Director: Robert Day
Writers: George Eckstein, based on the novel The House on Greenapple Road by Harold R. Daniels
Producer: Adrian Samish
Cast: Christopher George, Janet Leigh, Julie Harris, Tim O’Connor, Barry Sullivan, Walter Pidgeon, Keenan Wynn, Peter Mark Richman (as Mark Richman), William Windom, Joanne Linville, Lynda Day George (as Linda Day), Burr DeBenning, Edward Asner, Lawrence Dane (as Laurence Dane), Ned Romero, Paul Fix, Eve Plumb, Alice Jubert, Paul Lukather, Olan Soule, John Ward, Geoffrey Deuel, Tina Menard, Rees Vaughn, Anthony Derek, Bob Duggan, Michael Harris, Tom Palmer, John Mayo, Selette Cole, John Yates, Frank Jamus, (uncredited) Kenneth G. Kemp
In Santa Luisa, California, Detective Lt. Dan August (Christopher George) is investigating a violent crime. In the suburban home of George and Marian Ord (Tim O’Connor and Janet Leigh), the kitchen is found in a shambles and covered in blood. Although the amount of blood loss at the scene would have been fatal, no corpse is found, and both George and Marian Ord are missing.
The Flashback Fanatic movie review
House on Greenapple Road was pretty damned intense stuff for this boob tube brat. The 1970 made-for-TV mystery made a lasting impression with its chilling opening showing the gory aftermath of murder in an empty kitchen and a series of color enhanced negative film clips of the violent struggle during the credits. The impact of this still registered through the low-resolution, black-and-white television set of my childhood. Unfortunately, the only other thing that I remembered since that one-time viewing was the discovery of the culprit. Nevertheless, my anticipation of finally being able to rewatch this intriguing police procedural was rewarded with an interesting story and good performances by many familiar television stars of the era.
This film is a pretty stark indication of how more adult content was creeping into prime time television. In addition to the bloody violence, the theme of sexual infidelity is very prominent throughout.
Janet Leigh gets top billing as Marian Ord, the woman missing from her bloody kitchen. However, she gets plenty of screen time during flashbacks that many characters have about their relationships with her. Since she had achieved immortality as Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s creepy classic Psycho (1960), getting Janet Leigh to appear in another murder mystery must have been quite a casting coup for this ABC television film. It is also eerily reminiscent of her introduction in Psycho seeing her clad in her underwear during a series of bedroom scenes with a series of lovers. While these are nearly meta-movie moments, I am sure that any viewer’s familiarity with Leigh’s Psycho role could only work in this story’s favor.
As the detective hero Lt. Dan August, Christopher George is the most prominent member of the cast. It takes a guy like George to keep our interest in a character that we only see doing his job. We really do not learn anything about his life off duty. The only way we discern anything about him is by seeing how he conducts himself during this investigation. He is handsome, intense, and honorable without any showboating heroics or theatrics. Most of the feelings that he conveys are those of irritation with other authorities that are more concerned with publicity than humanity and justice.
Christopher George’s frequent co-star (and soon-to-be wife) Lynda Day plays a small role as Lillian Crane. Is it only a coincidence that two beautiful blonde characters in this film have names similar to Psycho’s Marion Crane? Day’s performance is a big departure from her usual manner as her character is high on weed during her single scene.
It is fun to see many familiar television actors of the day portray the succession of horndogs using poor Marian Ord. Most of them are incredibly insensitive, which, of course, makes all of them appear to be likely suspects. Of special interest to horror buffs, young Burr DeBenning plays sports club lifeguard Bill Foley who wants to practice his breaststroke with married Marian Ord. DeBenning assumed a much more noble role as Dr. Ted Nelson in The Incredible Melting Man (1977).
Apparently, House on Greenapple Road was a ratings success. It became the basis for the subsequent 26 episodes of the single-season Dan August television series later that year. A pre-superstardom Burt Reynolds took over the lead role from Christopher George. Ned Romero, as Sgt. Joe Rivera, was the only actor repeating his role from the pilot film in the weekly series.
What could have seemed like a pretty routine police detective drama, House on Greenapple Road has a grisly and sleazy edge that distinguishes it from most television fare of the time. This morbid, little bugger knew a good thing when he saw it. Happily, this morbid, old bugger was obsessive enough to have tracked it down again.
When I saw this review posted, I went to Youtube to watch the movie, which I'd never seen. But I remember when it was on TV and I remember everyone talking about it. So, yeah, it was a huge hit and very controversial. Thanks for encouraging me to finally watch it! I didn't see the ending coming at all. The opening scene in the kitchen is really the most memorable sequence for me. I immediately suspected the Julie Harris character as having something to do with it. Nice to see little Eve Plumb. And this made me remember what a good actor Christopher George was. Another one gone too soon.ReplyDelete
I've enjoyed a lot of Christopher George's late '70s and early '80s work in horror films, but this is probably my favorite role of his. The guy had presence!ReplyDelete