The Reprobate TV Movie Night

A collection of above-average made-for-TV movies from the 1970s.

TV movies have an unfairly bad reputation – seen as inferior efforts that don’t stand in comparison to ‘real’ movies and were often presented as network filler or TV pilot episodes disguised as a feature film, the TV movies of the 1970s and 1980s certainly suffered from standards and practices restrictions that hurt those films that tried to explore adult themes but couldn’t go very far in terms of sex, violence or strong language. TV movies often sought to cash in on recent box-office hits and that too made them seem like throwaway efforts.

But amongst the crap – and there was a lot of crap – you can find gems. Even some of those supposedly ‘adult’ movies work on their own level and are surprisingly effective when they figure out how to trade gore for suspense, sex for suggestion and generally don’t simply try to be PG-rated versions of R-rated hits. There are a lot of great horror movies made for TV when you look back – films that hark back to a decade earlier in terms of execution, something that no longer seems odd when you look at them from the distance of half a decade or so since production – what might have felt old-fashioned and compromised in 1975 now just seems like a vintage movie, much like any other.

TV movies as existed back then are long gone of course, but so has the distinction between theatrical, streaming and direct-to-video productions, as films can be all these things simultaneously. The days of these productions being distinct and specific to their intended distribution medium are long gone and the restrictions on content have also pretty much faded away, creating a level playing field across formats. This is great, but I do find myself missing the very distinct style of the TV movie more and more these days – there is something appealing about movies existing in and for very separate forms.

Here are a handful of TV movies that we particularly like. This is the tip of the iceberg, of course, but hopefully, you’ll enjoy these films as a unique form of movie-making from an age long gone.

Reflections of Murder


A Cold Night’s Death

When Michael Calls

The Legend of Lizzie Borden

Trilogy of Terror

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