THE STRANGE AND DEADLY OCCURRENCE (1974)
Article 3978 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring Robert Stack, Vera Miles, L.Q. Jones
What it is: Spooky house story
A family undergoes a number of strange events after they move into an isolated house. Is the place haunted, or is someone trying to scare them off?
I remember reading an analysis of the movie FREAKS once that made the observation that there was something rather absurd about the concept of Prince Randian, the living torso taking part in a chase with a knife clutched in his teeth, but that the absurdity did not detract from the creepiness of the sight. The same could be said about what appears to be the horrific highlight in this one in which a dressmaker’s dummy attacks the teenage daughter; it is an unsettling visual, even though the worst the dummy could probably really do is fall on top of her. It’s certainly scarier than any of the other attempted scares in this movie, especially those that attempt to make gophers(!) scary creatures of evil. Unfortunately, even the dummy scene didn’t really compensate for the fact that I found the movie painfully predictable; once the creepy doctor shows up, I knew the true nature of the hauntings, and once I knew where the doctor practiced, I knew the underlying reason. The trouble is, I don’t think the movie wanted you to figure it out that early. In the end, I think the movie would have worked better if those in charge had decided to play it like a thriller rather than a horror story. The movie does have its fans, of course, but for me, if fell flat.
What I took away from this well regarded TV movie was the vision of 45 year old Vera Miles sporting a nice bikini figure, quite unexpected and definitely worth the price of admission.