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TV Tuesday: Hammer House of Horror (Growing Pains)




Don't take parenting advice from Terence (Gary Bond) and Laurie Morton (Barbara Kellerman). Soon after they adopt young James (Matthew Blakstad) from the Nesbit Trust Children's Home, Laurie is telling him how unfortunate it is that they're so busy right now. "I'm sure you'll find something to do."

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Yes, like cause trouble for Terence's big science project. His new father is a botanist that grows "protein rich plants" in hopes of being able to feed a starving world. He experiments with rabbits, so it's either coincidental or heavy-handed that James, who seems too old to be doing so, carries with him at all times a stuffed rabbit named, "Horace."

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I guess you have to cut the Mortons some slack. In the pre-credits scene, their son, William, died after accidentally ingesting some of his father's protein powder, which sent him crashing through the glass door into the backyard. He remains a prominent part of the story, though. By the end, we're left wondering if it was really his ghost wreaking havoc instead of James.

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This is one of those episodes that is either so vague it doesn't make sense, or it just wants you to figure out for yourself exactly what's happening. It was written confusingly by Nicholas Palmer at the end of his television career during which he acted mostly as a producer, and directed lacklusterly by Francis Megahy during the first decade of his 45-year career.

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Regardless of his intentions or culpability, James is one creepy kid. He wears shirt and tie and frequently and expresses his judgement about the happiness of everyone and everything he encounters. When maggots crawl out of their steaks at dinner, he denies doing it, although Laurie says she saw him in the kitchen pulling out the grill pan.

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He also denies gutting Horace, whom he has renamed, "Harry" for no particular reason, which strangely results in real animal guts coming out of its stuffed body. It couldn't possibly be his jackknife found lying next to it, because it wasn't on his list of personal belongings from the orphanage. (Terence fuzzily remember seeing it before.)

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James doesn’t know about William until he stumbles upon his grave, which is apparently within walking distance of the house. He does that just before the commercial break about 30 minutes into it. After that, it's all downhill as far as logic is concerned. Growing Pains has some frightening moments and creates an unsettling mood, I suppose. That might be all you need..

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Hammer Horror Film Connections:

  • Daphne Anderson appeared in Night Creatures

  • John McCabe composed music for Fear in the Night

  • Norman Warwick was Director of Photography for Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde

Season 1

Episode 4

Written by Nicholas Palmer

Directed by Francis Megahy

Starring Barbara Kellerman, Gary Bond, Tariq Yunus, Matthew Blakstad, Christopher Reilly, Daphne Anderson, Anna Simone Scott Aired October 4, 1980 (UK) RT 52 min.

Home Video Synapse (Blu-ray)

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