The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #485: Baffled!
Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never had a psychic vision because psychic visions and psychics in general are bullshit, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and eighty-five, I take a look at the failed TV pilot turned low rated TV movie-of-the-week turned modern weird beard cult favorite Baffled!, which first hit the world way back in 1972.
Baffled!, directed by Phillip Leacock, is something I first heard about via a news report (it may have been on Nightline or 20/20 or one of those shows. I can’t remember exactly) about failed TV pilots. The report started off talking about a failed TV thing Jack Black did called Heat Vision and Jack that, despite its failure to be an ongoing TV show, somehow had gained a cult following, which then led to a montage of other failed TV pilots that had garnered a bit of notoriety. Baffled! was part of the montage, as it had Commander Spock hisself, Leonard Nimoy, in it, and he was playing a race car driver that solved mysteries or some bullshit like that. The premise of it sounded awesome, but, at that time, there was no legal way that I knew of to see it. It wasn’t on home video and it was never on TV. How the hell was I going to see this? In late 2017, the fine folks at Scorpion Releasing and Kino Lorber put it on DVD. I didn’t know about that release at the time, so I didn’t purchase it (and I still haven’t. I think I’m going to have to rectify that soon). However, Baffled! did recently appear on the TV channel Comet, where I finally caught it. Was it worth the wait?
Yes, I think so. Baffled! isn’t a great movie, but it is an interesting bit of early 1970’s weirdness that showed great promise for a TV series. Of course, that’s in extreme hindsight now. Back in the early 1970’s, the people running television saw things very differently.
Baffled! stars Leonard Nimoy as Tom Kovack, a badass 1970’s Indycar driver (the United States Auto Club sanctioned the series back then) who, while leading a major road race in Pennsylvania, has sudden visions of two women, a big ass house in England, and someone dying. The visions cause Kovack to spin out and hit the wall. Freaked out by the visions, Kovack has no idea why he had them or who the hell the two women in the visions were. While doing a TV interview, an ESP expert named Michele Brent (Susan Hampshire) recognizes Kovack’s symptoms and suspects that what he experienced will likely really happen soon. She contacts Kovack at his home in New York City and talks to him about what happened. Kovack would like to know what happened, sure, but he doesn’t believe in the paranormal or supernatural and believes there’s a rational explanation for what happened. Kovack would much rather hit on Michele and try to bang her (Kovack actually calls her a “great looking chick” right to her face).
So, after having Kovack sketch out the big ass house he saw and then recognizing it from a book she took out of a local library, Michele leaves Kovack’s apartment, as she has other business to attend to in the city, and Kovack tries to get on with his life and prepare for his next race. While getting ready to take a shower, Kovack once again experiences an overwhelming series of visions about that big ass house in England and the people there and falls off a cliff into the ocean. Kovack then wakes up on the floor in his apartment and he’s completely soaked. How the hell did that happen? Kovack freaks out, calls Michele for help understanding all of this shit, and they both go to England to find out why Kovack keeps seeing that big ass house.
Now, while all of that is going on, the two women that Kovack sees in England actually go to England. They’re movie star Andrea Glenn (Vera Miles) and her daughter Jennifer (Jewel Blanch). They’re headed to a manor house called Windham to meet Jennifer’s father, a guy that’s been out of both of their lives for years. When they get to Windham, Jennifer’s father is nowhere to be seen. They talk with Louise Sanford (Valerie Taylor), an old woman in a wheelchair who seems to know everything about everyone in town. Sanford doesn’t have the information Andrea needs, though, so Andrea and Jennifer head back to the manor house to wait for the father to return.
So Kovack and Michele arrive in England and head for the Windham manor house so they can continue to investigate what the hell is going on. They meet with the weird manor house manager Mrs. Farraday (Rachel Roberts) and start poking around. They talk with the other guests, they walk around the grounds, and they talk out what they know and what they don’t know. What they don’t know is quite a bit. What they do know is very little. The investigation continues.
And it’s at this point that we find out that Jennifer has already met her father, or at least a guy claiming to be her father (Parrish, as played by Mike Murray). We also find out that Andrea and Jennifer coming to England had nothing to do with a family reunion. No, instead, something else is afoot, something sinister, something evil.
Evil? Is that what the wolf’s head medallion thing is that Parrish gives to Jennifer? The embodiment of evil? And is that why Jennifer suddenly becomes “older” right before our eyes, changing her wardrobe to something more hip and edgy? Is that why Jennifer completely disavows her stuffed kangaroo?
Kovack and Michele intend to find out.
The first quarter or so of Baffled! is pretty damn good. There’s a real sense of mystery about Kovack’s visions and what the heck is going on. There’s also that awesome race car footage which is just beautiful to watch. Once the story gets to England, though, and everyone arrives at the Windham manor house, the story slows to a crawl and the plot isn’t that engaging. The back and forth Kovack and Michele share is interesting, but there isn’t enough of it to sustain the story. There’s also way too much tracking down leads that go nowhere. Yes, that’s what real life investigators do, but a movie like Baffled! needs to get going quickly and then never let up. Why do we need to investigate a couple from a pharmaceutical company or an Italian guy that may or may not be a butcher? Why is any of that important?
There’s also a real question as to what the hell Parrish is up to. Why does he turn his daughter evil? Why is that important? Michele, at the end of the movie, suggests that Jennifer has great power that Parrish wants to exploit, but it’s never explained what that power is. Is Jennifer a psychic, too? Does she have telekinetic powers? Cans she shoot laser beams out of her eyes? The movie doesn’t say. In fact, no one besides Michele ever says Jennifer has a power or a gift or anything else. I actually thought that Jennifer’s evil turn was related to Farraday’s youthfulness. See, Farraday is an older woman, but manor guests keep saying that she looks good and younger than she is, and none of that happens until after Jennifer starts wearing the pendant. But then why would Parrish want to do that? Does Parrish work for Farraday?
Yeah, I’m confused. I really don’t know what the hell is going on. I’m just going to assume that because director Leacock and writer Theodore Apstein needed to fill up ninety minutes they threw in everything they could to stretch things out. And since the movie is a low budget TV movie affair, it’s not like the production had tons of money to spend on car chases and explosions and shit. Whatever money the production had for that stuff was blown on the Indycar stuff. There is a nifty car chase in the middle of the movie where Kovack has to chase down a van in a sweet looking roadster type car from 1927 (Michele is kidnapped by the guy in the van for some reason). There’s also a nice cat and mouse chase deal that has Kovack and Michele trapped under an elevator. And, of course, there are multiple scenes of people falling off a ledge and into the ocean. But that’s about all of the action Baffled! has to offer. That would have been awesome to see in an hour long show. A ninety-minute show, though? They’re exciting, but the movie needed more of that kind of thing.
Leonard Nimoy does a great job as Kovack. He’s believable as a 1970’s race car driver (you know, in a movie context, not in real life) and he’s smooth as fuck as the guy in New York City who is just looking for a hot babe to bang. Nimoy also sells the big psychic vision scenes he has to do. He has no idea what’s going on, either. He has excellent chemistry with co-star Susan Hampshire, and I would have loved to see them in an actual series, solving crimes and mysteries and shit every week. That would have been a hoot.
Susan Hampshire also does a great job as Michele Brent, the ESP expert that believes Kovack’s visions are real. She helps guide Kovack through each clue and provides perfect backup for the race car driver turned detective. It would have been interesting to see how her character would have developed in a weekly TV show context. Who else does she know that has super abilities and whatnot, and what are those abilities?
Vera Miles does a fine job as the somewhat oblivious mother and movie star Andrea Glenn. She suspects that something is up regarding her daughter and her long lost father, but she can’t put the pieces together. And when Jennifer “grows up” before her eyes she has no idea how to handle it. She then gets poisoned and spends quite a bit of time in bed. Jewel Blanch puts in a bizarre performance as Jennifer. Her development into a sort of hip and sullen 1970’s teenager isn’t as interesting as the movie wants you to believe it is. She might have been more interesting if we knew what that wolf’s head pendant was all about earlier. Still, she did what she could with what she was given.
Rachel Roberts is creepy as hell as Mrs. Farraday. She’s always smiling and friendly and yet, even before all of the wolf’s head pendant shit starts, you just know that she’s evil/up to something. You just don’t know what she’s up to or why she’s evil. That scene where she’s playing the instrument (I don’t know what the instrument is called) will give you goosebumps. And those goosebumps will return when she claims, later on in the movie, that she doesn’t know how to play an instrument and the manor house doesn’t have any musical instruments in it.
And then there’s Christopher Benjamin as Verelli, the Italian guy who might be a butcher and a poisons expert. Or something. Verelli is a stereotypical Italian character but Benjamin commits to it and makes him interesting instead of offensive. He’s also kind of funny. That’s always a good thing.
Baffled!, despite its massive problems, is still fun and entertaining and worth tracking down and seeing. It’s weird, it’s bizarre, and it’s something that I wish had been made into a series back in the 1970’s. It also would have been cool to see it as a series of movies (it did play in movie theaters in Europe). What other sort of mysteries would race car driver turned psychic detective Tom Kovack have gotten involved in? Michele, too.
See Baffled!. See it, see it, see it.
So what do we have here?
Dead bodies : Maybe 1. Maybe.
Explosions : None.
Nudity? : None. It’s a 1970’s TV movie.
Doobage : 1970’s Indycar action, a total lack of two-way radios, multiple psychic visions, TV show hooey, attempted hanky panky, people going to England, New York City hooey, more psychic visions, falling off a balcony and crashing into the water below, a kangaroo stuffed animal, driving on the streets of London, an old woman in a wheelchair, a wax seal with a wolf’s head, elevators hooey, old books, luggage, a big deal roast beef dinner, knife sharpening, a wolf’s head pendant, musical instrument hooey, a big change, wine spilling, poison, a greenhouse, pharmaceutical bullshit, cat and mouse in the dark, more falling off a cliff into the water below, kidnaping, a car chase, a hidden door, wine cellar hooey, 2 x 4 hooey, even more psychic visions, pendant breaking, a fist fight, table throwing, a fake face, even more falling off a cliff into the water below, and the promise of more adventures to come and mysteries to solve but, obviously, that didn’t happen.
Kim Richards? : None, although you could probably argue that there’s an undercurrent of it towards the end of the movie, considering what happens.
Gratuitous : Leonard Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy as an Indycar driver in the 1970’s, multiple instances of rear projection driving, Leonard Nimoy dying and then coming back to life, Leonard Nimoy claiming he knows Mario Andretti, Leonard Nimoy talking about martinis, Leonard Nimoy always referring to himself by his character’s last name, Leonard Nimoy admitting that he sometimes walks under ladders, Leonard Nimoy saying “great looking chick,” Leonard Nimoy listening to the radio, Leonard Nimoy running in slow motion, Leonard Nimoy claiming to be scared of elevators, proper table manners, a 1927 Bentley, Walla Walla, multiple people reading The Guardian newspaper, a big discussion about wine from 1927, people constantly falling off a cliff and into the water below, Italian shit, a life story, a big reveal, and Leonard Nimoy revealing his middle name.
Best lines : “What’s the matter with Webber? He almost went off the road in turn four!,” “Well, this is one Kovacs couldn’t walk away from. Except he will,” “I was born in Ohio. In a little town called Oskeegen,” “My art teacher said I showed great promise. To be a mechanic,” “It’s absolutely fantastic,” “Well, I’m surprised you didn’t already reserve the rooms!,” “There are evil forces there and we can be too careful,” “But where is my father?,” “Kovack. That’s a Polish name?,” “The woman! The girl! The elevator! They’re all here!,” “Did you find Jennifer?,” “Just a mirror and a candle,” “You’re losing your sense of humor, mother,” “It took me three years to get from 12 to 15,” “How can I refocus an image I can’t see anymore?,” “Somebody’s going to be drinking out of that red glass!,” “She is a little… weird,” “This is me. Mother,” “You do look ill!,” “I’m sorry I was late. I was detained by suspicion,” “Whoever said jolly England?,” “I suppose Duncan Sanford could be the evil force,” “You’re out of breath Verelli? Where have you been?,” “You were right, Michele. It always comes back to Jennifer,” “Is there anything to hold onto? Faith,” “Open says a me. What was that? Can’t hurt,” “Any time you need a guy to wrestle with an old lady, give me a call,” and “Michele, we’re leaving for Paris.”
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Things to Watch Out For This Week
Luciferina : This new horror flick comes to us from Argentina and the the fine folks at Artsploitation Films. I’ll be doing a review of it soon, although, at the moment of me writing this I haven’t had a chance to watch the whole thing yet. From what I’ve seen it’s all about a group of young people going into the jungle/woods with good intentions for some reason, and when they get there bad stuff starts to happen. The bad stuff, in this case, appears to be some sort of Satanic/devil worshipping evil hooey and not cannibalism, which seems like a neat twist on this kind of story. It looks incredibly messed up, and, man, I can’t wait to see the whole thing.
The Domestics : This appears to be some sort of low budget post-apocalyptic deal where America descends into a mass of gangs or some bullshit like that. The look of the movie, based on the trailer, is slick and kind of nasty. Kate Bosworth stars and the great Lance Reddick is also in it. I’m kind of surprised that this isn’t a zombie movie. Anyone out there see this in a movie theatre or on demand earlier this year? Anyone at all?
High Voltage : David Arquette and Luke Wilson appear in this sort of low budget horror/superhero movie thing about a female musician, played by Allie Gonino, who is struck by lightning and develops weird powers as a result. Originally called Hollow Body, this looks like it could be kind of cool. Maybe. Low budget movies featuring music and musicians can be real hit and miss, and I think this should be a rental first. It also looks like Arquette has a bigger part to play than Wilson, which is another hit and miss proposition. They’re both stars and good actors and whatnot, but how often is Arquette better than Wilson? Exactly.
Candyman Collector’s Edition : The fine folks at Shout! Factory/Scream Factory are behind this particular release, which means that the home video presentation is going to be fabulous and worth the expense. And it’s great that the movie is a modern classic, with Virginia Madsen putting in one of her best performances and the great Tony Todd obtaining his horror icon status. I remember renting this back when it first hit home video, thinking it was a slasher movie and being disappointed that it wasn’t. Yes, the movie contains a few slasher movie elements, but it’s more of a weird killer ghost story than anything else. The whole bees thing still freaks me out. A definite must buy, and a sign that, one of these days, I need to do a Candyman marathon.
Ugly Sweater Party : This is another new low budget horror flick that I will have a review of fairly soon, a Christmas themed flick about a bunch of people who have a big hooha party in the woods on Christmas Eve. A partygoer shows up with an evil ugly Christmas sweater that somehow turns someone into a killer, and then the body count begins. Or something like that. It looks hilarious, and the great Felissa Rose and Sean Whalen are in it, so that’s a plus. I’m surprised we haven’t had several movies about evil Christmas sweaters. You’d think that, by now, it would be its own subgenre. Ugly Sweater Party will be available exclusively on Amazon Instant Video starting November 23rd, 2018.
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The Big Question: What will be shown during “Joe Bob’s Dinners of Death” on Shudder?
This Thanksgiving night, Joe Bob Briggs returns to Shudder for a four movie marathon called “Dinners of Death.” It’s the first of two holiday marathons that Joe Bob will be doing this year (he’s doing a Christmas one on December 21st) before he starts doing another weekly show of some sort starting in March 2019. So, the big questions going into “Dinners of Death” is what the heck will Joe Bob be showing?
We don’t know. Just like The Last Drive-In this past July, Joe Bob and Shudder have been tight lipped about what movies will be part of the marathon. Joe Bob has sort of hinted that one of the movies will be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but I thought that was a lock for The Last Drive-In and it didn’t happen. Still, I’ve heard Joe Bob say that Chain Saw is the greatest movie ever made and his favorite horror movie, so I would think that a marathon featuring movies with great dinner scenes would have to have The Texas Chain Saw Massacre part of it. Plus, Joe Bob has never hosted Chain Saw on TV, so Chain Saw seems like a lock. But what the heck else will be shown?
Well, I would think that Joe Bob will have at least one jungle cannibal movie, Cannibal Ferox or Cannibal Holocaust. Shudder still has them. Perhaps I Drink Your Blood will be a part of it, too. That seems kind of obvious, too. But what else could show up?
I mean, it’s possible that Shudder hasn’t loaded movies it intends to show onto the site yet. There are plenty of other cannibal movies out there. I don’t know what they are, exactly, but I know they’re out there. And there are likely movies that Shudder has access to that aren’t necessarily cannibal movies but feature people eating stuff and whatnot.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and a cannibal movie will likely be a part of it. Those are my picks. But, again, what else could show up? Unfortunately, I won’t be able to watch the marathon live, but I will, obviously, be checking it out on demand at some point. Eventhough I can’t watch it live, I’m still very excited for the return of Joe Bob. Again. It’s going to be awesome, no doubt.
Who will be watching “Dinners of Death,” and what do you think Joe Bob and Shudder will show?
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Next Issue: Beyond Skyline starring Frank Grillo and Iko Uwais!
B-movies rule. Always remember that.
Happy Thanksgiving! Baffled!
Leonard Nimoy – Tom Kovack Susan Hampshire – Michele Brent Rachel Roberts – Mrs. Farraday Vera Miles – Andrea Glenn Jewel Blanch – Jennifer Glenn Valerie Taylor – Louise Sanford Christopher Benjamin – Verelli Mike Murray – Parrish Directed by Philip Leacock Screenplay by Theodore Apstein Distributed by the National Broadcasting Company, CBS/Fox Video, and Scorpion Releasing and Kino Lorber Not Rated Runtime – 90 minutes
Leonard Nimoy – Tom Kovack
Susan Hampshire – Michele Brent
Rachel Roberts – Mrs. Farraday
Vera Miles – Andrea Glenn
Jewel Blanch – Jennifer Glenn
Valerie Taylor – Louise Sanford
Christopher Benjamin – Verelli
Mike Murray – Parrish
Directed by Philip Leacock
Screenplay by Theodore Apstein
Distributed by the National Broadcasting Company, CBS/Fox Video, and Scorpion Releasing and Kino Lorber
Runtime – 90 minutes
Source : https://411mania.com/movies/the-gratuitous-b-movie-column-baffled/