"It Happened at Lakewood Manor" (1977) d/ Robert Scheerer
Even if you missed tonight's review when it was first broadcast back in 1977 (I didn't, so nyah nyah, motherfuckers. You never missed cool shit like this back then, it was forbidden.), you were probably drawn in years later by the USA Home Video big box vhs with Suzanne Somers' ant-engulfed milk wagons depicted on the sleeve, and really, who'd blame you for that? I picked it up myself, back then, for that very reason, only to be reminded that, for heavy on names it was, with the likes of Robert Foxworth, Lynda Day George, Brian Dennehy, and even Suzanne Somers, in a brief cameo capacity, though she receives top billing for it, all on board, it was pretty light on delivery of the genre goods, though it remains a nostalgic stroll back to a time when television networks created their own quickie cash ins on silver screen trends, and with movies like Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), Grizzly (1976), Day of the Animals (1977) all cashing in at the box office, eco-horror proved too lucrative to ignore for their small screen competitors.
Come n' die on the floor (come n' die on the floor) meet the ants and you're through (meet the ants and you're through)...(sung to the tune of "Three's Company"main theme)
Two construction workers stumble into a swarm of ultra-aggressive ants with a toxic bite in a closed section of the Lakewood Hotel, during an extensive renovation, but before they can warn anyone of the impending poison picnic, they get buried alive. Oops. Now, like a hundred minute episode of Love Boat, we get the main cast of characters; there's the elderly proprietor, Mrs. Adams (Myrna Loy) and her sultry daughter, Valerie (Lynda Day George), who's having flesh-pleasure with the foreman, Mike (Robert Foxworth), who discovers the workers' corpses with his buddy Vince (Bernie Casey! Hot damn, that's outta sight.), and then there's real estate mogul Fleming (Gerald Gordon) actively pursuing his dream of turning the place into a casino, and his busty piece of side trim, Gloria (Suzanne Somers), along for the ride, to sit around in next to nothing and look really fucking good, doing it. Meanwhile, the aggro army of ants assaults a young boy, then kills a cook, and nearly adds Vince to its growing list of fatalities, which Mike has a hunch that they just might be responsible for...
"You little bastards! BAAAAAAAAASTARDS!"
Enter two workers from the Board of Health (Anita Gillette, Bruce French) who make the investigative scene, determining that these ants are not only poisonous, but highly resistant to insecticides. A recipe for disaster if ever I've heard one. Meanwhile, Gloria's slumped dead on the floor, with ant-engulfed titties, another health board bloke bites the dust, and a rag tag group of survivors is being driven upstairs to safety by the ants, who've overtaken the hotel from their massive nest in the pit, and number in the millions. The authorities dig a trench to hold the deadly army back, using water and gasoline to fuel their rescue of the trapped patrons and employees inside. Finally, only Mike, Valerie, and Fleming remain, cornered by ants. Fleming miserably fails his attempt at a triple Lindy to safety out the window, and the two trapped lovers are forced to breathe through tubes as they're rescued by workers in white suits who smoke the little bastards out. But could it all happen again? It could've, but thankfully, it didn't.
"Ahhhhh!!! Somebody loose-topped the pepper shaker on me!"
Super soul brother Bernie Casey was still riding a wave of popularity at the time of this tv movie, one that started with 1969's Guns of the Magnificent Seven, and included genre classics like Gargoyles (1972), Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976), and Cleopatra Jones (1973), while Foxworth showed up in Damien :Omen II (1978) and Prophecy (1979). Somers appeared in Bullitt (1968), American Graffiti (1973), Magnum Force (1973), and even Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977) before scoring the familiar role of Chrissy Snow, really the only reason you'd ever be caught dead watching Three's Company, besides splitting a side at whatever getup Furley has on, and Stanley Roper's zingers at his horny, homely old wife, but you get where I'm coming from. Myrna Loy was an actress who was huge in the twenties and thirties. Like I was getting to earlier, you may want to revisit this one for nostalgia's sake, and truthfully, seeing it takes me back to grade school, where I was much like the Wop you see before you now, but with more hair, and less tattoos. Still, I've gotta cite it's overall weakness in the delivery of quality seventies eco-horror like many of it's counterparts managed to achieve. On the scale, Manor merits a measly single Wop, worth a look for hardcore horror addicts, perhaps.