'Home for the Holidays' proved that even Christmas movies were terrifying in the '70s

Sally Field went from 'The Flying Nun' to holiday horror.

ABC

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In 1972, Sally Field was America's sweetheart. The twenty-something actress was a household name thanks to playing cute-as-a-button characters on two quirky sitcoms, Gidget and The Flying Nun. So when folks flipped open their TV Guide a few days after Thanksgiving and saw that Field was starring in a made-for-TV movie called Home for the Holidays, they probably figured they were in for two hours of cozy fireplaces and knit sweaters.

However, in this case, it wasn't the weather outside that was frightful. It was the pitchfork-wielding killer wearing a yellow raincoat and red rubber gloves. Ho Ho… Aaaaaaaah!

Image: ABC

Due to the ongoing Vietnam War, Watergate, the 1973 Oil Crisis and other cultural and political unrest, the early Seventies proved to be fertile ground for the horror genre. The Exorcist would become the second highest grossing film of the year.

The small screen was just as dark. As Kojak and Kolchak were stalking urban streets, made-for-television movies served up scares. In 1973, ABC offered both Satan's School for Girls and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.

Home for the Holidays was one of the most disturbing, mostly due to its clash with typical holiday themes. The plot revolved around four daughters, Eleanor Parker, Jessica Walter, Jill Haworth and Field, who head home to visit their dying father. His first wife commited suicide, and now he is convinced his second wife, Elizabeth, is a murderer. So he tells his children to kill Elizabeth before she kills them. The body count then begins.

Image: ABC

Walter, the veteran actress beloved for her role as Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development, oozes that same arrogant grace here. Sadly, she meets a tragic end.

Image: ABC

Pretty twisted stuff for Tuesday primetime with the family. "Mom and dad, can we watch A Charlie Brown Christmas instead?" Director John Llewellyn Moxey had previously helmed TV movies like The House That Would Not Die (1970), A Taste of Evil (1971) and The Night Stalker (1972), which would lead to the Kolchak series.

Do you remember seeing this Xmas slasher flick?

 
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