ABC Movie of the Week
A group of vacationers begin to suspect that their perfect tropical getaway, may not be such a paradise after all.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, before there was cable and streaming services, television viewers had only three national networks to choose from. NBC, CBS and ABC. The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) was continually rated a distant third compared to the other two. At the time, movie studios looked at television as a threat as it could steal their audience, so they charged very high fees to show recently released theatrical movies. Television studios began developing their own feature length films. In September of 1969, the ABC Movie of the Week premiered catapulting ABC’s ratings and making them a main competitor to NBC and CBS. The films varied in quality and casts and were often in the thriller and horror genre. Some were critically acclaimed and the film, Brian’s Song, garnered four Emmys, a Peabody award, and a Grammy Award (as well as several lesser-known awards and citations). The first movie we will look at in this new Comic-Watch series is an episode from 1972 titled Haunts of the Very Rich.
A group of unrelated wealthy vacationers travel to a secret tropical hideaway called “The Portals of Eden”. Each person has their own reason for the trip and their rooms have been specifically designed just for them. Dave Woodrough (Lloyd Bridges) wants to run a little wild as he is stuck in a stifling marriage to a wife who refuses to let him go. Ellen Blunt (Cloris Leachman) wants to be pampered and made to feel beautiful, Annette Larrier (Anne Francis) just needs a break from her hectic and busy life after having a mental breakdown, Lyle and Laurie Dugan (Tony Bill and Donna Mills) are newlyweds, Rev. John Fellows (Robert Reed) is a priest who has lost his faith and hopes to find it again by meeting with a local Indian tribe, Al Hunsicker (Edward Asner) believes he got on the wrong plane as he is supposed to have a very important business meeting in Dallas. Their host on the island is Seacrist (Moses Gunn). At first, everything is perfect, but their first night there, the island is struck by a tropical storm, knocking out power and communications and jeopardizing their water and food supply. The group is continually given hope, only to have hope yanked away each time. Dave and Ellen, who begin to fall in love, realize that each of the guests have some secrets of their own.
I was very young with this originally came out, but I don’t remember catching it in repeats either, but I enjoyed watching it now. The cast was well known at the time with the leads all being stars of the stage and screen (both big and small). There are great dynamics between the characters as their situation keeps worsening and their lives begin to spiral. This really doesn’t fall into the horror genre, but more a psychological thriller equivalent to some of the old Night Gallery or Twilight Zone episodes. The production does touch on some great themes, like racism, mental health, monogamy, and faith, but these are all subtly woven into the story. The story flows well and has a good rhythm and is well written with some great dialogue between the characters. I particularly liked Robert Reed’s character’s explanation of what is happening to them, the stripping of all of life’s illusions only to see the stark reality of truth, and Cloris Leachman’s definition of Hell as being continually given hope, only to have it ripped away leaving you more devastated each time. Overall, this is just a fun little movie from the early 1970s staring some of the biggest television stars of its time.
Haunts of the Very Rich is a great example of the well done and fun movies that premiered on ABCs Movie of the Week
ABC Movie of the Week: Haunts of the Very Rich
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 8/108/10
- Production - 9/109/10