Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Be Kind, Rewind: The VHS Reviews ~ Cliff Hangers! (1979)

TV Series

I thought that this week I would take a break from my usual 'Be Kind, Rewind' reviews and give some love to the long-lost NBC series, 'Cliff Hangers!'. For those of you who have never heard of the show let me fill you in.

'Cliff Hangers!' was produced by Kenneth Johnson ('The Incredible Hulk', 'Six Million Dollar Man', 'V') and had a 10 week run on NBC in 1979 from Feb 27th to May 2nd. This terrific shortlived series attempted to revive the genre of movie serials in a made-for-TV format. Each hour-long episode was divided into three 15-minute segments featuring different storylines (a horror story, a mystery and a sci-fi/western hybrid). It's abrupt cancellation was based on two things. It had pretty low ratings, but this was mainly due to the fact that NBC never gave it a chance. They aired it on Tuesday nights opposite ABC's two power-house sitcoms 'Happy Days' and 'Laverne & Shirley', which were #1 & #2 in the ratings at the time. Also, because 'Cliff Hangers!' was three entirely separate shows, combined it wound up being the most expensive TV series to date.

My Rating: 8.5 / 10

The Curse of Dracula

starring: Michael Nouri ('The Hidden', 'Flashdance')
Stephen Johnson ('The Fury', 'S.O.B.')

Now living in California, Count Dracula (Nouri) is working as a college professor ...night school, of course. With his youthful appearance, suave demeanor, nice hair and job teaching European history, Drac doesn't have much trouble finding nubile young women to whom to deliver his bite. Still on his trail after all these years is the von Helsing family, now in the personage of Kurt von Helsing (Johnson), grandson of the original, and Mary Gibbons (Carol Baxter, 'A Chorus Line'), daughter of one of Dracula's victims.

Stop Susan Williams

starring: Susan Anton ('Cannonball Run II', 'Goldengirl')
Ray Walston ('My Favorite Martian', 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High')

News photographer Susan Williams (Anton) ventures all over the world on the trail of the conspirators responsible for her brother's murder and stumbles on a vast international conspiracy. Susan narrowly escapes death episode after episode.

The Secret Empire

starring: Geoffrey Scott ('The Morning After', 'Hulk [2003]')
Mark Lenard ('Star Trek: The Motion Picture')

In this homage to the cliffhanger serials of the '30s and '40s, 19th Century Wild West Marshal Jim Donner (Scott) stumbled upon a secret underground city known as Chimera while chasing a gang of robbers, 'The Phantom Riders'. Chimera is lorded over by an evil despot named Thorval (Lenard). Donner teams up with the resistance rebels in their effort to overthrow Thorval's cruel reign, while simultaneously investigating the gold robberies on the surface.

I really love the cheesiness of this series. I think if you just take it for what it is, a lot of you horror/sci-fi fans out there will enjoy it as well. I doubt we'll ever see an official release of this one. However, it's available for purchase at I'm not sure about the quality, but it is available. In the meantime, you should check out on youtube.

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