235.  Crowhaven Farm  (US 1970)

Director: Walter Graumann

Starring: Hope Lange, Paul Burke, Lloyd Bochner, John Carradine, Cindy Eilbacher

Cinematography: Fleet Southwood

Music: Robert Drasnin

Script/Story: John McGreevey

Bit part: William Smith

Fact:: Produced by shitemeister Aaron Spelling

In one line: Married couple find death and the supernatural in rural New England.

Summary:

The marriage of Ben and Maggie Porter is in trouble. They cannot conceive the  child they long for. They inherit a farm in a Salem-like setting (although the film is obviously shot in California) and Ben persuades Maggie that they should up sticks and move. Maggie starts to dream of being covered with a big wooden door, weighed down by rocks. A group of villagers welcome the Porters to Crowhaven (a place where bits of snot find solace). They call themselves the Weekenders, and lead Weekender Pierce (Bochner) tries to slope in on Maggie and offers her a job at his office. Ben becomes jealous. On a one storm lashed night, Maggie cannot make it home and is put up by Pierce, who tries it on, but is knocked back by the constant Maggie. The Porters stupidly adopt ten year old troublemaker Jennifer (Eilbacher), who falls for Ben and spreads lies about the father of Maggie's child when the Porters finally manage to conceive. Maggie's dreams of being crushed take on a life of their own and it soon becomes clear that an ancient witch's curse has been set in motion by their pre-ordained arrival. Maggie's dreams become visions of Puritans, witch trials, stonings and burnings and mob hate. The Porters have been brought to Crowhaven for a reason. Jennifer's lies about Maggie's supposed infidelity sets a tragic series of events in motion and the terrible events of the past are set in motion once again.

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A splendid TV movie which is now available on DVD. Crowhaven Farm has many features of the early 70s TV movie in terms of its pacing, its melodramatic, almost soap-like plot and its strange, waiting-for-the-adverts dissolves. Its Californian locations are another giveaway, as are its 'TV Movie' cast (the reliable Burke, the ubiquitous Carradine, and the beautiful Lange). It looks like fairly glossy TV rather than 'film', it's produced by Aaron Spelling and yet there's something eerie about this film that has remained with the seventies child TV addicts who saw it on its first run.

The plot and imagery are a mish-mash of several films and works from other media. The witch's curse/history repeating itself motif is blatantly stolen from City of the Dead (see 171); the Weekenders are very Rosemary's Baby and the destructive power of malicious gossip in Puritan settlements is taken from Miller's The Crucible. Having said that, the themes of eroded masculinity (Ben's sperms appear to be rubbish) and female fulfilment through conception (Maggie is described as 'barren' at one stage) touch on any number of (then) contemporary concerns.

The switching between seventies and seventeenth century America is effective and the gradual accumulation of circumstantial evidence which threatens to destroy Ben and Maggie's marriage, and indeed their lives, draws the audience into the film in the same tragic manner as Rosemary's Baby and the last film on the list Le Quai des Brumes.

There's also an appearance by trash tv icon William Smith as a vaguely familiar New York cop towards the end of the film to further recommend Crowhaven Farm to those with a multi-region DVD.

Right, I'm off to Everton v Sunderland (13:05, 24.11.07).

More gag-free reviews to follow.