A couple of years after battling an evil 18 wheeler in DUEL, Dennis Weaver shows up here as the somewhat Casper Milktoast head of your typical 70’s nuclear family, who after being terrorized by a cult like group of hippies is eventually goaded into some T.V. friendly STRAW DOGS type reprisal action. Television (especially horror/thriller) movies of the 70’s are a fascinating genre to explore as they were trying to emulate the then popular drive-in/exploitation market by attaching lurid titles (such as SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS & SCREAM PEGGY SCREAM) all the while keeping the content itself prime time friendly. Along the way there was some bona-fide classics (THE NIGHT STALKER & TRILOGY OF TERROR), a few well remembered scares from childhood (CROWHAVEN FARM & DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK), the bizarre and/or weird (CRAWLSPACE & ISN’T IT SHOCKING) and some forgotten gems (A COLD NIGHT’S DEATH).
The next day while dad & son are off fishing (and arguing some more), Susan Dey changes into her bikini with perfect timing as two of the gang show up for a visit at the same time, which leads to them leering away for awhile before scampering off to report back to Jerry. In the meantime Neil & Steve have discovered a mannequin floating in the surf wearing some of DeeDee’s clothing!! The next night the terror on the beach really starts getting amped up as the hippies rig up a sound and recording system and flips the RV over! Eventually Dad is pushed into taking a stand and responds by going sort of Rambo-light as he slowly begins to escalate his anger up to some “G” rated style payback.
The Manson Family murders were still fresh in people minds at this time, so roving bands of long hairs in dune buggies were a pretty scary scenario to middle America (as represented here by Dennis Weaver). With all the finesse of a sledgehammer, the movie points out the difference between the square (but hard working & family loyal) middle class man and the shiftless (and most likely jobless ) band of hippies with the not to subtle implication that this is what the son will turn out like if he doesn’t go to college (and follow Dad’s advice).Director Paul Wendkos (GIDGET) keeps the tension up as much as expected and although limited by the confines of the T.V. screen sets up some pretty effective long shots and atmospheric photography over the nighttime dunes. A pretty decent & fun example of 70’s made for T.V. cinema by way of the drive-in, plus it’s got Dennis Weaver kicking some butt and Susan Dey in a bikini. Coincidentally DeeDee was the name of Annette Funicello’s character in the A.I.P beach movies of the 60’s. Look for drive-in star Roberta Collins (THE BIG DOLL HOUSE & THE UNHOLY ROLLERS) in a pretty wasted role as one of the hippie chicks.