Hip, 70s Leonard Nimoy stars in The Missing Are Deadly as a scientist who is developing a virus to kill a deadly plague. Unfortunately, it’s the brains versus the suits at his for-profit lab, and his boss (Ed Nelson, also of 90s B-movie The Boneyard) wants him to pursue something else, something impressive to investors that he can discuss at cocktail parties. What they end up pursuing is the boss’s crazy son, who comes to visit dad at work, steals a plague-infected lab rat and takes it camping, spreading disease all along the route to the mountain campsite where he’s headed with his long-suffering brother and the brother’s girlfriend (Kathleen Quinlan). Coincidentally, the rat thief problem child was due to be institutionalized Monday morning, but will he live that long?
This 70s TV thriller didn’t thrill me as much as some others of its time, but it’s not a bad movie, and of course it’s a pleasure to see Nimoy in almost anything. The plague wasn’t as wild as some movie plagues we have seen, i.e. no one melted or zombified, but the action moves fast and provides an appropriate amount of suspense to hold your attention. Nimoy’s solution for finding a cure to the plague validates his character’s raison d’etre, which is logical for the script. The real booger bear here, besides business versus science, is psychiatry: the question of whether to keep the crazy son home and get therapy for him, or ship him off where he can’t spread any more plagues. I have to laugh when I think of how Hollywood always demonizes the mental health field, given the town’s reputation for insane behavior. I think it’s because shrinks are the only people in the big producers’ and directors’ lives who ever dare to tell them “No.”
Fun fact: The Missing Are Deadly premiered on U.S. television the day I was born: January 8, 1975. We’re twins!