Revenge through systematic torment is a great plot for film thrillers. A character’s weaknesses, fears and past regrets make them vulnerable to those who seek retribution for perceived past wrongs. This weeks article focuses on this theme where we will look at two such television films, 1970’s How Awful About Allan and 1972’s When Michael Calls.
How Awful About Allan (1970): Allan Colleigh (Anthony Perkins) accidentally caused a fire which took the life of their renowned academic father and facially scarred his sister, Katherine (Julie Harris). The guilt from this causes Allan to experience a mental breakdown and psychosomatic blindness. Allan was institutionalized at a state mental health facility for eight months, where he partially regained his sight. Everything to him is a blur, but he can make out shapes and see movement. When he returns home to his sister, he finds that in order to keep the house, she has needed to rent out a spare bedroom. Their new tenant is never seen, but Allan begins hearing his name being called in a ghostly whispered voice. This begins to push Allan over the edge and memories of his past trauma experienced at the hands of his father and sister begin to surface. He becomes suspicious of everyone, including his ex-fiance, Olive (Joan Hackett). Is Allan being haunted, or is someone trying to kill him or force him away? Watch and Find Out!
Based on a book of the same name by Henry Farrell, who also wrote the screenplay, this movie has a great cast, with Julie Harris, famed stage, film and television star, giving a nuanced performance of a loving sister who is at her wits end trying to deal with her emotionally unstable brother. Anthony Perkins, best known for his role as Norman Bates in the Psycho film franchise is perfect as the vulnerable young man who is haunted by both his past and present. The story line is interesting and some of the camera work and editing is very well done. The segues between clear picture and Allan’s blurred point of view were expertly done, allowing the thrilling nature of a blind person being tormented to be experienced by the audience. The only real problem I had with the film was the pacing being a bit slow and it wasn’t all that scary. There are some great atmospheric moments that create some temporary tension, and watching Allan’s mental unravelling is fascinating, but the film just moved a bit too slow.
When Michael Calls (1972): Helen Connelly (Elizabeth Ashley) begins receiving phone calls from a child claiming to be Michael, her nephew who died fifteen years earlier when he ran away from home and succumbed to the elements. Helen is separated from her husband, Doremus (Ben Gazzara) who is in town for his visitation rights with their daughter. Michael’s brother, Craig (Michael Douglas) is a counselor at a home for troubled boys. As the calls become more frequent, different characters who had a history with Michael begin turning up dead and a young boy resembling Michael is often spotted at the scene. Doremus begins to suspect that Michael did not die and is taking revenge for the perceived wrongs he believes was accosted on his family. The three main characters all begin to investigate, leading down the path of dark family secrets and mental instability. Could Michael still be alive or is someone else out there taking revenge? You know what to do…Watch and find out!
This may not have had the star power that “Allan” had but was a superior mystery thriller. The pacing was tense with a great rhythm and an interesting story. The performances were all very good and realistic and relatable. The atmosphere was dark and spooky and the storyline intriguing with a lot of possible suspects. This movie was also based on a book by the same name by John Farris with a screenplay written by James Bridges. This film kept me engaged through the entire movie and I have to say, this was one of the best ABC Movies of the Week I have reviewed.
Revenge is a dish best served cold! Both these films feature characters who believe they were wronged and due to some mental instability, believe the best way to handle it is to torment and kill the perpetrators. These films have their strengths and weaknesses and are both worth a watch.
Both movies can be seen on You Tube.
Movie of the Week: Bad Boys – How Awful About Allan and When Michael Calls
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