Thursday, April 20, 2006

robert culp the super dad

Mr. Miller just loves him some old 70s TV Movies of the Week. If you were a kid in the 70s, no doubt you'll remember this kinda stuff:

The ABC Movie of the Week trailer (linked from TV Party)

One of Mr. Miller's favorite childhood pasttimes was watching every TVMOW (TV movie of the week) that he could fix his eyes to. For years and years Mr. Miller had a burning memory of one particular TV flick with some angry dad trying to defend his wife and kids from a gang of muscle car riding punks who had invaded their neighborhood and nearly ran over the family pooch. And with the help of the trusty Wayback Machine (otherwise known as the book Movies Made for Television: The Telepicture and the Mini-Series 1964-1979 by Alvin H. Marill) PopCereal was able to figure out just what that movie was.

It was titled Outrage, and it featured the smotth and volatile Robert Culp as a regular old Joe just trying to bring up a family in a nice quiet suburban 'hood. The movie originally aired on Wednesday night, Novcember 28, 1973. The story was written for TV (based on real life events) by William Wood, and was directed by Richard Heffron. Other notable cast members, besides Culp, were Marlyn Mason playing Culp's wife, Nicholas Hammond as one of the punks, and the familiar droopy-faced character actor Ivor Francis as Judge Cox.

By the time 70s television had gotten a hold of the “scare film” they’d brought it full circle from propagandized civic “lessons” to exploitative social studies. What was once a tool used to scare the crap outta the masses and keep them in step with the idealized suburban image (especially during War time and throughout the burgeoning era of the middle class) the scare film had now evolved into something more of an over exaggerated social lesson rather than a social rule.

In Outrage, chisel-chested Robert Culp plays an upper middle class family man who is just trying to give his family a safe and easy lifestyle in the hills of California. When a gang of local punks start wrecking havoc with the neighborhood, Culp tries to take the civil high road and implores the parents of the kids to keep them in line. Naturally the mothers only see their children as angels, and the fathers chalk it all up to boys being boys. When the authorities are called in to help, Culp finds that their hands are tied by the usual bureaucratic red tape. But when the punk’s shenanigans turn violent, and the lives of his family are threatened, Culp has to take action himself, turning into a one-man vigilante.

Culp just can’t go wrong doing his usual charming-guy macho act as he takes on TVs original Spider Man, Nicholas Hammond as the head rich-boy punk. There’s a lot of generational gap “those kids these days” attitude in 70s television, as well. But these made-for-TV lessons became a lot less conservative than their “duck and cover” predecessors. In the hands of the more liberal-minded Hollywood producers, subjects like the teenage delinquent became more humanized. They weren’t just troublemakers who needed to be whipped into submissiveness by their dutiful parents. No, in the made-for-TV land of movies, the kids were merely the end result of a community that had failed them. Maybe the kid’s parents didn’t love them enough, or maybe their teacher didn’t listen to them, or maybe it was peer pressure and all that brain-rotting rock music… or maybe they just needed a good old fashioned ass kicking from the likes of Robert Culp.
Check out to find more of these fantastically kitchy 70s TV movies.
Check out A Different City to find more of these fantastically kitchy 70s TV movies.


silverhammer said...

Great review! Thanks so much for this detailed description and thoughtful summary. I appreciate your comments about how the Scare movie evolved and particularly your thoughts about the quality of Robert Culp's performance.

I'm a moderator on a Robert Culp appreciation site and fan forum you may want to check out at: - it's called "Culpalicious" but don't let that scare you. ;-)

Hey, since you're a Gold Key fan, I scanned the cover of the first of the series of I Spy comics Gold Key did in the 60s - I've got the full set if you'd like more images:

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Holy Moses, I actually remember watching that movie when it came out. I can't believe it's been that long.

PopCereal said...

"I can't believe it's been that long."

Ahh, yes. That familiar, yet tormented, refrain of another 70s kid who's found that his hazy heydays are past. I feel for ya!

Michael Rebain said...

I have vague memories of seeing this movie. Did it feature the veteran African-American actress Beah Richards as the family maid who is the victim of one of the gang's attacks (something is thrown through a window and she's in the wrong place at the wrong time)? Or am I misremembering?

Regardless, thanks for a great post. I remember when the ABC Movie of the Week was a highlight of the schedule.

PopCereal said...

You remembered it all correctly Mr. Rebain! That was, indeed, the great (and sadly, late) Beah Richards playing the family maid in OUTRAGE.

Ms. Richards had a long and busy acting life, starting out in the movies in the late 1950s and continuing on, mostly with guest appearances in numerous TV shows (from Hawaii Five-O to The Practice), until she succumbed to emphysema in late 2000.

Wendel said...

There was another movie along this same line in the late 60s about a family on a cross country trip being harassed by a motor cycle gang. I don't remember the name.

Also, on the subject of Culp, there was a MOTW where he was a washed up radio "shock Jock" mid 1970s. A girl calls his morning show saying she is going to kill herself. He blows her off but when the audience thinks its real he starts a crusade to find and help her. "Call in the night" or Voice in the night" I just remember it was good.

Why doesn't TV Land or Nick at Night run these?

PopCereal said...

Hey Mr. Wendel-

Yep, Mr. Culp did a TV Movie back in '74 called A CALL FOR HELP. Before Howard Stern could even think of taking the credit for being the first to insult his callers, Culp played Harry Freeman, a "shock jock" -- before the term was invented -- who liked to rip into his dingbat callers.

I remember seeing this flick back in the day, but haven't seen it around since. I'm sure someone out there has a copy. Let us know if you do!!

As for the other family-on-the-run-from-a-biker-gang movie yer asking about... there was a TV Movie called TERROR ON THE BEACH that aired in 1975. It starred the too cute Susan Dey, along with Dennis Weaver and Estelle Parsons.

You said the film you were thinking of was in the 60s, but TOTB sounds pretty close. It has a family out for a road trip, when a gang of drugged out hippies in a military type vehicle start harrassing them with a mannequin. There's some great Susan Dey scenes, as she romps around the beach in a bikini!

Not sure if this is the flick yer thinking of, or not.

Mr. Miller

PopCereal said...

"Why doesn't TV Land or Nick at Night run these? "

Good question!

They did a weeks worth of TV Movies a little while back. As far as I know, they haven't done it again since. Unfortunatley, I don't watch TV Land much, since watching 4 hour blocks of the same friggin' shows over and over gets really lame.

Anonymous said...

The movie Wendel is trying to think of is probably "Hot Rods to Hell", starring Dana Andrews, and released in theaters in January 1967.

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