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Wednesday, January 21, 2009


"Why the Hell isn't this on DVD yet? -- Number 30

NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY (1976 ABC-TV) Starring Deborah Raffin, Lynne Moody, Chuck Connors, Tina Louise, Della Reese, Robert Reed, Ralph Bellamy, Fionnula Flanagan and Lana Wood. Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey.

Coeds Deborah Raffin and Lynne Moody are taking a road trip through the south during summer break to go looking for the "real U.S.A." a la EASY RIDER...uh oh. They have a run-in with sheriff Chuck Connors and quickly find themselves convicted of trespassing and prostitution.  Sentenced to 30 days on a work farm, our leading ladies are subjected to hard labor, physical and sexual abuse by the guards, and shabby, segregated living quarters.  Worse, with each attempt to contact the outside world, Raffin and Moody only find out just how well connected their corrupt captors are.

From an era in which films made for television were broadcast "events" at best and cheap knockoffs of the fads passing through drive-ins at worst, NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY very much reflects the time and fits into the latter category. We have a consistently downbeat tone with our two heroines punished again and again for one "little mistake" (LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT). We also have a road trip through the South gone horribly awry (MACON COUNTY LINE) and a conspiracy that everyone seems to be in on (RACE WITH THE DEVIL). Finally, we have as much exploitation as prime time television will allow for an intentionally lurid telefilm emulating the "women in prison" subgenre that Pam Grier cut her teeth in pre-COFFY.

Actually on this Vidmark VHS release we have a lot more exploitation than prime time allowed, as additional footage that wasn't aired on the original ABC broadcast pads out my copy. A stand-in bares breasts briefly during a rape scene, similar inserts are added to a "hosedown" scene to break up the obligatory free for all fight, and additional full scenes involving lesbian favors for a lighter workload and whipping both contain extended full frontal nudity. This certainly wasn't shot with a home video release in mind in 1976, and I doubt NIGHTMARE was ever planned for a U.S. theatrical release as the only TV-movies to accomplish that were the most critically acclaimed (DUEL, MY SWEET CHARLIE, BRIAN'S SONG). IMO the film would be much better and tighter without the additions; the nudity seems out of place and distracts from Moxey's establishment of the girls' Hellish situation.

Only two months after premiering NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY, ABC spread the ROOTS miniseries over a full week of its schedule to overwhelming acclaim. Interestingly, usual TV good guys Connors and Reed played unsympathetic characters in both productions, with Connors playing a vile, racist rapist in each.  Reed's villainy was not that obvious at the beginning in ROOTS, but his warden here is a scumbag from the get-go: a corrupt pedophile, rapist and murderer whose deeds are well-hidden because his connections extend to the governor's office. Reed was reluctantly reprising his most famous role in THE BRADY BUNCH HOUR during a very busy 1976-77 season, and he must have really relished the opportunity to play such a despicable character here.  Reed's performance is arguably the film's most memorable and effective.

Elsewhere, Raffin (NOBLE HOUSE) and Moody (whose next TV gig was also ROOTS, as Irene Harvey) are both appealing.  Usually reliable Tina Louise is unconvincing here as the most sadistic of the "trustees", and Fionnula Flanagan is a guard with an unrequited attraction to Raffin. Della Reese also gets to play against type as the inmate who takes Moody under her wing.

So---why isn't this on DVD?

Even some of the most acclaimed 1970's telefilms are still missing from DVD: MY SWEET CHARLIE, THAT CERTAIN SUMMER, TRIBES and THE EXECUTION OF PRIVATE SLOVICK among them. It's safe to say that NIGHTMARE IN BADHAM COUNTY is probably low on the priority list.

As was the case with RACE WITH THE DEVIL, it's hard to believe the conspiracy is so wide-reaching, or that a phone would be so easily accessible in a key scene.

Why it should be on DVD:

Both the classics and the more fascinating lowbrow entertainments from the Golden Age of the TV Movie are more than worthy of DVD release. DVD releases of telefilms like this one would be especially welcome now since these films have just about completely disappeared from cable in the last decade.

Let's face it: you want to see Robert Reed, Tina Louise, Ralph Bellamy and Chuck Connors all playing sleazeballs, don't you? Not to mention a film that more or less ripped off every low-budget drive-in smash hit from the early to mid-1970's.

Film has a cult following and appears to be one of the more well-remembered telefilms of the era, explicit version or not.  A DVD with both versions would be ideal.


SixtiesCinema said...

Hi Hal,

First thanks for selecting my book Drive-in Dream Girls as one of your favorites. I am honored that you like it so much.

Love your review of Nightmare in Badham County. It is a great trash TV-movie classic and I too wish more of them would be released on DVD or at least rerun on TV Land on some other cable network. My only disagreement with you is what you wrote about Tina Louise. I think she gave one of the best performances and had me hating her from the second she appeared on screen. She really has you totally forgetting Ginger with this role.


Dri, a sereia said...

Hal, I completely agree with you, Nightmare in B. County should be already in DVD, the film is simply awesome, one of my preferred - ever! I'm so happy to have found this page with so much info about it. Well, let's hope that one day it'll be released. Thanks A LOT for your review. Greetings from Brazil! .-)

Cinema Du Meep said...

Great review, Hal!

I've had this on VHS for years, and I really need to revisit this now. Thanks!

Unknown said...

I'm happy to say this film is now on DVD on a 'Movies for the Man-Cave' multipack featuring seven other movies, six of them made-for-tv movies. You get Nightmare in Badham County, Superdome (1978), Pray for the Wildcats (1974), Wild Women (1970) and Amazons (1984), among others. I was so happy to find this for $5 at Walmart. I really enjoyed this movie.

Hal said...

Cinema, thanks for the kind words! Jeremy--that is fantastic news, all of it. PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS is one I've been wanting to see for ages, and AMAZONS is one I bought on VHS solely because it was Tamara Dobson's swan song. I'll be on the lookout for it. Is NIGHTMARE the original ABC print, or the one with the R-rated footage?

George White said...

Wouldn't that footage be have used for international theatrical release as per usual for some TVMS in the 70s?

ajliccione said...

Yes I saw this on TV when it first came out. This can be called Classic Sleaze. Movies that are ridiculously exploitative,and whose cast should know better than to embarrass themselves like this. Other movies from the era include Mandingo, Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway, Born Innocent and the 1971 Doctors Wives. I mean a classic actress,a real beauty in her day, Yvonne DeCarlo was short on cash. She signed on to The Munsters a silly but fun show. The actors in the above mentioned Sleaze Classics should have tried their hands at Real Estate.

Unknown said...

Why this can't be seen on tv or pull up on YouTube