Tuesday, August 14, 2012

TV Girl: Linda Blair

In fear of being repetitive, I’ll keep this short.  There are probably hundreds of Linda Blair tributes out there online already.  And there is a good reason for this.  She was most certainly the “it” actress for playing tortured teenage girls throughout the 1970’s.  And she did it well, starting out at a young age as The Exorcist and landing more leads in horror films than Jamie Lee Curtis.  To be honest though, I never loved the more exploitation orientated B movies she starred in throughout the 1980’s. And the disturbing original Exorcist film just makes me feel queasy.   I, of course, prefer the teenage Linda Blair.  So if you haven’t delved into her filmography yet, here are my top 5 picks (in order).

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977):  John Boorman is an amazing director and this is one of my all-time favorite films.  I’d say skip the first Exorcist and watch this instead.  It stands on its own and has very little to do with the original.   This is more of a supernatural fantasy film than a horror picture.  Blair’s portrayal of Regan in this version is more of a teenage girl than a demon.  The movie got horrible reviews when it came out, so I guess my taste is a little odd or something.  But I honestly thought this was brilliant.  It also stars Richard Burton and James Earl Jones.   Burton plays a priest who has a psychic connection to Regan.  James Earl Jones turns into a bumblebee!  Linda Blair never looked better.   Watch her tap dance, be hypnotized and nearly fall off the roof of a skyscraper.  So awesome.  The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone is totally insane too.

Born Innocent (1974):   This is probably the ultimate teenage girl-in-prison film.  Blair plays a runaway whose parents are messed-up.  She ends up in a juvenile detention center.  The other teens there are tough and some even torture her.  In the process, Blair turns from naïve troubled kid, to a tough hardened young adult.  The movie is gritty and doesn’t even have a clean resolution at the end.   In the 1980’s there was a similar made-for-tv movie, The CBS Schoolbreak Special: Juvi.

Sweet Hostage (1975):  Man, Martin Sheen played a lot of odd characters throughout the 1970s.  He has played a suicidal motorcycle dude in the first episode of Then Came Bronson (1969) and a creepy pervert in The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976).   Also, his ultimate role in Apocalypse Now (1979) which I loved, even though I hate “war” movies.  In Sweet Hostage, he plays an escaped mental patient who kidnaps a farmgirl (played by Linda).  Similar to his character in Badlands(1973), Sheen is a sort of lovable outsider.  The two end up falling in love even though the romance is doomed.

Stranger In Our House aka Summer of Fear (1978):  This one is based on the young adult novel by Lois Duncan.  Linda plays the more innocent victim in this one.  The story is about a teenage country girl whose cousin comes to visit over a summer.  But things get a little crazy when Linda discovers the cousin is involved with witchcraft and might not even be related to her after all.  This one is directed by the famous horror director Wes Craven (Scream).

Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (1975):  This is another made-for-tv where Linda plays a tormented teen that drinks too much.  She has lots of issues including a new stepfather, a new school and a new boyfriend (played by Mark Hamill from Star Wars).  She is shy but begins to loosen up by drinking at a party.  Soon, she is singing Carol King songs.  And then she is out of control and attending AA meetings.   This movie makes a nice triple feature with other hard-hitting teen themed made-for-tv movies from the 1970’s such as Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway (1976) and The Death of Richie (1977).   And just for the record, this is even better than the other teenage drunk tv-movie: The Boy Who Drank Too Much (1980 w/ Scott Baio) .  See it!


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