Monday, April 21, 2014

"The Stranger Within" (1974) d/Lee Philips

 photo strangerwithintv1_zps33d4e041.jpg
Normally, the notion of a made-for-television horror movie from the seventies that was written by the late, great Richard Matheson and stars Barbara Eden, still well within the realm of "Jeannie"-level sexy,  and I'd be front row and center for the next hour and a half, glued to the screen like two-sided tape on a toupee. Except, in this particular case, the end result is a lot less stiffie-inducing than one might envision; light on terror, and heavy on unintentional laughs. In Matheson's defense (and I'll always defend my favorite writers, the list of which he is no doubt very high upon), he was probably creatively nudged in the direction of a Rosemary's Baby rip-off by the TV execs, and his material might have inspired a few chills had they cast someone other than Babs to pull it off here. Less miscast is David Doyle as a hypnotist, as his scenes in Charlie's Angels would always leave me in a deep sleep that only a vision of sopping wet Cheryl Ladd climbing out of a pool could snap me out of.

 photo sw1_zps788739f1.jpg
"Come down to dinner, sweetheart, I made your favorite... extra salty coffee grounds."
Despite her husband David (George Grizzard) having undergone a vasectomy three years earlier, Ann (Eden) is suddenly surprised to find herself pregnant and forced to detour her successful career as a painter. David juggles feelings of jealousy and mistrust before accepting that his wife has indeed been faithful to him the entire time, and it's then that her detour takes her down Oddball Blvd, as she finds herself obsessively pouring salt over her food, chugging hot coffee, speed-reading books on sociology, and wandering off into the cold night with barely a stitch on, leaving all of the windows wide open when she is home, slapping her next painting together only to mood-swing off the handle and lash out at David in unknown languages before apologetically cuddling up next to him a few moments later. You readers of the female persuasion are snickering to yourselves, right about now...

 photo sw3_zps2ef65c84.jpg
"The baby wants to know how 'disaster movies' became so popular..."
As time passes, the titular stranger within Ann's womb grows more demanding, forcing her to eat raw coffee grounds, making her body more adept to handle cold temperatures, and leading all involved parties, including maternity doctors (Nehemiah Persoff), hypnotists (Doyle), and best friends (Joyce Van Patten), to express growing concern over her far-out schitzy condition. Eventually, the unborn is forced to possess her spirit, talking through her, to spell it all out for the dense humans in his mother's life: he is not of this world. As David finally sees her finished painting, an alien landscape as Ann described to him under the will of the infant, she carries her newborn out to a waiting army of women with infants, and they descend in blank unison towards a light in the woods, and onward to worlds unknown...

 photo sw2_zpsdde2c9b0.jpg
Can't blink yourself outta this one, huh, Barb?
Pregnancy often brings on a slew of irrational behavior in both parents-to-be, even if the fetus is from the same star system. I've even had a few non-preggo girlfriends over the years who went Margot Kidder-in-the-bushes nuts on a pretty regular basis, so maybe I'm not the right guy to cast the judgmental stone here, but tiptoeing into the California woods at night in a lace negligee isn't scary. Hell, that's not even TV scary. On the other hand, Ms. Eden's erratic mood swings do make for a pretty entertaining look-see if you're in the right frame of mind, but I can't help thinking I'd rather be watching her blink Major Healy into the eye of a hurricane or something. Scale-wise, a single seems like a good fit here, so approach with caution.

 photo a0a310bf-9792-4503-acfd-0e4266b22286_zpse42626bd.png
Not something I'd be particularly overjoyed to see outside my front door in the morning...
 photo nu1w_zpsb81401ad.jpg

No comments:

Connect with Facebook