21 October 2014


If thrillers had become television staples by the early 1970s, TV movies with faceless serial killers were (and still are) quite uncommon.

One of the rare undiscovered treats is 1972's Home for the Holidays. This immensely enjoyable yuletide small-screen slasher boasts good performances, creepy atmosphere and a joie de vivre not found in many of its big screen counterparts.

The all-star cast includes Sally Field, Julie Harris, Jessica Walter, Eleanor Parker and Walter Brennan. Brennan played an ailing old man who summons his daughters to his house during the holidays because he suspects his younger wife (played by Harris) is trying to kill him. That would be a good enough storyline for us.

However, the plot thickens when a killer in a rain slicker turns up after their Christmas Eve dinner...and stalks everyone in the house with a pitchfork. The film was directed by the always reliable John Llewellyn Moxey and contains some wonderful performances.

Field, who was then trying to shed her Gidget and Flying Nun images, is terrific as the youngest sister. Much of the story takes place during a fierce thunderstorm, which adds to the overall effect and feeling of dread.

Force of Evil (1977) was an outstanding variation on Cape Fear. Lloyd Bridges is Dr. Yale Carrington, a doctor who had testified in a trial involving a rape-murder. Teddy Jakes (William Watson) is now out on parole...and seeks revenge against the person he deems responsible for his incarceration and his family.

Watson is terrifyingly relentless as the personification of wicked malevolence. Force of Evil was originally an episode of the Tales of the Unexpected series. As directed by Richard Lang, it is a lean and mean affair.

1979's She's Dressed to Kill is a fine example of the Italian giallo form come to the small screen. Grande dame Eleanor Parker (again!) heads up the cast as a fashion designer who invites a select group of models and prospective clothing investors to her secluded mountain retreat.

Soon, someone begins offing the beauties one by one...who could the killer be and what is his (or her) motive?

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