It’s probably obvious that I hold a special place in my heart for 1970s weirdness. That love met this year’s watch-fest in tonight’s film, Satan’s Triangle (1975). But can that love prevail over the stink of an ABC “Movie of the Week”? Let’s find out!
Satan’s Triangle was clearly an attempt to cash in on the zeitgeist of the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon that pervaded pop culture during the 1970s. The plot concerns a US Coast Guard rescue helicopter dispatched to investigate an SOS call put out by a ship “smack dab in the middle of Satan’s Triangle.” When the copter arrives, Haig (Doug, not Troy, McClure) descends down to the ship and discovers a number of dead bodies, including a priest hanging from the main mast and a corpse floating in mid-air in a forward compartment. Haig also finds Eva (Kim Novak), alive but in a state of shock. When he tries to get them both back on the chopper, an accident leaves them stranded aboard the ship. Eva, now recovered, begins regaling Haig with the story of what happened in the days before the SOS went out. The rest of the movie proceeds as flashback detailing the curious behavior of Satan’s Triangle. Is it supernatural? Is it all hogwash? Is the helicopter pilot Earnest Borgnine?
I had an eerie premonition this was a made-for-TV movie in the opening moments of Satan’s Triangle. It had that quality from the start and once the first fade-to-black for a commercial interstitial appeared, I knew what I was in for. That being said, for a cheesy TV movie, Satan’s Triangle isn’t an utter failure. The film weaves back and forth across the border of the supernatural and the rational as first Eva tells her tale, and then Haig debunks the causes behind the strange events. The film could have ended 10 minutes sooner and I would have been much happier with it. Instead, it proceeds to barrel on with a coda that undoes all the effort it put into skirting that line between the plausible and the preternatural.
Unfortunately, playing with audience expectations somewhat deftly was the only thing the movie had going for it (although I do suspect US Coast Guard applications went up a notch in the week after the film aired. It’s not Top Gun, but it was made with the USCG cooperation and does its job as a recruitment ad). Once that’s taken off the table, all you have left is a mediocre-acted, no-budget TV movie. I award it 2 skulls out of 5 for at least trying to do something interesting and the fact is clocks in at a lean 74 minutes.