Monday, October 31, 2011


The Reverend Keyes is a pioneer preacher heading through the old West with his wife on the way to a new post when they wind up stuck, sick and hungry in the middle of the desert after their covered wagon breaks down. Caleb and his beautiful but mute daughter Deliverance, from the nearby town of San Melas, come upon them and take them to town. While his wife recovers, Keyes hears about the town, founded by folks from New England, and their recent troubles: an outlaw named Moon has been extorting gold from the town's mine, and the church burned down, killing the preacher. Keyes delivers a sermon which gives the townspeople hope (and cures a young lame boy), and soon a new gold vein is discovered. Caleb says they will build a new church if Keyes will stay on; he seems willing, but his sickly wife isn't so sure. However, when Moon rides into town and tries to kidnap Deliverance, Keyes shoots the man dead. The townsfolk rejoice and Keyes is more inclined to stay, especially when Deliverance regains her voice and begins flirting with him. But he also has strange visions of a bloody, half-naked man, staring at him from the mirror. And why does his wife keep getting sicker? Could it have to do with the wax doll Deliverance keeps playing with? It seems like an evil force is loose in town—Voodoo? Devil worship?—but it may not be easy for Keyes to find it.

This is from the golden age of the spooky TV-movie (TRILOGY OF TERROR, CROWHAVEN FARM, THE NIGHT STALKER, and THE NORLISS TAPES are all from the early 70s) before Lifetime and Hallmark turned the genre into all sappy or snappy modern romances. I saw this when it first aired and never forgot it, especially the super-creepy jolt of the last scene, set in the present (the climactic shot itself doesn’t make sense, but go with it—it's cool anyway, and what made the movie stick in my head all these years). The cast is interesting: Roy Thinnes (above)is effective as the heroic but flawed and confused preacher; Ray Milland does a nice job as Caleb, the town elder; Yvette Mimeux is all old-West sex-kitten as Deliverance. Lyn Loring is rather drab as the preacher’s wife; Gloria Grahame doesn’t get much to do as her nurse, but it's fun to see her. Hank Worden, a supporting player in many Westerns, gives an eccentric performance as a sidekick of Caleb's, but given the oddness of the town, he fits right in. As far as I know, this film was never released for home video, but I found it posted on YouTube in what seems to be a transfer from video tape. It’s not the best quality, but it’s worth searching out until Sony decides to give it a proper DVD release. (YouTube)

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