Tuesday, January 22, 2019

1970's MADE-FOR-TV MOVIES: KATHERINE (1975)

Henry Winkler and Sissy Spacek
In Katherine

I remember really liking this off-beat TV movie about a radical named Katherine (Sissy Spacek) when I saw it in 1975, I wonder how I'll feel about it all these years later...

The film is told through a series of flashbacks and interviews of people that knew Katherine. This includes her rich parents (Art Carney, Jane Wyatt), her boyfriend (Henry Winkler) and her sister (Julie Kavner). Katherine is a rich girl who slowly becomes radicalized. It is based loosely on true events surrounding the life of Diana Oughton of The Weather Underground and the then hot news story about captured heiress Patty Hearst. It's tense and well told and doesn't venture too strongly into cliches. The performances are all good. Spacek is especially outstanding as the spoiled girl who begins to feel a higher calling.

It's also interesting that this film was made in 1975, much closer to the events it chronicles than many theatrical movies were able to do at the time.

A very worthy re-watch.

The cast:
Sissy Spacek-Was Spacek's major star turn in Badlands, Carrie or Coal Miner's Daughter? I'd certainly add Katherine to that list.

Henry Winkler-Henry is very well cast as the 60's radical, but his career was going the way of the Fonz and not the way of Abbie Hoffman type roles.

Art Carney-Art Carney was of course best know as Ed Norton in The Honeymoners. He won an unlikely Oscar the year (for Harry and Tonto) Katherine was aired.

Jane Wyatt-Best know as the mom in Father Knows Best and Spock's mom in Star Trek as well as Katherine's mom here. In real life, Jane was married (with three children) to the same man for sixty-five years!

Julie Kavner-Was known as Rhoda's sister at that time. Has been know as Marge Simpson's voice ever after.

The director/writer: Jeremy Kagan
Kagan's many other credits include the 1977 film Heroes, about a returning Vietnam vet and starring Henry Winkler.

 

Monday, January 21, 2019

1970's MADE-FOR-TV MOVIES: 1974

Here are some TV movies from 1974 I've seen at some point. I'll give a brief note on what they are about...or what I think they were about...it's been a long time for most of them, so my memories may not be too accurate.


1974

Going over the list of 1974 TV movies, I can see where these provided a real influence on my 11/12 year old worldview. Theses movies dealt with civil rights, racial issues, teen prostitution, American history, rape, sex, sexual politics, alcoholism, mental illness, dysfunctional families, among other topics. Not to mention the additions to genres such as disaster films, horror films and a couple of comedies. Some long running series got their start in 1974 as well.

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
Two part film dealing with a 110-year-old woman's reminiscences about her life dating from slavery to the civil rights movement. This movie may have been overshadowed by Roots a couple of years later, but it is compelling viewing. 
Based on the Ernest Gaines novel.
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Born Innocent
Linda Blair followed up her Exorcist role with a series of teen in trouble films, including Sarah T. Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic and Sweet Hostage. Born Innocent dealt with the problems of a teenage runaway. Linda did end the decade with a turn to lighter fair, the roller skating epic, Roller Boogie.
Born Innocent

A Case of Rape
I can only try to remember what I thought about this movie about a wife and mother (Elizabeth Montgomery) who is raped and how her and her family deal with the aftermath. My mother thought I was too young to watch this at the time, though I did eventually see the whole thing.
A Case of Rape
The Day the Earth Moved
Cleavon Little and Jackie Cooper lead a good if not all-star cast in a TV version of the popular disaster movie trend. And someone write a Wikipedia article on this movie right away!
The Day the Earth Moved

Hurricane
And another in the disaster movie TV sweepstakes. This one had Larry Hagman and one of the last roles for TV's Sgt. Carter, Frank Sutton! And would someone get on writing a Wikipedia article on this one as well?
Hurricane

Dracula
Dark Shadows producer Dan Curtis was not a fan of the old Universal horror movies and decided to make his own. I can't honestly remember how successful his 1974 Dracula was.
Dracula

The Execution of Private Slovik
This drama about the only American deserter executed during World War II was definitely on the "Did you see that?" list the week it was aired. At least it was at my school.
The Execution of Private Slovik

The Girl Who Came Gift-Wrapped
I'm not sure how this Karen Valentine in a bikini with a ribbon delivered as a present to businessman Richard Long movie would play today. It was certainly okay with me at the time!
The Girl Who Came Gift-Wrapped

The Great Niagra
Can you survive going over Niagra Falls in a barrel? This was the main question this movie proposed. I seem to remember the answer being no.
The Great Niagra

Houston, We’ve Got a Problem
Before there was Apollo 13, the TV movie of the week took a stab at this story shortly after it happened. I didn't remember Sandra Dee being in it!
Houston, We’ve Got a Problem

It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy
An attractive woman forces a doughy everyman (Paul Sorvino) at gunpoint to have sex with her. Whoa! A guy getting raped by an attractive woman? I think what I may have learned watching A Case of Rape may have been unlearned by It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy.
It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy

Locusts
A movie set during the Depression where we essentially wait until the Locust attack at the end of the movie. Ron Howard was in it.
Locusts

The Missiles of October
Taped movie about the Cuban Missile Crisis seemed really good at the time. I've never referred to William Devane (as JFK) as anything except "The Kennedy Guy" ever since.
The Missiles of October

The Morning After
TV's lovable Dick Van Dyke did well on his few forays into drama (similarly to Andy Griffith). This one had Dick as an alcoholic.
The Morning After

Savages
If Pray for the Wildcats wasn't enough of Andy Griffith as a heavy in 1974! Savages cast Andy as a wicked sportsman who hunts a young guy for sport in the desert. I think that's what this was about.
Savages

The Sex Symbol
Voluptuous Connie Stevens as a Marilyn Monroe-like sex symbol.
The Sex Symbol

The Stranger Within
Barbara Eden also made an occasional dramatic turn in TV movies. This time she plays a pregnant woman with two hearts who might be....Satan!
The Stranger Within

Wonder Woman
Barbara Eden...Connie Stevens...Karen Valentine gift-wrapped...none of these beauties could quite compete in 1974 with Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman, in this pilot series that didn't sell. Nothing against Lynda Carter or Gal Gadot, but Cathy Lee will always be Wonder Woman to me. I was going to re-watch this one for this month's blog, but couldn't find a copy of it. Considering the couple of rather cheesy clips I did manage to find, it may be for the best that it remain a fond but remote memory.
Wonder Woman

The Migrants
Another 30's drama from this year with Ron Howard. I may be confusing this one with The Locusts. Give me a break, it's been over 40 years!
The Migrants

Get Christie Love!
"You're under arrest, sugar!" Teresa Graves as the cop that was clearly influenced by Pam Grier's film roles didn't last as long as it probably should have as a series.

Little House on the Prairie
The pilot for this series was clearly successful and has been in reruns and in books by Laura Ingalls Wilder at a library near you ever since.
Little House on the Prairie

The Rockford Files
Another pilot to a successful series with Jame Garner as detective Jim Rockford. Had one of the all-time great opening themes.
The Rockford Files

Senior Year (Sons and Daughters)
In a just world, the nostalgic Sons and Daughters would have had a long TV run and Happy Days would have lasted about 10 episodes (the shelf life of Sons and Daughters), but nobody ever said life was just.
Sons and Daughters

Smile Jenny (Harry O)
David Janssen had many TV roles,but it was hard to not always picture him as Richard Kimble, the Christ figure from The Fugitive. Harry-O indeed!
Harry O

It was never quite the same for TV movies after 1974...but I will proceed to the next year.

1970's MADE-FOR-TV MOVIES: PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS (1974)


There simply is no more 70's TV movie more 70's than Pray for the Wildcats for me.

The plot features Sam Farragut (Andy Griffith) as a wild man business exec who hires an ad agency, but wants the guys he hires to go on a long motorcycle journey with him across the desert to really get the feel of what his business is about. The advertising men include: Warren (William Shatner) the head honcho with suicidal tendencies, Paul (Robert Reed) who has a troubled marriage and a wife (Angie Dickinson) who is having an affair with Warren. and young artist Terry (Marjoe Gortner) who has just discovered his wife is pregnant. The journey has some initial moments of positive male bonding only to be sabotaged by Sam's sociopathic tendencies and an incident with a young couple on the trip. The end of the journey features a motorcycle battle between Sam and Warren which ends with Sam riding off the side of a cliff.

When the trio of execs return home, Paul's wife wants a divorce, Terry's wife (Janet Margolin) informs him that she had an abortion and Warren and his wife (Lorraine Gary) seem to be heading on the path to reconciliation.

I mentioned that these TV movies were some of the first movies I ever saw with adult themes. I'm trying to think what my eleven-year-old mind thought about this. Did we just grow up and get jobs to make us unhappy? I did think the motorcycle aspect was really cool. And the guys all had pretty wives...but this is a movie for guys without a doubt. Though I'm sure you could do a Pray for the Wildcats version from the wives point of view if you wanted to.

The cast:
Andy Griffith was of course best know as Sheriff Andy Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show. There is no doubt that he had dramatic chops, which dates back to his noted turn in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd in 1957. He got to portray some of these dramatic chops in TV movies (as a heavy!) in Savages and Murder in Coweta County. But there's something special about Andy in Pray for the Wildcats. He is clearly deranged. But he's also deranged with money and power. He has a field day in this role, though part of the appeal is seeing the congenial sheriff of Mayberry going completely rogue.
Andy Griffith trying out some unwelcome
dance moves with a young "hippie" girl
in Pray for the Wildcats

William Shatner-During his post Star Trek, pre-T. J. Hooker days, Shatner made a lot of TV movies, notably Go Ask Alice, which also featured Andy Griffith. He is as much of a sympathetic hero as you could have a sympathetic hero in Pray for the Wildcats. He does out-maneuver the bad guy at the end. I still can't figure out why Shatner (and the others) are wearing Star Trek uniforms without the insignia in this movie!
 William Shatner wearing a discarded Star Trek
shirt in Pray for the Wildcats

Robert Reed-Robert was of course Mr. Brady on The Brady Bunch. He was winding up his Brady Bunch tenure about the time Pray for the Wildcats was aired. Robert later portrayed a man having a sex-change operation on Medical Center. Other 70's performances include a priest in Haunts of the Very Rich, an evil warden in Nightmare in Badham County, an amorous law professor in an episode of The Paper Chase and roles in the mega-miniseries' Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man.
 Somehow Robert Reed wears a Star Trek red shirt
yet still manages to stay alive in Pray for the Wildcats!

Marjoe Gortner- Oh, Marjoe! The first time I remember seeing former child TV evangelist turned actor was as the closeted homosexual in Earthquake. Gortner plays Terry, the young up and comer at the advertising firm in Pray for the Wildcats. He later starred in such 70's classics as Viva Knievel!, Sidewinder One and Food of the Gods. Also, don't forget to check out the 1972 documentary about his days as a child evangelist in Marjoe! ..Hallelujah!

Marjoe Gortner watches Matlock and T. J. Hooker 
compare machisomo in Pray for the Wildcats


Janet Margolin-Plays Gortner's wife. Janet also played the female lead in the TV movie The Last Child.

Angie Dickinson-Plays Reed's wife. Angie would hit it big later that year in the TV series Police Woman.

Lorraine Gary-Plays Shatner's wife. Lorraine would hit it big the following year as Mrs. Brody in Jaws.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

1970's MADE-FOR-TV MOVIES: KILLDOZER! (1974)

Machines are going to fail...Big Clint Walker
confronts Killdozer!

A meteorite lands on a remote island and later reeks havoc on a construction crew there to build an airstrip. How does it do it? By possessing the team's bulldozer and slowly knocking them off when they try to use it. Farfetched? Yeah. Silly? A little bit. Can I relate to it? Yeah, because most electrical equipment I operate seems to be possessed, too!

Killdozer! (You must use an exclamation point) has gained a cult following over the years. I'm sure the story has also had an influence on a lot of Stephen King's later work.


The cast:
Clint Walker plays the foreman of the work crew. Big Clint (6'6) was probably best known for (other than Killdozer!, of course) starring in the long running TV Western Cheyenne and as being one of The Dirty Dozen. Clint died in 2018 at the age of 90.

Carl Betz won an Emmy for the TV drama Judd for the Defense, which was a TV show that was always rerun on Sunday afternoons after football games. I don't ever remember actually watching an episode.

Neville Brand- Noted character actor (Stalag 17, many westerns) is on hand here as one of the crew. He was in a controversial Twilight Zone episode (The Encounter, with George Takei).

Robert Urich-A pre-Soap, SWAT and Vegas! Urich appears here in one of his earliest roles.

The director: Jerry London's other credits include almost every show on network TV during the early 70's. He later directed other noted TV movies, including Shogun in 1980.

The writer: The movie is based on a 1940's short story by science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon.