It was not too long ago that we received a “Name That Trauma!” about a movie in which a man driving his car has a run in with the ghost of his dead daughter. The movie turned out to be DAUGHTER OF THE MIND a television film that stars RAY MILLAND. (Is MILLAND an O.K. actor to be completely infatuated with? I hope so, because I am.) Finding out that the film also starred the ever fascinating GENE TIERNEY, of the too cool to comprehend LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, and, not to mention Official Traumatot and seventies staple, PAMELYN FERDIN sealed the deal. I had to experience this thing and I had to do it soon.
I jumped through hoops, I mowed lawns, I did unmentionable things in convertibles that ended with me quoting THERESA RUSSELL (“See ya in church!”), and eventually I got my tiny spider claws on a copy. Was it worth it? Yea, DAUGHTER OF THE MIND is pretty darn sweet and although dated a bit, worth the rigmarole.
RAY MILLAND who has starred in three of the greatest things of all time, namely, THE LOST WEEKEND, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and THE ATTIC plays Professor Samuel Constable, a guy who is troubled by recurrent visions of his deceased kid who likes to vaporize after making super heavy statements like, “I hate being dead.” His wife Lenore (TIERNEY) thinks he’s gone loco but parapsychologist Alex Lauder (DON MURRAY) gets a gander of the ghost girl and thinks he might be on to something.
Lauder is an appealing character, equal parts Mulder and Scully, not minding whether the chips land on science or spiritualism as long as he finds the truth. The script based on a novel by PAUL GALLICO (THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE) keeps the audience guessing along side Lauder and that is exactly what keeps things interesting. Add DAUGHTER to the long list of television movies that I would have loved to have seen go to series. Its 1969 air date suggests it could have been a real ground breaker.
Unfortunately the ultimate truths exposed are not quite satisfactory or even believable, but at that point you may have had such a good ride that you won’t care. (Why dis the whole meal just because the dessert blew?) It makes sense to me that many of those who saw this flick in their youth have zero recollection of the whole “world peace hangs in the balance” espionage sub-plot that makes off with the movie like a thief in the night. The supposed supernatural elements, the seances, the visions of that little girl lost in an unexplainable other world are truly haunting and linger long after the scientific explanations fade away.
A particularly effective bit has the apparition seemingly dipping her hand into hot wax and leaving a replica of it in a bowl of water complete with fingerprints. Sure, there is ultimately a valid explanation, but seeing that floating hand in the bowl is eerie as hell nonetheless. Now that I think of it, my guess is that many young viewers much like our trauma-confessor Gary, not so much forgot about this movie’s ultimate rationales but more likely turned the television set off and made a mad dash for bed before they could ever be revealed.