Murder in Peyton Place
Originally aired: October 3, 1977 on NBC
Starring: Dorothy Malone, Ed Nelson, Tim O’Connor
Featuring plenty of familiar faces from the original “Peyton Place” series, this potboiler focuses on the deaths of the characters Mia Farrow and Ryan O’Neal played in the original. For those who like their Halloween movies served with cheese.
Killer on Board
Originally aired: October 10, 1977 on NBC
Directed by: Philip Leacock
Starring: Claude Atkins, Patty Duke, George Hamilton
Another “Love Boat” Gone Bad TVM, except instead of a human face masking a killer, this one involves a deadly virus that is wiping out the roster of friendly faces. And yes, George Hamilton is still very tan.
The Night They Took Miss Beautiful
Originally aired: October 24, 1977 on NBC
Directed by: Robert Michael Lewis
Starring: Chuck Connors, Gary Collins, Sheree North
Some lucky criminals who hijack a plane carrying products for chemical warfare also end up abducting five hot beauty contestants! Wow, sometimes crime does pay! Beautiful women (sometimes in bikinis), a grand heist and polyester, “Night” is certainly silly but is so well intentioned with genuine actors (minus Barbie Benton of course) it’s hard not to enjoy this honest little effort.
KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park
Originally aired: October 28, 1978 on NBC
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Starring: KISS, Anthony Zerbe
Simply the most over-the-top film on the list, KISS plays a band charmed with special powers. Exactly what these powers do is beyond me, but when Gene Simmons sneers ‘Starfire’ as a star shoots out of his eyes and onto a lovely girl’s face, you know you’re in for some great stuff! The story is basically about a mad scientist played by Anthony Zerbe, employed by Six Flags Magic Mountain, who creates some of the most realistic robots ever made. They’re so realistic in fact, you’d swear they were real. When Zerbe’s assistant catches wind of his sinister plan, he becomes a robot too. Enter the assistant’s girlfriend, Melissa (Deborah Ryan), who enlists the help of KISS, who just happen to be performing there, to help her solve the mystery.
Produced by Joseph Barbera of Hanna-Barbera fame, and featuring many of the same sound effects they used in their cartoons, “KISS” is a pretty great time capsule. Lots of awkward teens dress like their idols and prance around Six Flags. My favorite scene features the late Brion James as a biker harassing other Six Flag tourists. I also love the scene where KISS is performing “Beth” as someone tampers with their powers…
Devil Dog: The Hound 0f Hell
Originally aired: October 31, 1978 on CBS
Directed by: Curtis Harrington
Starring: Yvette Mimieux, Richard Crenna, Kim Richards
Crenna and Mimieux pick up a nasty little dog who is more interested in doing evil bidding for his ultimate master than playing catch. An odd choice for director Harrington (“Who Slew Auntie Roo?”), this ludicrous idea is livened by good acting and a sense of fun and makes this movie just like Halloween candy, sweet but empty and always a treat. (Note: “Devil Dog: Hound of Hell” was released October 25th on DVD by Shriek Show/Media Blasters)
Stranger in Our House (aka Summer of Fear)
Originally aired: October 31, 1978 for NBC
Directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Linda Blair, Jeff East, Lee Purcell
When you think of Wes Craven, you don’t necessarily think of TV Movies, but Craven gave the small screen three pretty good films, “Invitation to Hell”, the superb “Chiller” and this awesome little potboiler. A frizzy headed Linda Blair plays the spunky heroine who fights for her family’s survival when her creepy cousin, Julia (Lee Purcell) moves in. Seems Blair is the only one who can see through Julia’s bewitching personality, but it might be too late. Now how did Blair see anything through all that hair?!?
Originally aired: October 7, 1979 on ABC
Directed by: E.W. Swackhamer
Starring: Richard Lynch, Jason Miller, E.G. Marshall
A modern day vampire yarn featuring Richard Lynch as the seductive bloodsucker stalking innocent prey through the streets of San Francisco, “Vampire” is most notable for being co-written by prolific cop show creator Steven Bochco! It’s also a lush and gothic horror film that gives Richard Lynch a well-deserved chance at showing off his sexy side. Strangely enough, it works.
The Death of Ocean View Park
Originally aired: October 19, 1979 for ABC
Directed by: E.W. Swackhamer
Starring: Diana Canova, Martin Landau, Mike Connors
Neato! A Swackhamer double header (see above)! He also directed this disaster-of-the-week melodrama with a twist; a real park was demolished for the fictional hurricane. All in the name of art, right? Lots of familiar faces run around in a total panic, which is always fun.
Disaster on the Coastliner
Originally aired: October 28, 1979 for ABC
Directed by: Richard C. Sarafian
Starring: Lloyd Bridges, Raymond Burr, William Shatner
A disgruntled railway employee arranges for two oncoming trains on the same path to collide unless his unscrupulous employer admits that they were fully responsible for a similar collision which killed the vengeful man’s wife and child. The resentful widower is played by Paul Smith who was Bluto in Robert Altman’s “Popeye”! It might not be edge-of-your-seat, but “Disaster” remains a great and fabulous popcorn thriller.
Revenge of the Stepford Wives
Originally aired: October 12, 1980 on NBC
Directed by: Robert Fuest
Starring: Sharon Gless, Julie Kavner, Don Johnson
Veering slightly from the original “Stepford Wives” and skipping out on most of the satire, “Revenge” does offer a nice, strong female spin. Entertaining, if not particularly scary, Sharon Gless plays a reporter doing a story on the town of Stepford, a place with little divorce and even less crime. She befriends Julie Kavner, the only other woman in town who possesses an interesting personality. Little by little, Gless begins to unravel the mysteries behind the idyllic Stepford but she may be in too deep to go back.
“Revenge” does offer the women of Stepford a chance to dish out some well deserved comeuppance, but is even more far-fetched than the original or “The Stepford Children,” but not nearly as crazy as “The Stepford Husbands”. Proof of its implausibility – a young Don Johnson plays Kavner’s husband.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Originally aired: October 31, 1980 on NBC
Directed by: Henning Schellerup
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Paul Sand, Meg Foster
Basically a creepy horror movie made for kids, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is still a great way to end the 70s and bring fans of TVMs into the next decade. A pretty close adaptation of the Washing Irving classic, Goldblum is perfectly cast as Ichabod Crane and although it lacks in scares, there is still something so sinister about the Headless Horseman, it naturally evokes terror in the audience, however slight.
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