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TV Terror Guide: Night Cries (1978)


As 1970s TV movies evolved and started mirroring their theatrical counterparts, they got further and further from what was so unique about them. It sounds silly to say, but a TV movie made in 1978, Night Cries, is a refreshing throwback to earlier films like When Michael Calls and The Eyes of Charles Sand.

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Following the death of her daughter during delivery, Jeannie Haskins (Susan Saint James) is haunted by strange dreams that include the cries of her baby She’s convinced that it’s calling to her for help in a way that only a mother would know. This perturbs her husband, Mitch (Michael Parks), who, even after three months, is in dire need of a little intimacy.

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Night Cries plays like, if not a horror movie, an intense thriller. The nature of Jeannie’s dreams is bizarre, to say the least. In many of them, her baby is drowning and when Jeannie dives in to save her, it’s instead a grandfather clock that she’s saved. There’s always water, and sometimes when she’s bobbing for apples, the nurse from the delivery room holds her head under.

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Ultimately, though, it’s strictly a drama with the relationship of the couple at stake rather than anyone’s life. Saint James and Parks are very good; both bring their own nuances to the characters that probably weren’t represented in the script. They participate in a story that we feel like we haven’t seen before, although of course we have.

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Along the same lines, William Conrad appears as Dr. Whelan, a dream therapist to whom Mitch tries to get his wife to visit. When she does, he doesn’t walk on eggshells with her, and they argue excitedly. If I were her, I don’t think I’d want to go back for another visit, either. But, of course, she does.

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This leads to my biggest problem with Night Cries. So much time is spent on the dreams and learning what they mean. When it seems they have resolved the childhood issues that are causing them, there’s only, I kid you not, about five minutes left in the movie. During the final moments, Jeannie finally solves the true mystery and quickly resolves it. This makes the overall pace uneven.

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It was written by Brian Taggart who also wrote a similarly styled 70s TV movie, The Spell. (He later wrote the terror-ific Of Unknown Origin (1983) and was a writer for V: The Final Battle (1984) and V the series (1984-85.) It was directed by Richard Lang, who previously helmed The Force of Evil (1977) and Nowhere to Run (1978) two TV movies I somehow missed for this series.

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The revelation for me in Night Cries, though, was Susan Saint James. I forgot what a lovely woman and likable actress she was during this era. I’m not saying she’s not now, but I just haven’t seen her in anything lately (although it looks like she’s been in a few things recently.) She elevates anything at least one vintage television rating point.

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

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