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Monday, January 22, 2018

Spectre (1977)



Made for T.V. mayhem continues with this movie from 1977. Like The Ghost of Flight 401 this was also made for NBC and has another batch of familiar faces both in front of and behind the camera. Though instead of being a stand-alone movie this was meant to be a lead in for a series that never happened.

Cool ad trying to get the show on the schedule
Robert Culp stars as William Sebastian, a brilliant criminologist, and apparently a huge jerk. His former friend, Dr. Hamilton, comes to Sebastian’s home at his request. This is in spite of them having a falling out. I did mention that Sebastian is a jerk, didn’t I? When he arrives, Sebastian tells him that he has figured out why there are so many random acts of crime. Evil exists, specifically a supernatural force and he has been fighting it! Along the way he picked up a voodoo curse that is slowly attacking his heart and killing him. He wants Dr. Hamilton to join him on his latest investigation so that he can be there in case he needs a doctor to treat his condition. Hamilton reluctantly joins him and together they head off to England at the behest of the Cyon family. The only daughter thinks her older brother has been corrupted by evil and she wants Sebastian’s help to save him. Something must be up because before they even arrive it becomes clear that something or someone is trying to prevent them from helping.

The pacing of the movie is slow. Spectre takes its time establishing the characters and the world in which the story is taking place. Sebastian is an arrogant jerk and he doesn’t care. There is a real Holmes and Watson vibe between our main characters. In much the same way that Holmes is confident of his abilities so is Sebastian. It seems like he even takes some pleasure in keeping his allies in the dark as to what he is planning. This is reinforced in the climax of the movie when it does a bit of a switcheroo on the audience. Though I was expecting it. I mean they did want this to be a continuing series so you knew things couldn’t end too poorly for the characters.

I have never seen this one before. Considering some of the content it doesn’t surprise me that my parents vetoed it. The main characters are doing battle with demons, specifically Azmodeus and his minions. The first one that they meet up with is a succubus sent to tempt Sebastian before they even leave the States. This is a common theme throughout as we find the elder Cyon brother surrounded by beautiful and willing young ladies. Heck even Dr. Hamilton wakes up surrounded by temptation! I was shocked by how risqué this was for the mid ‘70s. I’ve seen a lot of television from that decade and this was pushing the envelope.

Robert Culp rules. We will see him again...
While I’m on the subject of beautiful ladies and naughty stuff let me give you a bit of warning. The copy that is floating around is from the European print of the movie. After the series wasn’t picked up NBC packaged this as a theatrical release overseas. When they did that they added a few brief nude scenes to spice things up. Pretty tame by today’s standards but I thought I’d warn you anyway.

Finally, I wanted to talk about the cast and crew. Robert Culp is great as Sebastian playing him with just the right about of arrogance and charm. He is a jerk, but you still like him. Gig Young is good as Dr. Hamilton but the circumstances surrounding his real life future wife’s (whom he met on the set of Spectre) death makes me a bit uncomfortable praising him too much. The youngest Cyon brother is played by the late great John Hurt. Majel Barett is Sebastian’s mysterious housekeeper. Not a surprise that she is in this considering her future husband Gene Roddenberry wrote the script. Finally, I was surprised about another name on the credits. Associate producer Danny Steinmann! Yeah that guy worked on the movie. I’d like to think that is why it has such a sleazy feel to the proceedings.

This one might not be for everybody. It does a slow burn before things start to happen. Personally, I like the characters and Roddenberry has written some killer dialogue to set the scene for what happens later. He also does an amazing job creating the universe where these characters live and do battle. Sadly, we will never get to see any more of it. On a brighter note I linked to the YouTube channel with the version of the movie that I watched for this review. Cheers!



© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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