Friday, September 20, 2019

Leonard Nimoy and Susan Hampshire are Baffled!

Leonard Nimoy and Susan Hampshire.
Plagued with psychic visions, race car driver Tom Kovack ignores them until he sees himself plunge off a cliff into the ocean--and wakes up drenched in salt water. Accompanied by psychic authority Michelle Brent, Tom travels to Cornwall to learn why he senses evil at a country manor-turned-hotel.

The guests at the coastal hotel include a famous actress and her daughter, with the latter undergoing a sudden personality change. On a dark evening, Tom follows the young woman down a treacherous path along the cliffs. A loose railing sends Tom (are you ready?) plunging into the icy waters just like in his vision. When a mysterious van almost runs Tom and Michelle off the road, the duo get serious about uncovering the source of evil.

Hampshire as Michelle.
Made in 1972, Baffled! is a 90-minute made-for-TV movie that doubled as a pilot for TV series that never materialized. Leonard Nimoy stars as Tom Kovack, having departed from Mission: Impossible after a two-year stint. British actress Susan Hampshire plays Michelle Brent in what was a change-of-pace from her other television work. She had already won Emmys for her performances in the classy British dramas The Forsyte Saga and The First Churchills. She would win a third Emmy in 1973 for Vanity Fair.

Neither Nimoy nor Hampshire take their parts too seriously. While their playful banter is amusing enough, it seems out of place with the rest of Baffled. One senses that the intent was to make a mystery with supernatural undercurrents similar to Gene Roddenberry's first-rate TV movie Spectre (1977). I suspect it was this incongruent tone--plus low ratings--that doomed the chances for a Baffled! TV series (well, to be honest, I also think the title leaves a lot to be desired).

Rachel Roberts as a villain?
For a telefilm, Baffled! boasts an impressive supporting cast. The standout performance belongs to Rachel Roberts, a one-time Oscar nominee for This Sporting Life (1963). As the hotel's owner, she channels Mrs. Danvers but adds an intriguing touch of middle-aged sexuality. Her fellow actresses don't fare as well in underwritten parts, with Vera Miles being wasted as the former movie star and Angharad Rees (Demelza in the original Poldark) relegated to a bit part.

Despite its shortcomings, Baffled! offers enough to keep one's interest for an hour-and-a-half. The rocky coastal setting adds to its atmosphere. There's a nice twist at the climax (though it's not too hard to figure out). And Susan Hampshire is always a pleasure to watch, even when she just has to be her charming self.

Here's a scene from Baffled!, courtesy of the Cafe's YouTube channel:


  1. I have vague memories of enjoying it, but not being overly anxious for a series.

  2. Rick, I'm grateful when you link to previous reviews, as in "Spectre" and "Demon with the Glass Hand," posted long before I started following this blog. I just assume now that when I wonder why you haven't written about a particular film, you actually have and I've missed it, so need to go looking. So thanks for that.

    As for Nimoy, unfortunate for me that his cultural icon status overwhelmed what he tried to do in later projects. It was easier to listen to him in his "Alien Voices" radio-play roles. He did do an amusing/heartwarming Audi commercial with Zachary Quinto that actually broke down that barrier for me and made it easier to go back and revisit his other roles -- the first time I can honestly say watching a TV ad served some useful purpose.

    1. Thanks, Ron. I have tried to add hyperlinks to older articles. I also spent some time cleaning up the index on the sidebar. I agree that Leonard Nimoy's cultural impact as Spock made other roles more difficult. I haven't heard the radio plays, which sound interesting.

    2. I agree with you re: Nimoy's iconic role in a certain TV series in the 1960s. I find him hard to watch in anything else, which is not fair to him as an actor.

      Incidentally, thanks for mentioning the Audi challenge. I hadn't heard of it – just looked it up on YouTube – and enjoyed it very much.