15 April 2024

Why were the deserts of the southwest such a popular locale for TV thrillers in the '70s? Perhaps it was cheap to film in those locations? Perhaps it was a heretofore unexplored mine of moody vistas? Whatever the reasons, the barren and isolated settings of the desert made for fetching and eerie backdrops in countless horror movies.

Two Mary Tyler Moore Show alumni starred in a pair of the best...as both "Phyllis" and "Rhoda" were threatened and on the run. Cloris Leachman was first...she played Jean in the excellent Dying Room Only (1973).

Traveling with her husband (Dabney Coleman), the couple stops at a diner for a bite. When Jean returns from the rest room, her husband is missing. No one will help her and she refuses to believe that she's simply been abandoned.

Valerie Harper was terrific in 1977's frightening Night Terror. She portrayed Carol, a housewife heading from Phoenix to Denver along a dark stretch of highway. Carol witnesses the murder of a patrolman and becomes the next target of the killer. A relentless chase ensues. Harper gives a tour de force performance in the gripping film.

Even Lucifer's spawn found the desert enticing. In 1976's Look What's Happened To Rosemary's Baby, Rosemary (now played by Patty Duke Astin) has fled the witches' coven with her young son to Nevada...where Andrew ("Adrian" to the Satanists) is then snatched from her and raised by a casino owner (Tina Louise).

Andrew grows up to be a brooding James Dean-type (Stephen McHattie) with a penchant for playing guitar and spending his time at a club run by his adopted mother.

Unaware of his origin and believing his real parents are dead, the story centers around Andrew's worthiness to carry the mantle (and rather heavy burden) of being the son of the devil.

Ruth Gordon returned as Minnie Castevet, while Ray Milland took the place of Sidney Blackmer in this unfairly criticized and oft overlooked TV sequel to Polanski's 1968 classic.

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