Air Date: Oct. 2, 1971 (ABC)
Production Companies: American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
Running Time: 71 min.
Available on: YouTube
Written by: Anthony Lawrence
Directed by: Sutton Roley
Cast: Alex Drier, Pat Hingle, Louise Latham, Steve Ihnat, Brenda Scott, Chris Robinson, Stefanie Powers
Sweet, Sweet Rachel (1971) earns points for its atmosphere and style; but, it unfortunately loses a larger number of points for its convoluted and nonsensical plot. I wanted so much to love it and had been looking forward to its arrival in the chronological order in which this series has been traveling. After watching it, I didn’t even want to love it anymore.
Veteran television director Sutton Roley made an occasional feature film, including the exciting and fun Chosen Survivors (1974.) Here, he navigates a dreamy, psychic world with creepy and unsettling camerawork. The style is evident in the commercials for the movie, which contributed to my desire to watch it.
Of his mostly television credits prior to Sweet, Sweet Rachel, Anthony Lawrence had virtually no genre experience. Perhaps that contributes to the lack of logic or understanding about how to craft a believable story, even when dealing with unbelievable subject matter. The concept is intriguing, as indicated in the tag line above, but the story is poorly executed.
The basic idea of an unidentified person being psychic and able to control the actions of others is, all things considered, sound. Add some red herrings for the identity of this person and a twist ending, and you’ve got a compelling 71-minute movie. However, it becomes less so by adding multiple people with powers using confusing methods to expose the bad guy.
The more interesting story here is that Sweet, Sweet Rachel was the pilot for a series called The Sixth Sense that the 9-year old version of myself loved, even though the adult version of myself has never revisited. I would not have known this had I not performed my customary research about the movie after watching it.
If you’re familiar with The Sixth Sense, the connection isn’t obvious. Gone is Lucas Darrow, the “psychic detective” of Sweet, Sweet Rachel, played by Alex Drier. (Who? You may not recognize the face, but I guarantee you recognize the voice.) Present is Dr. Michael Rhodes, played by Gary Collins.
The series has a production history as confusing as the plot of Sweet, Sweet Rachel, and I’ll probably write about it here someday. Take a glance at the list of guest stars, though, and you’ll be amazed. Coincidentally, Stefanie Powers, who plays the titular Rachel, played a character named Jean Ames in two episodes of The Sixth Sense.
Speaking of Powers, for being the named character, she has precious little screen time. She had more as one of the Five Desperate Women (1971.) She’s not necessarily neglected in the story, but it’s really more about the people causing her grief and the people trying to end her grief… for reasons that are mostly unclear.