Sunday, January 26, 2020

NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY 1976

Harrowing 1970's TV Woman-In- Prison 
with Deborah Raffin & Lynn Moody !!

                    
                     "The Terror Begins When Two Girls Find Themselves Alone In A Women's Prison!"



"Where Innocence is a Punishable Crime!"

    During the 70's/80's heyday of made-for-TV-movies the networks would often jump on whatever popular bandwagon there was available to jump on while also keeping one-eye trained toward the exploitation/drive-in market all the while seeing how far they push the envelope related to broadcast standards and practises.
    Directed by the great John Llewellyn Moxey (THE NIGHT STALKER and CITY OF THE DEAD) 1976's NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY (retitled NIGHTMARE for its theatrical version) remains one of prime time televisions more sleazier entries in the small screen genre even giving the drive-ins a run for the money in the sordidness factor. Premiering Fri. Nov. 5, 1976 on ABC, it was shot on location in Greenwood, MS which lends itself to a humid sweaty atmosphere that's a rare departure from the usual dry arid So Cal settings of TV movies. Just like at the drive-ins, the woman-in-prison genre was a popular one on TV with infamous BORN INNOCENT with Linda Blair in1974 and Susan Dey locked in a CAGE WITHOUT A KEY from 1975, both of which along with this film would make for one hell of a triple feature. CHARLIE'S ANGELS even get in on the action with the 1976 eposide "Angels In Chains".
    Two UCLA students Cathy (Deborah Raffin GOLD TOLD ME TO) and Diane (Lynn Moody SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM) are on summer break and looking to "see America" on the way to Cathy's home in Philadelphia they take an iffy route through the deep south (Hey - what can go wrong here?!?). They end up on the road trip detoured through hell (ala' MACON COUNTY LINE) and after a flat tire on a rural country road they run afoul of local psychotic Sheriff Danen (Chuck Connors THE MAD BOMBER) who promptly throws them in jail. Things escalate as we get a conspiracy theory seemingly involving everybody in town including car mechanics and that we learn later heads right up to the governor's office. Although it's never specifically stated to where the story takes place (Badham is a fictional county), it's never in doubt that we're in the deep humid south.




    After a quick trial presided over by a crooked judge (Ralph Bellamy THE WOLF MAN) the pair are convicted of trespassing & prostitution sentenced to thirty days at local work farm where Supt. Dancer (Robert Reed THE BRADY BUNCH) oversees things with help from prison guards Greer (an almost unrecognizable sans-makeup Tina Louise from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) and Dulcie (Fionna Flanagan famous for her James Joyce stage adaptations). Among the other inmates are Sarah (Della Reese PSYCHIC KILLER) and Smitty (Lana Wood from DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER as Plenty O'Toole ). Reese's Sarah is the sympathetic friend to Diane as she fills the newcomer in on the bleak conditions inside the prison and the constant degradation that's forced upon the inmates. Cathy on the other hand has the sexual overtures of a guard forced upon her and the girls segregated by race which makes it impossible for them to communicate in addition to being totally cutoff from the outside world.
     One of the more sordid & sleazier network offerings of the 70's with a really grungy & sweaty atmosphere (especially in regards to full hard version), its also one of the better small screen films of the era with excellent work by the leads, a strong supporting cast and the Mississippi locations help bring a bigger looking scale to it. It pushed the content to the limit of what was allowed for TV at the time and maybe because of that it's never got the critical accolades of something like a DUEL.




    ABC created an alternate version for theatrical showings with "R" rated content which inserted a prolonged whipping along with some full-frontal nudity and  fairly extreme sexual content. This version was offered for distribution by Inter-Ocean Films which may have been a corporation set up by ABC to handle it. This "hard" version even gives the New World Filipino films such as THE BIG BIRD CAGE a run for the money and you almost expect Pam Grier & Vic Diaz to show up here. I'm not sure if the theatrical version had any play dates in the U.S. but there is overseas promo material floating around for it and the harder cut did surface on video and has recently been released on Blu from Kino on a disc that includes both cuts. Moxey's original TV version works best as it has a much tighter and leaner story without the obvious inserts.
     A very bleak viewing experience with a downer of an ending, the film shows literally the entire system corrupt (which maybe is a bit of a stretch plot-wise) as all the people we think would be on the side of "right" are in on the corruption with most of them being downright sadistic. The judge uses his powers to cover up for his nephew the sheriff who in turn passes the women on to the prison system run by Reed who's in turn protected by the government.




    The two leads are excellent as both Raffin & Moody bring a real sense of desperation to their roles and have a great chemistry together as they actually seem like caring friends. Raffin also appeared in Larry Cohen's classic GOD TOLD ME TO as Tony Lo Bianco's girlfriend (and she would pop up in DEATH WISH 3) and after NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY became a surprise hit in China, she became a an unofficial Hollywood/ China ambassador helping arrange meetings to secure distribution deals. Moody would later appear in ROOTS (which would premiere just two months after this) along with her NIGHTMARE co-stars Chuck Connors & Robert Reed (both of whom would once again portray despicably evil characters). Reed who at the time was in the midst of yet another Brady Bunch reunion special (which I'm sure he despised doing) probably jumped at the chance to portray a dark character.
    The film was written Jo Harris who did some writing duties on the Clint Eastwood vehicles PLAY MISTY FOR ME, BREEZY and DIRTY HARRY and in addition cinematographer Frank Stanley also shot BREEZY, MAGNUM FORCE, THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT and THE EIGER SANCTION.
    Kino Lorber recently released this on Blu-ray which along with the previously mentioned choice of both cuts also has an excellent commentary on the TV cut from Amanda Reyes and Justin Kreswell. BTW, anyone interested in world of made-for-TV movies should check out Amanda's really cool & amazing Made For TV Mayhem blog and the companion podcast.




  









All above screen grabs are from the Kino Blu-ray 







2 comments:

  1. Going to have to check this one out, thanks ole blog bud!!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Tommy! It's a good one. I really enjoyed it. And thanks for the B-Movie Gazette. Great Blog to keep caught up on folks posting.

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