Panic in Echo Park (1977, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

Dr. Michael Stoner (Dorian Harewood) is a young, black doctor who works in a hospital located in a poverty-stricken Los Angeles neighborhood that has a high crime rate.  Stoner’s got the education and the talent to be working in an upscale hospital and making a lot of money but it’s more important to Stoner that he give something back to the community.  Stoner is a doctor who cares and he has no hesitation letting everyone know it.  When he meets a wealthy plastic surgeon at a party, he tells him that he should come down to Stoner’s hospital and try his hand at fixing up bullet holes.  The plastic surgeon doesn’t react well to the suggestion.

Stoner is convinced that there’s an epidemic breaking out in the Echo Park neighborhood but he can’t get anyone to listen to him.  No one cares about what happens in Echo Park.  When Stoner deduces that the illness is being caused by dirty tap water, he still can’t get anyone to listen to him.  He yells at people at parties and everyone ignores him.  He goes to the press and the media refuses to cover the story.  The corporate weasels who are responsible for poisoning the water don’t care about anything other than money.  Stoner talks about his problems to a young man who is in a coma and he gets no response.

Finally, Stoner is forced to enlist the help of a group of local teenagers who are making a documentary about life in their neighborhood.  Dr. Stoner may not always be polite but he gets results.

Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey, Panic In Echo Park is a made-for-TV movie and much like Where Have All The People Gone? (which was also directed by Moxey), it seems like it was probably envisioned as being a pilot for a weekly series.  Watching the film, it’s easy to imagine Dr. Stoner getting mad on a weekly basis.  Like most made-for-TV movies, it’s predictable and the characters are all either too obviously good or too obviously evil.  However, Dorian Harewood (who is probably best known for getting shot over and over again in Full Metal Jacket) gives a good performance as Dr. Stoner.  He doesn’t get to do much other than yell at people but Harewood does it well.  Today, a story involving people getting sick from dirty tap water does not seem far fetched (do they have clean water in Flint, yet?) and the scenes where Dr. Stoner orders people to be put into “quarantine” feel disturbingly like the evening news.

Where Have All The People Gone? (1974, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

Steve Anders (Peter Graves) and his teenage children, David (George O’Hanlon, Jr.) and Deborah (Kathleen Quinlan), are exploring a cave in the mountains of California when they experience a sudden earthquake.  After managing to escape from the cave and meeting a man who tells them about how there was a bright flash of light in the sky before the earthquake, the three of them come down from the mountain and discover that there does not appear to be anyone around.  Instead, where people once stood, there are now only piles of clothes and white dust.  Where have all the people gone?

As the Anders try to make their way back home to Malibu, they discover that the entire world has changed.  Towns are completely deserted and once friendly animals are now viscous and hostile.  While Steve tries to keep his children from giving up hope, he also tries to find the answer to the question, where have all the people gone?

This film, which is only a little over an hour long, was made for NBC.  Though the film’s short running time can sometimes make it feel rushed, Where Have All The People Gone? is still a effectively creepy movie from made-for-television specialist John Llewellyn Moxey.  Though it’s always difficult to accept an actor like Peter Graves as being anyone other than Peter Graves, he actually did a pretty good job playing the confused father and there are some good scenes where both of his children deal with thing in their own way.  (David refuses to get emotional.  Deborah does the opposite.  Only Steve understands the importance of mixing emotion with reason.)  When they do finally find another survivor, she’s played by Verna Bloom and the scene where they come across her sitting in her car, apparently catatonic, is really well-handled.

Though the film does eventually explain where all the people have gone, it still has an unsatisfying, open-ended ending.  It wouldn’t surprise me if this film was meant to be pilot for a potential televisions series because it ends with the promise of future adventures.  A weekly tv series would have allowed the Anders family to find more survivors and more angry animals but instead, the story ends with everyone still unsure as to what type of world they’re about to inherit.

If you’re one of those who is stuck inside right now, Were Have All The People Gone? is reasonably diverting and is available on YouTube and Prime.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special John Llewellyn Moxey Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

John Llewellyn Moxey was one of the best directors that most people have probably never heard of.  Born in Argentina and raised in the UK, John Llewellyn Moxey made his directorial debut with the classic horror film, City of the Dead.  Though he directed a handful of other feature films, Moxey is best known for being one of the best television directors of the 70s and 80s.  Along with directing episodic television, Moxey was responsible for directing several classic made-for-television films.  Moxey proved himself to be a master of every genre but, because he worked in television, his talent was often taken for granted.

When Moxey died last year at the age of 94, his work was in the process of being rediscoverd and reevaluated.  Today would have been Moxey’s 95th birthday and, in honor of the man and his career, here are 4 shots from 4 of his best.

4 Shots From 4 Flms

The City of the Dead (1960, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

Circus of Fear (1966, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

The Night Stalker (1972, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

Where Have All The People Gone? (1974, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

Smash-Up On Interstate 5 (1976, directed by John Llewellyn Moxey)

Smash-Up On Interstate 5 begins with ominous shots of a crowded California interstate.  It’s the 4th of July weekend and old people are returning home, young people are looking for a party, and Sergeant Sam Marcum (Robert Conrad) of the California Highway Patrol is looking for a killer.  When one car swerves into the next lane and hits another, it leads to a chain reaction as hundreds of cars, trucks, and one motorcycle crash into each other.  While the vehicles crash, we see the people inside of them.  There’s Buddy Ebsen!  There’s Vera Miles!  There’s Sue Lyon (of Lolita fame) on the back of a motorcycle!  In a voice-over, Sam tells us that the accident will be classified as being due to “mechanical failure” and that 14 people are going to die as a result.  He might be one of them.

Smash-Up On Interstate 5 is a 70s disaster film so, after the pile-up, the movie flashed back 48 hours and we get to know everyone whose lives are going to eventually collide on Interstate 5.  Erica (Vera Miles) is recently divorced and trying to get back into the dating scene.  Albert (Buddy Ebsen) is trying to bring some joy to his terminally ill wife’s final days.  Lee (Scott Jacoby) and Penny (Bonnie Ebsen) are the hippies who are trying to get to Big Sur without getting arrested.  Burnsey (Sue Lyon) loves her biker boyfriend.  Some of them will survive the pile-up.  Some of them will not.

Smash-Up On Interstate 5 is an above average made-for-TV movie.  It’s got a notable cast and the movie does a good job of mixing together’s everyone’s subplots.  For instance, Burnsey and a group of bikers show up in the background of several scenes and harass Erica at one point long before the crash on the interstate.  It’s only a 100-minute film so the film doesn’t go into too much detail about everyone’s past but we learn just enough to make everyone stand out.  The crash itself is intense, even when seen today.  Made before the days of CGI, this is a film where the stunt crew definitely earned their paycheck.

Tommy Lee Jones plays a patrolman who is also Sam’s brother-in-law.  I was surprised when I first saw him but as soon as I saw the strained smile and heard the accent, I knew it was him.  Jones’s role is small and probably could have been played by anyone but the mere presence of Tommy Lee Jones definitely makes this film cooler than it would have been otherwise.

One final note: This film was directed by the made-for-TV horror specialist, John Llewellyn Moxey.  Be sure to read Gary Loggins’s tribute to this often underrated director.

An Underrated Man: RIP John Llewellyn Moxey (1925-2019)

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John Llewellyn Moxey’s “Horror Hotel” (1960)

You won’t find the name of John Llewellyn Moxey bandied about in conversations on great film directors. Truth is, though Moxey did make some features of note, he spent most of his career doing made-for-television movies, a genre that doesn’t get a lot of respect. John Llewellyn Moxey wasn’t a flashy director or an “auteur” by any stretch of the imagination, but he was more than capable of turning out a solid, worthwhile production, and some of his TV-Movie efforts are just as good (if not better) than what was currently playing at the local neighborhood theaters or multiplexes at the time. Moxey’s  passing on April 29 at age 94 was virtually ignored by the press, but his career deserves a retrospective, so Cracked Rear Viewer is proud to present a look back at the film and television work of director John Llewellyn Moxey.

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Killer Christmas: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (ABC-TV Movie 1972)

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Four daughters reunite at the old family homestead during Christmas to visit their estranged, dying father. Sounds like the perfect recipe for one of those sticky-sweet Hallmark movies, right? Wrong, my little elves! HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, originally broadcast as part of ABC-TV’s “Movie of the Week” series (1969-1975) is part proto-slasher, part psycho-biddie shocker, and a whole lot of fun! It plays kind of like a 70’s exploitation film, only with a high-powered cast that includes Sally Field, Eleanor Parker, Julie Harris , and Walter Brennan, a script by Joseph (PSYCHO) Stefano, and direction courtesy of John Llwellyn Moxey (HORROR HOTEL, THE NIGHT STALKER).

Rich old Benjamin Morgan (Brennan) has summoned his daughters home on a dark and stormy Christmas Eve, claiming his second wife Elizabeth (Harris) is slowly poisoning him to death. Elizabeth was once ‘suspected’ of poisoning her first husband (though never proven) and spent some time…

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Horror on the Lens: The Night Stalker (dir by John Llewelyn Moxey)

For today’s horror on the lens, we have a real treat!  (We’ll get to the tricks later…)

Long before he achieved holiday immortality by playing the father in A Christmas Story, Darren McGavin played journalist Carl Kolchak in the 1972 made-for-TV movie, The Night Stalker.  Kolchak is investigating a series of murders in Las Vegas, all of which involve victims being drained of their blood.  Kolchak thinks that the murderer might be a vampire.  Everyone else thinks that he’s crazy.

When this movie first aired, it was the highest rated made-for-TV movie of all time.  Eventually, it led to a weekly TV series in which Kolchak investigated various paranormal happenings.  Though the TV series did not last long, it’s still regularly cited as one of the most influential shows ever made.

Anyway, The Night Stalker is an effective little vampire movie and Darren McGavin gives a great performance as Carl Kolchak.


Horror on the Lens: The House That Would Not Die (dir by John Llewellyn Moxey)

Today’s horror on the lens is a 1970 made-for-TV movie called The House That Would Not Die!

In this film, Barbara Stanwyck and Kitty Winn move into a colonial house that is rumored to be haunted!  Seances, possession, and scandal follows!  There’s time travel, slow mo, an exaggerated wind effects!  It’s all kinda silly but kinda fun too.