Air Date: Nov. 24, 1970 (ABC Movie of the Week)
Production Companies: Aaron Spelling Productions
Running Time: 74 min.
Available on: YouTube
Written by: John McGreevey
Directed by: Walter Grauman
Cast: Hope Lange, Paul Burke, Lloyd Bochner, John Carradine, Cyril Delevanti, Milton Selzer, Patricia Barry, Cindy Eilbacher
Crowhaven Farm (1970) cleverly combines several occult elements into its story: reincarnation, witchcraft, and a big spooky house in the country. Its themes of marriage, jealousy, and desire to have children tie events from present to those of the past. The combination makes for an effective chiller, probably my favorite of the TV horror movies I’ve watched for this series... so far.
During an era when television ratings meant something, and being a top 20 show further meant it was a huge hit, Crowhaven Farm was apparently the fifth highest rated show the week it aired. It was also the fifth TV thriller in two months, so we can thank it at least partially for the avalanche that was to come throughout most of the 1970s.
Hope Lange is beautiful and terrific as Maggie Carey Porter, who inherits Crowhaven Farm under mysterious circumstances. She and her husband, Ben (Paul Burke), move there, but before the first commercial airs, she’s already feeling uncomfortable and asking her friend, Felicia (Patricial Barry) if she believes people can live more than one life. “That’s how I feel… like I lived here before.”
Some of the turns of events are predictable; however, just as many aren’t. I played my game of guessing, “I bet this is going to happen,” but it only did about half the time. This provided a nice sense of unease throughout the movie, and I was intrigued to continue watching.
Crowhaven Farm carries a mean streak through it, particularly during the climax. Then it ends with another twist that can be interpreted in one of two ways. It’s either a happy ending where reincarnation works for good (although I don’t think it happens that fast), or a twist ending where Maggie learns she will never escape her heritage and her destiny. Plus, ambiguity about a baby really left me uncertain.
When I think of punishing witches, I usually think of hanging them or burning them at the stake… maybe drowning them by seeing if they float. I’m not as familiar with “pressing.” This is when heavy boards are laid on their bodies, then rocks or boulders are placed on top until they’re crushed. As depicted here, it’s a process not easy to watch.
Crowhaven Farm was scripted by prolific television writer, John McGreevey, and directed by Walter Grauman, who directed a 1965 theatrical favorite of mine, Lady in a Cage. Both worked on various TV genre movies and shows. Those are some good credentials; but, to top it off, John Carradine appears in a few brief scenes as a creepy handyman. With his inclusion, I can’t think of anything else it needs.