03 November 2011

TALES FROM THE TUBE/STRAYS/DO'N'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK/BAD RONALD

STRAYS

1991/Director: John McPherson/Writer: Shaun Cassidy

Cast: Kathleen Quinlan, Timothy Busfield, Claudia Christian, William Boyett

The rather strange and simply bad Strays is a TV movie made for the USA network in 1991. By this time the idea of the Movie of the Week has been replaced by the made for cable TV type movies that sometimes churned out some flicks almost as good as what one can find at the local theater. Well this one is not in that category but I sat through it and can recommend it for cheese lovers only. The movie is written and co-produced by former Teen Beat idol Shaun Cassidy and the movie could have almost worked except for the fact that the ¡®monster' who we see creeping around and stalking the inhabitants of a house out in the boondocks is actually a cat. Not a tiger or even ocelot. Not a pussy cat exposed to radiation or chemical toxins, but a fat but hardly huge feral house cat who is now pissed off at human beings and kills a few of them. The house is now occupied by the Jarretts (Kathleen Quinlan and Timothy Busfield) and their daughter Tessa (who appears to have been played by twins Heather and Jessica Lilly). There is some plot tension added by Linsey's (Quinlan) sister Calire (played by the usually suspect Claudia Christian) in the form of her flirtations with the faithful husband, father and ruthless divorce lawyer Paul (Busfield). The feral cat does not work alone as he has a pack of cats that he is the leader of. In the final scenes Busfield is trapped in the dark house fending off the angry cat who is constantly being thrown on him by stage hands. Look, house cats cannot take down a full grown man. Maybe a hundred of them could, but this is dual, in the end, between a puss and a average sized human male. Silly, unnecessary ending showing new buyers of the house and the sound of ominous meows in the distance. The acting by the main actors is not bad but house cats are meant to jump out of the closet and shock teenagers right before Jason or Michael Myers hacks them up, not be the killers themselves unless they possess supernatual powers. At least in Night of the Lepus the rabbits were mutated and became carnivorous. Recommneded for marginal camp value and to see what Cassidy did after he stopped singing teeny-bopper hits.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

1973/Director: John Newland/Writer: Nigel McKeand

Cast: Kim Darby, Jim Hutton, Barbara Anderson, William Demarest

Don't be Afraid of the Dark was another memorable ABO Movie of the Week starring Kim Darby (True Girt), Jim Hutton ("Pee-ta-son, Pee-ta-son" from the John Wayne directed The Green Berets) and William Demarest (Uncle Charley from My Three Sons). The film is a haunted house feature that I have read is going to remade one day by Miramax. Darby and Hutton play a married couple who have moved in the huge house Sally (Darby) has recently inherited from her aunt. It needs some fixing up and grumpy handyman Mr. Harris (Demarest) is there to fix the plumping and keep everyone he can out of the basement. And for good reason. There are tiny, mischievous stop-action animated creatures living in the sealed up cemeny there aching to get out and wreck havoc on anyone the take a dislike to. For some reason they focus their ire on sweet little Kim Darby. Jim Hutton plays her husband Alex who is busy moving up the company ladder and has little time for his wife's vivid imagination. The move ends on a surprisingly (for the time) bleak note. The creatures look pretty creepy actually and it is a tight little story. Remember these films were only about 75 minutes long with 15 minutes of commercials. It can be hard to really develop a good story in such a short time and often Movies of the Week missed the mark, but with Don't Be Afraid of the Dark they came as close to a bulls-eye as you could get.


BAD RONALD

1974/Director: Buzz Kulik/Writers: John Holbrook Vance, Andrew Peter Marin

Cast: Scott Jacoby, Pippa Scott, John Larch, Dabney Coleman, Kim Hunter

Bad Ronald is probably one of the more enduring Movie of the Week features. People of my decrepit age range will remember that each of the networks had a Movie of the Week during the early seventies period and the selections were often cheesy but I seldom missed any. Scott Jacoby appeared in a couple I liked such as 1976's fairly creepy The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane with Jodie Foster and Martin Sheen. In Bad Ronald he plays the more eccentric than bad Ronald Wilby and Kim Hunter (Stella from A Streetcar Named Desire) plays his ailing but protective mother. He accidentally kills a bratty little neighbor girl and his mom seals him up in a secret room behind the pantry to avoid the cops sending him off to prison. While in the secret room he pursues his studies and his creation of his fantasy world Atranta where he makes himself the prince. His mother dies and a new family, with Dabney Coleman as the dad, moves in and Ronald spies on them and steals food from them while they are out. He becomes fixated on the youngest daughter who become his ¡®princess' in is fantasy land.  and soon his sanity is slipping over the edge. The character progresses well from dorky geek to delusional fugitive to psycho fairly well and one cannot help but feel sympathy for Ronald. Especially anyone who knew what it was like to be a school nerd. The movie inspired the name for a rap-rock band whose music I have never heard.

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