Wicked Wednesday: Night Terror (1977)

I love made-for-TV movies. I love Made-for-TV March. A whole four weeks of dramatic pauses for commercials, effective uses of lightning and familiar faces from shows your ma watches. Truly, a most wonderful time of the year.

This week, I treated myself to Night Terror, a suspenseful chase film starring the TV movie legend Valerie Harper.

Harper plays Carol Turner, a frazzled and forgetful housewife. Her family is preparing to move across the country to Colorado for her husband’s job. Now just saying this upfront: Carol’s husband, Walter, is a loser and does not deserve her!

Anyway, the kids go ahead with their aunt and father while Carol follows behind with the station wagon. She intends to meet up with Walter for their second honeymoon before going to Colorado. Only Walter needs to cancel their plans because of work-something-or-another.

Carol’s night only gets worse when she discovers that her son has been sent to the hospital and needs surgery. Panic-stricken, she gets into her car in the middle of the night and heads off to Colorado on her own.

Along the way, Carol realises her car’s gas tank is nearly empty. She sees a cop on the side of the road with another car pulled over, she stops to ask for help. Only when she does, the man in the pulled-over car shoots and kills the police officer.

Panicked, Carol drives off into the night, but her pursuer is not going to let her go. What follows is a pretty lengthy, but intense chase scene.

Carol has to use her wits to get help and avoid the killer. She commits a few faux pas along the way, but she’s ultimately responsible for all her successes. But the killer is pretty relentless and clever, there are a number of times I shouted, “NO CAROL!!!!” at my TV screen, which is surely a sign of good pace!

When Carol is finally victorious and at her child’s bedside, her husband arrives. When he tells her, “You poor baby. You of all people.” without knowing what she’s been through… well, it’s enough to make your blood boil! Please tell me there’s a part two where she kills him and lives her best Thelma and Louise life.

Night Terror is a gem. It’s got a great pace, which I think is greatly benefited by its 70-minute run time. Not only does it clip along nicely, but it looks great too. The rainy night and dry, desert day look fabulous on screen. The killer (played by the super hot Richard Romanus) is excellent. You don’t know much about him at all. He’s really just there to be menacing – and he is!

There are several things that date this one in a not-so-fun way, but if you want a fun thriller version of The Hitcher or Duel. But this one has Valerie Harper, so it has to have an edge in that respect! Harper manages to seem both frantic and compelling while not overdoing it completely. This is why she will always be an icon.

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