• Baffled!

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: January 21st, 2014.
    Director: Phillip Leacock
    Cast: Leonard Nimoy, Vera Miles
    Year: 1973
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    The Movie:

    The 70's was a great time for the TV horror film. In addition to obvious classics like the two Kolchak films and many other Dan Curtis productions like TRILOGY OF TERROR and DEAD OF NIGHT the decade had other hidden gems. THE INITIATION OF SARAH and SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS were a couple of other slightly forgotten entries. There were also series like the Kolchak spin-off that lasted for short periods. Which leads us to BAFFLED.

    Clearly designed as an occult-themed multi episode series (the opening montage is a dead giveaway) it starred Leonard Nimoy as race car driver Tom Kovack. Kovack is on the racetrack in his souped up formula 1 machine when he is suddenly struck by a vision (that utilizes some classic cheap period jump cuts) involving a British mansion and a truck coming at him head on and a screaming woman amongst other things. Understandably rattled by this he promptly crashes. When he's pried from the wreckage he emerges essentially unharmed. What the dickens is going on here? Kovack winds up on TV doing an interview where he discusses his vision that just happens to be caught by rare book dealer/occult expert/super cute British chick Michelle Brent (Susan Hampshire). She immediately susses out two things: Kovack is a true psychic and he's been put on this earth to do good. She then magically finds him at his hotel. In the space of a few minutes of chatting she figures out where the place is in the vision. Wyndham Manor in Devon.

    What makes BAFFLED so lovably nutty is that it just blithely skips over any kind of narrative connective tissue as it unfolds. Kovack is smitten with Michelle and uses lines like "You're a great looking chick" but it's pretty ridiculous to believe he's just going to drop everything and leave town with this woman after one brief visit and a second vision where he is falling off a cliff into the sea - somewhere in England of course. But that is exactly what he does.

    Once in the storied British isles our second narrative strain emerges - teen girl Jenny (Jewel Blanch) and her famous actress mother Andrea (Vera Miles) have traveled to Wyndham Manor - which is really a hotel - to ostensibly meet up with Jenny's estranged father Duncan. Mother is hoping for a reunion with the father of her child and daughter just wants to meet him. As soon as Nimoy gets there he immediately recognizes the screaming woman from his vision - Vera Miles! There also happen to be a few other guests in the hotel who add up to a sardine can full of red herrings as Kovack and Brent try to stop disaster from striking mother Andrea.

    At this point the main thrust of the film revolves around daughter Jenny's increasingly rude and quasi-evil behavior as she slides away from the sweet young teen we first met. This is where the real supernatural elements kick in as well. Satanism, secret meetings and a bit of the classic GASLIGHT setup as well as all around nefarious doings are the order of the day. Kovack has one incoherent psychic vision after another that leads to an utterly absurd climax. I won't say Scooby Doo but...

    BAFFLED doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense but that isn't why you are here anyway is it? This is one where you soak up the 70's vibes and run with the fun spirit. Nimoy looks great in his landing strip collars and spiffy jackets. He's always been an unconventional looking guy so it's nice to see him flirting with a traditionally cute lady. Hampshire is adorable and has very nice banter with Spock. Speaking of which, Nimoy really nukes the Vulcan persona in this. He's often dense and quirky as Kovack. There is nothing cold-blooded about this Bentley driving, goofy hat wearing dude. Blanch and Miles both do well in their respective roles too. Especially Blanch as the teen girl going bad. As far as actual scares go forget it. This thing is about as terrifying as a Halloween party for preschoolers. But it is fun!


    Scorpion releasing have done their usual fine work bringing BAFFLED to DVD in a decent full frame presentation. The film ran in UK theaters (it was actually shot at Pinewood Studios) and Scorpion have placed both that theatrical cut and the ten minute shorter version that aired on TV in the USA on the same disc. The film, especially in its second half, doesn't make any more sense in either cut though. The difference in running time is due to scene extensions and not new scenes. In terms of video the UK version has better elements and a brighter color palette. The US cut is more faded but still acceptable. Distracting print damage is minimal.

    Audio is an unremarkably efficient Dolby mono mix. It is clear and properly balanced. Both versions have the same audio quality.

    Aside from some Scorpion releasing trailers there are no extras.

    The Final Word:

    A cool artifact from an earlier age, BAFFLED represents what many watched regularly back in the 70's. It doesn't have any real pretensions to shock and awe it just wants to entertain you. And that it does. Recommended for Nimoy fans, occult themed TV cultists and anyone that enjoys some silly period fun. And Scorpion has delivered a nice value for money bonus with the twin cuts.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Richard--W's Avatar
      Richard--W -
      universal did a similar thing with Spielberg's DUEL (1971). The broadcast version was 74 minutes and was so popular they had to keep rerunning it to meet the public demand. They shot additional footage for a theatrical release in Europe. They released the theatrical version on DVD but not the broadcast version. The shorter version is the better film, infinitely so. Wouldn't it be nice if Scorpio could wrestle the original 74-minute DUEL from Universal and release it together with the slowed-down elongated 90-minute theatrical cut.