Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Creepy 70's Made For T.V. Version of CAPE FEAR with Lloyd Bridges & Family (including Eve "Jan Brady" Plumb) Stalked by a Supernatural Psycho Ex- Con !! 

    Originally shown as an episode of TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED this was the eighth (and last) episode of this short-lived 1977 Quinn Martin produced TV series. Premiering on the 13th of March this two hour episode (the others being 1 hour) is a pretty blatant knock-off of the 1962's CAPE FEAR with no credit given to original author John D. MacDonald or screenwriter James Webb. THE FORCE OF EVIL moves the main action to the Arizona desert but as in the original works a houseboat into the finale and being a Quinn Martin production we get the ominous William Conrad opening and closing narration.
   Except for the setting and changing the family dynamics around a bit this sticks pretty closely to the original story with Lloyd Bridges playing doctor and family man Yale Carrington who along with wife Maggie (Pat Crowley -who was on about every TV show during the 70's), daughter Cindy (Eve Plumb - with between this and DAWN : PORTRAIT OF A TEENAGE RUNWAY was still trying to free herself from the shackles of THE BRADY BUNCH) and son John (William Cullen) are being terrorized by recently paroled murder/rapist Teddy Jakes (William Watson) whom Dr. Carrington had informed on to the police. The blond curly haired Watson was a regular heavy and /or bad-ass in bunches of westerns along just with about every cop/detective TV show in the 70's and brings a truly evil presence to the proceedings here and is the main reason for watching this.

   Because this being a TV movie Jake's end plans for his reign of terror over Carrington's family (especially toward the wife & daughter) is perhaps not as explicitly hinted at as was Robert Mitchum's in the 1952 version, although its still fairly obvious what his plans are - in particular toward the daughter Cindy. THE FORCE OF EVIL mixes in some supernatural elements with Jakes seeming to be an almost unstoppable (and unkillable) force hellbent on destroying Carrington's family. Also in the plot is the ineffectual local sheriff (who happens to be Dr. Carrington's brother) and is played by veteran character actor John Anderson. The two brothers have a bit of a tense relationship and although Jakes breaks the law at several points the sheriff seems unable to do anything and when an ambush is set up at one point by the two brothers its almost laughably easily how their over powered & outwitted.

    The whole movie is structured rather oddly (intentionally or not) with everybody who attempts to confront Jakes failing with Wile E. Coyote like ineptness including the son and his football buddies attempting to beat the crap out of him. This reaches its height with Carrington seemingly killing Jakes at one point (by slipping him some poisoned insulin) and then with the help of his wife dumping his body down a rat infested well, whereupon he reappears later giving credence to maybe he is some kind of force from beyond the grave.
   Along with the pre- slasher movie/Jason like resurrecting powers, the horror elements are played up here a bit more as in the 1952 version the family dog is killed by the revenged minded ex-con while in this version Jake's burns down the family's entire horse barn at night killing the horses and at one point he even mails a disembodied arm to the misses disguised as a box flowers. Jakes seemingly invariability combined with the police & families helplessness all add to the strange atmosphere of the film and at times its hard to figure if its intentional or just an oddly written script. At 100 minutes sometimes it does appear to be an hour long TV show script expanded out to feature length (as well it might have been) as there's lots of driving around.

   The movie is helped immensely by the presence of Watson as the psychotic stalker. Most times wearing a pair of mirrored sunglasses while constantly grinning and chewing gum he brings a aura of true evil without ever resorting to histrionics or scenery chewing.  There's a very creepy & uncomfortable scene with him and two young bikini clad girls and a later there's a fairly brutal episode where he runs over a young water skiing girl with a speedboat while the rest of the violence is pretty much limited to him and Bridges engaging in some good ol' fistfights. The desert setting helps with the eeriness and it always fun to watch the Brady girls in somewhat more grimier & exploitative scenarios (along with sister "Marcia" Maureen McCormick in TEXAS LIGHTNING or MOONSHINE COUNTY EXPRESS
    Appearing here a bit before his second career wind in AIRPLANE ("Guess I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue") Bridges looks to be doing most of his own stunts, although it is kind of weird seeing him as a somewhat slow to action presence (you keep waiting for Lloyd to start kicking some ass) and he seems to leave up to his family or the police (specifically his brother) to handle the threat until his daughters immediate danger kicks him into gear. Plumb who was eighteen at the time is refereed to as 14 years old in the movie (and as to be expected looks a bit mature for 14), but this was probably done to add some more salacious aspects of Jakes stalking of her.

I love telephone shots in movies (John Frankenheimer was the master of these)


  1. Great write-up. I've personally never seen this, but my dad has mentioned it to me a few times before. I've always wanted to see it. Looks right up my alley.

    1. It's a pretty cool little movie. I've really been getting into 70's TV movie stuff.

  2. 70's TV rocks. I have not seen this one either. Definitely want to!

  3. This sounds great - and what a fantastic poster! Will keep my eye out for this one.