6 Of The Best TV Movies To Hit The Small Screen

Friday, March 9 by Joseph Gibson

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TV movies are not known for being high-quality productions. Often, the phrase is used as an insult – "it's no better than a TV movie." But true movie fans know that sometimes there are treasures to be found in unexpected places. Here are six TV movies to satisfy even movie snobs.

"Duel"

Steven Spielberg made his feature film debut in this TV movie that was popular enough to get a theatrical release in Europe. It's an almost unbearably tense thriller about an innocent man stalked by a sadistic truck driver on the open road-or more accurately, a sadistic "truck," since we never actually see the monster behind the wheel. In addition to being a suspense classic, there are many seeds of Spielberg's later classic "Jaws" to be found here, particularly in the ending.

"Seance"

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One good way to expose yourself to excellent TV movies is to look abroad, where the standard of quality is often much higher than regular TV in the United States. One example of that is in this masterful horror movie from J-horror maestro Kiyoshi 60s British thriller "Seance on a Wet Afternoon," and the plot of that movie (about a missing child ending up under the care of a psychic and her husband) is tweaked enough to surprise you even if you've seen the earlier movie. Not that it's necessary-Kurosawa's famous creepy images and sound effects are in full force and enough to keep anyone on edge.

"Saraband"

This Swedish TV movie is the final film from none other than filmmaking legend Ingmar Bergman, and while it might not be up to his unreachable gold standard, it's an excellent TV movie nonetheless. It's a kind of sequel to his 70s TV miniseries "Scenes from a Marriage," showing the main couple 30 years after the fact. It's also classic Bergman, with a bunch of unhappy people on a remote island sitting around talking about their misery. It's fun, you'll like it.

"Spy Smasher Returns"

One cool thing about movies is that they can teach us about the past. In this case, the lesson is in 1940s adventure serials, the kind that inspired movies like "Star Wars" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." As you might guess from the name, Spy Smasher is a superhero who fights against Nazi spies and other assorted criminals. This movie was made by editing out all the boring parts from an old 12-chapter adventure serial into 100 tight minutes of action and zany plot twists, making it a unique TV movie experience.

"Do You Like Hitchcock?"

Well? Do you? If so, you'll probably get some enjoyment out of Dario Argento's underrated TV movie which is filled to references to Hitch's classic thrillers (as well as Argento's own). The plot has to do with a young film student who may or may not have witnessed a murder (spoiler: He witnessed a murder) and his attempts to solve the crime.

"You Don't Know Jack"

One common criticism of Al Pacino is that he doesn't act anymore, electing instead to show up in mediocre movies and shout his lines for a while. The people making these claims must not have HBO subscriptions, since Pacino made one of the best performances of his career in this made-for-TV biopic about controversial assisted-suicide-practicioner Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Pacino's character isn't simply an imitation (although he does look and sound a lot like the real thing), but a fully-drawn character of its own.