Monday, July 7, 2014

"Home for the Holidays" (1972) d/ John Llewellyn Moxey

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Tonight we'll take a look at another lost made-for-tv gem from the man who directed enough of them in his day, like The Strange and Deadly Occurrence (1974), The Night Stalker (1972), and  A Taste of Evil (1971), to name just a few. Add to the mix a cast that includes a post-Gidget/Flying Nun Sally Field, chunky caboose and barrettes variant, Jill Haworth in a prissy, but posh outing, Jessica "Play Misty For Me"(1971) Walter, and Julie Harris of The Haunting (1963) fame, among others. I've heard a lot of people call it the first Christmas-based slasher around the ether-toobz, but let's not forget that Amicus' Tales From the Crypt (1972) had a killer Santa and was released in March of that year, while tonight's review had it's television debut in November of the same year. Facts are facts, me hearties!

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"It's the best time of year to get unglued on booze and scripts!"
At the appeal of their dying father, Benjamin (Walter Brennan), the Morgan sisters have reluctantly all come home for Christmas. Posh, jaded swinger Jo (Jill Haworth) burned through enough failed marriages that she only uses men for sex now, while innocent Christine (Sally Field)'s sweet naivete' may prove her undoing in the end. Then there's Federica (Jessica Walter) who drowns the sorrows of her mother's earlier suicide in pills and booze, and the eldest sister, Alex (Eleanor Parker), who keeps the family together during crises and rocks an ugly 70's floral pattern pantsuit/jumpsuit without one iota of style or shame. Benjamin's sure that his  new wife, Elizabeth (Julie Harris), has been slowly poisoning him over the past few months, and beseeches his daughters to kill her before she can further suppress his life force to the point of acute coffin-age. She seems nice enough, but then somebody makes easy prey of Jo with a pitchfork before she can check out of the rainy downer that she's clearly got no time to waste upon.
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Put petite little pretties Christine (Sally Field) and Jo (Jill Haworth) under my mistletoe anytime.
Next, somebody submerges a soused Freddie in the bubble bath, leaving her waterlogged carcass for her sisters to stumble upon, Christine's ear-piercers falling upon Benjamin's ears, deaf to reason, since he refuses to see the local doctor, who's taken a shine to Chris now that she's grown up, and displays her perky puppies properly in studious-looking sweater vests, or call the police in on such scandalous family matters. A fatal character flaw for him, in the end, as he's added to the mounting body count, sending a hysterical Christine off into the woods to the nearest neighbor for help, during a torrential downpour, since the telephone is out, and the road to town is washed out, you know the drill. You'll be guessing the psychopath right up to the final reel, which I'm not nearly gonna spoil for you here. See it!

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"Kill my wife, please!" begs Ben Morgan (Walter Brennan).
I can't even look at Walter Brennan without hearing my father talking about heading bad guys off at the pass in his voice. My old man, a western nut of the highest order, used to lay his Walter Brennan impersonation on us all the time, as kids. He probably stands as my main inspiration to attempt people's voices myself. He had a couple regulars that weren't bad at all, and Walter was one of them. My Eastwood, Bronson, and Van Cleef are among his favorites in my repertoire, he tells me. I don't do Brennan, simply because nobody'd have any idea who the hell he is these days. The dainty Haworth also appeared in Horror of Snape Island the same year, and showed up in 1974's The Mutations, having scored earlier genre credits in It! (1967) and Horror House (1969). The only other one of those that equally petite Sally Field has earned to date, came in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery series the following year. Too bad, really, she's got a great bloodcurdling scream. Unless I suddenly entertain the urge to cover the Smokey and the Bandit movies (sorry, not gonna be able to do.)here, Sally and company earn themselves a respectable pair of Wops for this enjoyable vintage small screen romp. Give it a look.

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"I'm fucking great at playing disturbed broads! Gaaaaaaaahhh!!!", clamors Freddie (Jessica Walter).
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