SPECTRE is a 1977 British horror film made-for-television and produced by Gene Roddenberry. Yes, that’s right I said Gene Roddenberry. He also co-wrote it with Samuel A. Peebles (ADVANCE TO THE REAR , FINAL CHAPTER: WALKING TALL )and it was directed by Clive Donner (WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT? , DEAD MAN’S FOLLY ). The plot revolves around two criminologists who travel to England to investigate the strange doings at the Cyon Estate. The movie stars Robert Culp, Gig Young, John Hurt, and James Villiers.
ROBERT CULP as William Sebastian
GIG YOUNG as Doctor Amos “Ham” Hamilton
JOHN HURT as Mitri Cyon
JAMES VILLIERS as Sir Geoffrey Cyon
GORDON JACKSON as Inspector Cabell
ANN BELL as Anitra Cyon
MAJEL BARRETT as Lilith
Former criminologist and current authority on the occult William Sebastian asks his old friend Dr. Hamilton for help in assisting Anitra Cyon. She is the sister of multi-millionaire Sir Geoffrey Cyon and believes her brother’s dabbling in black magic has unhinged him. Meanwhile, Sir Geoffrey claims his sister is mentally unfit. Sebastian and Hamilton fly to the Cyon Estate in England to investigate. But making matters worse is the fact that Sebastian’s experiments with the occult have left him with a debilitating heart condition. He not only needs Hamilton’s help as an investigator but as a physician as well. Together the two uncover a devilish plot devised by the archdemon Asmodeus and find themselves face to face with this ambassador from Hell!
- Gig Young was drunk through most of the production and often slurred his lines. His drinking problem was written into the script. While making this film he met his fifth wife, Kim Schmidt who played a Police Officer. A year later he murdered her and then killed himself – reasons unknown.
- William Sebastian and Dr. Hamilton were purposely modeled after Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
- Robert Weverka wrote a novelization of this movie published in 1979. His novel adds significant background information not found in the movie.
- Sebastian’s mysterious, spell-casting housekeeper (shades of Mrs. Hudson) was played by Majel Barrett – Mrs. Gene Roddenberry.
- This isn’t really a dislike. It is more of an observation. The characters of William Sebastian and Doctor Hamilton were inspired by Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. However, they come across less like Holmes and Watson and more like Spock and Dr. McCoy. Now Robert Culp and Gig Young are fine as Sebastian and Hamilton, but I can’t help wondering what if Sebastian had been played by Leonard Nimoy – who played Holmes on Broadway – and Hamilton by DeForest Kelley – who certainly proved he can play a doctor. The natural chemistry these two have would have enhanced the verbal banter and maybe it would have gone to series. One can only wonder.
- Gene Roddenberry – creator of STAR TREK and known as the Great Bird of the Galaxy – afterwards made four pilots for proposed televisions series. None of them sold. However, SPECTRE is not your average Roddenberry production. For one thing it wasn’t even science fiction. Instead, we delve into the weird and wonderful world of fantasy and the occult brought to us in the Roddenberry style.
- Robert Culp is perfect as William Sebastian – our main protagonist and who doesn’t come across as that nice a fellow. I have loved Culp from his spy days with Bill Cosby in I SPY. I like him here too. We are also treated to Gig Young as Doctor Amos “Ham” Hamilton who provides much of the comic relief.
- They are joined by a great cast of veteran actors – John Hurt, Gordon Jackson, James Villiers, and Majel Barrett. The film has great production values in a fittingly eerie English setting with plenty of fire, bountiful beauties, lots of fire, great score, lots of fire, suspense galore and surprises in all the right places, and did I mention lots of fire?
I love this firm and it is a pity it didn’t go to series. I watched it when it first came out and loved it. I bought the novelization and loved it. And I watched it again recently and still love it. If you are a Roddenberry fan and you have not seen this film, check it out. If you like creepy stories about demons and Black Mass, check it out. If you want to see Majel Barret in yet another Roddenberry production, then check it out. You will not be disappointed.
In our sliding ratings scale I give this film a wholehearted for and a half gray geeks.
Well, that is all for this time my people. I thank you for staying up with me so we can chat. I love our time together. Until next time, be good, be safe, but most of all be smart.
2 thoughts on “GEEKTOBERFEST: Gene Roddenberry’s spectre”
Nice! I was just talking with some about Roddenberry taking three bites at the apple after Star Trek with Genesis II, Planet Earth, and Strange New World. Then, there’s The Questor Tapes, another failed pilot-to-series.
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Totally forgot about the dark side of Gig Young. Was just discussing the dark pasts of a few of those “golden age” actors — that would give TMZ’s reporters, pause.
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