Barbara Eden worked steadily in television after the cancellation of her successful sitcom I Dream of Jeannie in 1970. The Stranger Within was a Rosemary's Baby-inspired story with a science-fiction twist that originally aired on October 1, 1974.
Richard Matheson, the genius mind behind numerous Made-for-TV thrillers, including The Night Stalker and Dying Room Only, wrote the screenplay.
Ann and David Collins (Barbara Eden and George Grizzard) live in a beautiful California house. Ann, a painter who works at home, has discovered that she is two months pregnant. She breaks the news to David, who is more perplexed than happy...for he underwent a vasectomy three years before.
Ann wants to keep the baby and David is surprised because her health is at stake...the reason he had the procedure done in the first place.
The next day, David's physician informs him that there is no way he can be the father. David wonders if Ann perhaps slept with somebody else. Ann is upset that her husband might think this and visits with Dr. Klein (Nehemiah Persoff). She tells him that his diagnosis of her pregnancy must be wrong but he insists that he is correct.
A strain begins to show in the marriage. Ann decides to have an abortion but as David drives her to the clinic, she becomes ill and the operation is postponed until she recuperates.
Phyllis (Joyce Van Patten), Ann's best friend, also has her doubts about the origin of this pregnancy. Because of what everyone is thinking, Ann agrees to allow Phyllis's husband Bob (David Doyle) to put her under hypnosis. But it goes nowhere.
Another attempt to have an abortion is thwarted when Ann becomes ill again. After Dr. Klein tells her that the pregnancy is more advanced than previously thought, Ann says she is definitely going to have the baby.
At home, Ann is exhibiting bizarre behavior. She becomes moody and keeps the house at an unusually cold temperature. The place is a mess. What's more, she puts way too much salt in her food and drinks countless cups of black coffee throughout the day.
Ann also begins to speed-read through books, which leads David to wonder if she thinks she is transmitting information to the baby.
When she isn't at home, she takes long walks in the hills alone. One night, she arrives back at the house, bruised and scratched. Before she's taken to the hospital, the wounds mysteriously heal.
While having lunch one afternoon with Phyllis, Ann tells her about the incident...adding that she feels the baby mended her. "It's a special child...thank God I kept it," she says.
Soon, Ann's body temperature drops ten degrees below normal - and her blood cell type changes. She also occasionally breaks out into an indecipherable language.
She threatens David with a knife in front of Bob and Phyllis...and is placed under hypnosis by Bob again. This time, she reveals that she was impregnated by a being from another planet while painting in the hills.
Meanwhile, Dr. Klein tells David that the birth is imminent, despite the fact that Ann is only five months pregnant. Even more startling, X-rays show that the baby has two hearts.
As David speaks with the doctor, Ann sneaks out of the house. She drives to an abandoned cabin and gives birth. In the morning, she walks out with the baby...a serene look on her face. A number of women with newborns all begin to walk in the same direction.
David finds a painting that Ann has drawn. It seems to be the surface of another planet. He realizes what is happening but it's too late. Ann and the other women have already boarded a ship and are on their way to a new life on another world...
The alien abduction theme is handled with utter seriousness in The Stranger Within...which is a welcome change of pace in this kind of movie.
There are a number of creepy moments that are complimented by Charles Fox's eerie score. What could have been campy and over-the-top (too much coffee!) is handled nicely by director Lee Phillips.
Phillips, who had a prolific career in television, also helmed 1973's The Girl Most Likely To and The Spell (1977), in addition to countless TV shows throughout the decade.