Saturday, March 14, 2015

Terror Among Us

I suspect TERROR AMONG US began production as a sequel to executive producer David Gerber’s acclaimed POLICE STORY series.

The anthology, which ran five seasons on NBC and won an Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Series, left the air in 1978, but survived through occasional TV-movies. TERROR AMONG US doesn’t fall under the POLICE STORY umbrella technically, but it’s produced by Gerber, stars Don Meredith (who appeared in eight POLICE STORYs), and features similar opening titles.

Certainly, Dallas Barnes and JoAnne Barnes’ teleplay about a serial rapist would have fit nicely into the POLICE STORY template, except it concentrates on the criminal instead of the cop. Delbert Ramsey (KNOTS LANDING's Ted Shackelford) is a convicted rapist on patrol who keeps getting busted on prowling and trespassing charges. Detective Tom Stockwell (Dandy Don) would love to send Ramsey back to the joint, but he faces resistance from bleeding-heart parole officer Paxton (SOAP’s Jennifer Salt) and ineffectual prosecutor Clayburn (Austin Stoker).

Director Paul Krasny (MANNIX) frequently cuts away from Stockwell’s attempts to make a case against Ramsey to scenes of five stewardesses living together in a swank bayside apartment, each with their own problem (one is aging out of her job, another is dating a married man, etc.). Eventually, the two plots intersect when Ramsey, on the run after committing a murder, takes the women hostage.

Sarah Purcell, who plays the stews’ “den mother,” was then a host of the NBC reality series REAL PEOPLE, a big hit. TERROR AMONG US feels padded, as if it really were a one-hour POLICE STORY stretched to feature length. While the attempt to humanize Ramsey’s victims is appreciated, their material is just not as interesting as the relationship between Stockwell and Paxton, who faces self-doubt about her job and her judgement after Ramsey begins his spree of terror. Meredith and Salt (later a producer of AMERICAN HORROR STORY) work well together, and more films about their partnership may have been interesting.

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