Television

Ghost Story Ep. 4: “Bad Connection”

Episode #4: “Bad Connection” (October 6, 1972)

Plot: “A  widow starts getting phone calls from her dead husband.”

Karen Black stars as the young widow of a dead pilot killed in the Vietnam War who is about to get remarried. Her world is suddenly turned upside down when she realizes she’s being stalked by her dead husband… or is she? Someone or something appears to be following her and calling with threatening messages at all hours of the day and night. Of course no one believes her, and things go from bad to worse until a surprising twist-ending reveals the awful truth.

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This episode was absolutely terrific and very spooky. On par with the pilot & “Concrete Captain” for me, which is funny because looking at other reviews online confirms what I’ve always known: my own taste in horror often differs wildly from the consensus. With that in mind, don’t blame me if you don’t care for the same episodes as I do. One things for certain, there’s enough variety in Ghost Story to please just about any horror fan. This series works best for me when it develops a strong sense of place along with an eerie atmosphere and I appreciate good acting in horror because fantastic or far-out premises need some solid footing to really hook me in. This episode had all of that and more!

“Bad Connection” was shot three years before Karen Black made horror TV history in Dan Curtis’s Trilogy of Terror and she’s at the top of her game in this. She really is flat out amazing & fun to watch as a widow being terrorized by her dead husband and plays the role to the absolute hilt while crying buckets, losing her damn mind and screaming her way into the Scream Queen hall of fame. She also looks terrific while wearing all kinds of groovy 1970s fashions. I want her wardrobe! Especially a neat magenta/purple knit cape she wears on multiple occasions. I also want her San Francisco apartment.

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The location is another reason I loved this episode. I’m a sucker for any film or TV show shot in San Francisco because #1: its my home turf & #2: it also happens to be the most beautiful city in America. While you don’t get to see too much of the City by the Bay in “Bad Connection” you do get a sense of place and its environs that I really appreciated.

This episode was helmed by Walter Doniger who directed some low-budget crime pictures (Duffy of San Quentin: 1954, House of Women; 1962, etc.) as well as lots of TV. He was able to evoke genuine suspense and terror in a number of stand-out scenes where Karen Black’s character is being stalked by an unseen figure. Scriptwriter John McGreevey is also another name worth noting, he was responsible for some great B-movies in the 1950s including Death in Small Doses (1957) and Hot Rod Girl (1956) as well as one of my favorite TV horror films, Crowhaven Farm (1970) before working on “Bad Connection.”

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It’s worth noting that at this point I’ve found the episodes of Ghost Story featuring female protagonists to be the strongest and most compelling. Kudos must go to the writers who were able to come up with some terrific female driven roles but the talented actresses (Barbara Parkins, Gena Rowlands & Karen Black) really make these episodes work for me.