Obscure 70s TV Movie: Witch Traps Modern Woman in Basement/Cellar

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So, this was broadcast in the 70s on TV. You say "three major networks" so I am guessing you saw this in USA? Did it take place in the USA (Your description sounds a bit like British Folk Horror). ? Did it take place in the decade you saw it, ie the 1970s? If it was an American made-for-TV movie from the 1970s, it would have been actually pretty tame, no stronger than a PG style.



This sounds like the right timeframe, but I must have missed any Bette Davis scenes, as I'd remember her. (I only saw a few minutes of the movie, and got too scared to continue watching!)

I'll check it out & report back - thanks to all!

Edit:

I've checked out the trailer, and am now thinking that maybe the mystery flick wasn't a TV movie, as the quality was similar to this one. I don't think this is it, though a superb guess. What made it so terrifying was a Dreyer-like claustrophobia which drew me in and made me feel like I was trapped in the cellar along with the woman!
Just to clarify, Harvest Home was made-for-tv. That VHS box shows a 2hr runtime but it was originally a 3-4 hour miniseries.


Might want to give this site a look.
https://tvmayhempodcast.wordpress.com/


I've got a book written by the blogger but I don't currently have access to it. Seems to be the current TV Movie expert.


Also, now that I realize you've only seen a few minutes of the film, you might want to look into anthology series like Night Gallery, Circle of Fear, etc



Registered User
I am wondering how you can be so certain it was a made-for-TV movie, and not an episode of an anthology.



Okay, I'm going to ask you a bunch of annoying questions about this movie to try to squeeze out some more details from your memory:


Was the witch actually a spell-casting witch (and not just a witch-like woman)? How did you know?


How and why did the witch trap the woman in the basement?


What was the trapped woman doing or what was happening to her while she was in the basement -- what created the terror?


How did the children of the corn types fit into this? Do you remember anyone else?


And here's a wild guess:


Die! Die! My Darling!:


https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0059106/



This has a TV movie feel, a trapped woman (though I think she's trapped in an attic, though I'm not sure because it's been a while since I've seen it), a witch-like (but not a "real" witch) woman who does the trapping, I think a weird guy lurking around, and an uncomfortable feeling of trapped terror (which is why I haven't seen it in a while).



Numerous reasons, including my strong familiarity with these period series, from DON and ET to NG and GS/COF and back again, though it did have much of the intensely brilliant flavor of the masterful WAICTY, though of course in color and not British.

The film in question was was a very unusual full length piece, unique really, and I wish I could recall more about it!

Any additional details (see previous post)?



Thank you for taking this thankless task on! I'm just now seeing your questions, or would have responded more quickly.

Was the witch actually a spell-casting witch (and not just a witch-like woman)? How did you know?

IIRC, she was a classic US witch of Salem, her undying spirit seeking to maintain itself and protect its territory, centered in the house now inhabited by the couple.

How and why did the witch trap the woman in the basement?

It was really more properly a cellar, narrow and dark. Perhaps even a grain storage room, as it might have actually been above ground and parallel to the house. Brick IIRC, but I may not!

But the feel of it was basement/cellar-like, and not a place for human habitation, but storage in the cold and dark. Spooky!

See above for the how/why, as her undying Salem witch spirit abilities were totes powfa!

She lured her there somehow, or maybe something needed in the main (part of the?) house was stored there, but she was then trapped, at least long enough to terrify her (and me)!


What was the trapped woman doing or what was happening to her while she was in the basement -- what created the terror?

She was pretty scared, so not doing much. IIRC, the spirit of the witch may have been there in ectoplasmic form and quietly saying things to control/terrify the woman.

How did the children of the corn types fit into this? Do you remember anyone else?

That was kind of a metaphor to describe the genre - city mice in over their heads in a haunted house and strange culture with ancient/spiritual/agrarian ways.

I remember the woman having a husband, one of those 70s TV actors, but I don't recall anyone famous acting in it.


And here's a wild guess:

Die! Die! My Darling!:

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0059106/

This has a TV movie feel, a trapped woman (though I think she's trapped in an attic, though I'm not sure because it's been a while since I've seen it), a witch-like (but not a "real" witch) woman who does the trapping, I think a weird guy lurking around, and an uncomfortable feeling of trapped terror (which is why I haven't seen it in a while).

I've actually seen DDMD, and while that's not a bad guess, the TV movie with the cellar/grain storage area and witch and trapped woman was made some 10 years (or so) later, and was of a much more quiet and creepily sedate nature.

Thank you for trying, and it's a shame that this eerie movie is so obscure, and perhaps lost!

Thank you for responding, and for the extra details. Here's another guess:


Episode 1 of Hammer House of Horror


https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0090328/?ref_=ttep_ep1



It's not exactly as you say, but the timeframe is close (1980), it's made for TV, there's a witch from olden times who appears in the present, a couple in a house around which the action is centered, and the wife gets trapped in a small, claustrophobic dirt-wall-like cellar after being tricked into going down there, but it's not the witch doing the trapping ...


I saw this a long time ago, so I really don't remember a lot, and I can't say how scary it is, but it's on Tubi and I just scanned through it to confirm there's a basement scene. Just a suggestion!


If this isn't it, I will keep looking. I am happy to join you in your search. I have always loved the supernatural stuff from that era, and I feel that if there's an unidentified made-for-tv witch movie from the 70s out there, then either I must have seen it before, or else i must see it now!



Wow! That beginning actually looks a LOT like it, and has a VERY similar feel, though as soon as the nudity appeared, and then the video stopped, and then the English accents and faster pacing of an anthology segment/episode kicked in, I knew it wasn't it.

But VERY creepy.

I'm familiar with that series, and it's first-rate, but the victims in the movie I'm thinking of were an American couple in the US. But SUPERB guess, especially as to the eerie sense of being present and trapped in the house!

The lost gem in question is definitely 90 to 120 minutes with commercials, American, and slightly earlier, but HoH was a great series and I've never seen this episode segment, so look forward to it now!

Whatever the heck it it is I'm thinking of also had a similar feel to that early 70s theatrical masterpiece Let's Scare Jessica To Death, though that was of course shot on film, and I'm pretty sure what I saw was done on video. (If you've never seen Jessica, you are in for QUITE a treat, as it is absolutely magnificent and completely terrifying.)

Thank you again, and maybe we'll somehow find it--whatever "it" is!

I have seen Jessica, and I agree that it's totally terrifying, and also extremely creepy!


I'll keep looking and report back with any possibilities.



"In the water I'm a very skinny lady"
Maybe it was a theatrical release that was televised some time later.



It's possible, but my brain remembers it as almost being broadcast live, as though recorded on video.

A few more questions:


You saw this during primetime?


You said it was a major channel -- abc, cbs, abc, correct?


Do you remember when -- the year, day of the week, or even the month?


Do you remember what anyone looked like -- hair color, age, clothes?


Did they actually show the witch?


Was the witch someone who appeared to be a modern person, but was actually from the past? In other words, did they think she was a neighbor/housekeeper/cousin/whoever that turned out to be a centuries-old witch? Or was she an old-time witch right from the beginning (like the Hammer episode)?


Thanks!!



"In the water I'm a very skinny lady"
Since the program was live it may have been a performance on PBS. Do you think that could be a possibility?



Registered User
I don't think the OP ever meant that it was literally "broadcast live". It just sort of "felt" that way. Not much was broadcast live in the 70s in the USA, except for Saturday Night Live (which I am certain this isn't). (And also of course news shows and sports and so on were broadcast live)



Numerous reasons, including my strong familiarity with these period series, from DON and ET to NG and GS/COF and back again, though it did have much of the intensely brilliant flavor of the masterful WAICTY, though of course in color and not British.

The film in question was was a very unusual full length piece, unique really, and I wish I could recall more about it!
Also: I recognized the other shows you mentioned, but what do "ET" and "WAICTY" stand for?



Registered User
You are saying that this must have been a major network because of the high budget, but I haven't heard anything from your description that suggests a high budget. I said earlier that it sounded like English "Folk Horror", which really evolved because folks were working with low budgets. This could be sort of "American Folk Horror". You say all the characters were wearing modern clothes, they were trapped in a little room. This all sounds like low budget. You say the witch was wearing a period costume, so that would have just required a little bit of money. Maybe this was made in, say, the 80s, but because of the low budget it "felt" like the 70s.
Some of the things you are insisting are true are just due to "feelings" you are having. It "felt" like it was made by a major network, it "felt" like it was made between 1972 and 1977, it "felt" like a full length movie. Some of your feelings could be wrong.
And you could be misremembering details, or combining more than one memory.



[The] Evil Touch, hosted by Anthony Quayle, and Whistle and I'll Come to You.

If you've never seen the latter, you are in for QUITE a spine-tingling treat!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistl...o_You_(Omnibus)

I don't think I've seen the Evil Touch, but I have seen Whistle, and yes, it was good! Thanks!



A few more questions:

A few more answers!

You saw this during primetime?

No, I saw a much later rerun, but the production values were consistent with mid-70s US MFTV films, though shot on video.

You said it was a major channel -- abc, cbs, abc, correct?

Yes, as only they would have had the budget to produce or purchase such an effort.

Do you remember when -- the year, day of the week, or even the month?

Most likely originally broadcast on a weeknight (or possibly a Saturday night). The film had the unmistakable feeling of a post-Watergate, pre-Disco effort. Past hippie optimism, but before the onset of shallow hedonism. So it couldn't have been made before 1972, nor past 1977.

One thing that's occurred to me is that if I had a TV Guide for every week between 1972 and 1977, I could look at the primetime offerings and eventually find it!

Sadly, there were no stars, even minor stars in it, so it can't be located that way.


Do you remember what anyone looked like -- hair color, age, clothes?

Typical mid-70s clothes, speech, haircuts, cars and such, except for the more modestly dressed witch.

Did they actually show the witch?

Indeed. She was a typically dressed person of the Salem era, with that little cap or bonnet women wore, and the plain dark dress.

What made the film so memorable was the normalness of it all.

No shock or gore.

It was as if Kubrick dropped in to direct 3 or 4 Dark Shadows episodes, as not much happens, but still quite chilling psychologically, as the best of DS was!


Was the witch someone who appeared to be a modern person, but was actually from the past? In other words, did they think she was a neighbor/housekeeper/cousin/whoever that turned out to be a centuries-old witch? Or was she an old-time witch right from the beginning (like the Hammer episode)?

I only saw her for the 10 or 15 minutes I could stand to watch, so hard to say, but the section I viewed had her in her Salem-era outfit with bonnet and period hairstyle, intimidating that poor sweet housewife in the cellar/outbuilding!

But it's possible she was also in scenes where she was in modern dress.

The thing is that the film wasn't hokey at all, so whatever one might expect, the film just paced along relentlessly, unfolding in genuine dread. I've seen a few NGs that were so scary I had to stop watching, and literally jumped out of my seat when you know what is revealed in Virgin Suicides, so the director of this was a true master, but not Speilberg, as I've already checked out the one TV movie of his that this could be.


Thanks!!

Thank YOU!

This must have been seen by millions on its first (only?) network airing in the mid-70s, and by millions in later reruns, so SOMEONE must remember it, but short of going through 6 years of TV Guides, I don't think there's any way to identify it, especially as there were no memorable stars in it.

A lost classic that only I seem to remember!!

Thank you for all the info. But when did you see this? As Kevp said, these are impressions of when and what kind of production you think this was. That's important, but it would really help if you could recall when and on what channel you watched this. 80s? 90s? Middle of the night? 4:30 movie? Anything specific about when you actually saw it would be helpful, even if it doesn't seem significant. Thanks!



"In the water I'm a very skinny lady"
I don't think I've seen the Evil Touch, but I have seen Whistle, and yes, it was good! Thanks!

Thanks for mentioning that short lived and entertaining TV show "The Evil Touch", moongirl. I didn't think there was anyone who knew the show existed! I watched it every Sunday night until the show was cancelled. Thanks again for bringing back a nice old memory.