Sunday, October 31, 2010


Unable to provide you with proposed posts about either PROM NIGHT or HALLOWEEN 2, please accept this previously aired post as my Halloween treat to you.
Let's say Roman Polanski decided to cast TV's lovely Barbara Eden (I DREAM OF JEANNIE, HARPER VALLEY PTA) in ROSEMARY'S BABY instead of Mia Farrow (PEYTON PLACE). Then let's say Polanski forgot EVERYTHING he ever knew about filmmaking...the result would be a 1974 ABC Movie of the Week called THE STRANGER WITHIN.
This rediscovered camp classic comes to us via the WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION.
Written by Richard Matheson (THE NIGHT STALKER) and directed by Lee Phillips (THE WALTONS), THE STRANGER WITHIN is a thriller devoid of any thrills. This is the story of Ann Collins (Eden) and her grizzled husband David (the appropriately named George Grizzard), a California couple living somewhere near Lake Hollywood before Madonna moved in and ruined the neighborhood.
Ann is a stay-at-home artist who is blue because she has missed her period and had "trouble" with a pregnancy a few years back.
Perhaps something to do with an astronaut and a purple bottle with throws pillows in it? David is not amused because he went under the vasectomist's knife three years earlier - so the future rugrat cannot be his!
Here is where we see the first of many repeated closeups of a bronze phallic clock with an axe aimed right at the said phallus. Ann swears up and down that she's been faithful, but David doesn't believe her.
He takes her to an abortion doctor (recommended by Dr. Bellows?).
This doc is clearly so popular in sinful Hollywood that he has TWO telephones! Ann decides to go all "pro life" on our asses and keep the baby. David is not amused.
Their marriage begins to crumble, as Ann becomes obsessed with the baby. And starts exhibiting strange behavior. And because it's 1974 (the year after THE EXORCIST), we naturally believe that Satan is the papa.
Ann's best friend Phyllis (Joyce Van Patten) thinks something's fishy and convinces her husband Bob (played by CHARLIE'S ANGELS' creepy sidekick "Bosley", David Doyle) to hypnotize Ann.
A hypnotist isn't exactly a priest but we'll go along with it. Ann then learns that her pregnancy is even further along that she originally thought. What a total slut!
What would Major Healey say? Soon poor pregnant Ann begins experiencing wild mood swings and hot flashes.
You'll pee yourself when she declares "I'm sorry I've been acting so terribly". That's okay Babs, we're used to it.
 After that admission, Ann puts herself on a high-sodium and caffeine diet.
She starts covering all her foood with salt... and begins downing cups, then whole POTS of scalding hot black coffee like a swing shift hooker at an all-night truck stop.
Then when we think things can't get any crazier, Ann goes all Evelyn Wood and starts speed-reading just about any book she can get her hands on.
She also begins going galavanting in the Hollywood Hills at night, returning to her avocado, yellow and brown home all scratched up. Cat fights with Julie Newmar perhaps?
Without explanation her wounds begin to heal, causing Ann to believe that her unborn child is a gift from God. Ummm... right.
Or maybe it's a genie?
Before you know it, Ann begins speaking in tongues (an acting tour de force for Ms. Eden!)...
and starts preparing exotic gourmet meals like pigs feet and guts. (Pipchicks for dessert?)
 Then things turn real dark as she pulls a knife on her husband!!!
Bob/Bosley puts her under hypnosis again and just when we think we are gonna find out who the devilish baby daddy is...we learn the real truth about THE STRANGER WITHIN!!!
SUPER RIDICULOUS SPOILER ALERT: Ann is NOT pregnant with the child of Satan. She was impregnated by an extraterrestrial being...or maybe Michael Jackson. Tests soon reveal that the fetus has not one, but two healthy heartbeats!
Ann flees her home and prematurely gives birth in the woods. No room at the inn?
The next morning, she is revealed to have given birth to a healthy baby boy...but she's not alone!
She is just one of many women who have been going through the exact same thing! It's The Sisterhood of the Traveling Spaceship!
Meanwhile, David discovers the a painting that Ann has been working on. It was her blue period after all.
Creepy! Kinda, sorta. But mostly very, very funny. THE STRANGER WITHIN gets a glowing 8 outta 10 because watching Barbara Eden pour salt on food and drink gallons of coffee is a million times more entertaining than THE HURT LOCKER will ever be. And that's how I see things.


Pax Romano said...

I remember this one - God Bless the ABC Movie of the Week

Denny DelVecchio said...

I think it's high time for a Lifetime Network remake.

Perhaps with Daphne Zuniga front and center?

BTW...very much don't hate the site. I may add you to my links.

Denny DelVecchio

Ookie said...

To me, this movie represents (in a bad way) the mid-1970s trend of long, drawn out psychological thrillers. They imply a fantasy element, but you never get to see any special effects or costumes until the final minute of the film (if at all.) The Stepford Wives was good, because it really got you thinking.
Eden was in the made-for-TV Stepford Children in 1987, but I haven't seen it.
Doug, why don't you so a retrospective on the Stepford films?