House on Greenapple Road
by Barry Meyer
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CSI may think it’s the show that brought gore to the small screen. That’s because they didn’t see the opening scene of the made for TV movie House on Greenapple Road. With the backdrop of sweet melodic 70s muzak, little Eve Plumb (fresh in our minds and hearts as little Jan Brady) skips through pristine suburban streets towards home. She dances in, calling out her mother’s name—but she doesn’t answer. She sweeps into the kitchen, hoping to find her mom baking some tasty cookies, but she’s not that either. Unfazed by the puddles of blood and crimson hand smears that cover the walls, little Eve Plumb trots out the back door and across the way to her Aunt’s house.
Mind you, this is 1970’s television! This is an era when a gun shot victim would bear no visible wound—they’d just grab their belly in pain (always aim for the gut!)—and the utterance of “hell” would send parents scrambling to cover their kid’s ears. The most blood (in B/W, unless you were lucky enough to have Color) you’d likely see on the ol’ Quasar would be from the corner of the mouth of some sucker who just got punched.
House on Greenapple Road, like many other TV movies, was a pilot for the Burt Reynolds vehicle Dan August. Don’t look for the future Cosmo centerfold as the lead detective in this movie, though. That honor went to Christopher George (Grizzly). Obvioulsy they wanted to go a different route for the show, since George lacks that smart-ass charm that Reynolds was famous for. George does do a great job with his more gruff and bitter take on August, who is investigating the disappearance of the promiscuous wife (Psycho’s Janet Leigh) of a spineless salesman (recurrent TV guest star Tim O’Conner). Naturally, August has his run-ins with an unrelenting press, who clamor to collect every sensational detail, and with a fellow lawman (the even more gruff Ed Asner). The movie moves through flashbacks that inventory the various lovers turn suspects (amongst them is the fantastic William Windom) who August tracks down in search of the victim’s killer… as well as her missing body. He even shares a tender interrogation scene with his new bride, the sexy Lynda Day George (Mission Impossible).
This is a solid effort from the other genius TV producer (the other being Aaron Spelling) Quinn Martin. You always knew you were in for solid ride when you saw that familiar tag “A Quinn Martin Production.” Some seasoned film and television veterans were at work on Greenapple Road, including director Robert Day and writer George Eckstein (his script based on a novel by crime author Harold R. Daniels).
Barry Meyer is a film critic living in New Jersey.
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