A Tribute to Fred.


BEYOND THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE. Made for TV movie: NBC, 6 November 1975. Fred MacMurray, Sam Groom, Donna Mills, Suzanne Reed, Dana Plato, Dan White. Director: William A. Graham.

   One of my life-long weaknesses has been the indolent habit of napping in the afternoon. However, I have always observed that I don’t have any interesting dreams when I nap, and I have concluded that I might put the time to better use by propping my eyes open and reading a book or watching a film that I might, in my more alert moments, not want to waste my time on.

   I would like to think that this might occasionally lead to one of those “fortuitous” encounters in which the Surrealists believed and where marvelous consequences sometimes follow upon the most banal circumstance.

   For those of you who would like to delve more deeply into Surrealist philosophy on this point, I refer you to Andre Breton’s Nadja, especially those pages describing his addiction to the American chapter play, Trail of the Octopus.


   I was, earlier today, at a point where waking and sleep are no longer contrary conditions when my somnolent fingers brought into view on the TV screen, the opening scenes of a WTBS Sunday afternoon movie, Beyond the Bermuda Triangle.

   I have always been intrigued by psychic phenomena, ever since those years when I used to look for the door to the Land of Oz in the closets of my grandparents’ farm.

   Even in my bemused state, I quickly gathered in the essentials necessary to follow the storyline, which involved the disappearance of a boat in the area of the Triangle, and a young girl’s belief that her mother was still alive, somewhere “out there,” and was calling to her.


   I had some trouble with character relationships, but deduced that Sam Groom is courting the sister of the missing woman who is taking care of her young niece, while Fred McMurray (with either a hair-piece or his hair dyed a sinister black) is probably the grandfather of the bereaved child, but is somewhat distracted by his pursuit of a much younger woman who is, herself, to disappear into that same hungry triangular area where the compass goes batty but where there is always time to send one last radio message before static claims the airways. Whew!

   There is also a character to whom I felt peculiarly drawn, a retired professor who, years earlier, had lost his wife in the triangle and, at the last moment, close to the opening of the door to the “other side,” hesitated and was forever barred from crossing over.


   That had obviously bothered him no end, and, in a touching and significant scene, he tells MacMurray that there is one thing bigger than this life “down here” and that’s “love.”

   That choked me up a bit and fogged my glasses, and when I could see clearly again Fred was casting off to sea with Groom’s girlfriend.

   That lead to a really tense climax in which Groom, pursued by the Coast Guard, raced to intercept Fred’s boat. I don’t want to give away the ending (which would be foreign to the spirit of this blog), but let me tell you that the Old Professor was right on target, and some old geezers are quick studies.

      This made-for-TV movie had everything: a grieving child in peril, weird music, mysteries beyond our mortal ken, references to Atlantis, and an impressive, late-career performance by Fred MacMurray.


   Now, I know that some people think Fred wasn’t much of an actor and got by on an earnest look and a commanding, sonorous voice. Well, here it was all in the eyes: the body was slack, the demeanour reserved, but the eyes seemed to reflect glimpses of something that sent a shiver down my spine (or rather up, since I started sliding out of my seat at one point and almost jackknifed on the floor between the chair and footstool).

   I wish they had given the movie a less obvious title, something like Empty Boats. Still, since this might be a picture that only a recent retiree can appreciate, if you ever get a chance to watch it and don’t agree with me, don’t call me, I’ll call you.

   But while you’re waiting for my call, don’t go into your closet. You never know who … or what … might be coming into it from … out THERE!