Calendar Girl Murders (1984) Don’t Startle the ‘Stache, You’ll Skerritt

I remember a Christmas, when I was about twelve or thirteen, and one of my gifts from my Grandparents was a calendar of ladies in swimwear on the beach. This gift made several things go through my mind including will my mom let me keep it, how cool is my Grandpa for picking it out, and I wonder if you can see any nipples. Hey, what can I say, I was an adolescent horndog. (Who. coincidentally is grew into a middle aged horn dog, but that’s an entirely different matter.) My mother did indeed let me keep the calendar, and it hung by my bedside for the next twelve months providing me some beautiful, tan, sexy, barefoot fantasy girlfriends who obviously were on the coldest beaches of all time. Today’s film, Calendar Girl Murders, brought the memory to mind due to its title, but it really should have been the Centerfold Girl Murders to be accurate. More on that later. I chose the film because it stars one of the unsung heroes of the movie mustache  Tom Skerritt, who sadly is overshadowed by that other mustachioed Tom, Mr. Selleck. Today though, is Skerritt’s time to shine. So join me as I turn the pages of Calendar Girl Murders.

Richard Trainor (Robert Culp) is a Hugh Hefner-like figure who runs a magazine much like Playboy. The Calendar Girls of the title are actually centerfold models, but don’t get too excited as this is a made for TV flick. After one of the models, Miss January, is pushed off a balcony during a big party for the magazine, Lieutenant Dan Stoner (Tom Skerritt) is called in on the case. As he begins to investigate, his list of suspects grows with each person he meets. From the sleazy photographer (Alan Thick) to Trainor himself, the world of pornography seems rife with folks who might get their kicks offing nude models. Stoner eventually is drawn to former model turned stock broker Cassie (Sharon Stone), and the married officer skirts the edge of a dalliance as he searches for the killer before Cassie becomes the next victim.

Long time fans of The LBL will know I have something of an affinity for TV movies from the 70s and 80s. Even working within the limitations of what could be done on TV, there are many classic flicks like Savages or Pray for the Wildcats that succeed in being strong enough to stack up against theatrically released films. Unfortunately, while Calendar Girl Murders has a couple of decent death scenes, what the film needed to really work was more violence and nudity. What it really needed though was to be made ten years earlier in Italy as a giallo. There are many elements that just needed that nudge into Sleazetown to really work. Unfortunately, TV wouldn’t allow for any of that. Director William A. Graham was something of a TV journeyman starting his career in 1956, and over the years he directed many memorable television movies including Then Came Bronson, The Last Ninja, and Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones. Technically, Calendar Girl Murders is a well made film with good pacing and a story that does leave the viewer guessing, but the potential for it to have been trashier kind of left me wanting more.  

What did keep me locked into the movie are the performances of the two main stars, Skerritt and Stone. Skerritt, who would later become very well known for his TV show Picket Fences, makes for a good cop, and he gives a very human performance as a man tempted by a luscious young model but staying true to his wife still. I rather liked it that Skerritt’s Stoner did not fall into the arms of the model who he was trying to protect, and the fact the movie avoids that pitfall is one of the saving graces. For Stone, this was only her sixth movie role, and she was years from becoming infamous for crossing and uncrossing her legs. However, the charisma and beauty that made her a star is on full display. Well, not on full display, but you know what I mean. Stone and Skerritt really locked the movie down as the background characters faded in and out of importance almost on a whim.

That being said, there are still a few supporting players I would like to mention. While IMDB gives to credit for him, the film got a big boost in my eyes by containing a cameo appearance from Gong Show panelist and confetti affectionado Rip Taylor. If every movie contained a bit more Rip, the world would be a better place. Robert Culp, best known for the I Spy series with Bill Cosby, hams it up as the Hefner-esque pornographer, and he suavely rocked a number of velour tracksuits (I suppose PJ’s were too dead on.) Alan Thick, who would be back in 2 and 2 on Love Connection, doesn't get a whole ton of screen time as the photographer, but when he does, it surprised me how sleazy he could seem. Then I realized that he went on to have a job where he set people up on dates with weirdos they saw in short videos, and it all made sense. A far cry from his role as Bertram Cooper on Mad Men, Robert Morse also turns up the creep factor as a suspected stalker, and years before he get stuck in outer space on Star Trek: Voyager, Robert Belton, who played Chakotay on that series, shows up here in a small role as Skerritt’s partner.

They say in show business that you always leave them wanting more, and in this case, that is exactly what I wanted. Not more of the same, but a broader, sleazier movie that aped up the violence, red herrings, and sex. Even with the same cast, in the hands of someone like Sergio Martino, Calendar Girl Murders could have been a solid late entry into the giallo genre. However, even as a TV film, it feels like it comes up short in some way. The entire movie was entertaining, and the ending made sense and didn’t disappoint. However, it did not being back fond memories of that bathing suit calendar from many years ago. Wonder if I still have that around here somewhere? Maybe I have it ’stached somewhere here in the Lair, pun intended. Well, until I see you folks again, I have some hunting to do. It seems like there was this blonde…

Bugg Rating

As this is a TV flick, there is no trailer, but you can check it out in parts (in Spanish) on YouTube or Netflix subscribers can watch it streaming there.

1 comment:

  1. I watched this because I had a hunch it might be pretty good. Sometimes TV movies have a certain zinginess to them, a sort of "what the hell" quality that's generated, I've always suspected, by the unusually low budgets, That is, if your investment is small enough, you don't have to worry so much about producing a blockbuster. Add to it that this cast was interesting. Tom Skerrit may or may not have much acting range, but he's reliable in the way that Cary Grant and Michael Caine have been reliable. They don't always give first-rate performances but they never torpedo a production they appear in, and Skerrit has that same quality. Then there is Sharon Stone, youthful and full of fresh open-faced beauty, and not so evidently full of herself as she later became. And Robert Morse! I was curious to see his gap-toothed person in a dramatic role. The story, involving the sequential knocking off of "Playmates of the Month" or whatever they call them here. The film unfortunately did not live up to its promise. I suppose I'd forgotten that there must be a script. It's awful. There's no suspense to speak of. The dialogue is dull. Conflict, either intra- or interpersonal, is minimal. We don't know about the murdered models, so we don't care about them. (Except the momentary thought -- "What a waste.") At least the movie is not laden with cliches -- one or two car chases, a vehicular fireball -- but not much of that, perhaps because the writers didn't bother to put much effort into cranking up the action. Watch it if you want. I doubt that you'll get much out of it.


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