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The Horror Of:: Mazes & Monsters (1982)

February 12th, 2014 · 6 Comments

The other day 2 Warps To Neptune posted a TV GUIDE ad for 1982’s MAZES AND MONSTERS and reminded me that I’ve been sitting on a cheap-o DVD of that TV movie for years. It was finally time to revisit it again as I hadn’t seen it since the night it first aired. All I could remember was being really excited about it before it came on and really disappointed afterward because there was only one monster in it. The fact that the teleplay, based on Rona Jaffe’s novel of the same name, was not exactly a glowing endorsement of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS (my favorite game at the time) never occurred to me back then.

MAZES involves a group of college friends who get thoroughly immersed in a role playing game. One (played by a young TOM HANKS) gets so into it that he looses his mind forever just like those poor kids who ate LCD-laced Halloween candy in the ‘70s and are screaming their heads off in an insane asylum to this very day. (Oh how those poor nonexistent kids haunt me, they must have nonexistent arthritis by now). This movie is all about stoking fears and why shouldn’t have folks been afraid of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS? It promotes community, cooperation and using one’s imagination and so it is obviously the work of Satan. Man, Satan not only has the finest tunes, he has the finest games and movies too! Why am I not a Satanist again? Anyway it’s easy to forgive MAZES’ hokey paranoia now and there’s plenty of fine horror goodness to be found within its paper mache walls, so let’s take a look inside…

THE CAST

Check out this bounty! TOMHE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONEHANKS, WENDY CREWSON of SKULLDUGGERY & THE GOOD SON notoriety, DAVID WALLACE who set the world on fire with THE BABYSITTER (1980), mega-hit HUMONGOUS and the double GEORGE infused MORTUARY, CHRISVAMPMAKEPEACE, scowly SATAN’S SCOOL FOR GIRLS star LLOYD “one take” BOCHNER, ANNE FRANCIS who stole your heart in FORBIDDEN PLANET, MURRAY HAMILTON who double dunked in JAWS and JAWS 2, VERA MILES who owned PSYCHO and PSYCHO II like a monkey owns a banana, SUSAN STRASBERG who single handedly prevented my suicide with THE MANITOU and apparently CHRIS HIGGINS the king of FRIDAY THE13TH: THE SERIES as well, though I can’t find him without his beard, try as I might. That my friends is what we call an embarrassment of riches.

THE GORVIL MONSTER

Look at this crazy rubber suit monster with glowing eyes. It’s not scary…except it kind of is. It’s so fake looking and so alarmingly out of place that it somehow becomes freaky. It reminds me of when CHRISTOPHER WALKEN sees all those folks wearing insect masks while on the bus in COMMUNION. In both cases the creatures only exist within the mind of the character seeing them and so who cares if the effect is sorta iffy. The point is, these guys are going coconuts like an OSMOND and therefore can hallucinate whatever they please! Hey, the special effects in my figments of insanity are sub par too; that doesn’t make them any less disturbing!

1982 HALLOWEEN PARTY!

Halloween parties in movies are always a plus. How cool are these kids that they have both a ROAD WARRIOR (released May 21) poster and a BLADE RUNNER (released June 25) poster hanging on their dorm room walls? And just consider that both of those classic movies had only been released months earlier that same year. (MAZES & MONSTERS premiered on Dec. 28).

1982 MOVIE THEATERS!

Get ready to drool all over your keyboard! If you are electrocuted, don’t sue. At the start of the picture MAKEPEACE is driving around some town called New York and he speeds by a movie theater playing CREEPSHOW (Nov. 12)!

And then later when HANKS has taken a turn for the deranged he hits the streets to stumble into a marque boasting a showing of my beloved THE SLAYER (October)!

Then like a shameless seductress, HANKS saunters by a movie palace playing AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION (Sept. 24). Wha? All of my needs have been met.

THE TWIN TOWERS

I guess Rona Jaffe thought as long as she was throwing DUNGEONS & DRAGONS under the donkey cart she might as well cast aspersions on TOLKIEN too.(Hey, writing a novel in a couple of days ain’t easy! What was she supposed to do, make up her own mythology?) Turns out the M&M game features two castle towers and so when HANKS’ character is having a psychotic breakdown that could have been prevented by any educated adult treating the actual source of the problem rather than blaming a game, he heads to the World Trade Center. He’s under the delusion that he can fly just like all of those poor kids who ate LCD-laced Halloween candy. Seeing the interior of the trade center, the size, the multitude of people rushing about on their daily business, is haunting. Because you know, an actual REAL horror took place there, a horror that incidentally cannot be blamed on either LCD-laced Halloween candy or role playing games. And really isn’t that the chattering mob’s big cowardly secret? That by focusing on benign phantoms they can avoid the uglier, more troublesome problems of the world?

M&M is not too impressive but it’s pretty awesome anyway. It’s mind blowing how stupid and alarmist it is until you remember that people act the same way today only about different stuff. So maybe we can learn something here. The next time somebody blames a video game or a pop star or a violent movie or a different lifestyle or whatever the scapegoat de jour is, for the decline of morality, tell them they look like a Gorvil and that the zipper on their rubber suit is showing.

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Tags: General Horror · Great Moments In Kindertrauma History · Telenasties

My Night Gallery Traumafession By Senski

January 20th, 2014 · 9 Comments

This Traumafession is likely to go on a bit, guys; please indulge me.

I was born in 1962, too young to be a fan of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. Since I was raised in a small town, and in the era before cable, I was severely limited by what I could see in syndication; for almost two decades that television institution that was TZ eluded me, and I would not see my first episode until I was almost 20. However, I was a regular reader of Gold Key’s entertaining TZ comic book – a title I began collecting when I was five. Through its illustrated pages I discovered that every tale was presented by a dapper man named Rod Serling, much in the same way that horror comics were graced by hosts in prior decades. Was he a writer? Director? Actor? I did not really know, but I knew he was associated with all things eerie and fantastical, and that made him a kindred spirit to me.

Then one day in 1969 I was flipping through the pages of a TV Guide – how exciting it was to see what entertainments lay in store for the week ahead! – and there, eight days after Halloween, was a highlighted box promoting a new TV movie named Night Gallery – hosted by Rod Serling! Missing it was unthinkable. I can still remember being curled up on the end of our old green sofa, pillow at the ready to stick in front of my face. The gentleman on the screen looked a little older than the one drawn in the comics; the hair a bit more modern, the skin more lined and leathery, but it was him. And with a voice like he possessed, how could he present anything BUT the weird and wonderful? The first tale,”The Cemetery,” was simply the most frightening thing I had seen in my life up to that point. I stayed awake for “Eyes” but had to be trundled off to bed by the end of “The Escape Route;” I was slipping in and out of sleep.

But I knew this: I was mesmerized. And my devotion to Mr Serling began in earnest on November 8, 1969.

When NG returned to NBC’s schedule in 1970 as part of the “Four-in-One” concept with a mere six episodes, I was ready, and far better at fending off sleep till the end of an episode. For the next three years, NG would become perhaps the greatest pop cultural touchstone in my life. My friends and I would reenact episodes on the playground, quote lines from Serling‘s intros (The Doll: “…and this one you’d best not play with”), and I, little nerd that I was, always got to play Television Horror Anthology Host. When we had to write plays for a 4th Grade class, I wrote a NG episode about a demonic hotel guest who refused to check out – and the painting was a Crayola masterwork of said demon hovering over the Planet Earth. I looked up the stories by the authors featured on the show, beginning a love for short supernatural fiction that has remained undimmed by time. I can point to incidents in my life that occurred on evenings dedicated to viewing NG, so transfixed are those moments in the mind’s eye. In fact, as I type this, I am sitting beneath a print of Tom Wright‘s painting for “She’ll Be Company For You.”

Night Gallery made me who I am. It defines Horror for me. I am unabashed in my love for the series (with the exception of the humorous vignettes). It genuinely grieves me to hear how Serling was mistreated during the series run and how he largely disowned the enterprise, but when it was good – and that was often – it was brilliant. And if, heaven forfend, there are any Kinderpals who are not familiar with NG, start with The Caterpillar, The Sins of the Fathers, Green Fingers, Certain Shadows on the Wall, The Class of ’99…so many delights await.

But that is not the subject of this Traumafession.

At some point in the production of the series, Jack Laird filmed what we in the TV business would call B-roll (secondary footage) for inclusion. It consisted of a number of disembodied heads, dressed in black, and shot against a black backdrop; you can see some of these faces worked into the opening credits for the first and second seasons. But he also used a montage of these heads at the station break; the time for affiliates to sell local commercials. Backed up by a faster version of the main title theme, and obscured by the show’s title, I found these faces to be terrifying. I could not watch as the music played, finally peeking when the piece had climaxed. At 9:30 every Wednesday night I was trained to look away. To the best of my knowledge, this footage has never been included as supplementary material on any of the NG DVD releases, and has been unseen by the public for decades…until now.

Freshly posted to YouTube just a little over a month ago, these “bumpers” are back. According to the poster, they were courtesy of a gift from authors Scott Skelton and Jim Benson, whose book Night Gallery: An After-Hours Tour is not only the definitive volume on the show, but is a benchmark for how books covering a television series in-depth should be written. Scott and I communicated years ago on a forum dedicated to the show, and I was delighted to provide him with the printed stories behind several NG eps, for which he sent me a multi-CD set of music from that show that I treasure. Now at last I can see exactly what frightened me: Face Number Two. I imagined that bizarrely androgynous visage appearing over me while I slept, and woof! Sleep no more. There are three bumpers: 1) The full cut; 2) A tighter edit that eliminates the final face and speeds up the music; 3) The rather dull backdrop of gallery paintings backed by Eddie Sauter’s shrill Season Three theme.

Enjoy. And thanks for reading!

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Tags: Special Guest Stars · Telenasties · The Amazing Senski · Traumafessions

Sunday Viewing:: I Saw What You Did (1988)

November 3rd, 2013 · 6 Comments

I wish I could tell you I was watching something more gruesome and horrific this past mischief night but the fact is, I was taking in the 1988 T.V. movie I SAW WHAT YOU DID. Melody M.’s recent traumafession on the same year’s THE BLOB reminded me that there is never enough SHAWNEE SMITH in my world. Like THE BLOB, I SAW WHAT YOU DID is an eighties update of an earlier classic (the 1965 original was directed by WILLIAM CASTLE and starred JOAN CRAWFORD) and no matter how you feel about remakes, who among us is strong enough to resist an eighties flavored spin on anything?

They sure picked the right director for this tale of phone abuse, FRED WALTON previously helmed the at least partially terrifying WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (not to mention its sequel and the much loved APRIL FOOL’S DAY). Although he sometimes makes you wonder what the difference is between suspense and stalling, there’s no mistaking that this isn’t WALTON’s first terror by telephone rodeo. Joining our pal SHAWNEE is future WISHMASTER foe TAMMY LARUREN and FULL HOUSE’s CANDACE CAMERON BURE as kid sis Julia. Our story involves the girls learning what we all must eventually learn, that if you keep making random prank phone calls you run the risk , at some point, of contacting at least one CARRADINE brother and that’s never a good prospect.

All right, maybe this flick won’t scare you but it’s fun, brimming with the giddy nostalgic pleasure of misbehaving as a kid whenever your left alone long enough to do so. It’s s tame for the most part but it’s not without a rather creepy slippery slope undercurrent. It sort of operates like a cross between 1985’s SMOOTH TALK and one of those paranoid educational films that offers up the worst case scenario for mischievous girls who stray from the proper path. As always, because it’s on YouTube you should not take it for granted that it will always be there and a DVD release is pretty unlikely, so I say check out below while you can and party like it’s 1988!

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Tags: Streaming Alert! · Sunday Streaming · Telenasties

Viewing Party:: The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979)

October 25th, 2013 · 5 Comments

Let’s watch a Halloween special right now! It’s called THE HALLOWEEN THAT ALMOST WASN’T and you can read my ancient review HERE. Please ignore the title “THE NIGHT THAT DRACULA SAVED THE WORLD” when it appears on screen! Some dope changed it to that in order to boost VHS sales and it’s a travesty that tramples upon (and illustrates the necessity of) this groundbreaking masterpiece’s feminist message.

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Tags: Streaming Alert! · Telenasties

Sunday Streaming:: Something Evil (1972)

July 21st, 2013 · 3 Comments

It’s time again for Sunday Streaming! This past weekend has put me in the mood for SOMETHING EVIL! This made for television movie from 1972 stars our dear departed friends SANDY DENNIS and DARREN McGAVIN and features JOHNNY WHITAKER of A TALKING CAT? fame! It was directed by that guy who did DUEL! You can read more about it in THIS post from 2007 but maybe you shouldn’t because look how I used to write in big giant mounds of indecipherable goobledegook that today, even I can’t decipher! What the hell?! Best to just to enjoy the fine movie below!

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Tags: Sunday Streaming · Telenasties · Traumatizers · Tykes in Trouble

Summer Girl (1983)

April 17th, 2013 · 4 Comments

For the last five or six years, on a roughly monthly basis, I’ve been checking YouTube for the appearance of the elusive 1983 TV movie SUMMER GIRL. My sad, faithful diligence has finally paid off! To the best of my memory, I haven’t laid eyes on this chestnut since the original night it aired. Not that my powers of recall can be trusted. My strongest recollection of SUMMER GIRL has always been of its startling final image, a dark silhouette standing on a cliff in some kind of ominous victorious pose. It stayed sharp in my mind even while the rest of the flick blurred…

…only I totally got that wrong. That scene happens in the middle of the movie with plenty of stuff still waiting to happen. It’s still awesome though! It’s not necessary to go into much detail about SUMMER GIRL’s plot. You are familiar with this tale in one form or another. It’s the same as THE BABYSITTER (1980) which came before it, and the same as any number of HAND THAT ROCKED THE CRADLE-molded films that came after it too. Take a happy family with an insecure wife (in this case our old pal KIM DARBY) and a husband with a roving eye (MEGAFORCE-of nature BARRY BOSTWICK) and then add a seemingly helpful innocent who is in actuality a cunning sociopath and stir. What makes this routine outing momentous is that the one and only DIANE FRANKLIN plays the requisite interloping usurper.

If MOLLY RINGWALD is the peachy pastel face of the eighties we choose to remember, DIANE FRANKLIN is like the darker, deeper, more complicated truth hiding behind that candy coated mask. Not to take anything away from the RINGWALD but while she was constructing happy endings reliant on the acceptance of others (see the classic JOHN HUGHES triptych), FRANKLIN was forging a fickle opportunist heartbreaker (THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN), a tragic incestuous victim of demonic sororicide (THE AMITYVILLE HORROR 2: THE POSSESSION), a fish out of water French exchange student in a suicide comedy (BETTER OFF DEAD) and a vapid video vixen who unsuccessfully battles a mutant from space (TERRORVISION). In her made for television efforts she has the rare distinction of playing both the honorable final girl (DEADLY LESSONS) and the evil menace that must be destroyed (SUMMER GIRL).

I can’t say SUMMER GIRL’s “Cinni” is my favorite FRANKLIN creation (that honor belongs to AMITYVILLE’s Patricia Montelli) but the mesmeric psycho with delusions of grandeur surely adds gravitas to FRANKLIN’s oeuvre and mystique. As it turns out, I’m not all that happy with my newfound knowledge that Cinni is ultimately foiled by party-pooping nonbelievers so I have decided to revert back to my false recollection and continue to see her as that dark goddess on a cliff looking down at us mere mortals triumphantly.

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Tags: General Horror · Telenasties · Tykes in Trouble

Traumafession:: Reader Machete on The Rifleman Episode “And The Devil Makes Five”

July 17th, 2012 · 2 Comments

When I was a very young child I saw an episode of “The Rifleman” that frightened me more than anything I have ever seen on television or at the movies. I am a life-long fan of horror and science fiction and yet an episode of a western TV series made it a struggle for me to sleep for a long time after I viewed it. The episode involves Chuck Conners as part of a posse that captures an outlaw. As they are far from town they have to set up camp outdoors and sleep in their bedrolls. When morning arrives Conners’ son approaches him. Conners is sitting bolt upright in his bedroll. His face is covered in sweat. His eyes are wide open and staring fixedly straight ahead. His son says, “Pa, What’s wrong? At that moment the sound of a rattle is heard. A rattlesnake has crawled into his bedroll during the night. Conners is afraid to move or make a sound for fear of being bitten. The episode ends happily with the snake dead and Conners (as series star) very much alive and well. As for me, well, I didn’t sleep so well that night and a few more. When I went to bed the folds and furls of the blankets and sheets felt like snakes in the bed with me. I got over it though and now I watch mostly horror and science fiction, but I’ve never forgotten how the most unlikely of TV series frightened me so much. The name of the episode was And the Devil Makes Five. It was the last episode filmed. It was shot in all outdoor settings as a way to save money as the series’ budget was depleted at this point.

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Tags: Telenasties · Traumafessions

Kinterview :: Candle Cove Creator Kris Straub

November 30th, 2011 · 9 Comments

The other day while trying to hunt down a “Name That Trauma!” I came across several mentions of a local television show from the early seventies entitled CANDLE COVE. The show seemed to have left a hefty impression on the unfortunate young souls who made a habit of watching it. CANDLE COVE was about a little girl named Janice and her interactions with a group of pirates that were portrayed by cheap looking puppets. For a kid’s show, CANDLE COVE was dark and twisted in a way that only a seventies show could get away with. There was even a villain named “The Skin Taker” and his cape appeared to be sewn together pieces of-you guessed it… skin. How had I never heard of CANDLE COVE before and why did it sound slightly familiar anyway? Finally I found a conversational thread that seemed to verify the existence of this highly kindertraumatic creation. Please take a moment and read it HERE.

…Did you read it? Don’t lie to me. Okay, so it turns out that CANDLE COVE was never really a show at all but spawned from a work of short fiction written by one KRIS STRAUB. Something about KRIS’ creation stuck a cord with the Internet and now CANDLE COVE is beginning to crystallize into a modern urban legend of sorts right before our eyes. Some refuse to believe that it never existed and some believe that they have witnessed it themselves. You have to admit after reading that thread that it doesn’t sound too far off from the conversations we have here at Kindtrauma, with different people remembering different bits until finally something solid takes form. I think the last comment that closes KRIS’ piece is brilliant. It captures just how diabolical and intrusive these vague memories from childhood can sometimes feel. I’m happy to say that I was able to track down KRIS for a short interview for you guys so here it is!

UNK: I almost didn’t want to reveal CANDLE COVE as a work of fiction but then I realized that no matter how many times that fact is put out there, some people refuse to believe that it’s not real. What’s it like to know that something you created has taken on a life of its own and in such a relatively short amount of time?

KRIS STRAUB: At first I wasn’t aware that it had happened at all. I had a horror fiction site, ICHOR FALLS, where I posted CANDLE COVE initially, and it ended up shared without my knowledge at much more popular horror fiction sites, where it reached a much bigger audience. I know 4chan helped to spread it around. The first time I saw people re-enacting the story, post for post, to scare an unsuspecting forum, I was so gratified. I kind of wrote it just to get the idea out of my head.

One of the things that I think let it take on a life of its own is how vague it is, and how earnest the show seems to be before all the scary stuff is revealed. So many things that scare us as kids start from this innocuous desire to entertain children, but it’s produced carelessly, or some special effect comes out way more ponderous or ugly than the creators intended, and it lingers as we, as children, try to make it fit with our limited understanding of the world. I think we have all been disturbed by shows and movies that have failed us in that way.

UNK: CANDLE COVE has inspired fan videos, fan fiction, music and a Facebook page promising a future movie. What addition to the CANDLE COVE legend have you been most taken aback by?

KRIS STRAUB: I like that people are excited about the story, but I get nervous when I see someone trying to make a film or their own CANDLE COVE books and stories. One of the good and bad things about how quick the story became an urban legend is that people really do think it’s an urban legend with no origin and no author. Fan work is great, but I’m very torn about balancing the fact that it is copyrighted and I do own the story, with the idea that it is in the nature of the story to be spread, namelessly, in dark corners of the internet. I know that serves the mythos way more than me being a litigious dick about it.

As far as being taken aback, I never know how serious Rule 34 is. The rule of the internet that states that if it’s a thing, then there’s porn of it on the internet. So there’s some sexy CANDLE COVE stuff out there that I hope was made as a personal self-challenge, and not a real, living desire to see Horace Horrible get it on with the Skin-Taker.

UNK: Can you tell us a little bit about your website ICHOR FALLS and the inspirations behind CANDLE COVE?

KRIS STRAUB: ICHOR FALLS is a collection of stories revolving around a fictional West Virginia town of the same name. I started writing them out of a love of Lovecraftian horror — not horror where someone gets chopped up, but where someone is made to realize that they don’t really understand the forces that drive the world, but they’ve seen too much of the truth. I also came to love the short stories of STEVEN MILLHAUSER, who doesn’t write horror per se, but creates these little universes where one good idea is taken too far, and then he takes it even further. Most of them are really unsettling.

Believe it or not, CANDLE COVE was specifically inspired by an old article on THE ONION: “Area 36-Year-Old Still Has Occasional Lidsville Nightmare.” It’s so accurate. I don’t know what dark entities SID & MARTY KROFFT spent time in the thrall of, but everything they made to entertain kids is tinged with this unearthly, utterly alien sensibility. I looked up the call letters for a TV station in that area of West Virginia and the names of nearby towns, and it lent the story a little verisimilitude.

UNK: I feel like you could take this idea as far as you like. Do you have anything in store for the future as far as CANDLE COVE and its burgeoning mythos?

KRIS STRAUB: It’s tough! I started to get really excited in continuing the mythos, but I think CANDLE COVE works because it is brief and vague and interrupted. I think to put a name or face to whatever is behind the making of the show is to spoil the magic. I always appreciated THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT for never showing us the witch. A CGI monster can never be as scary as what we invent in our own minds as a placeholder.

I have an idea keeping with the forum-post format, that involves someone asking around an auction site like eBay for the original tapes. There have also been some fan attempts to debunk CANDLE COVE (which always happens quickly, especially if people see this interview), but I’d like to write a whole meta-novella where someone decides to publish their attempts to expose CANDLE COVE and finds more than they were expecting.

UNK: Last but not least, I’ve got to try and get a traumafession out of you. What was the first movie, TV show, etc. that you remember being truly terrified of as kid?

KRIS STRAUB: I think I have a good one. There was an ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL from the ’80s, “Cousin Kevin,” about this little bespectacled kid whose imagination was too real for the babysitter. There’s one sequence where Cousin Kevin is imagining that they’re in the Arctic, and they’re attacked by “30-foot-tall carnivorous killer penguins.” They were stop-motion-animated by the Chiodo Bros., I remember that. All the effects were.

So Kevin and his babysitter escape and hide in a tiny igloo, and the penguin breaks it open easily, and Kevin says “watch out for their acid saliva!” and this huge fake penguin beak oozes steaming slime on the babysitter as he struggles and screams and begs for Kevin to end the fantasy. The whole scene is so nightmarish and claustrophobic! It wrecked me for months. There are more moments like that I’m sure, but it’s the only one I can remember. I would give anything to find that episode again.

UNK: Thanks KRIS for the interview and for CANDLE COVE. I have to admit that somewhere in the back of my mind I’m still not convinced that it wasn’t real either. Kids, Make sure you step insde KRIS‘ permanent residence KRISSTRAUB.COM to see all the other cool stuff pouring out of his head!

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Tags: After-School Trauma · Kinder-Link · Kinder-Topix · Kinterview · Special Guest Stars · Telenasties · Traumatizers · Tykes in Trouble

Deadly Messages (1985)

June 23rd, 2011 · 11 Comments

The Kindertrauma Castle just got HBO in anticipation of TRUE BLOOD, I have a stack of unwatched DVDs acquired from a horror convention and Netflix Streaming continues to taunt me with its well of obscurities so why do I, when the world’s asleep, continue to slide down the YouTube flume? It’s just that there is so much hiding out in that joint that you can’t find anywhere else! Physical copies of many of these gems are hard to come by and I’ve learned the hard way that anything found on YouTube must be quickly viewed as it could disappear back into the nowhere zone forever without warning. Now that so many once elusive titles are just a click away from your door, YouTube is like the last uncharted forest for those of us who remember and mourn the thrill of the hunt. Television movies especially sing to me like sirens and stumbling across a good one that I’ve missed is like stepping into a comfy time portal.

Going into DEADLY MESSAGES (1985) all I knew was that it stared that lady from ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? (KATHLEEN BELLER) and it involved a Ouija board. No gamble there, by merely existing this movie poured milk on my flakes. How could I resist such an innocuous title? DEADLY MESSAGES is just too perfect. BELLER is Laura Daniels, a deliciously spazzy sprite who witnesses a murder and is routinely dismissed by the police. No matter how many times a guy with a hunting knife attacks her, there’s just never enough evidence from the encounter for anyone to not think she’s a hysterical nut. Confiding in her Ouija board provides little solace, as the planchette seems to side with her stalker by saying, “I am going to kill you!” All of this is pretty routine and vaguely hilarious and thankfully takes place during the Christmas season.

Then things take a turn for the amazing. Laura is fired from her job when none of her references pan out and then her long-suffering boyfriend Michael (MICHAEL BRANDON) is told by her doctor that during a brain scan it was discovered that she has been the recipient of shock therapy! Michael confronts her with this info in a restaurant decorated with ROBERT LONGO paintings but she, with her shirtsleeve dangling in spaghetti, insists she has no idea what he is talking about. Next, at a bookstore Michael discovers a series of Nancy Drew like mystery books with a heroine named Laura Daniels. All of the fictional character’s exploits resemble the stories he’s been told by Laura and it appears her entire identity is a big fat lie! Laura insists that she is on the up and up but when her investigation leads her to a mental hospital and the head nurse greets her with “Welcome home!” it’s obvious that the person who knows the least about Laura is she herself (the revelation in considered alarming enough to warrant the coveted HITCHCOCK zoom. ) There’s an explanation of sorts but you’re not getting it from me.

What can I tell you, DEADLY MESSAGES is as silly and implausible as the day is long. I don’t care because it’s damn entertaining too. It makes perfect sense to me that the director (JACK BENDER) and writer (WILLIAM BLEICH) went on to do the superior T.V. movie THE MIDNIGHT HOUR too. Both films have a very cinematic feel for something made for the small screen and are host to loads of splendid atmosphere. As DEADLY MESSSAGES plows towards its climax it’s all howling winds, blowing leaves and over the top musical cues and who can ask for more? It neatly transforms into a different type of movie altogether and I was kind of stunned that something so typical at the starting gate ended up so wonderfully off the wall and quirky. Considering its somewhat hokey woman in peril premise it impresses with several aggressive set pieces, a sneaky sense of humor and a penchant for keeping the viewer guessing. Cliches abound (including DENNIS FRANZ showing up as a cop!) but DEADLY MESSAGES is most fun when it refuses to go by the book.

NOTE: For even more on DEADLY MESSAGES jump on over to TV movie central, our pal AMANDA BY NIGHT‘s MADE FOR TV MAYHEM!

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Tags: Amanda By Night · Seasons Beatings · Telenasties

Special Report :: Amanda By Night Uncovers The Rape of Monroe!

June 8th, 2011 · 19 Comments

UNK SEZ: When situation comedies transform into situation trauma-dies it’s time to call for backup! Let us now join intrepid roving reporter/T.V. aficionado AMANDA BY NIGHT of MADE FOR TV MAYHEM as she investigates the elusive but not elusive enough for my comfort TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT episode “For Every Man, There’s Two Women”

The Night Monroe was Rah-Rah-Rah-Raped!!!

Like many urban legends, the infamous TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT featuring Monroe’s rape is a bit like the alligator in the sewer or having a kidney stolen. It’s one of those whispered things where you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who saw it. The fifth season episode of TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT titled “For Every Man, There’s Two Women” should really be called “For Every Man, There’s One Woman and a Huge Guy in Drag”, but we’ll get to that. From what little I was able to garner about this episode, Ted Knight refused to do it during the fourth season, because he probably felt there was no place for it in such a lightweight sitcom (he was right), but he must have been coerced into it because it was finally shot and aired in November of 1985, during the fifth year of the show.

When TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT finished its original run and went into syndication, this controversial episode was dropped from its package and the world continued on as though Monroe (Jim J. Bullock) had never experienced any true acts of violence. As the years passed, and the internet became a great tool for connecting the hazy dots of childhood, the “Monroe rape” episode began to catch some attention. I came to know about it through the excellent site THE RETROIST, and I became almost as obsessed with seeing it as the person running that site did. My timing was a bit better though because I had much less of a wait. The greatest T.V. station in the world, Antenna TV had been airing TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT and I began to monitor the episodes more closely. Lo and behold, they actually re-ran it last week!

If I had not been prepared for what I was about to see, I’m not sure how I would have reacted. The canned laughter at the male rape jokes was disturbingly reminiscent of that crazy Rodney Dangerfield segment of NATURAL BORN KILLERS and I felt like I was watching a sick parody of the show (it should be noted the R word is never used). Monroe reveals to everyone that he was abducted by two women and blindfolded in the back of a van while the “big one” sat on him. They took him back to their place and had their way with him all night. The joke about breaking his beeper elicits a round of applause from the laugh track machine. The female leads act completely out of character, tossing about insulting remarks about rape and in general, stereotyping men and sex while giving Monroe not one iota of sympathy.

Jackie (Debra Van Valkenburgh) finally admits that she just simply doesn’t know how to react, which may be the most honest moment of the show (and probably was the exact feeling the actress had when she read the script). The women on the show seem frustrated and disgustingly nonchalant about the whole ordeal. They mostly disappear after the first half and after a much needed commercial break, this becomes Monroe and Henry’s show as they head off to confront Monroe’s attackers. Henry (Ted Knight) comes off a lot better, but he bounces around from being thoughtful and concerned to acting bothered because Monroe interrupted Henry and Muriel (Nancy Dussault) during a tryst. Apparently dealing with a rape victim all day must make you all hot and stuff.

Once they get to the women’s apartment, the audience is treated to an overweight woman aggressively forcing herself on Henry and a giant man in drag. The first woman is credited simply as Charlene and the drag queen has no credit at all, making the whole affair even more disturbed. Does this gargantuan man still walk the streets and could I possibly be hanging out in a bar one night and overhear, “Yeah, I played one of Monroe’s rapists.” It’s enough to make me never leave the house again!

This infamous episode aired just months after the made for TV movie THE RAPE OF RICHARD BACK which is a Golden Globe nominated film starring Richard Crenna as a gruff cop who is assaulted by an even gruffer assailant. If I wasn’t going to laugh at Mr. Beck’s horrifying encounter, why did the crew behind this TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT think anyone would be chuckling at Monroe’s unfortunate evening of violence? Seriously, guys. 1985 was all kinds of awesome, but this is really reaching into neon-dripping madness! When I think about male rape in pop culture (I know, why should I be thinking about that?!?), I recall stuff like OZ and DELIVERANCE… you know… stuff that isn’t funny. Now that this demented episode has recently re-aired – for the first time in years – some beautiful soul took the time to upload it onto YouTube! Those of you who caught Monroe’s rape during the original run can now relive the nightmare while us newbies can create new, lurid memories of our own. Sweet dreams!

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Tags: Amanda By Night · Great Moments In Kindertrauma History · I Have No Idea What This Is · Kinder-Topix · Kindertrauma Investigates! · Telenasties