TV Terror Guide: Baffled! (1972)


Air Date: Jan. 20, 1973 (NBC Tuesday Night at the Movies)

Production Companies: Arena Productions, Incorporated Television Company (ITC)

Running Time: 90 min.

Available on: DVD (Scorpion Releasing), YouTube

Written by: Theodore Apstein

Directed by: Philip Leacock

Cast: Leonard Nimoy, Susan Hampshire, Rachel Roberts, Vera Miles, Jewel Blanch, Valerie Taylor

We’ve been working through our 70’s TV movies chronologically. However, we’ll occasionally backtrack to see if any we missed the first time have become available. Such is the case with today’s film.

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Baffled! (1972) has all the characteristics of the television pilot that it is. Considering the formula has been utilized many times in other shows, it’s curious that it was a failed pilot. For reasons I’ll attempt to pinpoint, I found it unusual. However, I also found it entertaining.

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Familiar with Leonard Nimoy only from Star Trek, I at first thought he was miscast as the lead, psychic race driver Tom Kovack. I have never seen him play his role on Mission: Impossible, so I could be wrong. I imagine M:I stands in between as a bridge between characters.

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It’s not that it’s odd to see Nimoy having a good time; he’s often quite funny. However, it’s unsettling to hear him speak 70s lingo. He does seem to have some genuine chemistry, though, with his female counterpart, Michele Brent, played by Susan Hampshire.

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They develop a sweet relationship right off the bat. She seems to know more about his “power” than he does and acts like a mentor for him. At the same time, she understands that it’s new to him and she offers encouragement, sometimes pushing him to test his limits.

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They meet when Michele sees Tom talking about a racing accident on a talk show. He’s transparent about its cause: he had a vision of a huge manor house and a woman crying for help. When they identify the location in England, she convinces him to join her on a spontaneous trip.

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This was a big pill for me to swallow. I don’t know that I’ve seen a movie or show where someone’s psychic ability is global. Tom has visions of people in danger... anywhere on Earth, it seems. The movie ends as it begins, with Tom sensing someone in trouble in a faraway location. From London, he and Michele are off to Paris.

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Baffled! isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, so I hesitate to focus on plot points like the one where suspects are eliminated by childlike logic. For example, Tom says, “Hopkins is a nice guy; so, it’s not the butler.”

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All the qualities of the movie come together in a particular scene where Tom and Michele are trapped in an elevator shaft. There’s genuine suspense as the car threatens to land on top of them. But there’s humor, too, as Tom attempts to open the doorway to freedom by saying, “Open sesame!”

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I imagine over time, the show might have found its groove and coalesced into something akin to comfort food. The pilot just doesn’t quite have the spark to call it a missed opportunity. The good news is there’s no cliffhanger, so you can treat it as the standalone effort that it ultimately was.

Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch Baffled! as well as all the great movies from this series...

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