Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Favorite Made-For-TV Movies ""

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Favorite Made-For-TV Movies

Been thinking about made-for-TV content a lot lately. Been catching some of the latest made for SyFy films like DINOSHARK and MEGAPIRANHA(which I enjoyed and I am declaring a classic of cheesy proportions). They are can be sort of fun, but they just don't stack up to the TV-movies of the 70s and 80s. From genuinely creepy to quite campy, many of them are certainly worth tracking down. Though sadly under-represented on DVD, many have begun showing up through Warner Archives and other sources. Here's the list of some my favorites.

1. DUEL(1971; Steven Spielberg)
2. A COLD NIGHT'S DEATH(1973; Jerrold Freeman)


4. THE DEATH OF RICHIE(1977; Paul Wendkos)

5. DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK(1973; John Newland)
6. DYING ROOM ONLY(1973; Philip Leacock)

7. NIGHT STALKER(1972; John Llewellyn Moxey)/NIGHT STRANGLER(1973; Dan Curtis)

(1976; Randall Kleiser)
9. BAD RONALD(1974; Buzz Kulik)
10. TIME TRAVELLERS(1976; Alexander Singer)

11. THE DEADLY TOWER(1975; Jerry Jameson)
12. THE NORLISS TAPES(1973; Dan Curtis)

13. SALEM'S LOT(1979; Tobe Hooper)

14. DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW(1981; Frank De Felitta)

15. SYBIL(1976; Daniel Petrie)

16. TRILOGY OF TERROR(1975; Dan Curtis)

17. THE WAVE(1981; Alexander Grasshoff)

18. SOLE SURVIVOR(1970; Paul Stanley)

19. THE KILLING OF RANDY WEBSTER(1981; Sam Wanamaker)

20. THE BERMUDA DEPTHS(1978; Tsugunobu Kotani)


NO PLACE TO HIDE(1981; John Llewellyn Moxey)
23. THE BOY WHO DRANK TOO MUCH(1980; Jerrold Freeman)
24. DAWN: PORTRAIT OF A TEENAGE RUNAWAY(1976; Randall Kleiser)

26. FIRE!(1977; Earl Bellamy)

27. THE HORROR AT 37,000 FEET(1973; David Lowell Rich)

28. KILLDOZER(1974; Jerry London)

29. GENESIS II(1973; John Llewellyn Moxey)

30. PLANET EARTH(1974; Marc Daniels)

31. EARTH II(1971; Tom Gries)

32. COTTON CANDY(1978; Ron Howard)

33. DESPERATE LIVES(1982; Robert Michael Lewis)

34. YOUNG LOVE, FIRST LOVE(1979; Steven Hilliard Stern)

36. SUMMER OF FEAR(1978; Wes Craven)


Armando H. said...

Awesome list man, glad to see Death of Richie is on there. It's a pretty sad movie but unfortunately it's not portrayed very well.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Yeah DEATH OF RICHIE gets a little campy for sure, but I love Robby Benson in it.

Brian said...

Have you seen either of Joe Dante's TV movies, RUNAWAY DAUGHTERS (1994) and THE SECOND CIVIL WAR (1997)? I haven't, but I've heard really good things about the latter. Even Jonathan Rosenbaum likes it:

Tom said...

Some of these look good. Another made for TV film I always liked is "Adam" (1983).

btsjunkie said...

I was just telling someone that DUEL is the best TV movie ever. Good picks! I've only seen about half of these. Of the other half there's a few I've never heard of and a few I didn't know were TV movies. Going to add a few to my list!

Unknown said...

Good call on SALEM'S LOT, altho, I would have ranked it higher. I also really like STORM OF THE CENTURY as well.

And on the cheesier end of the spectrum, MADONNA: INNOCENCE LOST is a guilty pleasure as a slapdash biopic of the pop star's early years trying to make it in NYC! Another keeper is LOVE AND BETRAYAL: THE MIA FARROW STORY which drags Woody Allen and Mia's dirty laundry through the mud. The people they got to play Woody and Mia are oddly fascinating to watch.

Ned Merrill said...

THE BEST LITTLE GIRL IN THE WORLD - the beginning of the extreme Method techniques employed by Jennifer Jason Leigh--she really dropped down to 86 pounds for this one! Look out for another early JJL tv-movie appearance, THE FIRST TIME, which will air on the THIS cable network soon. THE KILLING OF RANDY WEBSTER features 3 future FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH stars: Sean Penn, JJL, and Anthony Edwards.

Hard to beat that BOY WHO DRANK TOO MUCH cast: tv-movie mainstays Scott Baio and Lance Kerwin, Dan Shor, Toni Kalem, Don Murray, and...ED LAUTER. Shot in Madison, WI.

And, I will add another plug for SALEM'S LOT, which freaked me out when I was a kid. Hard to argue with DUEL.

After reading the reviews for LACE (not on your list) on DVDTalk, I'm compelled to check it out.

Rupert Pupkin said...

BRIAN- Always meant to see both those Dante TV Movies. I am a huge Dante fan, love his films and his Trailers From Hell site.

TOM-I might have seen ADAM, but I'm not sure. Either way I have to track it down, the cast is fantastic!

BTSJUNKIE-Let me know if you like any of the TV movies you watch off the list!

JD- I need to take the time with STORM OF THE CENTURY for sure. Always been confused about something. RETURN TO SALEM'S LOT got a theatrical release right? Always though that was funny.Haven't seen either the Madonna or Woody/Mia Farrow TVMS. Both sound intriguing. I like Patsy Kensit if I recall(haven't seen her in stuff in a while), she seems a cool pick for Mia yeah. Wish those 2 TVMS were easier to find!

NED-Thanks again for the heads up on THE FIRST TIME, need to dvr that for sure. I have to thank you also for turning me onto THE BOY WHO DRANK TOO MUCH. I remember you were the one who told me you were a fan of that one. Forgot it was shot in Madison! Also, I really do need to see LACE!

Unknown said...

Rupert: I've got both Madonna and Mia films, if yer interested...

And you're right about RETURN TO SALEM'S LOT. I seem to recall it getting a theatrical release but I don't think it lasted long in theaters if it did.

Amanda By Night said...

There are some great choices on here. I'm a big fan of Dying Room Only and Murder By Natural Causes in particular. Oh and you mentioned The Wave! How'd I'd love to see that one again!

I believe if you go on IMDb and look up the Death of Ritchie, in the message boards you'll find a guy claiming to be Richie's best friend. He claims a lot of what was told was an untruth and the father was very mean, basically driving Richie to his downfall and subsequent death at the hands of his own father. I don't know how true it is, but it's interesting all the same. I really liked the movie, but it's depressing. It's not one I care to see again, in that respect. I loved All the Kind Strangers, also with Robby Benson and he sings the theme song! :)

Rupert Pupkin said...

JD- I emailed you about those two TVMS man, thanks!

AMANDA-Yeah I was very excited when DYING ROOM ONLY came out through WB Archives. Could finally toss my VHS transfer then. MURDER BY NATURAL CAUSES was recommended to me recently and I loved it. THE WAVE is one my wife turned me onto. I think there might be a listing for it on amazon(it's a DVDR, but its fine) if you're looking for that one. Very interesting stuff about Richie. Hadn't seen that post on imdb. It is indeed a depressing movie. I really feel like Benson does a great job with it though. Really hooks you emotionally with his manic energy. ALL THE KIND STRANGERS is a good one too I agree. Totally forgot about it! I'm a big fan of your blog! Great stuff! The TV Movies are the ones that seem to get forgotten and I think that's mostly cause of the lack of availability for so long. Glad it's turning around though. Saw WB archives has a TV Movies tab now(I think i saw that on your site actually)!

Hal said...

Lots of personal favorites of mine here; DUEL and NATURAL CAUSES would certainly be at the top of my list. I'd also include TRIBES (1970) and MY SWEET CHARLIE (also 1970) in my top 5, with the latter being another Levinson and Link classic adapted from David Westheimer's novel and play, and the former being another terrific effort from Joseph Sargent.

My top 5 would be completed with THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN, arguably Cicely Tyson's finest performance, which is saying a lot.

A favorite guilty pleasure for me is DIARY OF A TEENAGE HITCHHIKER, with Charlene Tilton around to warn us of the perils of thumbing rides. ;)

And one of considerable quality from 1986 that I haven't gotten around to reviewing yet is Curtis Hanson's CHILDREN OF TIMES SQUARE. Haven't seen it in a while, but Hanson wrote and directed this cautionary tale, making it a cut above the usual.

Hal said...

I forgot another favorite, though not quite a "top 10"; DR. COOK'S GARDEN, starring Bing Crosby. Hasn't been aired in years to my knowledge, but like many other made for TV flicks from the early 1970's, is unjustly neglected.

Rupert Pupkin said...

HAL-Great stuff there man! Many I've not heard of and need to check out(especially if you list as some of your favorites)! I need to credit you for turning me on to NATURAL CAUSES I think. Loved it!

Tom said...

Speaking of Bing Crosby (that TV movie sounds very interesting), there was a made for TV movie mystery-comedy that I read about which starred Bob Hope called A Materpiece of Murder. I believe the year was 1986. I don't know if anyone has seen it.


I have to go with Trilogy of Terror.
I remember being a kid when it came out ,and that's all everyone talked about for weeks.
Second movie , or mini series was Roots was what everyone talked about in the day.
Don't get me wrong... Duel was very cool.
Cool post !

Rupert Pupkin said...

TOM- I have to track down A MASTERPIECE OF MURDER. Sounds quite cool!

DS-TRILOGY OF TERROR is pretty great. Need to show it to my son soon. We just watched BAD RONALD a week or so ago. I remember when ROOTS was on tv too. Big deal at the time. Our whole family watched it.

Will Errickson said...

I'm so glad somebody mentioned DR. COOK'S GARDEN! Actually I've never seen it but I remember my mom talking about it when I was kid and it always stuck in my head. I believe Stephen King mentions it in his Danse Macabre. Recently found out it's never been put out on any kind of video or anything. BUT I also learned it was written by Ira Levin, so there ya go. Classic.

Jasper said...

Yes, I have seen the BOB HOPE movie, A MASTERPIECE OF MURDER. (1986) I believe it is the only made-for-TV movie that Bob Hope ever did. Actually, my former late husband's 1955 Chevy convertible was used in the film for Bob's temperamental mode of transportation. We had been contacted by the film industry through the 5-6-7 Chevy Car Club here in B.C. Canada.
In the movie, Bob called the old car "Minerva", which had been temporarily rendered a 'beater' in looks, complete with 'smoke and flames' emitting from various places.(The movie was mostly filmed around the Vancouver B.C. area). Last I saw the film, it was on a VHS tape, however it is not now in my possession. Last I heard, the restored car was in Oregon; perhaps sputtering a wounded psyche for no Emmy nomination. ;)
Yes, the film was kinda silly, but lovable Bob will always be a classic, one-of-a-kind actor.

Jasper said...