Thursday, November 28, 2013

Notes for a Retrospective of the Network TV Movie

After a recent discussion on Twitter in which Bilge Ebiri and I agreed that an impressive retrospective could be mounted in celebration of the network TV movies that flourished from the late 60s through the 80s, I thought I'd try my hand at programming said retrospective, with of course no consideration of availability or commerce, and without the opportunity to reconsider decades-old evaluations.

The Pantheon:



John Korty: GO ASK ALICE (72); CLASS OF '63 (73); A DEADLY BUSINESS (86)

John Badham: THE LAW (74)

William Hale: RED ALERT (77); MURDER IN TEXAS (81)

Joseph Sargent: GOLDENGIRL (revised 3-hour version) (79); AMBER WAVES (80)

Subjects for Further Research:

Richard Colla: THE OTHER MAN (70)

Fringe Benefits:

Don Siegel: STRANGER ON THE RUN (67)

George Cukor: LOVE AMONG THE RUINS (75)

George Armitage: HOT ROD (79)

Abel Ferrara: CRIME STORY (86)

William Friedkin: C.A.T SQUAD: PYTHON WOLF (88)

Because the interest of such a grouping is the specific cultural and functional context into which the movies were delivered, I've omitted PBS productions (THE MUSIC SCHOOL [John Korty, 74]; BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR [Joan Micklin Silver, 77]), episodic TV (ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS: ENOUGH ROPE FOR TWO [David Chase, 86]; THE SOPRANOS first episode [David Chase, 99]), cable TV movies (PARIS TROUT [Stephen Gyllenhaal, 91]; THE WRONG MAN [Jim McBride, 93]; PRONTO [Jim McBride, 97]), and even movies broadcast outside the major networks (BLOOD TIES [Jim McBride, 91]), not to mention all TV work in countries other than the US.


mr. pink said...

Really, you could narrow this just to Lamont Johnson, whose work (often with the excellent writing team of Levinson & Link) pretty much set the bar for the medium during this period: OFF THE MINNESOTA STRIP, THE EXECUTION OF PRIVATE SLOVIK, FEAR ON TRIAL, THAT CERTAIN SUMMER, CRISIS AT CENTRAL HIGH, et al.

You could also narrow it to a COLUMBO retro. Not only were the episodes feature-length, the list of directors reads like an auteurist case study even beyond Spielberg and Demme: Richard Quine, James Frawley, Jack Smight, Jeremy Kagan, Ted Post, Harvey Hart, Daryl Duke — even supposedly an uncredited Cassavetes.

Don't see how you can do a TV-movie retro without Spielberg's DUEL and SOMETHING EVIL.

Anonymous said...

Dan, I'm curious how many of these you're recalling from their original air dates (or re-runs from the same period) versus those that you first saw or have subsequently rewatched on video. Some of these were never released on home video.

Also, this is the first I've heard of a 3-hour (!) version of GOLDENGIRL—when/where was that broadcast?

Dan Sallitt said...

Yeah, almost all of these I watched at the time, either as they were broadcast or as they were recycled on broadcast TV. I saw Crime Story in a theater, but never saw any of these on home video.

That TV edition of Goldengirl seems to have been forgotten by film history. But I saw it on January 8, 1981, as it was broadcast. The shorter (and inferior, I think) theatrical version, which is all that we can see now, was released in 1979.

Dan Sallitt said...

An internet search for the title and broadcast date returns TV listings from a few cities which show that Goldengirl was broadcast on NBC between 8 and 11 pm.