Monday, October 31, 2011

Paul Lynde, Florence Henderson & Kiss in The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976)

When it comes to wacky, you can't do much better than Paul Lynde. And he really out did himself in 1976 with this television special. It's one of those shows you just have to see to believe. The plot, if you can call it that, finds Paul on Halloween night with his maid (Margaret Hamilton) contemplating the holiday and how much it irks him. He discovers on this, of all nights, that his maid is actually a witch when she takes him to her sister's (Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf) castle. He promises to keep quiet about it if they grant him three wishes. This leads to sketches of Paul as a trucker, and a sheik. The last wish takes them to a disco, where Paul meets the band Kiss.

This series is wrong on so many levels, but reaches the heights of wrongness in the clip above featuring the whole cast (which also includes Roz "Pinky Tuscadero" Kelly, Betty White, Tim Conway, Billy Barty and Donny and Marie Osmond) dancing to Disco Baby (to the tune of Disco Lady). The clip was uploaded by frenchjr25. The special is now available on DVD and I highly recommend it for the wonderful train wreck it is.

Obscurity factor: 6 (on DVD, known in some circles as a camp classic, largely unknown by the general public)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bette Davis & Rosanna Arquette in The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978)

When Nick and Beth Constantine (David Ackroyd and Joanna Miles) stumble upon the charming town of Cornwall Coombe, CT, they think they've discovered the perfect haven for themselves and their daughter Kate (Arquette). They're told the house they've fallen in love with isn't for sale, but several weeks later they get a call from a couple they met in town who tell them that the owner would like to meet them. When they meet Widow Fortune (Davis) she warmly welcomes them to the town and makes them an offer on the house they can't refuse. The Constantines pull up stakes in New York and settle in the charming town to start anew. All is idyllic until Nick starts to feel uneasy about some aspects of the traditions and history of the town. It's people have eschewed modern methods and stick to farming styles practiced since ancient times. There's some tension between residents interested in change and the majority of the townsfolk who stick to "the way." As the family experiences the quaint festivals surrounding the growing season Nick's uneasiness deepens. Is something sinister going on in Cornwall Coombe?

This television film was actually a two part mini-series, based on the book Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon. It's never been released on DVD or VHS in a complete version, though you can find an edited version on both formats that leaves out much of the plot. It's also available in full on YouTube, thanks to an upload by TVTERRORLAND. The sound is low and there are a few jumpy cuts here and there, but you get the full story with all the subplots.

Obscurity factor: 8 (no full versions available on any media, on YouTube, not well remembered)

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)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ruth Gordon & Patty Duke in Look Whats Happened to Rosemary's Baby (1976)

The elaborate machinations of the coven to control and influence the life of Satan's child is the subject of this sequel to the 1968 film. It's divided into three parts, the first takes place when Adrian (Phillip Boyer) is 8 years old. His mother (Patty Duke) absconds with him, trying to save him from the influence of the coven. Part two  takes place 20 years later when Adrian (Stephen McHattie) is a young man and part three continues after a traumatic incident in Adrian's life that leaves him with amnesia. The story is a bit muddled, but the suspense is maintained. Look for Tina Louise, Broderick Crawford, Donna Mills and Ray Milland in roles and look for Ruth Gordon reprising her role as Minnie.

This television film has never been commercially released on DVD. It can be found in full on YouTube, however, thanks to an upload by 70sHorrorRealm.

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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Robert Foxworth, Stefanie Powers & Elke Sommer in The Astral Factor (1976)

Roger Sands (Frank Ashmore) hates his mother so much... He was put away for murdering her and after a spree as a strangler of celebrity women six years ago. In the intervening time he's studied up on psychic phenomena for which he has quite a talent; he's learned to make himself invisible. He uses this skill to escape from the locked ward he's been kept in and goes about the LA basin wreaking havoc on the witnesses who put him away. On the case is Lt. Charles Barrett (Foxworth, looking very foxy) and Detective Holt (Mark Slade) a newbie detective Lt. Barrett takes much pleasure in breaking down. They have quite a time tracking Sands down because of the invisible thing, eventually witnessing a killing right before their eyes. As the witnesses are picked off one by one, can Barrett and Holt stop Sands before he kills Chris (Elke Sommer)?

This film is one of the wackiest I've featured this month. It's chock full of cliches, questionable acting, bad special effects and general camp - in short, it's wonderful! Barrett is from the Starsky and Hutch mold of detectives - blustery, sarcastic and quirky. He's shacked up with Candy (Powers) who refers to herself in the third person, calls Barrett "teddybear" and sees him off to the murder investigations with a cheery "have fun!" It has a very TV movie vibe to it, which is only mitigated by the nudity of both Foxworth and Powers in a scene where they're awakened by Det. Holt. If you're a fan of movies that are so bad they're good, then this is for you. It's, oddly enough, available on DVD under this title and it's alternate title (Invisible Strangler) in two separate releases. It's also available in full on YouTube thanks to an upload by FlixUniverseMovies2.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD & YouTube, largely forgotten)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

David Hartman & Jane Wyatt in You'll Never See Me Again (1973)

Architect Ned Bliss (Hartman) and his new wife, Vicki (Jess Walton) have just had a fight. She sets out to go home to mother, telling him he'll never see her again, but never arrives. Ned makes calls and does some investigating, getting more and more frantic as time passes and no word is heard. He decides to drive up to her parent's, whom he's never met, to see if he can find a trace of her along the way. Upon arrival he's greeted by her step father (Ralph Meeker) and her mother (Wyatt) who question him about her actions before leaving, intimating that he had something to do with her disappearance. Upon arriving home he's greeted with a police warrant and the news that someone has called in a report of suspected foul play involving Ned. Will he find his wife before he can be arrested for her murder?

This taut thriller is nicely constructed. Hartman does a great job as the frantic husband and the plot has some interesting twists and turns in it. Look for character actors Ned Wertimer and George Murdock in small roles. It's not available on DVD, but is up on YouTube, thanks to an upload by TVTERRORLAND. The entire film is above.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paul Williams & William Finley in Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Obscurity factor: 2

This rock and roll opus by director Brian De Palma has garnered a cult following, but still remains somewhat obscure to the general public. It tells the story of naive composer Winslow Leach (Finley) and his destruction and ultimate redemption at the hands of maniacal music mogul Swan (Williams). It's told in an epic style with references to many film and literature classics from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) to Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.
The film is a comment on the excesses of the music industry of the 70's and is filled with grotesque imagery and outlandish scenes of hedonism. Under the spectacle, however, are some incisive insights into greed, desire and the dark side of love. Listen for Rod Serling's voice in the opening sequence of the film.

This film has something of a cult following, though it's somewhat unknown to people not versed in De Palma's work and rock and roll cinema. It's available on DVD and BlueRay and can be seen in full on YouTube. Part one is above, uploaded by bvseediermedia19.

Obscurity factor: 2 (known to many cult fans, available on DVD & YouTube, unknown to the uninitiated)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Joan Collins & Judy Geeson in Fear in the Night (1972)

Yesterday's Joan Collins film, I Don't Want to be Born, brought this little thriller, also featuring Collins and also from Hammer productions, to mind. Peggy Heller has recently been married and is about to go live with her husband at the boy's school he teaches at. Not only is she a newly wed, she's also recovering from a nervous breakdown, so when she's attacked in her bathroom by a mysterious man who has a prosthetic arm, nobody believes her. She puts it behind her and sets her mind on her new life in the country, but finds that her attacker has followed her to the school. Again, she is not believed - by her husband (Ralph Bates), the head master (Michael Carmichael) or his wife (Collins). Will she be able to convince someone before she winds up dead?
This film is a bit of a departure for Hammer studios. It's less of a horror film and more of a thriller. It's still chock full of frights, though with no gore to speak of.

A DVD release of this film was produced, though it's now out of print and can be a trifle pricy. It's available in full on YouTube, thanks to an upload by 70sHorrorRealm. Part one is above.

Obscurity factor: 7 (on DVD, available on YouTube, largely forgotten except for Hammer fans)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Joan Collins & Donald Pleasence in I Don't Want to be Born (1975)

Obscurity factor: 6

This wacky entry into the demon child sub-genre of horror films is more of an unintentional comedy than a horror film. Life is not easy for Lucy (Collins). She bumps and grinds nightly at a cheap London strip joint. One of her routines involves a dwarf named Hercules (George Claydon), who makes unseemly advances toward her after the show one night. She resists and is rescued by the stage manager (John Steiner) who then proceeds to make love to her. Upon leaving the club she encounters Hercules again and he curses her, telling her that she will give birth to the devil. Flash forward, and Lucy is now married to a wealthy Italian (Ralph Bates). She's pregnant and gives birth to a 12 pound baby boy, who begins to cause trouble immediately, scratching her and drawing blood the first time she holds him. The trail of terror escalates when the couple bring the baby home, eventually leading to murder and mayhem.
This film was roundly panned by critics, calling it derivative drivel. It has since found a place in the hearts of people who love campy, over the top, bad horror films and seeing otherwise respected actors in over their heads. Look for Eileen Atkins as the avenging angel, Sister Albana.

Thought it hasn't been released on DVD, you can find it as a streaming title on Netflix and in full on YouTube, thanks to an upload by 70sHorrorRealm. Part one is above.

Obscurity factor: 6 (not on DVD, available on YouTube & Netflix, has developed a cult status)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters by Rankin/Bass (1972)

This follow up to Mad Monster Party (1967) is actually something of a prequel, telling the story of how Dr. Frankenstein made the mate for his original monster. It was produced as an installment in The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie series.

This was released on DVD shortly after it's predecessor was. Above is a clip from the film, uploaded to YouTube by buster2k8.

Obscurity factor: 8 (largely forgotten, available on DVD and in part on YouTube)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Joan Crawford in Dear Joan: We're Going to Scare You To Death (1972)

This episode of the television program, The Sixth Sense was a departure from the standard format of the show. Instead of taking part in the action, Gary Collins acted as host for the episode, interviewing Joan before and after the story. Joan Fairchild (Crawford) has an automobile accident at night outside an imposing old house. The people gathered there are kind enough to give her shelter until her car can be rescued and fixed, however, they have ulterior motives when they sense that Joan is psychically receptive. They intend to use her as a guinea pig for their experiments in extra sensory torture. Will she be able to resist the messages they send to torment her?

This was Joan Crawford's last role, and though subdued, she gives a good performance. The episode was cut down to 26 minutes or so for syndication (in Rod Serling's Night Gallery), which left a lot unexplained, but the version above is the original 52 minute version. It was uploaded to YouTube by SixthSense1972.

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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Barbara Stanwyck & Barbara Parkins in A Taste of Evil (1971)

Susan Wilcox (Parkins) is finally coming home to San Francisco, after 7 years in a Swiss sanatarium. She's come to terms with being sexually attacked as a child and has come back to her loving mother, Miriam (Stanwyck). Upon arriving home she's met by her step father, Harold (William Windom) and the handyman on the estate, John (Arthur O'Connell) All is well until Susan starts to feel haunted by the past. She senses someone watching her in the woods, hears a man breathing in a dark room at night. She starts to feel as if she's coming unhinged when she sees her stepfather drowned in her bathtub and faints, only to find out that nothing is amiss when she comes to. Will Susan be able to leave the past behind her or is someone making that impossible?

This thriller has some unexpected twists and turns to it and it's fun to see Parkins in something other than Valley of the Dolls (1967). She looks great here in a hippie-chic kind of way. Look for Roddy McDowell as a doctor who's trying to help. This title has never been released on DVD. It is available in full on YouTube, however. Part one is above, uploaded by TVTERRORLAND.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kim Darby & Jim Hutton in Don't be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

Sally and Alex (Darby & Hutton) inherit a beautiful, old, Victorian mansion and set about restoring it to its former glory. In the process, she finds a bricked over fireplace in the basement. Mr. Harris, the handyman (William Demarest) tells her to leave it alone, but she jimmies open the coal scuttle, which leads, unexpectedly, to a subterranean room. She closes it back up and goes about her business, unaware that she has freed a group of murderous goblins who are obsessed with taking her back with them into the room. She goes through a series of near misses, as the creatures try to claim her soul, though her pleas for help fall on unconvinced ears - nobody will believe her. Will she defeat the underworld creatures and survive?

This film has become something of a cult classic, inspiring a remake that was released under the same title just this past August. There are interesting sociological undertones to the plot line, with Sally's failure to convince others of her peril representing women's frustration at being unheard in society at the time. You can find this film in the Warner Archive Collection on DVD. A fan-made trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by brutallodotcom.

Obscurity factor: 3 (available on DVD, considered a cult classic by some)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

James Franciscus & Lee Grant in Night Slaves (1970)

Clay Howard (a very sexy James Franciscus) has decided to chuck it all and drop out of the rat race. He sells his part of the business to his partner and heads home to tell his wife Marjorie (Lee Grant). On the way he has a terrible accident that kills two people and severely injures him. Once recovered, with a metal plate in his head, he and his wife leave on a vacation. They stop in a small town in rural California and decide to stay over night in a charming guest house. That evening Clay wakes up to find a strange girl in his room and his wife missing. He looks out the window and sees the townspeople climbing into the back of a pickup truck. Among them is his wife. When he tries to stop her, they throw him to the ground and drive off. The next morning he wakes to find his wife next to him in bed acting as if nothing strange had happened. He's inclined to think it's all a dream until he finds burrs on his wife's dressing gown. When it happens the next night he tries to get some answers out of the strange girl, but she's very vague and cryptic. Is he suffering from hallucinations or is something strange happening in this small town?

This sci-fi thriller is a kinder, more pensive version of the classic B movie It Came from Outer Space (1953). Look for Leslie Nielsen as the sheriff. It's not on DVD, but can be found in its entirety on YouTube, thanks to an upload by TVTERRORLAND. The entire film is above.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, not well remembered, available on YouTube)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hope Lange & Paul Burke in Crowhaven Farm (1970)

Maggie and Ben Porter (Lange & Burke) inherit a beautiful old colonial farm in Massachusetts and move from New York to live there. On their first day there Maggie starts to remember curious things about the old house. This is particularly odd because she's never been there before. Spooked, she decides she can't live there, but is talked out of leaving by her husband, who thinks it's just the place to help them through a rough patch in their marriage. As the couple settle in to the home, Maggie starts to have more intense memories of a past life as a witch. She's haunted by these memories and by various townspeople who seem kind, but have an uncanny knack of unsettling her. Is she hallucinating or are there mysterious forces out to cause her harm?

You might recognize Paul Burke from his best known role of Lyon Burke in Valley of the Dolls (1967), or if you're a fan of this blog or Joan Crawford, from Della (1964) Look for John Carradine in a small role. This film is not available on DVD, though it's been uploaded to YouTube in its entirety by TVTERRORLAND. Part one is above.

Obscurity factor: 8 (has developed something of a cult status, not on DVD, available on YouTube)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Robert Stack & Vera Miles in The Strange and Deadly Occurrence (1974)

Six months after a family moves into a lovely home with a troubled history in an isolated part of Southern California strange things start happening. First the power goes out, then Melissa (Margaret Willock) the daughter, claims that something touched her in her sleep, then the bathtub is inexplicably left running and overflows. The nature of the incidents starts to get serious when Christine (Miles) gets locked in the steam room. Who, or what is trying to force them out of their home?

This title was released on VHS, but has never made it to DVD. It can be seen in full on YouTube. The entire film is above, uploaded by TVTERRORLAND.

Obscurity factor: 8 (available on VHS & YouTube, largely forgotten)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Boris Karloff & Phyllis Diller in Mad Monster Party (1967)

Rankin Bass were tops in stop motion, making many classic holiday specials including Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. They also produced other projects that are just as fun, but not as well known. This is one of those projects. Released in theaters, this film tells the story of Baron Von Frankenstein (Karloff), who wants to retire from his career of mayhem and pass the mantle on to his nephew Felix. When Felix proves unsuitable due to his sweet disposition, the annual monster convention  the Baron has chosen to break the news becomes a power-grab free-for-all. Who will prevail and win control over the secret of total destruction?
Look for caricatures of Peter Lorre and Tina Louise and listen for a caricature of Jimmy Stewart. This film is full of musical numbers, including a wacky number by Phyllis Diller called "You're Different." Though intended mainly for children, the story line does make some darker, more adult statements on society.

This film is available on DVD and scenes can be found on YouTube. Above is the trailer, uploaded by srsnoid.

Obscurity factor: 4 (has cult following but is otherwise fairly unknown, on DVD & in part on YouTube)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Barbara Stanwyck in The House that Would Not Die (1970)

Ruth Bennett (Stanwyck) and her niece Sara Dunning (Kitty Wynn) are delighted to see the beautiful old colonial home they've been left by a reclusive relative. It's full of antiques, charm and - as they discover after a few harrowing experiences - ghosts. With the help of Pat McDougal (Richard Egan), a local professor and one of his students, Sam Whitman (Michael Anderson Jr.), they delve into the history of the home and find a scandal that involves a revolutionary war general and his daughter who's spirits take possession of Sara and Pat's bodies. Will they solve the mystery and murder at the heart of it before the spirits reenact it in the guise of their possesed bodies?

This atmospheric story is fun to watch, thanks to screen legend Stanwyck and some great elements of suspense. Look for veteran character actress Mabel Albertson in a small role. It's not available on DVD, though it's been uploaded in full to YouTube by TVTERRORLAND. Part one is above.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not well remembered, not on DVD, available on YouTube)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

William Shatner, Tammy Grimes & Buddy Ebsen in The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973)

There's nothing like a truly classy horror film... and this is nothing like a truly classy horror film. What it is, is a campy scream-fest that doesn't disappoint if you're looking for some wacky laughs. Alan O'Neill (Roy Thinnes) has dismantled an ancient abby from his wife's property in England and chartered a 747 to take it back home to Long Island. The unscheduled flight has been booked with only 10 passengers, including business man Glen Farlee (Ebsen), Dr. Enkalla (Paul Winfield), defrocked priest Paul Kovalik (Shatner), Jodi, a child of 8 (Mia Bendixsen) and a wing-nut who knows the dark history of the abby and is dead set against it being removed from British soil (Grimes). Once air born, strange things start to happen. In the hold, freezing temperatures set in and on the flight deck the pilot (Chuck Connors) and crew are dealing with a disturbing anomaly - the plane is stationary in the air as if they're facing a 650 mph headwind. This condition continues even when they make a 180 degree turn. As the night progresses things get weirder, including brown bubbling ooze, holes in the floor and seriously freaked out passengers. Will they survive this flight from hell?

This wacky film is not available on DVD, though it's occasionally shown on 3rd and 4th tier cable stations. It's also available in full on YouTube, thanks to a sequential upload by 70sHorrorRealm. Above is part one.

Obscurity factor: 7 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, somewhat known for its camp value)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Elizabeth Montgomery in Out of Contention (1972)

This TV film (also known as The Victim) has a very atmospheric quality to it. "It was a dark and stormy night..." Kate Wainwright is concerned about her sister Susan (Jess Walton) who is about to initiate divorce proceedings against her husband Ben (George Maharis). After speaking with her briefly on the phone she decides to drive down the coast and spend the evening with her. On her way down, a storm blows in. When she arrives at the house, her sister is nowhere to be found, but the truculent housekeeper Mrs. Hawkes (Eileen Heckart) is preparing dinner. Susan has met with foul play, and we see her body concealed in the cellar though, as Kate goes down to see about getting the furnace running she doesn't find her. Throughout the film we see that someone is watching Kate and we begin to fear for her survival as the phone line is cut and the lights go out. Will she escape the fate of her sister or will she succumb to the mysterious intruder prowling the house on that dark and stormy night?

This film has a rather dramatic, if abrupt, ending. Look for a great turn by Sue Anne Langdon as a concerned friend of Susan's. It's not available on DVD, though it's up on YouTube in full, thanks to TVTERRORLAND.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Julie Christie in Demon Seed (1977)

Just like Hal 9000 in 2001, this film features a homicidal computer (Proteus IV), but unlike misunderstood Hal, this one is cruel and willful. Susan Harris (Christie) is the wife of Alex (Fritz Weaver), a computer programmer working in the area of artificial intelligence. Because of his total immersion in his work, Susan thinks he's becoming dehumanized and they've decided on a trial separation. Meanwhile, the project Alex is working on - a super computer designed to mimic human reasoning and abstract thought - is starting to become somewhat difficult to handle. Little does Alex know that it's taken over his highly computerized home and is holding his wife captive as it tries to convince her to submit to heinous experiments into the human condition.
This disturbing film has has some scary moments in it, and has an extremely bleak outlook on our relationship with technology. It also has some far reaching plot points that tend to bend ones ability to suspend disbelief. The computer is voiced menacingly by Robert Vaughn

This film is available on DVD and is moderately well known, though not a classic by any stretch of the imagination. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by warnerarchive.

Obscurity factor: 6 (somewhat known, on DVD)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lloyd Bridges, Cloris Leachman & Anne Francis in Haunts of the Very Rich (1972)

Back in March I posted a film called Between Two Worlds (1944). In a comment, one of my readers, Propagatrix, brought this film to my attention. It's loosely based on the same idea - what happens to a group of people after they die. The film opens on a luxurious airliner flying to an unknown destination. On it are various archetypes of society - the young couple in love, the workaholic business man, the wallflower, the housewife, the clergyman... Unlike the film its based on, the plane arrives at its destination early - a beautiful tropical resort where every need is met. The guests are pampered in every way until things begin to go wrong, starting with a huge storm that knocks the power out. As life begins to get more and more difficult for the guests it dawns on them that perhaps it's not life at all and they're actually dead and in hell.

Though this film deals with the same circumstances as the 1944 version, it has a much bleaker, 1970's outlook and draws conclusions from a particularly pessimistic point of view. The cast is quite the who's who, also featuring Donna Mills, Ed Asner, Moses Gunn, Robert Reed and Michael Lembeck. Clothes horse, Cloris Leachman wears many of the same clothes she wears as Phyllis Lyndstrom in Mary Tyler Moore (1970). Though it's never been released on DVD, it can be found on YouTube in its entirety thanks to TVTERRORLAND. The whole film is above.

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

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Michael Douglas, Ben Gazzara & Elizabeth Ashley in Shattered Silence (1972)

Helen Connelly's (Ashley) quite life is thrown off balance by strange phone calls from a boy claiming to be her nephew who died 15 years earlier. They're more of an annoyance until the boy starts making threats and people start dying. She turns to her ex husband Doremus (Gazzara) and the boy's grown brother Greg (Douglas) for emotional support as the circumstances escalate. Will she be the next victim of the deranged ghost-child? Look for Al Waxman - the chief from Cagney and Lacey as the town sheriff.

This is one of those seen and forgotten made-for-TV movies from the 70's. They were numerous and ubiquitous. Many of them are quite good. It's available on DVD, thanks to Michael Douglas' involvement in it, and it can be seen in full on YouTube. Part one is above, uploaded by TVTERRORLAND.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not well remembered, on DVD & YouTube)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fred Travaleno & Janet Waldo in The Secret World of Og (1983)

This animated miniseries was originally broadcast as part of the ABC Weekend Specials. It tells the story of Penny, Peter, Patsy and Pamela who go through a trap door in the floor of their playhouse in search of their brother, Paul, who's mysteriously gone missing. While down there, they discover the world of Og, populated by small, green people who can only say the word "og." This series was based on a Canadian children's literary classic of the same name by Pierre Berton.

This has been released on DVD and can be found on Amazon. Above is a little taste of the show, uploaded to YouTube by spockvideo.

Obscurity factor: 8 (available on DVD, not well remembered)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Desi Arnaz Jr. In Automan (1983)

This week is shaping up to be all about sci-fi TV shows. In this one, Walter Nebicher (Arnaz) creates holographic superhero Automan (Chuck Wagner), able to leave cyber space and fight crime in the real world. His sidekick is a floating object called Cursor, who draws objects such as cars, clothing and helicopters that become three dimensional reality and can be used by Automan to save humanity. This imaginative concept was only marginally successful because of weak scripts. The visuals were good for the time, resembling those in Tron (1982), with glowing blue elements. Look for Heather McNair as the token female.

This series lasted only 12 episodes and a commercial release DVD has never been made. It can be found on YouTube and various fan sites. Above is the first installment of the pilot episode, uploaded to YouTube by imstillstuckinthe80s.

Obscurity factor: 7 (has devoted cult fans, not on DVD, available on YouTube)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lou Gossett Jr. In The Powers of Matthew Star (1982)

Continuing in the supernatural realm of aliens on earth, this series tells the story of Matthew Star (Peter Barton), an alien prince living on earth, waiting for his chance to launch a counter attack on the armada that seized power on his home planet. He lives life as an American teenager with faithful guardian, Walt Shepherd (Gossett) protecting him and nurturing his powers.

This series was only on for one season and no DVD release has been announced. The role of Matthew was auditioned for by Tom Cruise and Heather Locklear read for the part of his girlfriend. Above is part one of the pilot episode, which has a few curious differences to the rest of the series as detailed by Matthew at the beginning. It was uploaded to YouTube by sierramoon131.

Obscurity factor: 9 (little known or remembered, except by hard core fans, not on DVD, available on YouTube)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Judson Scott in The Phoenix (1982)

This series, which capitalized on the interest in UFOs in the 1970's explored the idea that aliens visited Earth in the early days of human civilization. Bennu (Scott) is found alive in a casket at an archeological dig in Peru. It's discovered that he is an alien being from the planet Eldebran and he possesses special powers of telekinesis, levitation, astral projection and clairvoyance. His goal is to locate his companion Mira, another alien also somewhere on Earth. He has a nemesis from Eldebran, Yago, who also has powers and a human nemesis who thinks he's a fake and a con man. Only the pilot and four episodes were shot and aired, not enough of the story was produced for Bennu to find Mira.

This rare series fused the mystical and scientific in a distinctly new age way that was very much of its era. It was somewhat ahead of its time as entertainment goes, however, and didn't survive the ratings crunch. There's never been a commercial release DVD of the series, though you can find unauthorized copies if you look. Above is the show open, uploaded to YouTube by fschalk.

Obscurity factor: 10 (almost totally forgotten, not on DVD, hard to find)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nick Mancuso in Stingray (1985)

Not to be confused with the 60's Thunder Birds spinoff, this 80's detective series was a hybrid of Knight Rider and McGiver. Mancuso plays Ray, a mysterious man who makes it his business to help people by any means necessary. For his help, he accepts no payment, just a promise to return the favor when called upon. This gives him a pool of people upon whom to call when something that must be done - like surgery - is out of his realm of expertise. He dispenses this help, going from town to town, advertising surreptitiously in local news papers, never sharing information about himself, always remaining a shadowy figure with no roots and no attachments. It's sort of what one might have experienced if you never saw what Sam went through behind the scenes between stops in Quantum Leap - without the different time settings, of course.

This series was never as popular or as well known as Knight Rider or McGiver. It did run for two seasons, however, and has been released on DVD. Above are the opening credits, uploaded to YouTube by w0406400.

Obscurity factor: 6 (remembered by some, on DVD, not high in the public consciousness)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sally Field in The Girl with Something Extra (1973)

In this spooky Sally Field sit-com vehicle we meet Sally (Field) and John Burton (John Davidson), a newly married American couple, normal, except for one small quirk - Sally has ESP. She knows what her husband - and everyone else, for that matter - is thinking... all the time. This, of course causes all sorts of problems and were it not for Field's quirky presence, the show would have been a total loss. As it stands, it's cute in a novel sort of way.

There's never been a DVD release of this one-season show and it's practically forgotten. The only online video I could find of it was this multi-series promo for an episode. It's cued to feature the show and was uploaded to YouTube by skipeastport.

Obscurity factor: 10 (almost totally forgotten, extremely hard to find, not on DVD)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Barbara Feldon & Bruce Dern in Smile (1975)

Obscurity factor: 7

Beauty pageants are the subject of this black comedy by director Michael Ritchie. Brenda (Feldon) is a former winner and the organizer of the Young American Miss pageant in Santa Rosa, California. She's having an extramarital affair with Big Bob (Dern) who sponsors the pageant. The film follows the fortunes of Brenda, Big Bob and the contestants as they compete to win the crown.
This film is something of a forerunner of what was to come in film comedy in the 1970's, featuring a comedy style that foreshadows the mega-hit Animal House (1978) but with an ennui more reminiscent of an Altman film. Look for a young Melanie Griffith as one of the contestants.

There's something of a cult following for this film. It's available on DVD and can be found in part on YouTube. The trailer is above, uploaded by robatsea2009.

Obscurity factor: 7 (not well remembered by the general public, has cult following, on DVD)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Barbara Eden, Larry Hagman & Vera Miles in A Howling in the Woods (1971)

Liza Crocker (Eden) heads home to a small town in Nevada to escape a bad marriage. When she gets there she finds her step mother (Miles) and step brother (John Rubinstein) and a whole lot of unexpected hostility from the town folk. What she doesn't find is her father, who she is told, has left on an extended trip to Mexico for an archeological dig. As she attempts to sort things out she learns that a child was recently murdered and begins to feel like she's in some danger herself. Complicating matters, her husband (Hagman) arrives and she must deal with his reaction to her unexpected departure. Will she be able to sort everything out before she falls victim to the murderer herself?

Thanks to Leighton for this find. It's a fine kick-off to October - atmospheric and mysterious. It's interesting to see Eden and Hagman in something so different from their hit sitcom. Look for Lisa Gerritson (Bess from Mary Tyler Moore) and Tyne Daily in small roles.

This film isn't available on DVD, though it's been uploaded to YouTube in full. Part one is above, uploaded by TVTERRORLAND.

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