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 adifferentsity.com 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.