in psychic phenomena, she decides to allow some investigators from that arena to look into the situation so as not to rule anything out. A pair of researchers from a psychic institute (the older, stocky Alex Drier and young, blond Chris Robinson) set out to see what really happened to the dead man.
Louise Latham) and a cousin (Brenda Scott) who seem to have varying degrees of faux concern to disdain for her, making it hard to determine which of them may have something to do with the situation. Complicating things is the fact that Drier is regularly being targeted by someone with considerable psychic energy who almost makes him jump out the same window and who causes him to wreck his car! An especially tense scene has him unwillingly taking a lit match to the car's gas tank. Meanwhile, Powers is becoming increasingly despondent and unhinged. (She does a lot of screaming in this movie.) Drier continues to try to solve the mystery, but is faced with both real and intangible hurdles all the way.
The City (1977.) This one was a Quinn Martin production, Martin being the man behind so many wonderful television programs of the '60s and '70s. Like several of those, this one features narration by the one and only William Conrad. The crime-fighting drama wants to act as if it takes place in an anonymous city, but was more than clearly filmed in Hollywood, Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. It concerns two cops with different approaches and backgrounds. Gritty veteran Robert Forster is one and young, optimistic, affluent Don Johnson is the other.
The Strange and Deadly Occurrence tells the tale of a family (Robert Stack, Vera Miles and their teenage daughter Margaret Willock) who've recently purchased a lovely spread of property in a somewhat remote section of land. They have a spacious home, a sparkling swimming pool and even a stable with horses and land to ride them on.
Now Stack is desperate to find out what is behind all this (though, as in so many of these types of films, moving seems to be out of the question!) The finale features an encounter with a presence that is more than a little threatening, enacted by the portrayer of one of the cinema's most reviled and unhinged bad guys (not noted in the opening credits of the telefilm and, thus, a surprise!)
Granite-jawed Stack is very sturdy as the lead in this and Miles (still a knockout at forty-five in a swimsuit and semi-nude in the sauna) is terrific as usual. They share a great chemistry together and just look right as a couple. (They had played husband and wife seventeen years before in an episode of Playhouse 90!) Willock is ever on the verge of being annoying, but finally comes through on the right side. Also appearing are Herb Edelman and Dena Dietrich as friends of the family. These two would later appear on The Golden Girls as Bea Arthur's ex-husband and sister, though Dietrich is better known as the star of a series of 1970s Chiffon margarine commercials in which she played a commanding “Mother Nature.”
I feel sure that I will be back some time in the future with more of these because they are such enjoyable little tidbits, taking just over an hour in most cases, to watch. Though the quality varies from flick to flick, it's almost a given that there will be some sort of hooty treat in each one and for old celeb watchers like me, they are heaven (and then there are the clothes as well!) Take care till next time!