Television Films

All posts tagged Television Films

Sharkbait Retro Village: Mysterious Two

Published November 7, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

Mysterious Priscilla.jpeg

If the idea of having the aristocratic Priscilla Pointer (Carrie, Nightmare on Elm Street 3) as your Alien Queen appeals to you, the 1982 television of the week film Mysterious Two will be right up your alley. Always adding social flair to his material, here writer-director Gary Sherman (Death Line, Poltergeist III, Vice Squad) took the dangerous reality of the Heaven’s Gate cult and gave it some otherworldly twists. Founders Bonnie Nettles and Marshall Applewhite are reimagined as true planetary presences, embodied by the soft speaking Pointer and the eternally recognizable John Forsythe. 

Popping in and out of the action, these two lure a group of disillusioned seekers to a small desert town to await their eventual ascension to another world. Of course the loved ones of those following He and She, the characters portrayed by Pointer and Forsythe, are none too happy and try desperately to interfere with those plans with increasingly futile results. Mysterious Desert scene

Ultimately more of strange character study with Asmovian elements than out and out science fiction, Sherman still works creepy magic here. The scene of a senior male wandering worriedly through a dusty oasis of fallen bodies is beyond chilling. Dread also seeps in through the frames as one realizes that none of He and She’s determined followers are going to escape their shadowy fates.

 Adding to the effectiveness, Sherman also gets multilayered performances from such character actors as horror giant Robert Englund, with whom he also worked with on Dead and Buried, Robert Pine and Vic Tayback, who offers up a portrayal that is far removed from the antics of Alice’s Mel, his definitive role. 

Mysterious RobertAs more and more obscure projects are finally seeing the light of day on DVD and Blu-ray, one hopes that Mysterious Two will eventually get a decent release. Until then the too dark copy available on YouTube and other outlets will have to suffice.

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

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Sharkbait Retro Village: This House Possessed

Published March 17, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

THP4The essence of cool, conniving film noir, the legendary Joan Bennett definitely presented herself as a horse of a different color with her appearance as the Rag Lady in the 1981 television terror This House Possessed. Here, roaming far from the perfect iciness of her roles in films like Scarlet Street, the adventurous Bennett plays a shabby small town oddity, driven to isolated madness by the secret at the heart of the film.

THP3This mystery, of course, revolves around the titular mansion. Interestingly, taking its cues from other small screen genre projects that revolved around such possessed inanimate objects as bulldozers, taxidermy displays and hobby horses, the residence here is not haunted by ghosts or some hidden psychotic killer, but actually causes the movie’s mayhem through a monstrous will of its own. THP5

…and the body count here is fairly high. A librarian dies in an explosion. A veteran character actor is finished off with a jagged shard from a trembling mirror and Bennett, herself, is exposed to the bubbling depths of an overheated pool. Add in a bloody shower and a very aggressive water hose (or two) and you have a project that has lived on in the memories of those who caught it on its original broadcast at impressionable ages.

Nicely, the more outrageous circumstances here are grounded by the gentle and committed leading performances of Parker Stevenson, as a rock star whose emotional collapse brings him to the malevolent domicile, and Lisa Eilbacher, as the nurse who helps him recover and soon wins his heart. Stevenson radiates with a genuine kindness and the music he performs comes off more like a softer version of the balladic work of Justin Timberlake than the cheesy pop that one associates with multiple television stars of that era.THP2

Eagle eyed horror lovers will also delight to the presence of A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Amanda Wyss, billed here as Mandy, whose opening act frolicking with actor John Dukakis (Jaws 2) is wetly interrupted by the angry residence. She and Bennett, who became well known for her role on the beloved gothic soap opera Dark Shadows during the middle range of her career, also make this enjoyable oddity a happy exercise for lovers of the femme form in terror, as well.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Lisa Hartman (2)

Published January 15, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

red-wind

It was a femme fatale fiesta over at the USA Network in the early 90s when their television films, draped in genre atmospherics, featured actresses such as Joanna Cassidy, Suzanne Somers, Sela Ward, Traci Lords, Crystal Bernard and Morgan Fairchild getting terrorized and fighting back against psycho stalkers, devilish tots and perverts in dark vans.

The glorious Lisa Hartman joined in with this cosmetic strewn cadre by starring in 1991’s Red Wind, a thriller in which Kris Morrow, the psychotherapist she plays, finds herself involved with a murderous, gender bending patient. lisahartmanredwindgwg24-vi

Of course, if Hartman had been sporting the hair there that she, gloriously, works in the video for I Don’t Need Love, the single released from her fourth LP Til My Heart Stops, she probably could have cut through that deadly situation in a matter of seconds.

Hartman, who is the first person to be featured twice in a row in this column (such love I have!!!), went on to record a number of hit duets with her singer husband Clint Black, and still maintains a deserved and healthy fan base at https://www.facebook.com/Lisa-Hartman-Black-182279741844146.

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

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Shark Bait Retro Village: The Screaming Woman

Published April 29, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

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The leather lesbian nuns who raised me buried many a thing in that veiny backyard, behind our dungeon, as I grew up. But, I tell you every single one of those priests (and unrepentant Republican house speakers) truly deserved it!

The poor lady that Olivia de Havilland’s regal yet extremely frazzled Laura Wynant discovers submerged in the dirt in 1972’s The Screaming Woman definitely isn’t worthy of her fate, though. Left for dead by her cheating husband, this beleaguered lass has just hours to live and only the discredited Wynant can save her.SW1

As luck would (or wouldn’t) have it, the fragile Wynant has just recovered from a nervous breakdown and no one, including her loving son and a couple of kindly, longtime friends, believe her when she claims that she’s heard a woman moaning in the soil. A frantic race through the neighborhood uncovers only more derision and, in one of the telefilm’s tensest scenes, the arthritic Wynant even finds herself in the home of the very agitated wanna-be killer. Of course, Wynant’s venomous daughter-in-law Caroline, played with smooth iciness by Laraine Stephens, is pleased as punch about her mother-in-law’s apparent delusions as asylum doors slam and dollar signs dance, merrily, in her head.

SW2But Wynant, played with moxie and bravado by de Havilland, is nobody’s fool as Caroline and the killer, played with patriarchal sleaziness by genre stalwart Ed Nelson (Night of the Blood Beast, The Brain Eaters, A Bucket of Blood), soon discover. De Havilland’s anguished shriek (spoiler alert!) upon eventually rescuing the woman helped provide ‘70s television viewers with a potent shock and emphasizes the fact that this Oscar winning pro was an actress, through and through, no matter the circumstances or the part. In fact, The Screaming Woman’s prime pleasure is in watching de Havilland, passionately, submitting herself to the various indignities and insults that Wynant endures throughout this brisk exercise.

Interestingly, this effective Ray Bradbury tale was remade in 1986 with a 10 year old Drew Barrymore replacing de Havilland as the doubted party.

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

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Sharkbait Retro Village: Satan’s Triangle

Published April 1, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

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1975 television terror film Satan’s Triangle proves that not only is the devil a lady…but s/he is just about anything else s/he wants to be, as well.

Receiving a distress signal, the Coast Guard sets out to rescue an adrift boat, which just happens to be floating in The Bermuda Triangle. Due to the awful weather, rescuer Haig (Doug McClure) is forced to spend the night on the boat with the vessel’s sole survivor, Eva (Kim Novak), who, as luck would have it, is a stunningly beautiful prostitute.

As Eva describes the mysterious deaths of her fellow passengers, Haig comes up with logical explanations for their demises. A grateful Eva beds him, but when Haig’s associate arrives the next morning to retrieve them, it soon seems that Eva is not quite what she appears to be. ST2

While the film’s double twist endings surely would have warped the minds of any young viewers watching back in the day, director Sutton Roley also supplies some nice, dreamlike visuals here. Nicely,  Novak uses her feline eyes and the huskier growls in her vocal register to create moments of truly odd creepiness, as well.

A solid squad of grizzled character actors, including Jim Davis, Michael Conrad and Ed Lauter, add to the atmosphere nicely and the bizarre concept of Lucifer being responsible for the many disappearances in this fabled area, ultimately, allows Satan’s Triangle to fit right in with the best of those odd 70s television excursions into terror.

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

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Sharkbait Retro Village: Face of Evil (1996)

Published May 14, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

face of evil
Even horror’s most notorious femmes seem to have motivations that revolve around men. Friday the 13th’s Mrs. Voorhees killed for the love of her son while Hellraiser’s Julia succumbed to the depths for her lover Frank.

This phenomenon is precisely what makes the character of Darcy Palmer in 1996 television terror Face of Evil so engaging. Every betrayal she enacts and every murder that she viciously engages in is done in the sole pursuit of her own artistic agenda.FaceOfEvil

After stealing his money and skipping town on her shady, but totally devoted fiancée, Palmer accidentally kills and then takes over the identity of Brianne, a soon-to-be college freshman and musician. Planning to immediately disappear, Darcy is waylaid by the sweet, well off Jeanelle Polk, Brianne’s dorm mate. Determined to rob Jeanelle and escape at her first chance, Darcy/Brianne soon becomes enraptured with the university’s art program and decides to stay.

Of course, to do so, she must brutally injure her own hand (thus avoiding the real Brianne’s music classes) and permanently blind the counselor who, initially, interviewed Brianne and would recognize her ruse. Darcy/Brianne then sets about seducing Jeanelle’s lonely father Russell in hopes that his wealth will further her success as a painter. Indeed, just as she is granted her own show, Jeanelle’s suspicions warp into overdrive and Quinn, her very angry ex, shows up. Naturally, further murder and sexual manipulation are soon placed, fully, on Darcy/Brianne’s plate, once again!

shawnee smith faceDirected with skill by Mary Lambert (Pet Sematary, The In Crowd, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary) who surely must have understood the main character’s frustrations and ambitions, if not her mania, Face of Evil is perhaps best recommended for the zeal with which the two female leads attack their roles. Best known for being a television darling, Growing Pains’ Tracey Gold attacks the role of Darcy with a slow burning ferocity. The calculation in her eyes is truly chilling, at times, and watching her go for broke as a performer is truly entertaining. Shawnee Smith, who would go on to play Saw’s demented Amanda, also shines as she expertly conveys Jeanelle’s exuberant awkwardness and her eventual retaliation.

Screenwriter Gregory Goodell (Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive, Human Experiments), meanwhile, deliciously revels in Palmer’s lurid activities. His set-up is great, but things, ultimately, do rush too quickly (and simply) to their conclusion here, making the absurdity of the plotline all the more apparent. Still, the zeal with which Lambert and her performers attack these circumstances makes Face of Evil a true un-guilty pleasure!

Tracey

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

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Anne Baxter: Ritual of Fabulousness!

Published March 20, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

anne hot
In grade school, two (supposedly) darling twin sisters used to regularly manipulate me out of my place in the lunch line. Too bad I didn’t have the divine Anne Baxter (1923-1985), who smartly outmaneuvered diva-licious Bette Davis in the 1950 classic All About Eve, around to give me some (nail sharp) pointers.

anne guest in the houseBaxter, who won an 1946 Oscar for her performance in The Razor’s Edge, had plenty of practice in devilishness, though. Six years before Eve in the deliciously outrageous Guest in the House, Baxter worked her poisonous magic as the sinister Evelyn Heath. Determined to win over the artistic Douglas Proctor (Ralph Bellamy), Baxter/Heath rids herself of her rivals with glorious stealth. A wise maternal character ends this prime villainess’ run of good luck, though. In a move of operatic goofiness, Baxter’s character goes over a cliff due to her character’s major downfall, a supreme fright of pet birds!anne ritual

In 1970 television flick Ritual of Evil, Baxter shows her universality. Here, she shades her character Jolene Wiley with fine layers of sensitive hopelessness. A faded Hollywood icon, Wiley drowns herself in drink and the wrongheaded notion that a Satanic cult might restore her former glory. With a voice crackling with whiskey undertones, Baxter reigns with sexy glamour and emotional empathy. While Louis Jourdan’s erudite psychiatrist uncovers the mystery behind the coven and, ultimately, saves the day here – it is Baxter’s eternal smokiness that steals the show.

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

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Sharkbait Retro Village: 1983’s Through Naked Eyes

Published March 1, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

through naked eyes
Mindy gets kinky!

tne1Indeed, one of the prime attractions of 1983 television psycho thriller Through Naked Eyes is watching fresh faced Pam Dawber (Mork and Mindy, My Sister Sam) explore her darker nature. As a magazine writer who begins spying on David Soul’s somber musician after an accidental sighting, Dawber makes her intrusive obsession seem plausible and (almost) innocent while simultaneously acknowledging its more erotic undertones. Meanwhile as a couple, she and Soul (Starsky and Hutch, Salem’s Lot), who brings a steely, far off intensity to his role, click while still coming off like one of the tube’s odder pairings.

Of course, a deranged murderer throws some complications into the couple’s budding romance. Roaming the halls of the pair’s apartment complex, this mysteriously assailant has knifed a senior citizen, a residential employee and a deaf mute – and it looks like Dawber’s Anne may be the next victim. A misguided police detective is convinced that Soul’s William is the killer – and when Anne believes him, her life truly enters the danger zone.tne2

Director John Llewellyn Moxey (The Night Stalker, No Place to Hide) was a master of television terror and he helps his leads supply a layered complexity to their interactions. There is also a bit of vague suspense and the afore mentioned brutality to keep things interesting. The reveal of the killer is a non-event, but those who appreciate such films as Eyes of the Stranger, Someone’s Watching Me and even (in a dramatic stretch) Rear Window should enjoy themselves here.

What might be most interesting, though, is the league of Chicago based actors (where this was lensed) who fill out the supporting and minor roles, here. Performers like John Mahoney, Ted Levine and Dennis Franz obviously went onto bigger things but anyone familiar with Midwestern theatrics should delight to the presence of such boards treading stalwarts as Amy Morton and Annabel Armour, as well.

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

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Gay Shit in Horror: 1979’s She’s Dressed to Kill

Published February 22, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

she's dressed to kill
“Don’t panic. Contrary to popular report, I don’t mix modeling and big game hunting.” – Model Kate Bedford to a female colleague, She’s Dressed to Kill

Recognizable as the bloodied hero of the original Children of the Corn, actor-director Peter Horton truly showed his subtle performing powers as Tony Smith in 1979 television terror flick, She’s Dressed to Kill.

Peter CliveA Viet Nam deserter, Horton’s Tony has been taken in by manipulative fashion designer Regine Danton (the late, truly magnificent Eleanor Parker) at her mountainside retreat. As models and deluxe buyers gather for Danton’s latest show, it is revealed that the young and talented Smith has actually created the entire collection. With his promised credit for the gowns denied by Danton, Smith recoils with anger. Soon, attendees mysteriously begin to be murdered and he becomes a prime suspect. But, Smith soon finds a very willing supporter.

Victor DeSalle, a catty columnist ably played by the distinguished Clive Revill (The Legend of Hell House, C.H.U.D. II, Dracula: Dead and Loving It), agrees to sponsor Smith, if he can steal back his original designs. As the two characters chat, they acknowledge their mutual attraction to men with a bittersweet dialogue that is both guarded yet skillfully apparent. Despite his character’s devious plot, Revill does eventually show some tenderness toward the younger man in his portrayal while Horton supplies some softer touches to his characterization, as well. Director Gus Trikonis (The Evil, The Dark Side of Terror) allows for these nice emotional qualities to emerge, here, in a sharp contrast to the playful quality of the rest of the film.

George Leffert, who also wrote 1977’s similarly themed The Night They Took Miss Beautiful, makes room for a take charge lesbian in his script, as well. While Kate Bedford, a safari jaunting model, is occasionally played for laughs, gorgeous Cathee Shirriff inhabits her with enough likeable pride to make her a positive role model, as well.Kate

Considering the time period in which this was filmed, the overwhelming sensitivity and various shades of personalities given these characters should be thought of as quite an achievement, especially in a network based thriller. But, it is also interesting to note that, even in the late 70’s, it was much easier to sell an attractive female queer as opposed to a male one. Bedford is decidedly out and accepted by her peers while the characters of Smith and DeSalle are cloaked in secrecy.

Food for thought…until the next time!

SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan

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Sharkbait Retro Village: Gale Sondergaard in “The Cat Creature”

Published February 13, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

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From soul sucking mermaids to possessed drive-ins and satanic dogs, gay director Curtis Harrington’s film subjects are gloriously unusual. He, like many a lavender lad before him also appreciated a good diva when he saw one.

Counting Gloria Swanson (Killer Bees), Debbie Reynolds and Shelly Winters (What’s the Matter with Helen?), Ann Sothern (The Killing Kind) and Piper Laurie (Rudy) among his leading ladies, Harrington, akin to such Golden Age “female directors” like George Cukor and Douglas Sirk, worked with some of filmdom’s most majestic femmes.

cat creature galeIn the 1973 television terror flick The Cat Creature, Harrington worked magic with the mysterious, socially beleaguered Gale Sondergaard. As winner of the first Academy Award for Supporting Actress in 1936, Sondergaard had a quality career until being blackballed in the ’50s for refusing to testify during the McCarthy “Red Scare” trials. She eventually returned to the screen in the ’60s and spent a lot of the ’70s doing television and fright fare such as Savage Intruder (1970).

Here, with a sassy firmness, Sondergaard infuses the supporting role of Hester Black with a steely spine and a heart of gold. A former con, Black provides mothering (with some faint lesbian undertones) to the young female assistants in her pawn shop. Her world is turned upside down, though, when one of the women in her employ mysteriously disappears. As a sly cat works its way through nearby alleys and acquaintances soon lose their lives, it appears that the killer may be mystical in nature and much closer to Black than she ever expected.

Harrington works with an astute sense of shadow, here. (He would employ the same techniques in the sillier, much beloved Devil Dog: Hound of Hell in 1978, as well.) The mood he generates does much to elevate the simple plotline (which makes the true killer’s identity fairly obvious, early on in the proceedings).meredith cat creature

Old school horror lovers will appreciate the appearance of David Hedison (The Fly) as the male lead and sit com fanatics should delight to the presence of a very young, almost unrecognizable Meredith Baxter (Birney), who sports lots and lots of hair!

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

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