Outposter Wrenage returns with another Retro Review. After, insanely, breaking our article length record with Blood Beach a couple of weeks ago, this time he is is much briefer and positively succint as he reviews One Of My Wives Is Missing.

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One Of My Wives Is Missing

You remember that episode of Futurama that had that episode of The Scary Door in it where the guy gets hit by a car and wakes up in a casino, and he is always winning, so he thinks he is in heaven, but then he realizes always winning is boring, so he must be in hell, but it is all a dream, and he is really on an airplane that has a gremlin on the wing, and he tries to tell people, but they won’t believe him because he is Hitler, so he asks Eva Braun for help, and she is an alien?

I just watched a movie where the twists came at the same rapid-fire pace. The movie was One Of My Wives Is Missing (1976). If it came out today, it would be lauded as M. Night Shyamalan on a cocaine binge. Since it was released in 1976 it was nothing more than a made-for-TV movie on ABC.

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Exploring 1970s/1980s made-for-TV movies is a trip. Hidden gem after hidden gem exists. It never stops. Devil Dog: Hound From Hell, Invitation To Hell, Satan’s Triangle, Midnight Offerings, The Initiation of Sarah, Trilogy of Terror, The Horror At 37,000 Feet, A Cold Night’s Death, and more. Such movies star the likes of Richard Crenna, William Shatner, Robert Culp, Eli Wallach, and Doug McClure.

One Of My Wives Is Missing is based on a 1960s stage play by Robert Thomas. Glenn Jordan, who operated mostly in television, directed it. Aaron Spelling produced. When he wasn’t fathering Tori Spelling, Aaron Spelling produced more than 200 TV shows/movies, including Charlie’s Angels, Hart to Hart, and 7th Heaven. Spelling also had a soft spot for horror and thrillers. Going through Spelling’s production list, a lot of titles look worth checking out. The next one I watch is going to be Cruise Into Terror with Dirk Benedict.

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The plot of One Of My Wives Is Missing is simple. A man’s wife goes missing. She returns, but the woman who returns is not the man’s wife… or is she?

James Franciscus plays the husband. I was surprised to see Franciscus headlining a made-for-TV movie. He seemed like a bigger name, but looking at his filmography, that is not the case. Nevertheless, James has some fun credits on his resume.

Franciscus fought Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs in The Valley of Gwangi. He proved his bare chest as swarthy as Charlton Heston’s bare chest in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes. Franciscus worked with Dario Argento and Karl Malden in The Cat O’Nine Tails. He got to be in the Chuck Norris movie Good Guys Wear Black. Plus, he starred in Italian Jaws rip-offs Killer Fish and The Last Shark.

Maybe the reason Franciscus wasn’t bigger was that he died at the relatively young age of 57.

Playing the wife is Elizabeth Ashley. Ashley has a recognizable face. Kind of a poor man’s Stephanie Powers, but I had a hard time remembering what I’d seen her in. It turns out she was in Coma, Dragnet, Vampire’s Kiss and showed up on a lot of television programs. For whatever reason, Ashley was also a guest on Johnny Carson 24 times.

Rounding out the main cast is Jack Klugman as the police detective investigating the mystery. Klugman had a long career and lived to the ripe-old age of 90 before passing away in 2012. Klugman was in a ton of stuff, but he is probably best known for The Odd Couple with Tony Randall. I remember him mainly from Twilight Zone episodes, like Death Ship.

One Of My Wives Is Missing is not a flashy movie. It is filmed in a television-style, so you can see where the commercial breaks happen. It has no special effects or supernatural/fantastical elements. Yet, it kept my attention. The lead actors gave solid performances, and the secondary actors were fun, as well.

As One Of My Wives Is Missing went along, I began to admire its audacity. In the end, I reacted with a shake of my head and a stupid smile. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. I got the sense the creators were getting paid by the twist as they gleefully threw them in by the handful. You can tell they had a great time and didn’t care about anything other than entertaining folks. Sure, they hit a few wrong notes, but none of that particularly mattered in light of the whole.

One Of My Wives Is Missing is a fun look back at a style of TV that is mostly forgotten these days. While modern movies get worse, modern television has stepped up its game and given us some great shows in the last 15 years, but something special still exists about the made-for-TV movies of the 1970s/1980s. It is perhaps their tone that gives them this special quality. No matter the subject matter — be it ghosts, witches, or missing wives — the creators try not to hoke it up. The stories are earnestly delivered, and that kind of respect for the audience shows in the final product.

Move over M. Night Shyamalan. You got nothing on One Of My Wives Is Missing.

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