Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The real terror? Finding sand in crevices three days later...

Terror on the Beach  (20th Century Fox Television, 1973)

Hey, it was a TV movie - they don't usually have theatrical posters...

Before the Camera:

Dennis Weaver  (TV's McCloud himself!)
Estelle Parsons  (Bonnie and Clyde)
Kristoffer Tabori  (Making It)
Susan Dey  (TV's The Partridge Family)
Scott Hylands  (TV's Night Heat)
Henry Olek  (Rollercoaster)
Roberta Collins  (Death Race 2000 - she's Matilda the Hun!)
Jacqueline Giroux  (Drive In Massacre)
Walter Beakel  (Little Cigars)
The Fisherman

Behind the Camera:

Directed by Paul Wendkos

Produced by Stanley Bass, Walter Beakel, Alan Jay Factor, and David Knapp

Written by Bill Svanoe

Once again we delve in to the glory days of the TV movie. Boy, when they got geared up in the early 70's they started cranking these suckers out like there was no tomorrow. And sadly most of these movies are not much seen anymore, despite a certain level of quality inherent in network broadcast - meaning you're not going to see cinema sludge made by someone's Uncle Joe with a camcorder - which was a very real possibility when renting movies on VHS in the 80's. The TV movies also had a lot of good actors and celebrities in them. Here's one that had a fairly stellar TV cast.
    Three years after he'd starred in the TV movie Duel for director Steven Spielberg, Dennis Weaver was hired to play the same basic role in this teleflick: the button down businessman who can't understand why his staid life is suddenly under attack by an unknown assailant. Eventually, pushed to the limit, he snaps and fights back. Weaver was already well known for his role as TV's McCloud - the laconic cowboy lawman in New York City he'd play for seven seasons; so here was a chance for the actor to cut loose a bit. And unlike Duel, this time he's not alone. This time he's Neil Glynn, who has a wife - Arlene (Parsons); a son - Steve (Tabori), and a daughter - Dee Dee (Dey) (say that three times fast!). They're the typical family - typical for 1973 that is - out for a family vacation on the coast in California. It will be sun and fun and fishing and - arguments. Neil wants Steve to go to college; Steve wants to go out and see the world. Dee Dee wants to explore women's lib; Arlene wants Dee Dee to help her make egg salad. Then they meet up with Jerry (Hylands) and his band of followers. Faster than you can say Manson family, this bunch proves to be fairly psychotic as they begin to methodically terrorize the family. A 1973 lack of cell phones and a little judicious automotive sabotage strands the Glynns there by the beach, and things go from bad to worse. Eventually Neil is going to have to man up, but even with the help of his son, will they be able to survive...Terror on the Beach?

Thankfully the director instructed the cast to amp up their performances after this;
otherwise the title might have been Mild Consternation on the Beach.

I like watching the old TV movies - they all have a particular feel about them; and sometimes I saw them as a kid and seeing them again brings back vague memories of the first viewing. I'm pretty sure I watched this one as a tyke, as I'd already discovered scary movies thanks to the Universal Studios monsters, and something with the word Terror in the title would be catching my eye as I scanned the TV Guide. I also like Dennis Weaver - a very good actor who found his niche on television and worked across several decades, from Dragnet in the 50's to the ABC Family series Wildfire at the time of his passing in 2006. Here he's surrounded by a very good cast - it's rare for all four actors playing a family in a TV movie from this period to be known quantities - usually one of the kids did a couple of acting jobs in the day and is a chiropractor now or something. All of the actors are at least adequate, and most are pretty good. Admittedly not all that much happens - the bodies are not stacking up like cord wood - but there's some solid tension, and some good creepy moments during the night scenes when the family camp is surrounded by pitch black darkness and the creeps are out there somewhere lurking. Director Paul Wendkos keeps events moving smoothly across the 74 minute running time, so this one ends up with a qualified recommendation. If you enjoy movies that are more about drama and suspense than a body count and gore, you might find enough here to warrant a look. All others need not apply.

Let's Get Out of Here ?

We have a partial winner around the 39:00 minute mark when The Line has "this stuff in the camper and get" added to its middle section. But then we get a clear use closer to 56:00 when the baddies start to have a McCloudy night thanks to Dennis Weaver and family going on the offensive.

Eye Candy ?

Well, though playing younger in the movie, Susan Dey was 21 at the time of filming, and thanks to some judicious use of a red bikini -

 - she makes the list! Guess we can call her Eye Can-dey!

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "Terror on the Beach is Dennis Weaver,
delinquents, and dune buggies and will tide you over until
the next flick."
 Thanks as ever, Buddha Man. And til next post here, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

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