Sunday, June 14, 2015

ABC's The Movie of The Week

ABC's The Movie of the Week

Ed here: I watched a lot of these. They aired at a time when I was cleaning up from a fourteen year run of alcohol and drugs. I watched a lot of TV n those TV. They were a form of comfort food for me, even the cheesier ones. One of the great ones was "Dr. Cook's Garden" a failed Ira Levin stage play redeemed here by a great script and an amazing dark performance by no less than Bing Crosby. Many of them were solid entertainments and "Duel" was of course a small masterpiece. 

from that most excellent site

Made-for-TV movies eventually got a bad rap, which explains why they pretty much faded from network television in the 1990s. But I still fondly recall what I call the "Golden Age of the TV Movie": the early 1970s when ABC began broadcasting its Movie of the Week.

Every Tuesday night, ABC introduced a world premiere telefilm in a ninety-minute time slot (about 72 minutes without commercials). The success of the series can be attributed, in part, to the variety of its films: suspense (The Longest Night), horror (The Night Stalker), science fiction (Night Slaves), World War II action (Death Race), comedy (The Daughters of Joshua Cabe), Western (The Hanged Man), serious drama (That Certain Summer), film noir (Goodnight, My Love) and even kung fu (Men of the Dragon). Many of the telefilms were also pilots for TV series--some of which made it as regular series (The Six Million Dollar Man) and some that didn’t (The Monk with George Maharis as a private eye).

Several films earned critical plaudits, such as Brian's SongDuelThat Certain SummerTribes, and The Point. Occasionally, one would be released theatrically in either in the U.S. or Europe--often with additional footage--after its TV broadcast. That was the case with Steven Spielberg's suspenseful chase drama Dueland The Sex Symbol with Connie Stevens playing an actress loosely inspired by Marilyn Monroe.

I'm always surprised by how many of the ABC Movie of Week telefilms are fondly remembered by fellow film buffs. For example, people may not remember the title of Trilogy of Terror--but mention the creepy TV movie with Karen Black about the killer doll and a lot of folks will know it.

The original Movie of the Week debuted on Tuesday night in 1969. It was so successful that ABC launched a Movie of the Weekend, which subsequently shifted to mid-week so there were Tuesday and Wednesday Movies of the Week installments. The final Movie of the Week was broadcast in 1976.

The catchy theme to the Movie of the Week opening was written by Burt Bacharach. Its actual title is "Nikki," named after Burt's daughter with Angie Dickinson. Click on the clip below to view the full opening for When Michael Calls, a thriller with Ben Gazzara, Elizabeth Ashley, and Michal Douglas. At the end of the clip is preview for the following week's movie, The Screaming Woman, starring Olivia de Havilland. Unfortunately, the video quality doesn't do justice to the bright, colorful graphics.

In terms of originality, the only network that competed with ABC was CBS, which launched CBS Tuesday Night Movie in 1972. It sent speeding helicopters (Birds of Prey), ancient evil Druids (The Horror at 37,000 Feet), and, most memorably, Gargoyles to battle its TV-movie rival at ABC.

Crosby as Dr. Cook.
Sadly, only a handful of these films are available on DVD (and even then, the prints are usually inferior in quality). I’d love to see TCM get the rights to the Movie of the Week. It’d be great to see Bing Crosby in Dr. Cook’s Garden again and see if the film as good as I remember.

Below is a sampling of the telefilms that played on The Movie of the Week (to include the Tuesday and Wednesay editions and The Movie of the Weekend on Saturday). Note that several movies featured performers from the classic film era:

Seven in Darkness (1969)
Daughter of the Mind (1969) with Gene Tierney & Ray Milland
Gidget Grows Up (1969) 
Honeymoon with a Stranger (1969) 
The Over-the-Hill Gang (1969) with Walter Brennan & Andy Devine
The Ballad of Andy Crocker (1969) 
The Immortal (1969) 
Wake Me When the War Is Over (1969) 
Along Came a Spider (1970) 
Carter's Army (1970) 
Crowhaven Farm (1970) 
How Awful about Allan (1970) with Anthony Perkins & Julie Harris
Night Slaves (1970) 
The Over the Hill Gang Rides Again with Walter Brennan & Fred Astaire
Run, Simon, Run (1970) 
The Love War (1970) 
Tribes (1970) 
Brian's Song (1971) 
Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate (1971) with Helen Hayes, Myrna Loy, Sylvia Sidney
Dr. Cook's Garden (1971) 
Duel (1971) 
In Broad Daylight (1971) 
In Search of America (1971) 
Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring (1971) 
The Birdmen (1971) 
The Devil and Miss Sarah (1971) 
The Feminist and the Fuzz (1971) 
The Point! (1971) 
The Reluctant Heroes (1971) 
A Great American Tragedy (1972) 
Goodnight, My Love (1972) 
Moon of the Wolf (1972) 
That Certain Summer (1972) 
The Astronaut (1972) 
The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972) with Buddy Ebsen & Sandra Dee
The Longest Night (1972) 
Madame Sin (1972) with Bette Davis & Robert Wagner
The People (1972) 
The Screaming Woman (1972) with Olivia de Havilland
Women in Chains (1972) 
A Summer Without Boys (1973) 
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973) 
Female Artillery (1973) 
Go Ask Alice (1973) 
Isn't It Shocking? (1973) 
Satan's School for Girls (1973) 
Shirts/Skins (1973) 
The Girl Most Likely to... (1973) 
The Girls of Huntington House (1973) 
The Man Without a Country (1973) with Cliff Robertson
The Night Strangler (1973) 
The Third Girl from the Left (1973) 
Get Christie Love! (1974) 
Hit Lady (1974) 
Houston, We've Got a Problem (1974) 
Killdozer (1974) 
Locusts (1974) 
The Mark of Zorro (1974) 
The Morning After (1974) 
Thursday's Game (1974) 
Winter Kill (1974)


Peter Brandvold said...

I didn't realize it, but that theme music has been lurking in the nether regions of my brain for the past forty years, but I've only heard the odd note here and there from time to time. What a thrill to hear it again. I remember seeing WHEN MICHAEL CALLS when it first aired, and was really wonderfully creeped out by it. I would have been between 12 and 14. Wasn't Clint Eastwood's first directed movie, BREEZY with Kay Lenz and William Holden a CBS movie of the week?

Ed Gorman said...

It may have been, Peter. I'm not sure. It would have been a good fit. As I recall the CBS material wasn't as pulpy which is why i liked ABC more.

RJR said...

I loved ONE SHOES MAKES IT MURDER with Robert Mitchum as an impotent P.I., and THE LONELY PROFESSION with Harry Guardino as a P.I. Great stuff!


Elgin Bleecker said...

Ed – Thanks for the post. It certainly was the golden age of the made for TV movie. I saw “Dr. Cook’s Garden” as a kid and remember it to this day. Another one I recall is “Fear No Evil” with Louis Jourdan as a doctor and Linda Day George as a woman who could see the past, or the dead, or something creepy in her mirror. – EB

Robert Lopresti said...

One of my favorites, although it was apparently an ABC movie of the weekend, was See The Man Run. Robert Culp is woken by a phone call from kidnappers, saying they want a million dollars or his daughter dies. But he is a broke actor and he has no daughter. He knows the millionaire who used to have his phone number. Can he cut himself in on the ransom?

Classic Manuals said...

They should bring these back Thanks Again