The Top Ten Robert Culp TV Movies (MOTW)

According to the IMDB, Robert Culp, who would have turned 85 last month (8/16), did as many TV films (35) as he did theatrical releases (34). I’m still on the hunt for many of his MOTW, but awhile back I polled fans on Facebook as to their favorites. I think I have a respectable Top Ten list of TV movies that, in many cases, are still remembered by viewers to this day.

In order of air date:

The Hanged Man (1964) – Directed by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry, The Shootist) this was the second TV movie to air and was an adaptation of the 1947 film Ride the Pink Horse. Set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, Culp is Harry Pace who arrives to find out why a friend was killed and finds himself embroiled in shady union politics. Edmond O’Brien is the union boss with dirty hands, Norman Fell is the cop trying to find out why Pace’s friend was murdered and Vera Miles is the love interest whose allegiance to any man is questionable. Culp’s performance is dark and brooding and through the lies and deceit, the truth he seeks turns out to be more than he bargained for.


See the Man Run (1971) – Also known as The Second Face, the suspense in this one starts from the get-go and doesn’t let up. Culp is Ben Taylor, an alcoholic out of work actor who has recently moved into a new cheapie apartment with his wife Joanne (Angie Dickinson). Their phone number, previously issued to a Dr. Thomas Spencer (Eddie Albert), is the number a couple of kidnappers dial to say they have his daughter and demand a $50,000 ransom. Culp has no chance to tell them they have the wrong number and after he calls Dr. Spencer and tries to explain what happened, the doctor thinks he is the kidnapper. Caught in the middle and egged on by his wife, Culp runs the dangerous game of go between with the doctor and the real kidnappers for the chance at $150,000. Watching Culp switch roles from cool, threatening kidnapper to trembling victim to mere actor trying keep his wits about him is enough to induce schizophrenia. Angie Dickinson is great as she gets consumed with greed and the twist ending – you’ll never see it coming.


A Cold Night’s Death (1973) – I’m including this one because it seems to be on other people’s top list but here’s the thing: I haven’t watched it yet. I got as far into it as when the helicopter pilot is showing Culp and Eli Wallach around the lab, which is located on some godforsaken frozen mountain, and he shows them the part of the lab with the big vats that hold snow to melt to use for drinking water and I had this awful vision. I won’t share it but since I live in a place that has winters that look like where this laboratory was located, I haven’t had the hot foot to go back to it.


Outrage (1973) – Apparently based on true events, Culp is Dr. Jim Kiler, a veterinarian and family man, living in a gated community somewhere in California. The spoiled rich kids in the neighborhood enjoy raising a ruckus and go hot rodding around in their cars, risking life and limb to anyone who is out on the sidewalk or in the street. Kiler petitions to have speed bumps put in the neighborhood and after becomes the target of the punks and their escalating antics. The basic story line of the gentle man pushed too far, anyone who has seen Culp in his Columbo episodes will recognize the contained simmering anger in this one that builds up to a violent and, let’s face it, satisfying vigilante outburst at the end.



Strange Homecoming (1974) – Culp plays Jack Halsey, who left his small town 18 years earlier and sends postcards back home to his brother, Bill (Glen Campbell), from all these exotic locations all over the world where he does “business.” His business, however, is that of a jewel thief and while in Hawaii Jack adds murder to his resume. On the run from the law, he returns home to the surprise of his family and old friends, who are oblivious to his true trade. Campbell, who’s also sheriff of the town, starts to become suspicious of his brother. Culp is cool yet wild eyed and creepy in this one, having an especially awkward moment involving a pair of ladies nylon stockings (causing him to flashback to the murder in Hawaii). When the brothers finally clash, only one will win and the ending may surprise you a little.


A Cry for Help (1975) – Culp channels his inner Don Imus in this one as a caustic talk radio host, Harry Freeman, who indulges in diatribes and insults his listeners for sport during the morning commute. When a young girl phones in saying she’s going to commit suicide, he blows her off, jokingly asking where she was and that he would join her. When his listeners start phoning in and taking him to point, including a psychologist, Culp scrambles to try to locate the girl via his listeners to stop her from going through with it. The best part of this is watching Culp turn from caustic to caring and seeing the humanity in the character come through…even though he masks it and denies it.


Flood! (1976) – Master of Disaster Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno) brings big screen disaster to the small screen with the story of a rain swollen lake, an earthen dam that can’t hold it back much longer and the small town of Brownsville that stands to be washed away when the dam breaks. Culp is helicopter pilot Steve Brannigan who ferries high paying clients back and forth to fishing cabins at the lake. After seeing the water level at the dam, along with a fresh leak, he tells fellow pilot and friend Paul Burke (Martin Milner) who tries to get the mayor and town council to consent to opening the dam to relieve the pressure. They won’t because it will ruin the fishing, thus ruin the tourism…which apparently is more important than, say, preventing the whole town from wiped out by the flood from the busted dam, which is exactly what happens (how’s the fishing now?!). Culp assists in rescue efforts with his bird and looks really good doing it, just saying!


Spectre (1977) – Originally pitched as a pilot for a potential series created by Gene Roddenberry, Culp plays William Sebastian a renowned criminologist and dabbler in the occult. With his partner, Dr. Hamilton (Gig Young), the two are a modern day Holmes and Watson. They travel to England at the request of Anitra Cyon, who believes her brother Jeffrey has come under the influence of some kind of evil. All the Culp coolness you love is here along with a good mystery and very well done production.


Last of the Good Guys (1978) – Culp once said in an interview that the earliest incarnation of “Maxwell” was in this, where he plays a tough, calcified, by-the-book (sound familiar?) police sergeant named Nichols that oversees a misfit squad of cops (including Dennis Dugan, Ji-tu Cumbuka, James Hong and Hampton Francher). When veteran cop Frank O’Malley (Larry Hagman) dies just days from retirement, the younger cops plot to manipulate Nichols by covering for O’Malley at roll call until his retirement date, so that his widow and kids can receive his pension. Nichols catches on to the ploy and after Officer Lucas (Dugan) attempts a last minute desperate shakedown on Nichols involving a “breach of promise” with a young blind girl, it comes down to whether the tough as nails Nichols sticks with the book regarding O’Malley’s pension or not.


Killjoy (1981) – A murder mystery so damn convoluted you’re not sure who really died and who really did it until the very end. Culp is Lou Corbin, a cop and also a suspicious character in his own right, who knew the victim, Joy Morgan, and is trying to find out who killed her. A tip of the hat to Columbo with a touch of Maxwell with a bent, Corbin shows up on people’s door steps, pops in on them when they least expect it (especially when they go rummaging through the victim’s house) and essentially pesters everybody (just like Columbo!) but never lets on that he’s a cop until the end.


Honorable Mentions:

Houston, We’ve Got a Problem (1974) – Dramatization of the 1970 Apollo 13 crisis, only this one focused on the lives of the men who were on the ground at Houston Mission Control, having to work to figure out how to get the crippled space craft back to Earth and back to safety. Culp is Retro Officer Steve Bell, who suffers from a deteriorating heart condition that will essentially end his career if not his life before Apollo 13 makes it back to earth. Not knowing if the lunar module itself is damaged, Culp must figure a point of re-entry and calculate coordinates to bring the module safely back through Earth’s atmosphere. The other story lines run more melodramatic and the film was criticized at the time for being so (and for being overly fictionalized) but if you’re a Culp fan his performance alone is worth the watch.


The Blue LightningThe Blue Lightning (1986) – Although he opens the movie, there’s not enough of Culp in this one, plain and simple. Culp is ex-IRA bomber and cutthroat criminal Lester McInally (complete with Irish brogue) operating in the Australian outback when he goes up against private investigator Harry Wingate (Sam Elliot) who is attempting to retrieve a priceless opal from him. The film is non-stop action and only slows down enough when Elliot takes a bullet in the lung from Culp (ha!). Character development is sparse but the Australian scenery is magnificent. I would have liked to have seen a scene showing Culp overseeing his den of debauchery at McInally’s Casino, ordering thugs around and all but, alas.


Combat High (aka, Combat Academy) (1986) – Military academy version of “Police Academy” (produced by the same people) Culp is in the Commandant Lassard role here (although not as air headed), as the head of a military academy. When two punk kids (Keith Gordon, Wallace Langham) are sent to his school, they turn it and him upside down. Culp suffers the typical sophomoric indignities in this one, including the entire dining table being upended on him in the mess hall dumping just about everything all over his uniform and his office is sabotaged six ways from Sunday. A young George Clooney plays Culp’s son and there’s a subplot involving the strained father/son relationship. The film is loaded with noted guest stars including Jamie Farr (actually in a uniform as opposed to his typical “dress” on MASH), Bernie Koppell, John Ratzenburger, Richard Moll, Dick Van Patten and Sherman Hemsley.

Is there a MOTW you think should have been on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

~Lisa Philbrick



The Blue Lightning

The Blue Lightning

The Blue Lightning

CBS Movie of the Week

Originally broadcast May 7, 1986

**Contains spoilers**

Prior to watching the dreadful National Lampoon’s Movie Madness I had discovered that the TV movie The Blue Lightning from 1986 was given a proper DVD release earlier this year (2013). I had seen a few clips of Culp from this one on YouTube and, of course, loved the aviators, the Irish accent and the riding boots. I hoped to find the movie to see the whole thing some day.

I was very glad to find it on DVD and had watched it just before seeing the National Lampoon movie. To set things right in my world I figured to go back and wipe the memory of National Lampoon from my mind and take a look at The Blue Lightning again.

Besides, I needed to do some screen caps y’know…

The movie opens in Opal Ridge, Australia where Quinton McQueen is tied to a tree and is about to be left for dead by Lester McInally (Culp). (Lester’s last name, to note, is pronounced two different ways in this movie; the Australian pronunciation sounds like “McKinley” while the American way is like it’s spelled, Mac-In-Ally.)  Quinton pleads to not be left tied to the tree where the wild dogs would get to him and eat him alive. One of McInally’s thugs, Mr. Words, asks for McInally to show some mercy. After some thought, McInally agrees and as Mr. Words starts for the tree to untie McQueen, McInally pulls his gun and shoots McQueen, killing him. “There,” he says to Words, “we’ve saved him from the dingos…”

(Clip courtesy of FedKidCounselor)

Hell of an intro for Culp’s character! And he’s just as merciless through the rest of the movie.

Back in San Francisco, Harry Wingate (Sam Elliot), an adventurer, sailboat enthusaist umm…private investigator? I’m not sure exactly what Wingate’s profession is but he’s hired by Brutus Cathcart (Max Phipps) to do one of two things; retrieve a priceless opal or get back the $400,000 Brutus paid in attempt to buy the opal from McInally. McInally, a former IRA bomber who has been hiding from the British in Australia, runs a town called Opal Ridge and discovered the Blue Lightning opal himself. He initially put a price tag on it of $250,000 but kept upping the price on Cathcart, who, one might consider foolishly, kept paying.

Harry initially refuses the job unless he gets $100,000 plus expenses or 25% of the true value of the opal, whichever is greater but Cathcart only offers $80,000. Harry leaves Cathcart’s office but they must have worked something out because Wingate heads off to Australia, where he purchases a black market  .44 magnum upon arrival and then finds a rattlesnake in his hotel room.

Good thing he got the gun first because he uses it to cut the snake in half. He then dumps it outside his hotel room, just as a bride and groom are going by. (Hopefully that didn’t bode badly for their future together.)

Harry then meets with Kate McQueen (Rebecca Gilling), whose husband Quinton works for Brutus Cathcart and also had McInally as a client (tho’ I’m not sure at this point in the movie what exactly it is that Quinton did). Anyway, Harry talks Kate into going with him to Opal Ridge, more or less as insurance since he doesn’t know her or Quinton and thinks it’s possible she and her husband have the opal for themselves.

On the drive to Kate’s house, they pick up a tail. A couple of McInally’s boys try to run Harry off the road. Harry ends up running them off the road, but later at Kate’s house his car is rigged with a bomb. He discovers it in time before it blows up and he and Kate take off into the brush as the two hired guns come swooping in. Harry and Kate make their escape in a sky tram, exchanging gunfire with the baddies along the way.

On the other side of the valley they make their way to an airport to get a plane. The hired guns catch up and get themselves a plane too – and leave no witnesses.

The guns catch up in the air and manage to shoot a hole in Harry’s plane. Harry manages to get the plane down into some clouds to lose the guns and then down to the ground for a tough landing that busts the landing gear.

The hired guns keep looking to see where the plane went down. Harry and Kate catch their breath near a tree not far from the road they landed on. Unfortunately, a huge truck comes along and smashes their plane to pieces. The driver is horrified thinking he had killed someone. He finds Harry and Kate are fine just as the hired guns show up in their plane. Everybody jumps into the cab of the truck and they take off, with the plane chasing after them and shooting.

The movie is only about 30 minutes old at this point and it’s been all action. There’s little character development or even much background. We still know little to nothing about Harry Wingate and Kate McQueen apparently spent some time with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, but in what capacity we do not know. This is one of the things about the movie that irritates me.

Also, one can only guess how McInally knew that Wingate was coming and sent his two “best men” after him. Not that it did any good. Harry manages to nail not only the pilot of the plane but the fuselage with his .44 from the speeding truck. Pretty good marksman. The plane goes down in a fireball.

They continue on to Opal Ridge without incident and the truck driver drops them off. He wishes them luck in their going up against McInally, who is hated with a passion apparently all over Australia (and the British government couldn’t find him?). Opal Ridge, one should note, is a town out in the middle of nowhere in the Australian Outback. Think of the old west towns, add a little more color, some cars along with horses and a video arcade. Yer there.

In town, Harry’s plan is simple. He’s just gonna walk right into McInally’s home base of operations and say howdy. (I like how the roof of McInally’s Casino – and that’s exactly what it’s called McInally’s Casino, very original  – has a huge FOSTER’S LAGER written across it. Don’t tell me I’m the only one who remembers the Foster’s tv ads back in the 80s… “Fawstahs, Awwstraylian for Beeah!”)

Inside the casino/bar, the bartender, Mr. Words, is throwing somebody out (a fellow hood perhaps? He apparently brought the wrong supplies to the bar. Idiot.). Harry goes up to the bar and orders a beer. Whatever’s on tap. (Ya reckon it’s Fosters? Can’t miss the Fosters signs on the wall. Oh, and CASH ONLY – no credit. You stiffs.)

Mr. Words draws up the beer and then slops it on the bar at Harry. There’s a brief exchange over the price of the beer considering most of it ends up on the bar which leads to a fisticuff.

Down in his underground lair, McInally is watching everything on his close circuit TVs. He applauds as Harry gets the upper hand.

Harry grabs Mr. Words and uses him to go down in the hole. McInally, knowing he has a visitor coming, prepares with a push of a button to summon his boys and have a gun at the ready.

Down in the lair, there’s the exchange of words between Harry and McInally. Listening to Culp do the Irish accent is worth the price of admission here. And it’s not so much the accent. It’s that he’s so damn deadly sounding with it. (“If you’re going to go on, with your rudeness, then I guess I’m going to have to do something about you…”)

Eventually McInally tries to take an upper hand and kill Harry but doesn’t quite succeed (but does plant a bullet in Harry’s lung). Chaos erupts outside the casino where McInally’s boys are waiting as Kate takes their Chevy El Camino-like car and runs them all over. Harry escapes the casino, jumps in the car and they take off. McInally comes out as they disappear in a cloud of dust, giving them a few parting shots as they go. He vows another day and then turns around to his trashed town and starts laughing like a maniac.

(Clip courtesy of FedKidCounselor)

McInally is very disappointed in his boys for letting Wingate get away. One poor sap gets his hand/fingers twisted behind his back. This same sap says something about Mrs. McQueen that gets cut off by McInally and suggests something about the kind of relationship they may have had. I’m not sure. Another piece of the puzzle that’s missing in this thing.

A hundred miles away, Kate drives Harry to a ranch, a mission, that was started by her husband when he was a priest (we find out around this time that he left the priesthood and became a private detective. That’s quite a career change!) At the ranch, Harry is treated by a doctor and spends some time re-cooperating. At the mission he comes to know some of the aboriginal people. Quinton McQueen is revered by the aborigines and Harry asks their help in going after McInally. At this point nobody knows if Quinton is dead or alive and initially, Harry is told no…until the aborigines find Quinton’s body still tied to the tree where McInally left him.

As they prepare for their raid, two of McInally’s men are watching. But they never get to report back to McInally because they end up caught – and killed by Harry and some of the aborigines.

A couple of days later, they launch their attack at dawn. Kate drives the truck she and Harry are in straight through the front window of McInally’s casino. Harry jumps out, Kate backs the truck out and Harry shoots the hell out of the bar. Seriously. The jukebox, the slot machines, the liquor, the pool table, the piano… and a couple of McInally’s men along the way.

The aborigines, meanwhile, smoke out the rest of McInally’s men, who are in various areas of the underground hideout (which is an old mine). Harry starts to make his way to McInally’s “main office.”

Down below, McInally gives an order to a few of his men that they’re going to go out via the back shaft. One man decides he’s just getting the hell out. McInally does not tolerate disobedience or disloyalty and promptly shoots the man in the back as he flees.

McInally grabs his gun, his aviators and his opal and makes his exit.

The climatic cat and mouse shootout between Wingate and McInally is pretty good. The use of the old abandoned mine platform is great, although I hope everyone got their tetanus shots updated considering all the rust they were around. My only disappointment was in McInally’s end. Seriously, for being so merciless and conniving and cold and what not, Culp’s McInally deserved a blaze of glory finish. His dangling of the opal over the catwalk as he died (and grabbed by Wingate) I think could have been better sequenced.

Overall, not a bad film but as I noted earlier it was fairly heavy on action and had little on character background or development. Actually, this could have made an interesting pilot for a series, which would have allowed for more character development but Culp’s McInally would have had to stick around to be the “Wofat” to Sam Elliot’s “Steve McGarrett.” Very good use of locations, of course, Australia is a beautiful place on Earth.

Reviews at the time were about the same, though one reviewer made it clear that they could not stand Sam Elliott. I’ll admit he did little for me in this film but Newsday felt Elliott was “the most boring, unappealing actor since the days of Mr. Ed, the talking horse. He speaks in a low, monotonous growl, always looking immensely pleased with himself. His mustache is thick and scruffy, his manners atrocious. In the final shootout, you may prefer to root for Robert Culp.”

The Chicago-Sun Times couldn’t get enough of poking fun at the fact that Wingate carries this big-ass gun and can’t hit much with it. “…poor Elliott’s aim with a gun is almost comical. No, it is comical. Time after time, he fires countless rounds of bullets from “the most powerful handgun blah, blah, blah . . .” and rarely manages to inflict much damage beyond building up a callus on his trigger finger.” (I think I hear Frank Bogg’s in the background…  “What’s the matter, Harry? Need a bigger gun? Can’t hit nothin’?“)

As for Culp, the Sun-Times described his role as “played to the hilt” and that “in a relatively modest role, Culp seems to have the time of his life playing the thug McInally.”

The New York Times also noted Culp’s performance: “…although he appears in only a few scenes, Robert Culp is positively menacing as the clearly psychotic McInally.”

I don’t know if he had “the time of his life” playing the part, but I think he certainly had some fun with it.

One user submitted review on IMDB notes: “Sadly, despite all the heat and dust, Sam Elliott doesn’t get to do a shower scene even though, at about age 42, he’d still look good walking around with just a towel knotted around his waist.”

Big deal. Robert Culp, meanwhile, at about age 55 sports the well-fitted khaki’s very nicely, thank you…


Cast highlights…

Despite being called “the most boring, unappealing actor since the days of Mr. Ed, the talking horse” Sam Elliott has had a long and varied career and has appeared in such films as Road HouseGettysburgTombstone and The Big Lebowski. His beefcake status was achieved with the 1976 film Lifeguard.


Jack Davis, the only other American cast member, plays the leader of the aborigines (Jahrgadu) and forges a bond with Wingate. Jack began his acting career as a child, appearing in several of the Our Gang short films in the early 1920s before being sent off to military school by his brother-in-law, Harold Loyd. He would eventually become a well respected physician in the Los Angeles area but still continued to appear in various films and tv shows from the 1940s until his death in 1990.

The cast featured several well known and recognized Australian actors, including…

Rebecca Gilling. In an interview with “TV EYE” from February of 1995 she was asked about the film and although she said she had fun doing it she didn’t consider it a critical highlight of her career. She went on to say, “It was the first time I had been offered a role sight unseen or without interview. Lee Philips, the director, had been an actor in Hollywood in the fifties and sixties, and knew exactly how to communicate with the cast. The conditions were challenging as we were mostly in Broken Hill in the middle of summer. Sam Elliot was a very nice man but very serious as an actor. Robert Culp seemed to be extremely bland and disconnected from everything. He could never remember my name and I became ‘the girl’. I think he thought he was only doing this movie as a diversion, a visit to the antipodes. The only unusual episode during filming was a dispute between Sam and Robert over whose character should have the biggest gun in the shoot-out!”

John Meilon is the doctor that patches up Harry at the ranch. The same year as this movie, Meilon would be seen as Crocodile Dundee’s friend and mentor in the original Crocodile Dundee.




McInally’s “best men” were played by Michael Carmen (blonde) and Ray Meagher. Both Carmen and Meagher are veteran Australian actors who have appeared in many films and tv shows in Australia.




Although he only had one scene, Max Phipps’s Brutus Cathcart was memorable enough. Phipps career spanned theatre, film and television in Australia. He played Dr. Frank-n-Furter in the Australian production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and played “The Toadie” in the second Mad Max film (The Road Warrior) where he loses a few digits trying to catch a particularly sharp boomerang.


The abandoned mine where the final shootout takes place is known as “Browne’s Shaft,” part of Junction Mine, located just outside of the city of Broken Hill in Australia. The buildings still stand today, including the shaft building and storage tanks that are seen in the film. The area is now a historic site and is open to visitors, however, I suspect one can not go into the mine shaft building anymore.  The mine did not produce opals, however, but instead produced silver and other such metals.

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The Blue Lightning is available on DVD through

And in This Corner…

When George Foreman and Muhammad Ali were preparing for their World Heavyweight Championship match in Zaire, Africa in 1974, (the historic “Rumble in the Jungle”), they ran into a bit of a snag. Foreman ended up with a cut over his eye during a training session which put the fight off for nearly a month. The two fighters remained in Africa, however, training, doing road work, holding sparring sessions and basically keeping in shape for the big fight until Foreman’s cut healed up.

Of course, all that work and no play can be no fun. I mean, really, you can only dance with a punching bag for so long.

Well, ABC Sports and ABC Entertainment came to the rescue and shipped off a few movies to Africa for the fighters to watch during some well-deserved down time. The movies included theatrical releases, such as “Straw Dogs” and “Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came?” and made-for-tv films, such as Darren McGavin’s “The Night Stalker,” Andy Griffith’s “Pray for the Wildcats” and…

…Robert Culp’s “Outrage.”

According to the Rock Hill (S.C.) Herald, the ratings system was simple. If either fighter’s camp asked to see a movie for a second time, the film was a hit. Of course, as with most things I find in the Google news archive, I found no follow up on the films and how they were received. I can’t help but wonder though what critique the two fighters might have had for the scene where Culp takes Mark Leonard down with a good ole fashioned right cross.

Foreman: “Of course that fight was fixed. Culp fixed it with his right hand!”

Ali: “He’s a baaaad man!”



ABC Movie of the Week

Original air date: November 28, 1973

**Contains spoilers**

Back in 2008, when I found the I Spy episodes, Greatest American Hero video, the Get Smartclip and a couple other gems on YouTube, I found a “trailer” of sorts for this 1973 made-for-tv movie. The video has since been removed from YouTube, but it was a collection of scenes from the movie, including parts of the ending where Culp goes “calmly ballistic” and smashes the hell out of whatever he can with his pickup truck and baseball bat. After seeing the clip and reading a little bit more about the movie, I knew I had to find it just so I could watch him go berserk and cheer him on. I love old/classic cars but the kids in this film looked like a bunch of real pieces of —-.

Turns out, I was right.

I eventually did find the film at a wonderful website called, which specializes in rare and hard to find 60s and 70s feature films and made-for-tv movies. The copy is good, but the viewer should be aware that it is not a remastered film. Capping this thing proved challenging and there were some shots I could not get that were very clear.

The events in this movie were based on an actual incident that occurred. Culp plays Dr. Jim Kiler, a veterinarian, who lives with his wife and children in an affluent gated community called “Oak Meadows” in California. Unfortunately, some of the residents of the community include some spoiled and bored rich kids who have nothing better to do with their time than tear around in their hotrods harassing the neighborhood. The movie opens with the boys dumping a truck full of junk and garbage into the swimming pool of an older woman who lives in the neighborhood.

When the kids’s drag racing spooks the horses Jim and his family are riding, Jim and his wife, Muriel (Marlyn Mason) decide to start a petition to install speed bumps and stop signs in the neighborhood. And things begin to escalate from there.

Vance Chandler (the leader of the pack, if you will – played by Tom Leopold) and another kid are racing up and down the street and nearly run Kiler down in his own driveway. The other kid’s car suffers a broken headlight, and Jim ends up with a broken hand as he ends up karate chopping the thing. Jim gets nowhere with the Sheriff’s department or the highway patrol as he has only a vague description of the car and obviously couldn’t get a license plate while diving out of the way. He confronts Vance afterwards, wanting to know who the other boy was. He gets a name, and then gets some additional information from the police who track down the car. Jim then talks to the young man, Carl Dibble.

Carl (played by Don Stark – whom I have an interesting tidbit about when I get to the end of this) seems to show some genuine remorse for what happened and doesn’t want for things to be escalated by any lawsuits or anything. Jim doesn’t say one way or the other if he’ll press charges.

In the end, he does. In court, however, when Vance Chandler and Ron Werner’s parents don’t show up, the judge postpones the hearing to a later date, which only opens up a whole lot of time for Chandler and his friends to harass Jim and his family.

And harass, they do. They start by throwing cans of paint at the house. Then the boys fire incendiary devices over the house and over the lawn, setting a hay bale on fire. The Kilers get no help from the law and already by this point Murielwants to move. Jim, however, refuses to cave in to a bunch of “spoiled brats.” In fact, he’s so adamant it’s the first real flash of red hot anger we see from him. For the rest of the movie, however, Kiler is a man who is constantly simmering and trying very hard to do things by the law.

He calms himself immediately though and instead he suggests that Muriel not be at the house by herself and they ask their housekeeper, Thelma, to stay during the day. She does, and as expected, the torment from the boys continues. They dig up and tear apart the plants Muriel was planting, only to get a free bath from Thelma when she turns on the lawn sprinkler.

Undeterred, the boys then plant a cherry bomb in the Kiler’s mailbox. Again, the law can’t do much. But the deputy offers to put in some off duty time to try to catch the boys. Although Jim appreciates the offer and agrees, it’s still unofficial.

The antics continue with Vance making an obscene phone call and then taunting Jim after Kiler picks up the extension. Jim’s simmer starts to boil and he’s about to march out of the house to confront Vance again. Muriel tells Jim to stay put while she goes across the street to try to talk to Mr. Chandler, which gets her nowhere. Chandler tells her to tell Jim to leave his family alone. Thing is, Jim had followed Muriel over and hears this just in time. When Jim confronts Chandler, Chandler tries to take a swing at him only to end up on the ground by Jim. Muriel pulls Jim away and walks him back to the house.

By this point, Muriel is at her wits end. She’s begun taking tranquilizers to get through the day. Jim tells her he wants her and the kids to go to her mother’s for a while, until the trial is over. She doesn’t want to go – she’d rather just pack up and move out of the neighborhood. But Jim refuses to give in to the threats and antics of these kids and reminds her of that.

While they’re talking, the boys have been busy stringing up an effigy outside the Kiler’s home. With the call of their car horns and revving engines, the Kiler’s come out side in time to see effigy’s of them, burning from the tree.

The next day Jim sees his wife and kids off. Vance and his buddies are watching from across the street and they follow Muriel as she drives out of the neighborhood, tailgating, hollering and blaring horns. Jim follows in his truck. Chandler and his friends then let her go and double back to the Kiler home, proceeding to take the split rail fence down.

Jim returns home to find his fence destroyed. The deputy sheriff makes a stop by, unfortunately not soon enough to have caught the boys in the act. He then finds out that Jim has sent Muriel away and is disappointed, as he had asked that an adult be at the house at all times in order to try to catch these kids in the act. Of course, he then tells Jim that he would be away for a while as his son and daughter in law had just bought a new house up in Oregon.

In court, Carl Dibble has changed his plea to no contest for the hit and run. As a result he is given one year probation, a $200 fine and his license is suspended for six months. Unfortunately, as a result of Carl’s change of plea it lets Vance Chandler and Ronald Werner off the hook and the charges against them are dismissed, much to Jim Kiler’s surprise. The judge makes his displeasure clear and speaks strongly to the parents, telling them to straighten these boys up or else they could end up in prison someday.

With the trial over, and the boys let off scot free, Jim’s not sure if they’ve sobered up a bit or if they’ll be encouraged to try more antics. He phones Muriel and tells her to wait a couple of days before coming back home.

Jim attempts to get things back to some kind of normal and has some workers working on cleaning up the red paint from the face of the house. But the antics of the boys continue. After returning from a horse ride, Jim heads out behind the house to put the horse in the stall. The family dog, Oliver, remains out front, where he’s spotted by the boys as they drive by. They entice the dog with some food and essentially dognap him.

It doesn’t seem like the boys intended for any harm to come to the dog, but as they’re playing with Oliver, Vance comes barreling through in his car – and hits the dog. They leave Oliver on Kiler’s front step to be found later that night.

Jim makes an appearance at the next town meeting to talk about the teenage violence. He had distributed a letter and got responses back from other teens in the community who had no qualms about naming names as to who were responsible for the acts of violence that were taking place. Jim names the families, getting as far as the Chandlers and the Werners. Mr. Werner objects, threatening to sue for slander. But then another citizen comes to the defense of Jim and when Jim delivers a speechify about controlling the kids to prevent someone from getting hurt, or killed, the townsfolk applaud. Jim proceeds, at the behest of the Mayor, to name the names. The families accused walk out, but the rest of the townsfolk still back up Jim.

Despite the support, the town folk vote against any new spending on additional protection from the Sheriff’s department.

For three weeks though, things seem quiet. Muriel returns home with the kids and, other than having to explain about the loss of Oliver, it seems like things can finally get back to normal. The young girl’s birthday is coming up and since Thelma will miss the actual day, they decide to have a little get up that night with some cake and ice cream.

Chandler and his friends decide to put some “icing on the cake” and they lob bricks through the kitchen window, injuring Thelma. This becomes the incident that finally sends Jim over the edge. He heads out with his pickup truck and baseball bat and proceeds to smash the hell out of each of the cars involved, along with some fences and a greenhouse. At each stop, he announces himself. He pours paint over one of the cars. Tosses patio furniture through a front window. Breaks a window at another house and shoves the garden hose through, spraying water at full blast. And he smashes out the windows on all the cars.

At the Chandler house, he pushes Vance’s Chevy with his truck. He then breaks the windows on the car, all the while calling for Chandler, who looks out from within the house. For Chandler, however, Jim has reserved a very special revenge. He pushes Vance’s car down to the bottom of the drive way, stuffs paper into the gas tank and lights it on fire. He jumps back in his truck, zips across the street and gets back out in time to turn around and watch Vance’s Chevy blow up into a huge fireball.

The movie ends with a on screen note saying that no charges were brought against Jim and there was no further violence in “Oak Meadows.”

No matter how many times I’ve watched the ending of this movie, I still get a bit of a rush from it. Culp plays Kiler as a man simmering through the entire film. He pops a gasket a couple of times, but otherwise struggles to keep his cool in the face of the crap these kids are dishing out. You know he wants to just beat the snot out of all of them. But as he himself says after he slugs Vance’s father, “other than being stupid, (violence) doesn’t solve anything.”

He tries so hard to do things legal and civil like. Throughout the movie the antics of the boys involves mostly just property damage. With the death of Oliver one might have thought that would have sent Jim over the edge. He’s clearly heartbroken and at that point pleads to the entire town for some kind of help. But even then, he doesn’t get any.

The final straw comes during a special moment for one of his kids. A simple little birthday celebration, being held special so that Thelma can be there, is shattered, literally, by Vance and his friends and Thelma is injured. It could have just as easily been Muriel or one of the kids who got struck by the brick.  And you know Culp, as Kiler, knows this. The look on his face, after the ambulance pulls away from the house, goes from exhaustion and defeat to the dangerous look of complete and total…outrage. He’s crossed the line and there’s no turning back. Not even Muriel’s plea, her reminder of his promise of no violence, does any good. He’s too far gone.

What’s scary is watching him do this all so damn calmly! There’s no crazed outburst. No excessive screaming and carrying on. He turns his truck into a tool of destruction. He carries nothing more than a couple of paint cans and a baseball bat. He announces himself at each location. (The best one being after he smashes through the greenhouse with his truck. “This is Jim Kiler! If you wanna play come on out!”)

Only he’s not playing. Maybe the final destruction sequence is tame compared to anything nowadays, but don’t look at just what he does physically. Watch his expression. For crying out loud, if it weren’t for the fact that he doesn’t want anyone physically hurt during his rampage (thus his announcing himself and warning people away from windows before he throws patio furniture through it), he would have been bashing more than just car windows, grills and blowers!

This movie had several notable guest stars. Of note…

Thomas Leopold (Vance Chandler) is better known for his comedic writing, having worked with the likes of Steve Allen and Chevy Chase and penned scripts for shows such as Seinfeld and Cheers. He also has worked as an executive producer.

Nicholas Hammond (Ron Werner) would go on to play Spider Man in the 1977-1979 series The Amazing Spider Man. Nick also was one of the youngsters (Friedrich) in The Sound of Music.

Don Stark (Carl Dibble) is best recognized now as Bob Pinciotti of That 70’s Show. Also interesting to note he portrayed the character of Bill Maxwell in the 2009 fan film short of The Greatest American HeroOutrage is listed as his first film credit on the IMDB.

Mark Lenard (Mr. Chandler) is best known for his work in the various Star Trekseries’, having played a Romulan, a Vulcan and Klingon. He also is one of the few (if not the only) actor to reprise a character who was not an original lead character across multiple Star Trek franchises. He voiced, though was not seen, as Sarek in the original Star Trek, then reprised the role in two Star Trek films and also appeared on The Next Generation.

Marlyn Mason (Muriel Kiler) appeared with Robert Culp in the I Spy episode “Weight of the World” and would co-star with him again in another made-for- tv movie The Last of the Good Guys in 1978.

Ramon Bieri (Deputy Tottif) is immediately recognizable as he appeared in well over a hundred television shows in the 70s and 80s often as a law man, politician or villain.

Emmy award winning actress Beah Richards (Thelma) appeared with Robert Culp in the I Spy episode “Cops and Robbers” as Scotty’s mother.  She was nominated for an Oscar in 1968 for her role as Mrs. Prentice in the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

A search through the Google Archive turned up a couple of television programming notes around the time the movie originally aired.

Outrage is available on DVD through