Television Horror Films

All posts tagged Television Horror Films

Retro Sharkbait 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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Hopelessly Devoted to: Myrna Loy

Published March 4, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

Myrna Ants 2No one could underplay a line like Myrna Loy (1905-1993). In fact, her subtle intonations on the simplest statements in the classic The Thin Man series have insured peals of appreciative laughter from multiple eras of cinema fans.

Of course, Loy started out, like many a starlet, in the B-Movie wasteland. While this supposedly pleased her little, her appearances in such early terror gems as Thirteen Women and The Mask of Fu Manchu, both from 1932, have thrilled sophisticated terror connoisseurs for decades. While her seductive and deadly Fah Lo See in Manchu is obviously influenced by her evil father, played by a severely made up Boris Karloff, her Ursula Georgi in Thirteen Women is definitely a woman of her own mind.

A surprisingly potent statement against bullying as well as being an early, female empowered variation on the slasher film, Thirteen Women finds Georgi, a mistress of hypnotism and revenge fueled mayhem, making her way, murderously, through the college classmates who taunted her and ruined her life. Loy, radiating cool menace, eventually finds herself face-to-face with the creamy voiced Irene Dunne, who plays Laura Stanhope, the most successful and most sympathetic of her rivals. As is expected, good soon wins out over evil, but not before Ursula has facilitated the deaths (and/or downfalls) of three women, as well as manipulating her primary cohort, a slick astrologist, into throwing himself off of a subway platform, one of this 60 minute film’s most chilling and effective scenes. Myrna 13 2

Unfortunately, due to poor test audiences, fourteen minutes of the film were cut out before its initial release, leaving two characters in absentia and a decided lack of fatalities in the film’s second half. The film’s ending also seems abrupt with Georgi’s penultimate death leap seeming too arbitrary, but throughout Loy is as chilling as a January morning frost in the Arctic. She makes Ursula into one of the most compelling horror film villainesses of all time.

Creating a perfect, blood red circle, Loy also eked out an appearance in a terror film during the twilight of her career. In the 1977 television movie Ants (AKA It Happened at Lakewood Manor), Loy brought charm and magnitude to the role of Ethel, the proud proprietress of a boutique hotel. Even with her character confined to a wheelchair, Loy compels with independence and determination here.

Myrna Ants 3Most importantly, Loy seems to attack the circumstances of the role with good humor and grit. As her property is overwhelmed by deadly ants, Loy’s Ethel is carried up stairs, into rooms and even onto a wobbling gurney. Ever the pro, Loy displays no remorse but seems to be having a ball being gracefully manhandled by such handsome TV stalwarts as Robert Foxworth and Barry Van Dyke.

Even without the longstanding power of Thirteen Women, Loy’s good natured participation in Ants, which features some of the most squirm worthy moments of any of the small screen terrors, would be reason enough to declare that she should be as popular with lovers as fright as she is with admirers of classic screwball comedy and sophisticated women’s pictures. So, get appreciating!!

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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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!

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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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Shark Bait Retro Village: 1981’s The Intruder Within

Published March 16, 2013 by biggayhorrorfan

intruder_within
Every since he was expelled from Mother Superior’s Dungeon of Heathen Delights, Big Gay Horror Fan has been short on inspiration.

Thankfully, televison writer Ed Waters and skilled director Peter Carter (whom also helmed the 1977 backwoods horror and Hal Holbrook starrer Rituals) had plenty of guidance from 1979’s Alien when creating 1981 television film The Intruder Within. Interestingly, this tale of an oil rig crew facing down a toothy, skeletal creature, also, has many elements of John Carpenter’s The Thing remake (a stranded group of blue collar workers being possessed by an unknown creature) which wasn’t released until 1982.

Being a television flick there isn’t a ton of grue, here, and the explanation of the creature’s origins is never quite clear (something about man’s primitive ape form being trapped beneath the sea centuries ago) – but Carter truly has a way with the character actors who decorate this piece. Their grizzled charm along with the crude animatronics and monster suits employed give this enterprise a fun, retro charm of it’s own.

chad intruder withinAs the head of the rig, television maverick Chad Everett gives this damp and mouthy outing his all. Tears well up in his eyes when contemplating the fate of a female member of the crew, impregnated by the beast. His eulogy for the young man played by Matt Craven (who would face an even nastier demise as ‘shishkebob’ Steve in Happy Birthday to Me the next year) is, also, filled with heart and sorrow, yet Everett is always believable as a man capable of taking on a foreign beast.
james hayden
Meanwhile, television regular Jennifer Warren brings strength and sass as Everett’s capable partner in crime. Tragically, co-star James Hayden whom plays Harry, the infected crew member who causes the most damage, died not long after making this drilling gem from a heroin overdose. An acolyte of Al Pacino, Hayden was an accomplished stage actor with a bright future. He had just completed a role in Once Upon A Time in America and Pacino (with whom Hayden appeared, in ultimately cut scenes, in notorious gay thriller Cruising) was reportedly devastated by this loss.

IntruderWithin2Balancing out future tragedy, though, this piece is rife with silly moments. The funniest just may be when the creature emerges fully grown from the above mentioned victim (portrayed with quiet strength by Lynda Mason Green who would go on to headline the War of the Worlds television series)not with blood ripping wails and flesh torn mayhem, but as a gracefully rising spirit.

So, tip your hats to television censors and budget constraints and check out The Intruder Within trailer, below:

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

(Have a Mary, Bloody X-Mas With) Home for the Holidays!

Published December 25, 2012 by biggayhorrorfan

home-for-the-holidays-dvd-1972
Living solo, Big Gay Horror Fan never has to worry about billing. I ALWAYS top line! But, gothic and gruesome 1972 made for television holiday horror Home for the Holidays had five divas battling for glory – (then television star) Sally Field, (the legendary) Julie Harris, (very popular) Jessica Walter, (Oscar nominee/screen legend) Eleanor Parker and (Broadway Baby-the original Sally Bowles, herself) Jill Haworth (whose British origins reveal themselves, slightly, throughout the telefilm).

Therefore, the opening of this grande dame fest is particularily fun. Field and Haworth are Starring, Harris is a Guest Star while Parker is a Special Guest Star and (rounding it up) Walter makes a Special Appearance (By). Whoa! Who doesn’t want to re-visit those contract negotiations?!?home sisters

And while there is definitely some mayhem here – including death by pitchfork and a deep sea bathtub drowning – the main fun of this John Llewellyn Moxey (Horror Hotel AKA The City of the Dead) helmed event is watching our beautifully filmed dames go at it.

Field, Haworth, Parker and Walter are estranged siblings reunited to support their cranky father whom claims his current wife (Harris) is trying to do away with him. Of course, Harris’ character was accused (and found innocent) of her first husband’s murder, so the five have plenty of heavily twisted encounters. Think The Women with a twist of Days of Our Lives and an early 1970’s slasher hybrid. homefortheholidays9

All are in fine velvet form, here, but Walter is truly heartwrenching as an alcoholic socialite type who still can’t forgive her father’s role in her mother’s death, many years previous. Meanwhile, Harris (never looking prettier) walks a fine line between compassion and menace as the (seemingly) shady stepmother.

You can watch Home for the Holidays, in the whole, here:

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=home+for+the+holidays+1972&mid=019C87ED016B5D941630019C87ED016B5D941630&view=detail&FORM=VIRE2

So, Mary Bloody X-Mas – and until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan (http://www.facebook.com/#!/BigGayHorrorFan)!