Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Premiered on ABC on January 14, 1975
Directed by Sutton Roley
Written by William Read Woodfield
Cast: Kim Novak, Doug McClure, Alejandro Rey, Michael Conrad, Jim Davis, Ed Lauter, Titos Vandis, Peter Bourne, Zitto Kazann, Hank Stohl
I watched a lot of made-for-TV movies as a kid in the 1970s—they were free and unrated!—but it was always the sci-fi and horror offerings I enjoyed the most. And though Satan’s Triangle took its time getting there, it definitely delivered on the horror part. I remember watching this when it was first broadcast, and though it didn’t actually scare the bejeezus out me, it most certainly creeped the bejeezus out of me. Especially one shot in particular, which I won’t divulge, but which has stuck with me for over forty years, and was the only part of the film I retained before watching it again last night, for just the second time in my life.
Responding to a mayday call, a Coast Guard helicopter and its two-man crew are sent from Miami to the dead center of the Bermuda Triangle, where the pilots discover a schooner adrift with tattered sails and no signs of life. One of the men (Doug McClure) is lowered to the ship by a winch, where he finds three bodies—one hanging from the main mast, one smashed up through a hatch, and one below deck—and one survivor, a near-catatonic Kim Novak. Now stuck on the boat after the winch breaks, waiting for the return of the helicopter from Miami, Novak tells McClure the story of how the ship came to be derelict, and its passengers dead. And then, of course, things get a little weird.
I must admit, this wasn’t bad television fare at all. It offered an interesting and foreboding story, some production value with the helicopter and ship at sea, and some decent work from its pair of lead actors. At first I was put off by McClure’s wise-mouth, girl-hungry character Haig, but once he arrived on the ship, and understood the severity of the situation, he took things seriously and became much more likeable. And though it was odd to see Novak in this sort of production, she did just fine as the frightened Eva, and at times she made you wonder: was it her acting that was off, or her character?
In the director’s chair was Sutton Roley, a name I’d seen somewhere before, and after a quick search on-line I discovered he’d directed a few episodes of The Invaders, a favorite sci-fi TV series of mine from the 1960s. His career was mostly made up of television gigs—predominately big-name television series, from Highway Patrol to Spenser: For Hire—but he also helmed a few theatrical releases, and a trio of made-for-TV movies, of which Satan’s Triangle would be his last. Roley’s work here definitely had a television feel to it, but he punched it up a notch with some good, scary tension and a handful of commendable still shots, including the favorite I’d mentioned above.
I was ready to give Satan’s Triangle a rating of six, but afterwards decided to boost its score by one, on account of a) a twist ending sequence that was pretty dang cool, and which I never saw coming, b) Kim Novak, who was still smoking hot at age 42, and c) a story that supplied some chilling moments, and kept me interested from beginning to end. And as others have noted, that at-camera stare at the conclusion is probably the greatest—and most disturbing—in film history. But the question now is, do I subtract a point for having characters in a movie titled Satan’s Triangle mention the Devil’s Triangle about a dozen times, yet not once use the name Satan’s Triangle? Hmmm… (7/10)