Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Wild Eye Releasing

Director: John Newland
Wild Eye Releasing

The 1970s was a very special time for a number of reasons, and for those would check the TV schedules for anything remotely spooky, the offerings were endless. Along with the onslaught of classic horror and sci-fi pictures aired on weekend afternoons and at all hours of the night, prime-time terror-filled TV movies were at their peek during the decade, mostly due to the enormous success of Dan Curtis' production of THE NIGHT STALKER. It seems that almost any 1970s telefilm which is supernatural or macabre in nature has gained an audience, mainly by those who saw them as a tyke and had the bejesus scared out of them ever since. Wild Eye Releasing has just released two rarities -- THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER and CRAWLSPACE -- which not only fit the 1970s terror telefilm category, but are definitely worthy of being rescued from obscurity.

THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER (1973) concerns young and pretty Diane Shaw (Belinda J. Montgomery) whose mother (Diane Ladd in old-age make-up and billed as "Diane Lad") was a member of a satanic cult. It seems mom made a deal with the cult, offering her daughter to The Devil when she became 21, but after attempting to back out of the deal, she's shot to death in her own apartment. Unaware of all the devilish shenanigans, Diane is greeted by fellow mourner Lilith Malone (Shelley Winters) at her mother's funeral, as the woman purports to be a family friend and invites her to stay at her home. At first, Diane feels safe in the house but soon discovers some odd factors relating to her late mother's involvement with the cult, and the seemingly sweet and caring Lilith freaks out when Diane goes out on her own to move in with a same-age roommate. Strange things then happen to those around Diane, who in turn puts her foot down to Lilith and her odd, aging bunch of eccentrics when they interfere with her plans to marry her neighbor (Robert Foxworth, sporting a "Mike Brady" perm), but alas, The Devil might have the last laugh.

THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER was obviously meant to cash in on the then-recent exploits of ROSEMARY'S BABY, even showcasing several sequences lifted directly from Polanski's highly regarded masterpiece. But it's still one of the better horror TV movies you've never seen. French-born Jeannot Szwarc (who helmed a number of "Night Gallery" episodes, and would later direct William Castle's BUG and box office turds like SUPERGIRL and SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE) elevates things above the boob tube level with some marvelously set-up camera shots, and a nice level of tension from beginning to end. It was also wise to have Diane realize she's in the presence of Devil worshipers early on in the film (as horror fans were well seasoned even by 1973), but there are still some surprising twists which tie everything together during the climax.

It's interesting to see the kind of cast that could be assembled for what is basically a shoestring production meant to fill out a 90-minute prime time slot. Shelley Winters had just been in WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? and WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO?, so the casting of her here is no surprise, and she proves to be a superb character actress as usual. Diane Ladd's part is basically a cameo, but instrumental to the opening sequence, which brings on a surprisingly (for the early 1970s TV) bloody gun shot. As an aging judge, Joseph Cotten also adds to his roster of horror-related roles, as he had just been in THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, LADY FRANKENSTEIN and Mario Bava's BARON BLOOD. Abe Vigoda brings on some unintentional laughs (when doesn't he?) as a cult member with a supposed Mexican accent, and veteran actresses Lucille Benson (wonderful in Paul Bartel's PRIVATE PARTS) and Thelma Carpenter play an eccentric pair of sisters (who happen to be different colors) who dress alike and wig out poor Diane. As a kindly priest, Ian Wolfe is another familiar face you've seen in dozens of films and TV shows, and his career goes all the way back to several classic horror films of the 1930s. The most ingenious bit of casting (and much of the reason this film has been sought after through the years) is "Dark Shadows" alumni Jonathan Frid as Lilith's mute chauffeur, Mr. Howard. An undeniable cult figure, Frid does a good job of executing his sympathetic character through facial expressions, and since "Dark Shadows" had just recently ended its long day-time run, there's still a twinkle of 'ol Barnabas Collins left in him.

CRAWLSPACE, a CBS telefilm first broadcast in 1972, has aging retirees Albert Graves (Arthur Kennedy) and Alice Graves (Teresa Wright) living a peaceful, secluded life in the country. Visiting their home to fix a heater, a young man named Richard (Tom Happer) is invited to sit for dinner, but overstays his welcome when he deserts his job and moves into the couple's basement crawlspace, which is directly below their kitchen. Not having any children of their own, the couple is very receptive to having him as a temporary houseguest, feeding and clothing him, and he eventually comes out of his cramped shelter to do chores and even join them (garbed in a brand new suit) for Christmas dinner. Richard is sent to run an errand at a grocery store, but his disturbed, edgy impulses come to the forefront and the Graves's soon realize they have a troubled individual on their hands.

More of a tense drama than a horror film, CRAWLSPACE is nonetheless a rewarding little film and if you haven’t seen it, I wouldn’t want to give too much away. Director John Newland (DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK) sets a nice tone of seclusion, with an atmospheric snowy Connecticut providing a moody setting. Without being monstrous or supernatural, Tom Happer (a one time "Dark Shadows" regular) gives an unflinchingly edgy, and sometimes ambiguous performance, with his unkempt long hair giving an almost animal-like appearance to his character. For those of you used to seeing Arthur Kennedy as a pigheaded cop in LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE, it's relieving to have him as a concerned, level-headed father-like old man, and Teresa Wright is also very good as the caring wife who is obviously regretting the fact that she never had children. In smaller roles are sitcom guest-star favorite Eugene Roche (as the sheriff who doubles as a mechanic!) and Matthew Cowles as a young punk who torments Richard, drives by the Graves' household and dumps beer cans on their property. Proving that in the 1970s, no medium was too small for a top notch composer, Jerry Goldsmith (PLANET OF THE APES) provides the properly eerie score.

Wild Eye Releasing is presenting the rarely seen THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER and CRAWLSPACE as part of its “TV Movie Terror Collection.” Both films are in their original full frame ratios and are fully uncut, each running under 75 minutes. Mastered from original 16mm source prints, there is some minor wear here and there, but nothing at all too distracting to the viewer. The transfers are very clean overall, and colors look good, especially in the case of DAUGHTER where they really stand out. The English mono audio is clear on both titles, with only occasional pops due to the age of the source material.

Both THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER and CRAWLSPACE make for recommended Halloween viewing, so if you’re having trouble finding the discs, visit Wild Eye Releasing’s Website or go to (George R. Reis)