Baffled! (1973)

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Leonard Nimoy is quite suave, cool, and lanky here in this feature length TV pilot as a racecar driver with ESP. However, as the film begins, he doesn’t know about his powers yet. In the middle of a race, he has a vision of an English manor house, a woman screaming, a young girl, and himself crashing into a truck filled with hay. He also hears a voice saying the name of the manor house. The vision causes him to wreck his racecar and possibly, for a moment, actually die. He returns to life and, in what I thought was an odd decision, tells a TV reporter about his vision.

From a “moving the plot at a TV pace” standpoint, it turns out that his decision to tell the reporter about his vision was a good one, because it attracts the attention of a beautiful ESP researcher named Michelle who figures out where the house in his vision is. Michelle convinces him to go to the house, which is actually now a hotel, on his upcoming trip to England, because someone must be in trouble.

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That someone is Psycho sister and 70s telefilm staple Vera Miles, playing (what else) a famous actress. She has been receiving for the past few months letters from her estranged husband which hint at a reconciliation, and their 12 year old daughter is keen to meet dad. But soon the enthusiastic young girl begins acting like a snotty teen overnight, while the owner of the hotel seems to be getting younger, and now Leonard is having visions of a hand poisoning the actress’s orange juice, among other things. How much of the evil force which Michelle insists is afoot relates to the strange necklace Miles’s daughter has begin wearing? And where is the estranged husband, who has not arrived to meet his long lost family?

I meant to watch Baffled! right after I found out Nimoy had died, and I wish I hadn’t put it off for so long, because this is the best 70s TV movie I’ve found this year. Although I did figure out most of the Scooby Doo mystery before the end, there was one big twist I didn’t imagine at all. Never mind my own psychic predictions, though, because watching Nimoy run around solving the case is just so much fun! I’ve never seen him play a romantic lead before, but I knew he could do it. He was nerd sexy, after all. The chemistry between his character and Michelle’s is believable, and it would have been a fun team to watch had this pilot been picked up as a series.

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Something about them racing around the English countryside in an antique car with occult practitioners on their trail reminds me of The Devil Rides Out, which is not a bad thing. If I have any complaints it is that I never figured out why the lady of the manor was getting younger, and I would have liked to see the bad guys do some of their magic rituals. But the woo woo parts of the plot stayed firmly on Nimoy and his visions, which made good use of the 90 minute running time. The pace of the film is nice and fast, and my attention was held so completely that I didn’t even play my usual “let’s read everyone’s bios on IMDb” game. And that’s the top recommendation I can give a crazy old genre film.

Since Baffled! is on YouTube in its entirety, I’ll embed the playlist with all seven parts here for you to enjoy. I know I’m not the only one obsessed right now with Leonard Nimoy’s work. I can’t tell you to live long and prosper anymore, Mr. Nimoy, but I can say I am grateful to you with all my heart for your contributions to television. You were probably the best actor on Star Trek. Thanks for making intelligence and logic cool.

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