Really not good


I love the actors and the writer of this story, but this is just a pointless movie. I saw it back in 1970, when I was 12 and remember being impressed with it, but watching it now, considering this was the same writer that penned Baby Jane and Sweet Charlotte, this is NOT good.

reply

I rather liked it, but I'm a big Curtis Harrington fan. Anthony Perkins was typecast a lot after "Psycho," and that was certainly the case here, but I think this was pretty decent for a TV movie. Oh well, different strokes for different folks.

reply

I saw this for the first time on DVD. It's part of a box set of 50 movies I picked up cheap at Best Buy. As soon as I saw Aaron Spelling as the producer I knew I was watching an old T.V. movie and expected some of that pacing and formula to come through. With that mindset it's pretty enjoyable. Not a blockbuster, but a decent suspense story with a few twists. Most expected, but occasionally a red herring will mislead the audience for a few minutes.

reply

That sounds like a real bargain. What was the name of the box set with 50 movies, and were there other obscure made-for-TV gems like this from the '70s?

This is definitely better than the average TV movie -- or theatrical film, for that matter. TV movies in the '70s often had some real surprises, and those that didn't are enjoyable for their camp value today.

reply

[deleted]

Curtis Harrington totally rocks my world, and had I known he directed any episodes of "Dynasty" I would have watched that show in the '80s.

And Merry Christmas, Dahling!

reply

[deleted]

It looks like there are three episodes credited to him here from 1984 and 1985. He also directed episodes of "Charlie's Angels" and "Wonder Woman."

I hate to sound like the snob I probably am, but shouldn't Curtis Harrington have been making more high-profile feature films in the '70s and '80s rather than directing Aaron Spelling series?

reply

[deleted]

I only knew about the three episodes because I looked under his credits. Much of '80s television is a blank spot on my consciousness because I was either going to school or working nights, and I didn't have a VCR for most of the decade. I can't say I missed much, especially because most of it's available now if I want it (which I usually don't).

Curtis Harrington was a darkly imaginative director who churned out some real gems like "The Killing Kind" and "What's the Matter With Helen?" Even his low-budget TV movies like "Devil Dog: Hound of Hell" (helluva title) are worthwhile. Of course, you probably knew all that, because you obviously know quality when you see it. ;-)

reply

[deleted]

Honestly, the only prime-time show I got into in the '80s was "The Golden Girls," and mainly that was because it had a lot of holdovers from '70s shows. And, of course, it shamelessly pandered to the cheesecake community.

reply

[deleted]

This film was an Aaron Spelling Production, so it makes sense that Harrington would direct episodes of the later series.

reply

I hate to sound like the snob I probably am, but shouldn't Curtis Harrington have been making more high-profile feature films in the '70s and '80s rather than directing Aaron Spelling series?


Yep, he should've, but there's a long story why he didn't...

Curtis Harrington had made a splash with "Games" and spent the next few years trying to get "What's the Matter with Helen?" made, but production kept stalling for various reasons. As a favor to friends Aaron Spelling and writer Henry Farrell (who also wrote "Helen"), Harrington agreed to helm "Allan" -- and it was probably the biggest mistake of his career (nope, I'm not slamming "Allan"). His next two theatrical features bombed and "The Killing Kind" barely got released at all, so he found he could fall back on TV... which is pretty ironic, considering the man never personally owned a television set.

Unfortunately, Harrington was an artist who didn't like to make compromises -- or to mince words -- and he suffered greatly as a result. He did all of the pre-production work on "The Legend of Lizzie Bordon" only to be fired just prior to filming. Harrington claimed that the blueprint he had mapped out for the film's direction was used by his replacement, Paul Wendkos -- and as a fan of both "Lizzie" and Harrington's work, I'm inclined to believe he was being truthful (the final shot of the movie in particular has Harrington written all over it).

Then he went on to begin work on "The Omen" but was again given the boot. During the making of "Ruby," executive producer Steve Krantz, who conceived the story, decided to try to hijack the directorial reigns -- and Harrington was so frazzled by that entire experience that he loudly spoke ill of Krantz until the day he died. Similarly, during the making of "Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell," the producers wouldn't cough up the cash required for special effects, so Harrington again cried foul and denounced the film.

Since his theatrical films hadn't made money and he had garnered a reputation for being difficult, by the late '70s Harrington found no one would hire him. To return the favor of directing "Allan," Spelling started giving Harrington sporadic work directing episodes of his various TV series -- and with that, Harrington was labeled a "TV director," a moniker he was never proud of. His final feature was 1985's sexually charged "Mata Hari," which was cut so badly for its American release that he said it wasn't representative of the film he'd shot.

Sad story, cuz he was a brilliant director when he was truly invested in a project and given some breathing room... and if he'd been given a chance to do "Lizzie" and/or "The Omen," his career might've veered off in a better direction.

reply

Thanks very much for the background, VinnieRattolle. Can you expound on exactly why "How Awful About Allan" put the kibosh on Mr. Harrington's film career? It it because TV movies were considered too low-brown for a "serious" director? I may just have answered my own question.

It is unfortunate that "The Killing Kind" did not get released at all because I think it's one of the best thrillers of the '70s. As for "Ruby," it's a film I'm extremely fond of, though the final release was quite choppy – a factor attributable to the studio's meddling with Harrington's work.

It is indeed unfortunate that Mr. Harrington didn't get a chance to show his talents in "The Omen" or "The Legend of Lizzie Borden" – even though both films as directed were excellent. He remains one of my favorite directors, but his career was largely the unfortunate combination of tremendous vision and unfilled potential.

reply

Yep, you answered your own question. He said that once he started doing tv movies, nobody wanted to hire him to do feature films, and once he started doing tv series he couldn't even go back to directing movies of the week.

It's a travesty that "The Kiiling Kind" barely got released, as the movie certainly had the potential to have been an enormous drive-in hit (like that year's equally memorable and grim classic "Deliverance"). And while I wholeheartedly agree with you about "Ruby," I think part of the problem with that one is that Krantz was merely looking to cash in on other hits when he conceived the story, but Harrington and his cohort/screenwriter George Edwards elevated the material. With the exception of a mildly amusing scene featuring the town's teenage trollop, all of the scenes Krantz added to the TV version of "Ruby" were poorly written, flatly directed and totally out of place.

I never had a favorite director until I discovered Harrington, but once I was sucked in, I got hooked. All of his films are derivative and a few teeter dangerously close to the edge of "awful," but the guy knew where to put a camera, he always had memorably odd little moments and generally got great performances out of his casts.

reply

I could see how doing TV movies would close the door to feature films back in the day, but I didn't realize that such a wall existed between TV series and TV movies. Presumably those walls have crumbled now, with big-name directors and stars doing quality work for the big screen as well as the small one. Of course, it seems the only TV movies these days are cable films, which often are better than most anything in theaters.

It's too bad Mr. Harrington isn't around for this presumably more enlightened era, but I find his work so crucial to the '60s and '70s that I think he was productive at the right time. If only the industry had been so confident in his talent.

I find it hard to play favorites with directors because there are so many impressive ones out there (as well as plenty who leave me cold), but Mr. Harrington's films all have a wonderful weirdness and attention to detail that I find endearing. While I agree that some of his films are borderline cheesy ("Devil Dog: Hound of Hell" comes immediately to mind), they all have distinctive touches that I couldn't see originating from any other director.

Clearly this was a man with passion and vision, and even though he often had to compromise it (or others compromised it for him), his legacy stands out as one of the most compelling ones with me – both for what he accomplished and for what he could have done had he been given the support and resources he deserved.

reply

You liked the movie for the same reason I did back in 1970. This was before the age of the Internet, home computers, YouTube, video games, iPhones, and of course the next generation of much more interesting movies like Star Wars and Twilight. The point is, it's too easy to compare what you and I enjoyed in our youth with something today, and think, 'bleeaah!', so boring. Remember back in 1970 it was a thrill just to have a color television and the wonderful choice of programs and shows on just three networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC. You and I weren't used to violence, sex, and gore flicks, much less yukky adult sex at the time. We were thrilled by good scare stories like, HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLEN. These made-for-television movies, on an economical budget with decent production values, is a forgotten art in Hollywood.

reply