I was aware of some 80s and 90s tv movies from America thanks to HSV7's The Midday Movie in Melbourne hosted by the late Ivan Hutchinson. To be honest I reckon Duel was the only 70s one I'd ever seen or at least remembered until recently. After checking out a lot of 70s British telly lately I decided it was time to investigate the American tele-movie of the 70s. The history of American made for tv movies is fascinating. In the 70s these films were big events that would get astronomical ratings figures. Then there's also this whole feminist angle of it as well with a lot of these movies being primarily targeted at ladies in the 18 - 49 demographic. These movies were often female driven with strong ensemble casts of women.
Amanda Reyes was instrumental in me undertaking this exploration. She is an American tv movie expert who originally came to my attention last year via the podcast world. She has featured as a guest on The Hysteria Continues and Supporting Characters but she has her very own podcast Made For TV Mayhem. Reyes has recently published the book Are You In The House Alone? Growing Up With Gargoyles, Giant Turtles, Valerie Harper, The Cold War, Stephen King & Co-Ed Call Girls: A Tv Movie Compendium 1964-1999. I keep hearing her pop up as a guest on different casts of pod promoting this book. Reyes is the most unpretentious academic I've ever heard. Her passion for tv movies knows no bounds plus she's incredibly knowledgable and articulate on the subject. Heaps of people know lots of stuff out there on the interwebs but most of them are really really fucking boring or are just plain horrible. Amanda however is a star with her infectious sense of humour and amiable personality.
Spoiler Alert! 4 From THE MADE FOR TV MOVIES Cannon
Night Terror aka Night Drive (1977)
Wow this was a great entry point into the genre. Valerie Harper plays Carol a meek housewife who is chased in her car across country by a psychopathic cop killer. The killer has no vocal cords and has one of those portable voice box devices that you put up to your neck when you need to talk. It rains a lot. Strange stuff happens on this harrowing journey. Night Terror's got creeps in petrol stations, weird drunk people etc. After an exhausting night on the road Carol reaches full transformation in order to survive the killer's last ditch attempts to eradicate her.
All movies should be car chases at night in monsoon like conditions!
Reflections Of Murder (1974)
I couldn't believe how good this one was either. I haven't heard Amanda talk about it but I'm sure she'd love it. It's set in a boarding school on an Island near Seattle. Three of its teachers are involved in a love triangle that goes awry more than once. Rainy atmosphere with lots of rain, actually come to think of it water is a ubiquitous motif here. There's a drowning in a bathtub, a body in a skanky swimming pool, a ferry ride etc. The main dude in this is Jack McCoy from Law & Order...er....that's Sam Waterston. Reflections Of Murder comes with a twist.
The Victim (1972)
Elizabeth Montgomery is an icon of made for tv movies. Here she stars as Kate the sister of a missing person. A storm has has trapped her at her sister's strange overly furnished mansion. Where is her sister? Is she dead? Why is the maid so creepy? What's in the hamper? What's with the lying husband of missing sister? The power has gone off and the phone line is dead. It's raining a lot. Where's the dog? Will Kate survive the night?
Trilogy Of Terror (1975)
Karen Black stars in this famous telly movie anthology. We've got three separate stories here and Black plays different characters in each. The first segment where she plays Julie a college professor who is coerced into a sexual relationship by a student is very unsettling.
The most famous segment is the third one where Black's character Amelia is terrorised by a Zuni Fetish Doll that comes to life while she's on the phone to her mum. After a very entertaining battle Amelia eventually overcomes the crazy doll or does she? No rain in this as far as I can recall but there was satanic wallpaper. Trilogy of Terror tips into the comedy horror category.