A lot of times when you write something and turn it in, you immediately think of a bunch of ideas you should have included.
Yesterday, we ran a story about horror TV movies and series which were plentiful back in the ’70’s – and many of them are a lot of fun to go back and watch today.
Steven Spielberg first started out in Hollywood directing television before he finally made his theatrical feature debut in 1974 with Sugarland Express. But it was Duel, the TV movie written by Richard Matheson (The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Twilight Zone, I Am Legend), that brought Spielberg to major prominence as a director. Duel is based on a true story where a truck was speeding on Matheson’s tail, and he had to run off the road to escape.
“A lot of people have told me the same thing happened to them,” Matheson says.
”It’s probably still going on because truck drivers take pills, uppers, in order to stay awake so they can make more money, and I think it drives ’em a little over the edge.”
Duel aired on ABC on November 13, 1971, and it was also released theatrically overseas.
John Carpenter did some television before breaking through with Halloween, and he directed an acclaimed TV movie, Someone’s Watching Me, which was basically his take off on Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and it is now finally available on DVD.
Someone’s Watching Me aired on NBC on November 29, 1978, and it was also the project where Carpenter met his future bride, Adrienne Barbeau. (As recalled in the Carpenter biography Prince of Darkness, Carpenter couldn’t stay to finish post-production on Someone’s Watching Me because he had to start Halloween three weeks later.)
One of my favorite childhood TV memories is watching The Hardy Boys Meets Dracula episode, which aired on September 11, 1977, and where Lorne Greene may or not be the infamous count. (The episode also featured musical numbers from teen heartthrob Shaun Cassidy and Paul Williams.)
Much like an episode of Scooby Doo, the supernatural occurrences are all given rational explanations at the end, but then we don’t see Greene’s reflection in the mirror as the police are hauling him away.
Another favorite ABC series for me growing up was Lucan, about a boy raised by wolves, which ran from May 22, 1977, to December 4, 1978. Like Cliffhangers, it wasn’t on long enough to put out a box set, although there are a lot of Lucan fans who remember the show fondly.
The conundrum with Cliffhangers, is the show had three separate stories every week, and you had to wait until the following week to see how the cliffhanger at the end of each story resolved. Cliffhangers was created by Kenneth Johnson, who also created The Incredible Hulk series, and Cliffhangers only lasted from February 27, 1979, to May 2 of that year.
The favorite story within Cliffhangers was The Curse of Dracula, and 1979 turned out to be a big year for vampires with the Frank Langella remake of Dracula, Love at First Bite, Salem’s Lot, Nightwing, and more. The Curse of Dracula was the only story that completely resolved, where the other two stories, The Secret Empire and Stop Susan Williams, are still open ended. (Rumor has it a full version of Stop Susan Williams played overseas.)
If you ever leaf through the book The Psychotronic Encyclopedia, which is an enormously fun read, or go through Shock Cinema magazine (ditto), you’ll discover a lot of long lost horror TV movies you’ve never heard of, many that seem too fun to resist, and many of which you can find on YouTube today.
Back in the ’70’s there were also tons of sci-fi shows and series as well, but that’s really a whole ‘nother story.