TV Terror Guide: Cry Panic (1974)


Air Date: Feb. 6, 1974

Production Companies: Spelling-Goldberg Productions

Running Time: 74 min.

Available on: YouTube

Written by: Jack B. Sowards

Directed by: James Goldstone

Cast: John Forsythe, Earl Holliman, Ralph Meeker, Norman Alden, Claudia McNeil, Anne Francis

Cry Panic (1974) reminds me of another 1970s TV movie we’ve discussed here: Dying Room Only (1973.) Both, in turn, remind of a common formula, variations which are used in any number of other movies. This is the concept of someone witnessing something that no one believes. In these two movies, it’s actual people that others deny ever existed.

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In Dying Room Only, a woman’s husband disappears and, in the bar where she’s stranded, the proprietor and patron claim they never saw him. In Cry Panic, a man driving on a lonely road hits and kills a man whose body later disappears. These are compelling stories because these are not supernatural events. Instead, living, breathing people simply disappear.

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But, of course, they don’t literally disappear. In Dying Room Only, Bob Mitchell (Dabney Coleman) has been kidnapped. In Cry Panic, there’s a sinister plot in action to cover-up a murder that turns David Ryder (John Forsythe) into a pawn in a small-town conspiracy gone wild. He has only himself to blame, though. He should have gone home when had the chance.

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Ryder is a stand-up guy, though, and wants to do the right thing. I mean, he actually reports the accident rather than turn it into a hit-and-run. The crazier his situation becomes, the more firmly he plants his feet. The pendulum then swings the other way and he’s the one holding people at gunpoint. He must figure out what’s going on!

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This all works in Cry Panic because of Forsythe’s performance and his character’s demeanor. He maintains his composure and states his case in a reasonable manner. Sometimes the characters in similar situations get flustered or impatient and it’s not a surprise that others don’t believe them, or that they might have really have gone crazy.

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Sheriff Ross Cabot (Earl Holliman) is on the other side of Ryder’s seesaw. His performance is a little more ambiguous. I wasn’t sure for a while whether he was a bad guy or not. He’s part of a subplot that influences his decisions; however, we don’t learn about it until late in the story. It’s not entirely convincing, but I appreciate the effort to add depth.

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There are some twists and turns along Ryder’s journey. For example, when he reports the accident at the nearest house, a white woman answers the door and provides him use of the phone. However, when Cabot and Ryder return to corroborate his story, a black woman answers the door and claims she was the one who assisted him.

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Finally, there’s a running “gag” that demonstrates the commitment of writer Jack B. Sowards. When Ryder first reports the accident, the woman gives him a drink to calm him. From that moment on, and every chance Cry Panic gets, Cabot and his cronies try to insinuate that Ryder had been drinking before the accident. It’s not a fun thought in and of itself, but it helps make this movie fun.

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

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