Everyone my age remembers Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor in the old Mayberry TV show. An unarmed sheriff loved by everyone in a small southern town (which, oddly enough, had no blacks) who solved all kinds of problems while trying to raise a child on his own. The whistling issue has burned into many brains. And there was the last Griffth, the oldest, who looked like Lawyer Matlock on a TV show of the same name. But in the early 1970s, Sheriff Andy starred in two made-for-television horror movies that took him in a different direction: a psychopathic manipulator with power and money. In a way, these roles were a throwback to the previous one he had played as the sinister “Lonesome” Rhodes in A face in the crowd (1957).

Both films were released in 1974. The first, Wild Griffith played a disabled lawyer who hires a local boy as a hunting guide. The second, Pray for the wildcats, made him ride a dirt bike through Baja California with William Shatner, Marjoe Gortner and Robert Reed. Both films surprised a lot of people when they first appeared on the small screen. Imagine a family turning on the movie of the week expecting more home country jokes and instead watching a lewd lunatic.

Savages was based on the 1973 novel Death watch by Rob White. In the film, Andy Griffth plays the lawyer Horton Maddock, who is desperate to venture into the desert to hunt bighorn sheep. The young guide he hires, Ben Campbell, is played by Sam Bottoms. Although Maddock has some trouble moving around, he quickly informs Ben that he has made a fortune using his mind. He is always smartly dressed in khaki clothing and sports a painted smile whenever he addresses someone. Several days after the search, Maddock accidentally shoots an old seeker who turns out to be Ben’s friend. Maddock wants them to bury the body and pretend it never happened. He is afraid that if word got out he would jeopardize his legal career. Ben refuses and makes plans to bring the body back to town, even rejecting a cash robbery. But suddenly Maddock devises a plan to blame Ben for the death and sends his young guide into the desert alone, barely clothed, to die of dehydration. It then becomes a game of the hunter and the hunted when Ben uses his survival skills against Maddock.

Wild it’s actually a nice adaptation of Rob White’s book. Although the dead seeker is featured in the movie as Ben’s friend and mentor, while in the book he is just a random old man who got in the way of Maddock’s goal. The description of Ben’s survival methods is much more explicit in the book, but this is a minor point. You can’t do much with a 74-minute movie.

Pray for the wildcats It also had Andy Griffith in a sinister role. It is famous for having a lot of TV actors in roles that you don’t normally find them for. Sam Farragut (Andy Griffith), William Summerfield (William Shatner), Paul Mcllvian (Robert Reed) and Terry Maxon (Marjoe Gortner) are four friends who spend their weekends motorcycling across the country on their dirt bikes. William, Paul, and Terry work at the same ad agency and are trying to get Sam, a manufacturer, to join them. William is having an affair with Paul’s wife (Angie Dickinson) and is being kicked out of his executive position. Terry is a rising star who just found out that his girlfriend is pregnant. And Sam won’t close the deal with the agency until the other three agree to take a cross-country motorcycle ride through Baja California. They all agree to spend a week on the road, first photographing themselves in their leather jackets with the “Wildcat” monogram.

But the journey turns bad when Sam, the group’s self-anointed leader, falls too much in love with a hippy girl in a Cantina. William manages to get him out of a fight, but Sam has decided that he’s going to have that girl one way or another. And Terry is willing to do anything to get Sam’s favor. Paul? He just wants to go home and ignore his wife again.

Both films were a major change in the way audiences viewed Andy Griffith. As he plays a cold and methodical killer in Wild, he’s the drooling potential rapist in Wild cats. He’s great in both roles. There is enough country boy in each character to make you think of The killer inside of me. Both of these old horror movies are highly recommended, although they are hard to find these days.

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