21 May 2024

The occult was a popular theme back in the heyday of the TV movie. Among the best was Satan's School For Girls (1973). Pop culture enthusiasts might get a kick out of seeing two future Charlie's Angels together (Kate Jackson and Cheryl Stoppelmoor AKA Cheryl Ladd) but there's a story and it's a good one.

The ever-reliable Pamela Franklin starred as a young woman who enrolls in an exclusive Salem boarding school to investigate the mysterious "suicide" of her sister. More deaths follow as the school is revealed to be a haven for the Devil himself and a coven of young followers. The surprising ending was decidedly unambiguous.

The allure and power of Satan took on a more familiar presence in The Devil's Daughter, which aired the same year...in the guise of none other than Joseph Cotten! In that one, Shelley Winters is strong-headed coven leader Lilith who tries to convince the bonafide daughter of El Diablo to take her rightful place alongside her father.

The Possessed (1977) was very much a product of the success of The Exorcist, a film that spawned a cottage industry of imitations, both in TV and features throughout the seventies. Another private boarding school is corrupted...Joan Hackett played the possessed headmistress, while James Farentino was the defrocked minister determined to fight the forces of evil.

Young pretty things as witches were common in television, as evidenced by a pair of above average pictures. Wes Craven's Summer of Fear (also known as Stranger In Our House) starred the lovely Linda Blair.

Lee Purcell was the wicked cousin who comes to stay with her family after the tragic death of her parents. Purcell is exposed as a sorceress - but not before she wreaks havoc on everyone around her. It first aired on Halloween in 1978 and was so good, it received a theatrical release in Europe.

Meanwhile, 1981's Midnight Offerings certainly offered something unique...the chance to see Melissa Sue Anderson (of Little House on the Prairie fame) chew the scenery and fight The Waltons' Mary Beth McDonough to the death.

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