TV Terror Guide: Terror on the Beach (1973)


Air Date: Sept. 18, 1973 (CBS)

Production Companies: 20th Century Fox Television, Bedford Pictures Inc.

Running Time: 74 min.

Available on: YouTube

Written by: Bill Svanoe

Directed by: Paul Wendkos

Cast: Dennis Weaver, Estelle Parsons, Kristoffer Tobiri, Susan Dey, Scott Hylands, Michael Christian

With Terror on the Beach (1973), we’ve arrived at a point where one of these 1970s TV movies feels like a compilation of several others. I’d call it a sort of “greatest hits,” but that’s the wrong term for this particular movie, which isn’t really very good. With both its cast and storylines, it borrows primarily from two better movies: Duel and Family Flight.

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The similarities to Duel are obvious. Both star Dennis Weaver, who plays a man tormented by external forces while he’s away from home. Here, he plays Neil Glynn, a family man driving his wife and two kids to the beach for a mini vacation. He’s pushed to the breaking point by a gang of what I’ll loosely call “hippies” (mostly because of the way they dress.)

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There’s nearly as much drama from within the family, though, as there is from without. Both Neil and Arlene (Estelle Parsons) are struggling with their new lives since their children, Steve (Kristoffer Tabori) and DeeDee (Susan Dey), have gone away to college. Even worse for Neil is the fact that Steve just announced he’s going to drop out of school.

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Terror on the Beach reminds me of Family Flight, not only because Tabori is the son in both, but also because the family overcomes their differences and works together to rescue themselves from the threat. Sure, they could have prevented it in the first place simply by following their instinct and going somewhere else to pitch their tent…

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…but then we wouldn’t get the heavy-handed lesson the movie delivers. Stubborn dad is an ostrich with his head in the sand, thinking if they ignore the threat, it will go away. Spunky son is a gorilla beating its chest, thinking if they fight the threat, it will leave them alone. Wouldn’t you know, they both have a valid point and it’s all about choosing the appropriate tactic at the right time.

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There’s not much suspense in Terror on the Beach. However, I will admit it’s a slow build, focusing on a lot of chit-chat at the beginning, escalating to some action toward the end. I might have liked it more if Neil’s long overdue, but entirely anticipated, punch to the main bad guy had happened at normal speed instead of slow-motion. The drama didn’t need to be manipulated.

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

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