Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Journey to Midnight (1968) (TV)

Directed by:
Roy Ward Baker
Alan Gibson

Hammer’s short-lived supernatural series Journey to the Unknown (produced by Anthony Hinds) only lasted about four months. 20th Century Fox acquired the hour-long episodes for American release and paired two together for several TV feature releases. This one contains “Poor Butterfly” by Alan Gibson and “The Indian Spirit Guide” by Roy Ward Baker. For some reason original series hostess Joan Crawford has been dropped from the proceedings and instead we get pudgy, bearded charmer Sebastian Cabot, who briefly pops in to warn us, "You'll pray for morning!" In Butterfly (scripted by Jeremy Paul from a William Abney story), Steven Miller (Chad Everett), an American businessman in London, receives an invitation for an unknown source for a costume party out in the county. He can’t figure out who invited him or why, but travels to Measham House, a secluded manor that seems to be stuck in some kind of time freeze. There he falls for Rose (Susan Broderick), a young, frightened beauty dressed in a butterfly costume. She wants him to take her back to London with him, but various guest say “I don’t think they’ll let her come with you.” The next morning, Steve can’t find the house; the locals claim it burned down in the 1920s and killed everyone inside. The predictable story involves romance, jealousy, an attack with a croquet mallet, ghosts and reincarnation. With Fay Compton and Edward Fox.
The better segment is Roy Ward Baker’s “The Indian Spirit Guide,” which was scripted by Robert Bloch. Jerry Crown (Tom Adams), a hard up private eye having a hard time paying the bills, gets hooked up with wealthy, grieving widow Leona Gillings (Julie Harris), who wants to contact Howard, her late husband of fifteen years. Jerry specializes in uncovering bogus psychics, such as a man in drag (!) using tape recorders and lighting tricks and a turban-wearing Oriental mystic at “The House of Chandu,” who uses a floating trumpet on strings gimmick. Seeing an easy, vulnerable target in Leona, Jerry decides to romance, marry and then kill her for her money. But there’s one more psychic that needs to be defrauded; Sarah Prinn (Catherine Lacey), one of Howard’s close friends, who works through an Indian spirit guide called Bright Arrow (Julian Sherrier). Will Bright Arrow be able to warn Leona in time that she’s in grave danger? Tracy Reed and Marne Maitland co-star.
Both tales are entertaining and would be suitable for kids (they received a TV-G rating on cable). The other three TV films in this series were JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS (featuring the episodes "The New People" and "Paper Dolls") JOURNEY TO MURDER (featuring "Do Me a Favor - Kill Me!" and "The Killing Bottle") and JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN (featuring "The Last Visitor" and "Matakitas is Coming.") None of these have seen the light of day on video or DVD in the U.S.


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