Video: Haunts Of The Very Rich

In the 1970s, TV was more adventurous than today.

ABC, which was always in third place, took plenty of chances to get out of the ratings cellar.

One of these things was the ABC Movie of the Week. It did some very memorable ones!

One of which was the 1972 Haunts of the Very Rich.

I hadn’t seen this since it first aired, I think, way back in 1972. But there it was, complete on YouTube to see again, for free! Would it hold up?

Roll credits:

Supporting cast from end credits:

And back to the opening credits:

The story begins with a group of people already on a jet (revealed later to be a chartered 747):

We have the Charmer:

A fragile housewife played by Anne Francis and Cloris Leachman’s character is nearly a virgin:

A priest:

A newlywed couple (bonus, the luscious Donna Mills!!):

And Ed Asner as the practical businessman:

They are all headed to a place called The Portals of Eden. Which has a very odd brochure: Each person got one that described it differently. Except for Asner, who never got one and wonders how the hell he wound up on the plane!

It lands and they disembark …

… into a breathtaking wilderness …

… and are greeted by their host, the white-clad Mr. Seacrist …

… and they are boated …

… to a posh resort …

… and if you are thinking, Fantasy Island, well now you know where series creator Gene Levitt got his “insoiration” for it. Except that TV series was dull one-dimensional crap compared to this movie.

Things quickly go downhill, with an overnight epic storm that kills the electricity and …

… all the fish in the water …

…. which not only limits their food supply but provides a pervasive stink in the humid tropical heat!

And that’s as much of the story I will tell.

Let’s take a look at the framing by Wendkos:

You don’t see shots like that today. Some of them are just classic TV (in a good way) — and Wendkos has a keen sense of what to use when and really ratchets up the tension as the story proceeds. And every shot works. It’s all brilliant.

And Dominic Frontiere‘s chilling score kicks in at around 44:30 and it’s just unforgettable.

Now a word about Paul Wendkos. He’s not a name I recall prominently from my jillions of hours of TV watching. He never stuck in my mind like, say, Jeannot Szwarc or Reza Badiyi. But it turns out he did one other memorable TV movie that stuck in my head: The Brotherhood of the Bell. He also did episodes of several series I saw and might have actually been the first American stylish TV director I ever encountered, so it’s a shame I don’t recall him more.

In this movie, he provided two of the iconic shots in all of TV:

I cannot tell you how that much that above shot freaks me the hell out, even today. The people behind Persons Unknown must have seen this movie!

And here is the overwhelming image:

Oh my god. I think this movie was so memorable that it went on to influence many people. It’s tragic that we’ll never know the full list of now-prominent people who saw it and had their lives moved by it. A movie like this deserves to be remembered (it’s not even listed in the Wikipedia entry for the ABC Movie of the Week!) and I hope this post goes a little way towards keeping it alive for others to see.

Lastly, who was the original writer T.K. Brown? I don’t know. Library Thing has this, ISFDB has this, and IMDB only has this. I can’t even find the obituary mentioned in the Library Thing listing.

Here’s the YouTube video:



Filed under Video

9 responses to “Video: Haunts Of The Very Rich

  1. steve

    You are SO right! Delighted to read about someone else who appreciates this gem as much as I do!

  2. A great movie. I saw it once in mid seventies, and never forget it. Really nightmarish.

  3. Ken

    Does anyone know the name of the charming flight attendant?

  4. Trevor

    Yeah, whoever wrote that above review is very knowlegable about this movie and spot on about it. I saw it when I was about ten years old as a repeat, around 1976, although I didn’t know it was a repeat at the time. It’s a very satisfying
    yet eery coincidence that others on this post saw it and “never forgot it”, which was precisely my experience. I would actually think about it over the years, never knowing how to find it or what it was really called. I went into a rare video store in the 1980’s and asked if they had something called “Hell Island”. They obviously didn’t. I think the movie was very underrated and underappreciated: the manic swings toward the end, which become more intense, hopeless dread and confusion to the glorious illusion of liberation, back to an even more torturous and tangible fate. The music to the film was also very well done, exhibiting a brilliant radiating melancholy. The uncanniness and tastefully restrained horror of Loyd Bridges’ character’s wife appearing after her own death is simpy of a piece with the overall film’s subtle, poignant depiction of an otherworldy hell yet at once so much like our own world.
    I don’t know much about “horror” movies, but this film is probably too good to be one.

  5. david spiegler

    The story the movie is based on is also superb.

  6. This movie caught my attention as a kid, maybe around 10 years old in the early 80s, watching it on tv, and now 35 years after it’s still with me , even though I cant actually remember precisely anything about it except people on a tropical island realizing they are dead! Another such old spooky tv movie was Child of Glass about a ghost girl stuck in a well.

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