Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Quinn Martin's Tales Of The Unexpected, "The Force Of Evil"

"The Force of Evil"
March 13, 1977
Starring Lloyd Bridges, Pat Crowley, Eve Plumb, William Watson, John Anderson, Cindy Eilbacher, William Kirby Cullen
Theme: David Shire
Executive Producer: Quinn Martin
Produced by William Robert Yates
Written by Robert Malcolm Young
Directed by Richard Lang

By 1977, television producer Quinn Martin had amassed enough hits (THE UNTOUCHABLES, THE FUGITIVE, BARNABY JONES, THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, THE FBI…) to get his name above the title, and so QUINN MARTIN’S TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED premiered on NBC that February. The hour-long horror/suspense anthology was cancelled after just six episodes, despite notable guest-star turns by Roy Thinnes, Rick Nelson, David Birney, and Ronny Cox. The last episode aired before NBC dropped the axe (the network burned off two more during the summer) was a special two-hour suspenser penned by Robert Malcolm Young, who had penned many Quinn Martin shows, as well as three segments of ROD SERLING’S NIGHT GALLERY.

Directed by Richard Lang (HARRY O), “The Force of Evil” is, quite frankly, a blatant ripoff of CAPE FEAR with William Watson a suitably nasty substitute for Robert Mitchum. Paroled after serving seven years for rape and murder, Teddy Jakes (Watson) begins stalking and terrorizing the family of Yale Carrington (Lloyd Bridges), a successful surgeon he blames for his incarceration. Jakes blows up the family barn, runs down Yale’s daughter’s friend (Cindy Eilbacher) with a motorboat, makes suggestive remarks to Yale’s wife Maggie (Pat Crowley). Yale’s brother, the local sheriff (John Anderson), can’t touch him, and Yale’s offer of $25,000 to lay off is ignored.

The material is derivative, but Martin and producer William Robert Yates jazz it up with first-rate production values, shooting almost entirely on location and assembling a strong cast. It can be tough to find an opponent who can realistically threaten the macho Bridges (SEA HUNT), and Watson is up to the task. Instead of scowling and acting menacing, Watson makes the more interesting decision to play Jakes as happy-go-lucky, grinning and laughing even while getting socked in the jaw. Laying on the charm makes Jakes an even scarier force.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED normally aired on Wednesdays (where it was hammered in the ratings by CHARLIE’S ANGELS), but “The Force of Evil” landed a special Sunday timeslot. It was NBC’s idea to have Martin produce the series and put his name above the title. He was also originally supposed to introduce the episodes, but CANNON star William Conrad ended up narrating them. David Shire composed the driving theme.

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