Don't Touch That Dial!

While there’s no question that the 1970s were responsible for many, many embarrassing things, one phenomenon for which the decade has no need to apologise is that of the made-for-television movie. In 1969, the ABC network premiered its Tuesday night Movie Of The Week; and so successful did it prove that not only did ABC expand the program to Tuesday and Saturday, but almost forced the other networks to compete by establishing their own MFTV units, as well as prompting an increase in that sort of production by the major motion picture studios.

However, these little films, known for their professionalism and casts of reliable familiar faces, were no mere filler: many of them could boast a remarkable writing pedigree; quite a number dealt seriously with controversial issues, including alcoholism, drug abuse and homosexuality; although at the same time, there is no doubt that fans of genre fare like horror, science fiction and disaster movies were particularly well served.

But then the 80s arrived, and made the 70s seem less embarrasing by comparison. The time of the MFTVM sputtered to a close. It was, indeed, the end of an era; an era that we at the B-Masters intend to spend a full month celebrating. Join us as we relive the memories…and the nightmares.

Site Movie Original Broadcast Date Preview
And You Call Yourself a Scientist! Terror in the Sky September 17, 1971 Now, for some people the removal of the unintentional entertainment value of Terror In The Sky might mean there’s no reason to watch it; but it had the opposite effect on me. Having sat and studied Flight Into Danger and Zero Hour! and Flying High!, the perceptiveness of the rewrite and the judgement shown in the film’s direction inspired me with a real affection for it – and besides, I found that the substitute game of “spot the re-touch” made it, in its own quiet way, almost as amusing as its companion-pieces
And You Call Yourself A Scientist! The Stranger Within October 21, 1974 The best thing about The Stranger Within is how fair it plays. It doesn’t take sides between Ann and David: it simply presents us with an untenable situation – he knows he can’t be the father; she knows nobody else could be – and asks us to feel for both of them. Of course, as viewers, we accept Ann’s version of events, because otherwise we’ve got no story. Besides, if you were a woman cheating on your post-vasectomy husband, would you really announce your pregnancy to him like that? Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo December 28, 1977 With the warehouse infested with tarantulas, the only hope of rescuing the crop without destroying the oranges is to use the sound of the deadly tarantula wasp to put the spiders to sleep. Unfortunately, nobody in Finleyville has a pet tarantula wasp. (Who does?) So they use a hive of bees filtered through a sound mixer and amplifier to mimic the sound of a tarantula wasp. While the spiders are paralyzed with fear, Bert and his cohorts can pick them up and put them in buckets.
Braineater Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark October 10, 1973 Remarkably, Sally manages to keep her nerves under control. After all, she couldn’t possibly have seen what she thought she saw… could she? She invites the guests into the dining room for dinner, and even manages to keep up the small talk with Alex’s boss… in spite of the fact that something keeps pulling the napkin off her lap. Sally tries her best not to look down, not to see what’s specifically provoking her to look down; but eventually she can’t resist any longer. And there, under the table, she sees…
Braineater Cruise Into Terror February 3, 1978 It may seem a little strange for a Christian priest to be worried about the wrath of Osiris, but bear with him: he also points out that Bakkun’s papyrus called for the tomb to be opened and inspected every thousand years. And here’s the connection: “A thousand years is a Biblical millennium!” he announces.(This must mean something: by a shocking coincidence, it’s also a millennium in every other tradition in the world!)
Braineater The Screaming Woman January 29, 1972 I’m not sure how much Bradbury had to do with the television script, if anything, but the changes are certainly Bradburyesque. The tyranny of the family is a recurring theme in his writing, and the humiliating control Caroline Wynant exerts over her husband is mirrored in several of his stories. But another of Bradbury’s themes is that the overlooked — the very young, the very old, the poor, the dead — are not always as helpless as they seem to be. Certainly the core of Bradbury’s story has been translated very well in the TV adaptation, while the changes make for a more satisfying full-length movie than the script of the original half-hour radio program would have done.
Braineater A Cold Night’s Death January 30, 1973 In an environment like this, small problems lead to enormous consequences. To the movie’s credit, the atmosphere is extremely convincing, since the location shooting was done on an actual mountainside at the White Mountain Research Station in Bishop, California; also, the actors do a good job conveying the sheer exhaustion that comes from working in that kind of cold, at that extreme altitude.
Cold Fusion Video Reviews A Vacation in Hell May 21, 1979 Alan (Michael Brandon) is already there, scoping out the chicks with a practiced eye under his newsboy hat. He’s there to meet the bus as it brings in a load of fresh meat, including Denise (Priscilla Barnes, before her 72-episode run on Three’s Company), who’s wearing a brunette wig but is definitely a natural blonde, if you know what I mean. Denise’s assigned roommate for her stay is Barbara (Andrea Marcovicci), who as luck would have it has had an abortive relationship with Alan. Barbara might as well be wearing a placard around her neck that reads “The Voice of Feminism,” and we’ll have plenty of opportunity to explore what she has to say.
Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension Bermuda Depths May 21, 1979 Some of these ingredients go together smoothly or even echo one another, like the giant turtle and Oscar winning actor Burl Ives. Others, not so much. Lost loves, madness, shipwrecks, tragic backstories, ghosts (maybe), Lovecraftian-esque elder gods (sort of), underground labs, Apollo Creed playing an Ahab manqué and more are all offered up with occasionally incoherent abandon.
1000 Misspent Hours and Counting The Horror at 37,000 Feet February 13, 1973 In Hollywood parlance, a “high concept” property is one where the premise itself is the main selling point, and would remain so even with a big star, a prestigious director, or any other obvious marketing angle attached to it. In practice, it tends to mean dizzying combinations of derivativeness and novelty, and on occasion a high concept movie has a concept you’d have to be high to dream up. The Horror at 37,000 Feet is awfully impressive in that regard. It is, for all practical purposes, Airport meets The Exorcist, as a transatlantic overnight flight full of jerks we don’t care about is brought to the brink of disaster by a demonic entity in the cargo hold, and only a faithless ex-priest has the slightest chance of salvaging the situation! And for the “Twilight Zone” fans among us, the folks at CBS have considerately cast William Shatner as that reluctant hero, facing something theoretically much grimmer than a gremlin on the wing— and a further 17,000 feet off the ground than last time, to boot!
The Unknown Movies Murder On Flight 502 November 21, 1975 Despite all these characters on the airplane, I must mention it wasn’t hard for me to figure out who the murderer was before the revelation towards the end. In fact, when I first saw this movie as a child, and when the character of the murderer first appeared on the screen not long after the movie started, I immediately said to myself, “That person is going to be the killer!”