Air Date: Oct. 30, 1974 (ABC)
Production Companies: Spelling-Goldberg Productions
Running Time: 75 min.
Available on: YouTube
Written by: Jack B. Sowards
Directed by: Ralph Senesky
Cast: Richard Long, Polly Bergen, Edward Albert, Kate Jackson, Celeste Holm, Tom Bosley, Michael Constantine
Rating: 8 vintage televisions (out of 10)
Imagine an episode of The Love Boat where the three couples of that week’s story are murdered one by one. It won’t make Death Cruise (1974) any better or worse, but it makes it a little more fun than it already is. It’s an easy-breezy mystery with familiar faces (and voices, if you’re watching the fuzzy, aged VHS quality, version that’s on YouTube.)
Three couples win a three-week Caribbean cruise as part of a contest that no one remembers entering. They have something in common that no one recalls, but it may be related to an August 1970 trip to Atlanta. On a short-staffed ship, it’s up to Dr. Burke (Michael Constantine) to play detective and solve the mystery before the entire group is eliminated.
Each couple is introduced during the opening credits during a scene in which the names of the actors appear on screen. Jerry Carter (Richard Long) is a “scoundrel” who’s flirting with other women from the moment he and his wife, Sylvia (Polly Bergen), board the ship. She’s well aware of his behavior and has forgiven him for it many times before.
James Radney (Edward Albert) and his wife, Mary Frances (Kate Jackson) are on their second honeymoon. After four years together, she wants to have a baby. Not only does he not want a baby, he adamantly doesn’t want one. She wants to use their vacation time to discuss it; he doesn’t. That’s going to be a tough three weeks.
David Mason (Tom Bosley) and his wife, Elizabeth (Celeste Holm) are empty nesters attempting to rekindle their relationship now that the children are grown and moved out of the house. He’s ready to move forward and she’s not. In perhaps the saddest of the three stories, she drunkenly admits that it was the children that kept them together for over 30 years, not him.
They all have their issues, but they’re not unlikable people. Certainly, none of them deserves to be thrown overboard, bludgeoned on the stairway, or shot in the hall. There are no blatant red herrings, but I misidentified the identity of the killer twice. Then I sort of figured it out but did not anticipate the double-twist ending.
Watching seven stars with whom you’re familiar from consumption of television and TV movies growing up growing up in the 70s provides a level of comfort that’s hard to describe. It allows Death Cruise to run like it’s on autopilot. There’s not a bad thing for me to say about it. Instead, I recommend you set a course for adventure, your mind on a new romance…
Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch Death Cruise as well as all the great movies from this series...