Where Have All the People Gone? (1974)
I never tire of trying to locate made for television films I recall viewing as a kid. They would be in constant rerun through out the seventies and eighties before disappearing in many cases. This Peter Graves film is one that played regularly and at the time I found it fun as it leaned towards the “what if” genre of science fiction that appealed to a growing boy. Some say I still haven’t grown up.
Graves along with his teenage children (Kathleen Quinlan and George O’Hannon Jr.) have been camping and doing some cave exploration in the wilds of California. The film starts with them saying good by to Graves wife as she is needed back in Los Angeles.
While underground in the cave a huge flash of light bursts from the sun setting off a tremor. Panicked they climb from the cave and are told by their friend and guide who had remained on the surface of the flash and what he thinks may have been a nuclear bomb or accident. Within hours the guide is deathly sick and the group determines to climb down from the hilltops to the town below seeking medical attention. Long before making the town he’ll be dead.
The small town they come upon is deserted. Cars have been abandoned and packs of vicious dogs are becoming prevalent.
As for the people, clothes are laying about where people have fallen but there bodies have turned into a white powder. There will be very few signs of life. Our trio will eventually find other survivors and like many other shows in this style, some will be friendly while others have taken to becoming modern day carpetbaggers.
Graves and family come upon a hysterical Verna Bloom who is in a catatonic state till she releases her grief at the loss of her children. Another young boy joins the group after his parents have been murdered by marauders. Car jackings at gunpoint ensue till Graves steps it up to become protector of his small band of a growing family.
The goal is to get to L.A. and find his wife.
This plot sure sounds familiar. It could be referenced to any one of a dozen or more movies and shows. Add zombies and we’d have The Walking Dead. A cult of vampire like creatures and you have The Omega Man or any other version of the Richard Matheson story.
This story was actually credited to Lewis John Carlino. The name resonates with me due to his script for the 1972 Bronson favorite, The Mechanic. He would also write the Rock Hudson cult hit Seconds among others.
John Llewellyn Moxey served as director here and was no stranger to the science fiction/horror genre. He also directed Darren McGavin’s hit The Night Stalker as well as the Christopher Lee classic City of the Dead (Horror Hotel) in the early sixties.
Like many TV flicks of the day this seems as if it were hoping to be picked up for a weekly show as the ending leaves something to be desired. It would be easy to see this becoming a Walking Dead like show of weekly adventures with new obstacles and raving lunatics to overcome.
As a matter of fact many TV shows like this, The Walking Dead, Bill Bixby’s The Incredible Hulk and countless others just seem like another version of David Janssen and The Fugitive in one way or another. They all seem to be using that theme as a template.
Is that a stretch?