Saturday, October 29, 2011

Valerie Harper & Ruth Gordon in Don't Go To Sleep (1982)

Laura and Phillip (Harper and Dennis Weaver) have just lost their oldest daughter Jennifer (Kristin Cumming) in a terrible automobile accident. In an attempt to pick up the pieces of their lives they move from Los Angeles to a small town north of the city with their two other children Mary and Kevin and Laura's mother, Bernice (Gordon). The first day in their new house proves unsettling to Mary who begins to hear voices calling her name. After the family has retired, Mary is heard screaming. Upon bursting into her room her parents discover her bed engulfed in flames. She's rescued, but is understandably shaken. As the story develops, the voices Mary hears begin to take on the physical form of her sister Jennifer. Jennifer is seeking revenge for her death, which she blames on the family. One by one, they're picked off in strange accidents. Is Mary having a psychotic break and acting out her feelings about Jennifer, or  is it really her and will she claim the entire family before she can be stopped?

This supernatural thriller has a bleak, eerie quality to it that's heightened by its utterly ordinary setting in a typical suburban home. It's interesting to see Dennis Weaver playing a flawed dad after his signature role of McCloud. This television film has never been released on DVD. It did get a VHS release 9 years after it was made and tapes can still be found. It's also available in full on YouTube, thanks to an upload by Kreechum. The entire film is above.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, largely forgotten)


  1. This TV movie has some sort of cult following, although I'm not quite sure why. It appears to have been a memorable viewing experience for kids who were around ten at the time. I have never heard of it - surprisingly, it aired in December of 1982 (Merry Christmas!). The kid playing the son, did "Poltergeist" the same year...wonder if Spelling Productions created this as a rip-off, of sorts.

    I actually worked with producer Vincent and director Lang over ten years later, on a TV project.(Lang died at age 57, in 1997.)

    Trivia: The actress portraying "Mary" was one of the three finalists for the film role of "Annie". The funeral priest/pastor is played by actor Jackie Earl Haley's father.

    Sloppy ending.

  2. "Night Terror" (1977) - another Harper-in-jeopardy TV movie. Enjoyable.

  3. That's on my list to cover. There's very little web video of it out there right now though, so it'll have to wait.

  4. I remember when Ruth Gordon died, it seemed like such a shock. Not because of her age, as she was quite up in years at that time. But she was so ubiquitous in the 20 or so years after "Rosemary's Baby." She seemed to be everywhere and in everything, almost in the way Betty White is today.