Thursday, May 5, 2016


Warning: Spoiler Alert. This is a critical essay, not a review, so key plot points are revealed for the purpose of discussion.

The success of The Exorcist (1973) left Hollywood scrambling to grab up the rights to any and all novels even remotely related to the occult and the supernatural. Having exhausted the whole demonic possession thing, and with indestructible serial killers still a few years off, studiosspurred on by the burgeoning '70s New Age movement and Me-Generation interest in navel-gazing mysticismturned to the relatively benign philosophy of reincarnation as the next hoped-for trend in cinema scares.
Employing the same, questioning, nosy-parker tact in its ad copy as The Reincarnation of Peter Proud ("Suppose you knew who you had been in a previous life. What Then?"),  1977's Audrey Rose was a classier, pedigreed big studio reincarnation release, but due to a preposterous plot, it too fared poorly at the boxoffice

With its case-history title reminiscent of 1972s The Possession of Joel Delaney, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, a popular 1973 supernatural suspense novel by TV-writer Max Ehrlich (Star Trek, The Untouchables, Suspense) was snapped up by Bing Crosby Productions (of all things) to be made into a film for release in 1975. This independent television production company (responsible for Ben Casey and Hogan’s Heroes) had recently branched out into motion pictures and enjoyed a string of sleeper successes with the low-budget thrillers Willard (1971), You’ll Like My Mother (1972), and the redneck vigilante opus Walking Tall (1973).

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud was BCPs ambitious move into the mainstream. Ehrlich was hired to adapt his book for the screenplay (misstep #1), and directing chores were handed over (promisingly) to Hollywood vet and Hitchcock fan, J. Lee Thompson. Thompson had been nominated for an Academy Award for The Guns of Navarone back in 1961, but what augured well for Peter Proud was his direction of the intense thriller Cape Fear (1962). He was also the director of the marvelously atmospheric but little-seen suspense drama Return from the Ashes in 1965. 

But alas, in order for one to consider the hiring of this 60-year-old director a boon to the making of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, one has to conveniently overlook the TV-level mediocrity of his more recent output. Specifically, the unexceptional Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). Still, there was always the lure of the film’s talented and attractive cast; no top-tier A-listers, but a definite step-up from the unknowns and TV-Q talent usually associated with BCP films. And all at intriguingly varied stages of stardom/relevance in their respective careers.

Cast in the title role was Michael Sarrazin, whose career had stumbled a bit after the brilliant They Shoot Horses,Don’t They?  (1969), but things appeared to be on the upswing, what with landing this role after co-starring opposite Barbra Streisand in For Pete’s Sake (1974). 
Michael Sarrazin as Peter Proud
Former Cover Girl model Jennifer O’Neill, who’d made such a splash as the dream girl in 1971s The Summer ’42, was perilously close to having Hollywood invoke its unspoken three-flops-you’re-out law (Such Good Friends, The Carey Treatment, Lady Ice) when cast as the male fantasy-object in The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. Her prominent billing, despite making her entrance nearly 60 minutes into the film, a fair indication that her leading lady marquee gold hadn’t completely tarnished.
Jennifer O'Neill as Ann Curtis
Margot Kidder, still three years away from global superstardom as Lois Lane in Superman: The Movie (1978), was still something of a promising up-and-comer after her attention-getting turn in Brian DePalma’s cult hit Sisters (1973). Small but memorable turns in Black Christmas (1974) and The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) gave the uniqueness of her role in The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (coeval costars Kidder & O'Neill play mother and daughter) an emerging star-of-tomorrow feel.
Margot Kidder as Marcia Curtis
Rounding out this feminine trifecta of talent was Cornelia Sharpe, a name sure to inspire a lot of “Who?” these days, but back in the ‘70s she was the new blonde on the block; heavily touted in the press for her Faye Dunaway cheekbones (minus the acting chops), and appealing malleability in any number of underwritten “girlfriend” roles of the sort so prevalent during the male-dominated decade (most famously, Serpico-1973). Sharpe’s part in The Reincarnation of Peter Proud doesn’t really buck this trend, her presence in the largely female cast merely adding to the hopeful speculation that the R-rated suspenser was going to have a sizable overlay of ticket-selling sex and nudity with its supernatural shocks.
Cornelia Sharpe as Nora Hayes
Heterosexually speaking, if Peter Proud’s prominently publicized passel of pulchritudinous performers primed potential patrons with the prospect of a little T&A with their ESP; the film’s provocatively homoerotic poster art worked wonders for drawing the attention of the gay contingent. 
The memorable ad campaign and sole identifying graphic for the promotion of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud was this lava-lamp soaked image of muscled, heavily-striated, and (most significantly) naked actor/model Tony Stephano screaming in pain after (as we come to learn) being hit in the schnuts with a wooden boat oar. A fashion model for Givenchy seen frequently on the pages of GQ magazine at the time, Stephano makes his film debut in The Reincarnation of Peter Proud as Jeff Curtis, Peter Proud's earlier, not-so-nice incarnation.
A common promotional practice of the day was for a film with a racy theme to appear in the pages of Playboy magazine or similar skin rag as part of an advance-publicity pictorial (my eyes still burn from the sight of a naked Robert Culp in the Penthouse magazine pictorial for the forgotten 1973 haunted house flick, A Name for Evil). However, in the age of Women's Lib, Playgirl magazine, and the advent of equal-opportunity flesh-peddling, two months before the release of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud Stephano promoted the film and his chiseled assets by gracing the cover and centerfold spread of the short-lived Foxylady magazine (below, albeit sans the oar - that's just my addition in the twin interests of providing modesty and a helpful visual-aid for those who haven't seen the film).  

I’ve no idea of the production budget for The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (it has that underpopulated, TV-movie look, so my guess is minimal) but the impact its publicity machine had on me was considerable. Intriguing radio and TV spots (“Who are you Peter Proud?”); a paperback book tie-in; pervasive newspaper ads; and an R-rating which hinted at the possibility of a return to Exorcist-style shake-‘em-up explicit horror (back then I considered the recently-released PG-rated The Stepford Wives far too tame) ‒ I was stoked.

All except for two red flags:
1. It didn't bode well for the quality of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (also known hereafter as TROPP) that it was being distributed through American International Pictures; the self-proclaimed “Woolworth’s of the movie industry” known for exploitation cheapies and bungling its rare stabs at legitimacy (Merchant/Ivory’s The Wild Party- 1975).
2. TROPP was slated to open at the movie theater where I worked. By rights, this news should have thrilled me to the core, but the theater where I was employed as an usher, The Alhambra Theater on Polk Street in San Francisco, was the sister-theater to the ritzier Regency Cinema on Van Ness. Both were first-run theaters, but the mid-town Regency got all the anticipated sure-fire hits while the Alhambra (viewed as a neighborhood theater) was given the leftovers. There was the occasional miscalculation (like when Jaws was sneak previewed there and Martin Scorsese’s sleeper hit Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore opened to consistently, wholly unexpected, sold-out business), but for the most part, if the Alhambra got it, industry buzz on the film tended to be mild.
Nora (described in the film's press material as a "sensuous grad student") attempts
to awaken Peter -as sensually as she can, I suspect- from one of his violent recurring nightmares.

The topic of reincarnation hasn’t had a particularly good track record on film. Whether played for smarmy laughs (Goodbye Charlie -1964), set to music (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever -1970), or staged as romantic melodrama (Dead Again - 1991); reincarnation may intrigue in real-life, but in the assumed identity, anything can happen, make-believe world of film, it has credibility issues.

Peter Proud (Sarrazin), a University of California Professor of Anthropology, is plagued by vivid recurring dreams he comes to learn are actually past-life memories. In his dreams, he is inhabiting the body of another man—a man who is murdered by an unknown woman while he swims in an icy lake. Curiosity turns to obsession as Proud ventures to Springfield, Massachusetts, the city in his dreams, on a quest to discover who he was in an earlier life and to unearth the circumstances surrounding his violent death.

With the help of old newspapers and his own dream-recognition of specific locations, Proud uncovers evidence that he once existed as Jeff Cutis (Stephano), a former war hero married unhappily to banker’s daughter Marcia Buckley (Kidder). Three months after the birth of their daughter Ann, Jeff was found dead in the local lake, cause of death unknown. Only it isn’t—not for Peter Proud. He knows that Jeff was an abusive husband and serial womanizer killed by his wife that cold dark night out on the lake 35 years ago.
Getting To Know You

Intrigued by the thought of meeting both the wife and daughter of his former self, Proud rather recklessly insinuates himself into the lives of the now-grown Ann (O'Neill)--a sweet-natured divorcee with sad eyes--and 60-year-old widow Marica, the pretty, smiling brunette in his dreams who's matured into something of a morose, guilt-ridden sot.

Before long, Proud’s fevered obsession with his past life is supplanted by a desire to build a future of his own as he finds himself falling in love with Ann, who is, metaphysically speaking, his daughter. Meanwhile, Proud’s subconscious similarities to her late husband arouse mounting suspicions (and a few other things) in Marcia, leading to a violent reenactment of a past tragedy that was perhaps always fated to be.
With its not-uninteresting premise, combining elements of the psychological suspense film with the supernatural thriller and crime/detective mystery; The Reincarnation of Peter Proud had the potential to mine some of the same dreamy, eerily perverse terrain of erotic fixation as Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) or Brian De Palma’s 1977 Obsession. Unfortunately, Ehrlich’s plot-driven, exposition-heavy script and Thompson’s lacking-in-nuance, indifferent direction give TROPP the feel of a dramatically compelling TV Movie of the Week. With lots of nudity.
What Did I Have That I Don't Have?

In a film as promising, but ultimately lacking, as The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, it’s difficult to pinpoint just where, among so many gross miscalculations, things went most wrong. But for me, problems with the script seemed evident from the film’s first frames. Max Ehrlich (often taking sizable chunks of dialog from his novel) shows no flair for the rhythms and tones of natural conversation. Revealing his TV-based roots, nearly every word spoken is designed either to propel the plot forward or provide expository information.
Character development (helpful in getting audiences invested in the emotional stakes behind Proud’s obsessive quest) takes a backseat to the writer’s efforts to propel the story forward along its inexorable path. The result is what often befalls rote disaster films and poorly-made horror movies: the characters’ actions and motivations are solely in service of plot machinations and rarely seem to emanate from personality or normal human behavior patterns.
After driving throughout Massachusetts in search of the unknown city he sees in his dreams,
Peter finally comes upon a recognizable landmark

For example: sure, the whole reincarnation angle of the plot is known to the audience before the film even begins, but Ehrlich's overdetermined script never allows the characters to consider any other explanations for Peter's strange behavior (like demonic possession or schizophrenia, for example). Once it's suggested that reincarnation is behind Proud speaking in another man’s voice, suffering phantom pain attacks, and being plagued by detailed visions of a life imagined or remembered, the abrupt and unquestioning acceptance of that theory by everyone turns what could have been a mysterious journey of discovery into a protracted lecture on New Age mysticism. In short, a more creative adapter of the material might have strived to make the film's title potentially ambiguous, with Peter Proud a perhaps unreliable narrator misleading the viewer (something Roman Polanski did beautifully with the literal-minded novel that became his ambiguous screen adaptation of Rosemary's Baby).

The premise of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud is already fairly fascinating fodder for a suspense thriller, I just wish someone had thought it worth the effort to supplement the story with more fleshed-out characterizations.
In the novel, the whole metaphysical incest angle is skirted by having Peter remain chastely in love with Ann. The film controversially has Peter and Ann consummate their love in a sequence intercut with shots of Ann's mother and father (uh...Peter, sort of) making love on the same spot 35 years hence.

Which brings up the film's other problem. In spite of what I might have hoped for in the way of mainstream seriousness from the ads and advance publicity, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud is an exploitation movie, and as such, the sensational aspects of the plot are the film’s real stars.
Still, that doesn’t excuse what passes for acting by a large portion of the film’s cast. Michael Sarrazin, always a rather likable but vague screen presence (which is perhaps why the amorphous Robert of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? remained the most memorable work of his career) fails to capture any of the dark nuances of a character fixated on knowing his former self, yet willing to have sex with the daughter of the man he knows he once was.
The appealing Jennifer O’Neill is mostly cast and used for her beauty and blank-slate personality (she’s like Mary-Ann on Gilligan’s Island; the perfect, non-threatening, girlfriend male fantasy).
Mother and Child Reunion
Margot Kidder, in what might be called a double role (although her 1940’s persona is sliced and diced to snippets) gives the film’s best performance. Although never once physically convincing as a 60-year-old woman (makeup is a little too junior college theater dept.), Kidder emotionally inhabits her character in a way that renders realistic the toll taken on a broken woman weary from carrying around a burdensome secret for too many years. Her scenes with same-age O'Neill (both 26) are particularly interesting to watch.

Debralee Scott as Suzy
Scott's bit role as a helpful teen (almost all of her dialogue is exposition) cements the film in the 1970s. Debralee Scott seemed to be all over the place during the decade, memorable as Louise Lasser's sister in TVs Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Donna Pescow's sister on Angie, and as a regular on Welcome Back, Kotter. Scott passed away in 2005, but these days she's highly visible on the Buzzr network on several game shows. Should it ever show up on YouTube, I recommend you catch her in the 1973 TV movie A Summer Without Boys.

Worst performance is an overcrowded category finds the lovely but tone-deaf Cornelia Sharpe (she sounds as though she learned her dialog phonetically) outpacing both pipe-smoking parapsychologist Paul Hecht (saying his lines and hitting his marks without projecting much through that forest of hair on his face), and the ever-nude Tony Stephano, whose Arrow Collar Man profile is perfect for the era, but whose voice I suspect is dubbed.
If you didn't grow up in the hair-helmet '70s, you're forgiven for assuming actor Paul Hecht
 (as parapsychologist/sleep-researcher Samuel Goodman)
 is wearing one of these contemporary crochet bearded-beanies 

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud sought to distinguish itself in the horror/supernatural movie market by being explicit, but not in the head-spinning, vomit-spewing way. TROPP promoted itself as an erotic thriller, and its many controversial scenes were geared for maximum shock effect.
Marcia masturbates recalling the sexual assault she suffered at the hands of her late husband
A tiresome '70s trope (Peckinpah's Straw Dogs) was the rape that morphs into sex
Reflecting perhaps the film's lack of a cohesive point of view, Peter's metaphysically incestual relationship with Ann is depicted in romantic terms. If Peter does indeed believe he's the reincarnation of Ann's father, his taking the relationship to a physical level comes off as irresponsible at best, amoral at worst.

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud is one of those curious movies from my past where, after the initial disappointment of unrealized potential has settled (taking years to do so), nostalgia turns flaws into assets, and the film’s ability to perfectly evoke a particular time and place overrides its general weakness.
I can’t fully separate my reaction to The Reincarnation of Peter Proud from my nostalgic memories of my life in 1975. Nor do I want to. TROPP is, in my eyes, a film not wholly successful as either an erotic thriller or supernatural suspenser; yet it can't be denied that the film still manages to strike a chord with those who were of a certain age when they saw it (adolescent to late teens). The film obviously works on some level for me, perhaps one better suited to a Night Gallery or Twilight Zone episode, but its minor effectiveness can't be denied..
There’s plenty of ‘70s weirdness about it, which I like, but it suffers because it lacks the kind of crazy you find in the dark corners of the works of Hitchcock, Polanski, and other directors with demons they use film to exorcize. And a movie as offbeat as this NEEDS that kind of crazy.
One of the film's more eerily effective scenes is when Peter accompanies Ann to the convalescent home to visit her paternal grandmother. The woman, who hasn't spoken or acknowledged another person for years, suddenly sees Peter and recognizes her son, Jeffrey.

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, with its pedestrian direction and bland cinematography (surprising given that its cinematographer is Victor J. Kemper, the man who shot Xanadu and the stylish Eyes of Laura Mars) flattens out what really is a pretty loopy yarn that could have been an eerily sexy, metaphysical mind-bender. It’s not the film it could have been, but when I look at it now, I find myself increasingly grateful to it for being what it is.

Everything about its look just screams 1975 (the fashions, color scheme, washed-out appearance), as does its sober approach to the material (the dead-serious attitude about reincarnation is naively preachy), and the slightly-off feeling of the performances (on par with what you’d see on '70s TV or in big-screen genre films like Earthquake).
So I look at The Reincarnation of Peter Proud and marvel at the many things mainstream movies wouldn’t think of trying to get away with today. I poke fun at the risible dialog and plot contrivances, the poky acting, and the dated milieu. But I also allow myself to be taken back to my youth by the abstract, almost metaphysical notion that the enjoyment derived from certain movies is often untethered to the particulars of said film’s quality, but rather, wholly connected to the nostalgic pleasure to be found in (safely) revisiting one's past.

Copyright © Ken Anderson 2009 - 2016


  1. I only saw this movie on TV a few years after its release and while I know I had the soundtrack album, I remembered very little. Now I know why. Aside from the narrative not helped at all by commercial breaks, I had NO idea what I'd been missing until I saw your screen caps.

    Thanks for the background info on the production and distribution as well. As for Bing Crosby Productions, coincidentally, just last night I watched the new Blu Ray of You'll Like My Mother. I don't know if you're as big a fan of that move as I am but there is an hour-long interview with Richard Thomas and Sian Barbara Allen and among the topics discussed (like whatever happened to Sian Barbara Allen) was BCP which was fascinating.

    So thank you. Now I'm off to YouTube to get my Sarrazin fix.

    1. Hi Max
      I remember when this aired on TV, and what with all the cuts for language, nudity and commercials, the whole thing played out rather jumbled.

      I'm a big fan of "You'll Like My Mother", being one of those folks who saw it when it first came out, barely leaked to theaters with little publicity. It was a happy surprise and I saw it several times.
      I have a non-Blu-ray copy but love that they managed to get those two to talk about the film.
      I recall Sian Barbara Allen being all over the place for a brief time, a ind of poor man's Mia Farrow with all those waif roles she took on. She appears in pretty good (as in campy fun) Bette Davis TV Movie called "Scream Pretty Peggy"
      Hope you enjoy seeing "Peter Proud" again. It's one of those films so connected to my teen fandom years, I remain greatly entertained by it, but have a hard time even knowing how it plays out for other people.

      I do get a kick out of watching it with my partner (who doesn't share my fondness for Sarrazin, thinking he looks like a chihuahua in a wig) mainly because he makes me laugh poking such merciless fun at it.
      Thanks for the tip-off about the DVD, I'm going to see if a friend of mine has a Blu-ray copy.

  2. Nothing screams "1970's!" louder than Debralee Scott as "Suzy with a Z." All the Nik Nik shirts in the world could not beat that. A perfect moment of that interesting era, preserved forever in cinema amber.

    Thank you for writing about this film. Cigarettes everywhere. Convertibles without shoulder harnesses. A classroom filled with students and not a single laptop computer to be seen. A card catalogue. Sexual politics that would make Betty Friedan's blood boil. It all is a pungent reminder of a time gone with the smokes. I saw it when it came out and you prompted me to watch it again on YouTube. My opinion is about the same now as it was then. Pretty much a failure on every conceivable level.

    If you don't have a good script, you don't stand much of a chance and this one does not have a good script. It's flabby as a thriller and limp as soft porn. The frequent nudity was the basis of the marketing for this film. Still, I never ever wanted to see Margot Kidder jilling off. Still don't. Michael Sarrazin is only hot in the most marginal way. He's so skinny that it detracts from any smouldering he may attempt. Bare skin is not his forte. Nor are swim trunks or tennis shorts. Keep him covered up in a bulky sweater and let his big blue eyes do their work. That's when he's best. I would not normally stress that so greatly, but he and two other principal actors appear nude, or nearly so, in the first five minutes of the film. Bare skin is a big deal in this film.

    "Look straight ahead and to the left," says Michael Sarrazin as he and his crabby girlfriend look to the right and see the Puritan statue. Peter Proud must be the only Ph.D. in the world who teaches history and does not know how to operate a microfilm viewer. Or a library. Or even have access to an encyclopedia. Failing all of that, and he did, why not just ask an Art History colleague about the Puritan statue? Anything, anything at all, except fly to Massachusetts and rent a car (How can he afford to pay extra for a convertible? Not on his salary. Not on an Associate Professor's salary!) and begin blindly driving to every city in the entire state. What a maroon! No wonder his girlfriend dumped him. Dede Allen herself could not have pieced this all together so it made sense.

    Kidder has the hardest role and delivers the best work, even as she is doomed to failure in convincing anyone she was 50 years old. It might have been better to cast Lauren Bacall and a younger actress for the flashbacks. But that would require two paychecks and I'm don't suppose the budget for this film could stretch that much.

    Considered as a film, this one might have gone 'straight to video' had that been possible in 1975. But as a Proustian madeleine, at least for those of us at a certain age, it is wildly entertaining in its own weird way.

  3. You know you're preaching to the choir when someone can reference Nik Nik shorts AND Debralee Scott.
    I laughed throughout your comments because so many of the things you called attention to are exactly the kind of barbs my partner regales me with when we watch it. Perfectly obvious, hidden-in-plain-sight inconsistencies and moments of nonsense that i don't readily notice, but when spotlighted, have the inverse result of making me love this film more.

    I especially like your comments about how Proud's given profession seems to have no bearing on the way his his character's behavior is conceived. In the 2 million screenplay workshops conducted daily here in LA, I hope the students are taught that if you give a character a job requiring intelligence PLEASE have the character behave in ways conveying that fact.
    I know that in the book, Proud is depicted as something of a trust fund baby, resenting by his poorly-paid peers for driving a fancy car and being able to afford a trek to Massachusetts to merely drive around aimlessly. But that's why I wished they had someone else adapt Ehrlich's novel. He comes across as so close to the story, he leaves huge narrative gaps here and there.
    (In rewatching the film for this post, I too noticed that "To the left" line and the camera set up and POV focus clearly showing us the characters looking to the right! So of course when you wrote about it, again I had to laugh aloud.)

    Also, it always amazes me how this relatively short movie found time for the longest square dance sequence in recorded film history.

    As per Sarrazin being skinny, I know what you mean. When he's seeing the doctor and those little legs peek out from under his hospital gown, it's actually rather surprising. But I forget how that thin thin thin male silhouette was such an appealing 70s look to me (of course, there had to be huge bellbottoms).
    Thanks for sharing so amusingly your ruminations on Proud and the 70s. "Entertaining in its own weird way" sums it up.

  4. "But I forget how that thin thin thin male silhouette was such an appealing 70s look to me (of course, there had to be huge bellbottoms)."

    Yes! David Cassidy in a musical version of "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud."

    I dare not think of the rest of the casting choices.

    1. Lord, with both "Carrie" and "American Psycho" musicalized, lets hope no one gets any retro musical ideas!
      And, of course, it was David Cassidy I was specifically thinking of (along with some of those Soul Train dancers I crushed on) when I wrote that line about the thin 70s male silhouette!

    2. The facial hair! Soul Train was the place for the slims to feature those follicles, along with the fashions, and their fine brown frames.

    3. Yes, in the 70s (where the macho man and Musk by Jovan was born) fulsome mustaches, sideburns, beards, and van dykes were plentiful. Those old Soul Train videos are like moving time capsules - fashions, moves, and body types.

    4. On the topic of things that don't make sense...

      Early on in the visit to Springfield, Peter stops at Crystal Lake to buy gas. The gas is pumped by an old geezer who has lived "all mah life" near Crystal Lake. But his New England accent is so thick that he sounds like the old 'Gorton fisherman' from the 70's fish stick commercials. (Same actor? More research to do!) Anyway, he sounds like he's in Maine, not Springfield, which is just an hour from New York State. Then he tells Peter "You must be talkin' about the Grady case. Ken Grady. It was a terrible thing. The way they found him, I mean. Private parts had been cut clean off and hacked in about 10 times with a butcher knife. Bled to death right there on his dock. They say his wife did it. Never did convict her, though. Heard she got married again...." Why does that actor initially telegraph layers of wariness and hesitation... and then launch into that brutal story with such detail? Why does he start the brief scene as a laconic New Englander and in seconds start blabbing about hacked genitals?

      Of course, NONE of this has anything to do with Peter's recurrent dream, except for the common element of the lake. That doesn't stop our intrepid screenwriter. The scene ends at the gas station and we cut to Peter speaking on the telephone to his colleague. "I KNOW this is the place, Sam. I'm sure of it now."

      WTF? That new information should only have confused Peter. In any event, nothing from that scene should assure him that he's found the right place. And none of that gory LorenaBobbett-esque tale is ever mentioned again.


    5. I remember that scene well...particularly the actor's accent (I recognized him as Cristina Raines' creepy father in "The Sentinel") which sounded like he was two seconds from saying "Pepperidge Farm remembers."

      You bring up a good point, though. Way back when I first saw the film, I thought that story about the other murder was going to reveal that Peter's memories were misleading and that he was the reincarnation of another fellow, but as you note, that whole exchange leads nowhere, and while perhaps serving to throw a red-herring at the audience, doesn't result in the sensible response from Peter (wouldn't he think it weird there were TWO unexplained, naked husband deaths in the same vicinity?).
      i'm glad you brought this up, because I think in repeat viewing s of the film (with the awareness this info leads nowhere) I tend to forget it exists entirely.
      As you said in your initial comment, without a good script, a film (especially a thriller) doesn't have a chance.

  5. My Mom, sister, and I used to trade books back and forth, and "Peter Proud" was one of them. We all liked it and couldn't wait to see the movie. While we all agreed that the film version felt like a B-movie, what I really remember was being so mortified for being so turned on every time Tony Stephano was on the screen! While sitting with my mother...I can laugh now...


    1. Hi Rick
      Ha! That's a perfect "moment in time" memory to associate with this movie! I didn't see it with my family, but if I had, my reaction would most certainly have been the same.
      Your comment takes me back to what a perilous time my parents must have found the 70s when it came to "Family Night at the never quite knew what you were gonna get. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Dear Ken: Hi!

    Thanks for another great post! (I read and enjoy every post you do; if I don't comment it's because I either haven't seen the film or feel like I have nothing relevant to say!)

    I've never seen "Peter Proud" but do vaguely recall the title--I would have been 10 years old when the movie came out. The movie probably is not my cup of tea, but I really identify with what you say about nostalgia giving a movie (or song, or book) more value than it might have in an objective sense. Ever since I passed my 50th birthday I have been on a 1970s kick, and the films I see from that era really do make me stop and think: what was I doing when that came out? What was I listening to, what was I wearing?

    I have to agree with the comments about Michael Sarrazin, also. I don't find him attractive, but he definitely has that "skinny hippie" look that was popular for a brief time. He was lucky to come around at precisely the moment he did--I doubt he would have been considered leading man material either before or after the late 1960s/1970s.

    1. Hi David
      You are so nice to mention that you read every post. I'm not so jaded or used to the phenomenon to really expect people to return, and I certainly wouldn't ever wonder why I haven't heard from someone who's posted in the past.
      Each time you write (and that goes for anyone who comments here) is still a bit of a sobering gift - knowing that as full as people's lives are and with SO much available to read online, you actually take the time to read and even comment on these posts.
      So each "Hi" I impart is really a big "Thanks," too.

      I think the whole nostalgia angle of revisiting entertainments of the past is one of nature's graces and tender mercies. To look back and recognize having had a life lived: memories, times spent, etc. has a triumphant, survival feeling. Not everyone is blessed enough to have lived long enough for nostalgia to kick in. When it does, it seems to paint the past with a sheen of appreciation. It doesn't change bad movies into good ones (objectively speaking) but it reminds us that good or bad, seeing that particular movie was an experience we had. Something we lived through which has attendant memories attached to it. It can be a pretty cool part of growing older!
      And yes, I know my Michael Sarrazin crush is attached to my skinny guy movie crush on fellas like Tony Perkins and Laurence Harvey. Sarrazin isn't a traditional dreamboat type and very much of the era he came from.
      (Although not my type and his appeal has always left me scratching my head, Elliott Gould also strikes me as one who came along at the right time. Can't imagine him being a "star" during any other era.)
      Good to hear from you, David, Thanks!

  7. Hi Ken, I just watched this again about a year ago on YouTube, a fuzzy transfer from a 1980s broadcast, I am this available on DVD?

    This is a genre of movie I love as much as you do...I am delighted you mention de Palma's little-remembered Obsession with Genevieve Bujold--another one I am dying to see again.

    Audrey Rose is now on MGM channel in a restored HD version...the Goodbye Girl goes gothic! And Hopkins was really deep into the Grand Guignol before Silence of the Lambs revitalized his career.

    You are SO RIGHT about that poster, and about the movie trailer...I was too young to see this film in its original release, but the poster and the trailer were so erotic to me, as well as spooky and scary. (The model for Peter still looks exactly like a wanker to me, even today...LOL.)

    TV movies of the era were just as obsessed with reincarnation and the supernatural. The AMC movie of the week with Belinda J. Montgomery...why does she suddenly come to mind?

    Cheers, Ken, hope you are having a wonderful spring!!

  8. Hi Chris!
    No, it seems this movie isn't on DVD yet (that I know of, anyway). I would love to see a sharper version of it. I have a copy that was burned from a VHS. Which reminds me that I want to check out if "Obsession" is on DVD. As a big fan of Genevieve Bujold, I really remember loving that film, but haven't seen it in ages.
    I saw "Audrey Rose" a few months back for the first time after it was released. BOY! How things have changed in the way we deal with children and possible predators. The entire first half of the film wouldn’t be plausible now (with Hopkins "innocently" staking out a gradeschool and having a child handed over to him by a teacher simply because he says he's a relative).

    But you reminded me how popular reincarnation was as a theme for TV movies at the time. And like you, I think more people remember the poster and TV ads than went to see the film. Worse movies have survived; I’m curious why this one is so largely forgotten. Maybe it really IS too much of its time and feels very dated in a way “The Exorcist” and “The Omen” never will.
    Thanks for commenting, Chris (I laughed at your reference to the odious Jeff character as a "wanker"), and hope you're enjoying the Spring, too! As much as I love sitting in the dark watching movies, I do love these longer hours of daylight!
    Take care!

  9. Hi Ken

    I discovered your site a few days ago by searching "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud" on Google ( some people do that!)

    In the comments "Obsession" and "Audrey Rose" were mentionned, but TROPP made me think of another one : "Spoorloos" by George Sluizer

    It shares the same theme with TROPP : A man goes as far as his obsession leads him, and pays the price.

    But Spoorloos is a truly great film.

    1. Hi Dandylion
      Thanks for stopping by and for adding Sluizer's superb film (popularly known in the US as "The Vanishing")to the mix. It indeed fits the theme of obsession and is unnerving cinema at it's best. i love that movie, but I can't watch it again. Too disturbing.
      Can hardly believe the same director was responsible for the American remake.
      Glad your Google search landed you here and I thank you for taking the time to contribute!

  10. Hi Ken,
    If you haven't already heard, TROPP will finally be released on Bluray sometime in early 2018 from a new 4k scan of the original negative. It will be interesting to see how this impacts the viewing experience. I have not seen the film since it first came out, having refused to watch the wretched version on You Tube, so I anxiously await the chance to relive this warped memory from my youth! One thing I did not notice in your original piece or the comments that came afterwards was that David Fincher had supposedly planned a remake at one time. That could have been something to see!
    I really enjoyed rereading your piece on the film and look forward to a new generation getting the chance to experience this very flawed but very unforgettable film.

    1. Wow! That's major news for me, David. I haven't seen a decent copy of this film since it was released, so, like you, I wonder if a more pristine copy will impact the viewing experience.
      For a time I was one of those who followed closely all the trade paper announcements regarding a possible remake, excited as I was for the possibility of a more chilling, perhaps less "informational" adaptation. Especially from a director as talented as Fincher. Too bad (perhaps) that it never came to be.
      I appreciate your passing on the exciting news about Peter Proud's forthcoming Blu-ray release, and thank you for reading this post and taking the time to comment.

  11. I followed the link you included in a Tweet today about Debralee Scott.

    Saw this film on a premium channel not very long after it was released. Somehow I had the idea that it might be in the same league as Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist back then. I recall not liking it. Reading your review, I realized that I remembered absolutely nothing about the film - nothing - except Sarrazin ending up, deja vu, the lake at the end.

    Cornelia Sharpe rang no bells with me, though she looked slightly familiar, so I looked her up on IMDB. Apparently her ultimate claim to fame was marrying producer (of many memorable Al Pacino (whom he "discovered") films and others) and personal manager (Pacino, Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, more) Martin Bregman. They were married in 1981 and until his death last year. Seems Cornelia Sharpe's greatest role was Hollywood Wife.

    1. Hello Eve!
      First off, I have to tell you that your update of Cornelia Sharpe's resume really had me laughing! Given how clearly I remembered her brief stint as Hollywood's "hot new star" it amuses me to know how things turned out for her.
      I'm afraid my Debralee Scott tweet was a bit of a bait and switch, for there is nary a mention of her in the post (I could have sworn I had at least commented upon her 70's ubiquitousness). Looking at the post, I think I at least need to add a photo, she's such a favorite.

      And although you may not have remembered much about the film's plot, something tells me your recollection of "not liking it" was probably right on the nose, so unless you've just got some time to kill, I don't recommend revisiting "Peter Proud" any time soon. As much as I enjoy it, I'd be the first to say it's far from "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist" territory. Great to hear from you again, and thanks for your highly amusing (and informative) comment!

  12. Could be best described as a TV Movie of the Week channeling soft-core porn. The poor man's Faye Dunaway, Sharpe, can barely put two syllables together persuasively, O'Neil is dull and Kidder's make-up, as stated, is amateurish.

    1. Hi Joseph
      I hope it doesn't sound TOO mean-spirited of me to say that your comments gave me a good laugh. I do love this movie dearly, but I seem to never tire of having it being brought to task for its shortcomings. Again, I so appreciate your reading so many of the posts on this site and contributing to the comments section with your personal take on the films.

  13. sarrazin is so wooden to me. stephano brings all the heat and intensity. and it's not just this movie. sarrazin was also wood in the seduction and while all of morgan fairchild's nude charms were exposed, sarrazin and andrew stevens too managed not to expose anything but not so great acting.

    1. Sarrazin's appeal (or lack of it) has always drawn divided opinions. When not cast as passive, reactive characters, many feel his brand of underplaying leaves a lot to be desired. I find him a compelling screen presence (when the script allows) but it's easy to understand the opposing opinion.

  14. Hi Ken-
    A brief break from Taylor-ville to comment on the odd mess that is "Peter Proud". I came because of the homoerotic poster art, and all of the glimpses of "Tony Stephano" (imdb says that isn't his real name) did not disappoint! (I would place bets that J. Lee Thompson does more than just admire the male physique, even if he never acted on his impulses. Exhibit A: "Peter Proud"; Exhibit B: "10 To Midnight", which has Gene Davis literally running around fully naked for at least half the film. Hmmmm.) I agree that Margot gave the best performance, even with the deck stacked against her what with the bad aging makeup and having to participate in the tacky bathtub scene. She deserved better!

    My enjoyment of the film is enhanced by the oddly hypnotic electronic score by the great Jerry Goldsmith.

    Lastly, I'll never be able to look at Serrazin the same way ever again, knowing that your partner thinks he looks like a chihuahua in a wig. That. Is. Hilarious. (Not that I could really ever take Serrazin fully seriously after seeing "Eye Of The Cat", another guilty pleasure.) Thanks for including this in your essays.

    1. Hi Pete
      I take it this was your first time seeing this one, as well! I have such a nostalgic fondness for the film, I'm somewhat blinded to what it must look like to the first-timer.
      I'm forever grateful to directors who are unafraid of (or just don't give a fuck) about male nudity. J. Lee Thompson will forever be a mini-hero for this and (for me) the almost unwatchable "10 to Midnight" (not counting all the male nudity, of course).
      I've always found PETER PROUD to be such an effective film, even when I'm well aware of it being flawed. Never quite sure why.
      The cast is certainly attractive, and that's a plus, to be sure.
      I'm pleased to know you've checked this one out and find the guilty-pleasure movies as enriching in their own way as the others. Always appreciate your comments, Peter! Seeing as the film s you comment on are a part of your discovery of posts on this blog, they have the feel of biography about them. I like that. Cheers!