Donna Mills

All posts tagged Donna Mills

Sharkbait Retro Village: Night of Terror

Published February 23, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

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When you a injure a limb, a reliable cast is sometimes necessary. But…when you watch an early 70s television film thriller, a really good cast is always a necessity.

Thankfully, 1972’s Night of Terror delivers with a creative team that glows as brightly as the greasy smile on costar Chuck Conners’ face. Though, I imagine there are a few out there who would rather break an arm then be forced to watch this almost 40 year old tribute to the virginal heroine in distress.

The plucky damsel here is played by television stalwart-nighttime soap opera icon Donna Mills. Before finding eternal fame as the manipulative Abby on Knots Landing, Mills was a prime time movie of the week regular. With credits including Haunts of the Very Rich and Play Misty for Me already under her belt, this blonde dynamo knew how to deliver up the surprise and anxiety that is the bread and butter of her role here. As a kindly art teacher accidentally caught in the crosshairs of Connors’ mob assassin, Mills’ Linda Daniel glows with dewy worry throughout the proceedings and the actress’s traditional Hollywood blondness is the perfect fit for this almost saintly character’s twisted trajectory. 

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Nicely, she is joined on her journey by many familiar faces, making this exercise in fraught dynamics a truly enjoyable one for lovers of the old school celeb estetic. Bewitched regulars Mary Grace Canfield and Agnes Moorehead show up as a friendly cleaning lady and the physical therapist who treats Daniel’s temporary emotional and physical paralysis, a plot point that shares similarities to such fare as The Spiral Staircase, Wait Until Dark and many other gothic shockers.

John Karlen, then best known for his work with Dan Curtis, meanwhile gives up a frantic appearance as Connors’ first victim. Other notables include esteemed character actor Martin Balsam, soap opera hunk William Gray Espy (AKA the first Snapper on The Young and the Restless) and what even appears to be Julie Kavner in a dialogue free exchange as a nurse attending to the distraught Mills.

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Perhaps most interestingly, the quirky and irreplaceable Catharine Burns shows up in the first act as Mills/Daniels’ doomed friend. Always a significantly enjoyable presence, Burns was best known for her devastating, Academy Award nominated work in Last Summer. Her success there, though, did not assure her a major career and she wound up doing smaller television work before fading away from the industry completely. Thus, her sudden death in 2019 was not discovered by the media for almost a year. Nicely, a quick YouTube search finds her here living forever young with all her special talents intact and ready for every agreeable viewer’s consumption.

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Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

http://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

Sharkbait Retro Village: The Curse of the Black Widow (1977)

Published May 2, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

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Those who have reluctantly sat on the sidelines will know how half of Hollywood felt upon the 1977 television debut of the Dan Curtis’ horror feast The Curse of the Black Widow. The cast, headlined by perennial television sweetheart Patty Duke and future Knots Landing vixen Donna Mills, featured many familiar faces both from the boob tube trenches and glamorous Hollywood films.

curse2Here, Duke and Mills, as sisters holding a dark and venomous secret, were supported by the likes of famed comedian Sid Caesar, the sassy Roz Kelly (of Happy Days and New Year’s Evil fame), tough guy Vic Morrow, Barney Miller’s Max Gail, Curtis’ old Dark Shadows favorite James Storm and such feminine silver screen royalty as June Allyson and June Lockhart. Now, that’s a party anyone would have wanted to been invited to!

The film that emerges isn’t as quite as fun as the cast would have you imagine – but still has plenty of old school charm and bold amounts of cheesiness. While other directors of television nail biters (like Curtis Harrington) tried to use Val Lewton subtleties for their over-the-top offerings, Curtis goes whole hog. In the final act, he not only showcases major cast members encased in very thick, fake looking webbing, but he also brings out a very clumsy, unnatural looking arachnid to cause tremulous amounts of doom and gloom. And, why not? If you are going do it – do it all the way, baby! Or should I say ‘Spider Baby’?Black_Widow1

Further distinctive pleasure can be gained by the continual comic antagonism provided by Kelly, as (private eye) Tony Franciosa’s secretary, and Caesar as her neighbor, a cold blooded lawyer. The sight of Duke in a dark wig sporting a truly mysterious European accent, as her character’s hungry alter-ego, provides a multitude of viewing joy, as well.

Most importantly, Curtis and writers Robert Blees and Earl W. Wallace give the piece a nod to golden suspense flicks such as The Dark Mirror (which starred Olivia de Havilland as siblings suspected of murder) and Dead Ringer (featuring a pair of vengeful twins enacted by Bette Davis). The slow uncovering of the sisters’ mysterious past, while slightly predictable, does ultimately result in a nice feeling of femme powered noir.

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Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

http://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan