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Nightmare in

Badham County

     "God only knows how many more are buried out there."

-- Old Sara on what really happens to early parolees    





Movie of the Week




Wait. Whoa! I thought this was a Made-For-TV movie!?


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The Hell?!

Ginger: She-Wolf of Badham County Farm

Sights &
in Badham
 Original Air Date:
  November 6, 1976 (ABC)
 ABC-Circle Films /
 American Broadcasting

More Moxie
than You
can Shake
a Stick at:
The Made-for
TV World of
John Llewellyn

The House that Would Not Die

Home for the Holidays

The Strange and Deadly Occurrence

Where Have all the People Gone?

Conspiracy of Terror

Nightmare in Badham County

Smash-Up on Interstate 5

Panic in Echo Park

Sanctuary of Fear

The Violation of Sarah McDavid


We open with a sporty Mustang winding it's way down a back-country road, and from the guitar picking and mouth harp on the soundtrack we deduce that this particular road is well below the Mason Dixon Line. Inside the Mustang, we find Kathy (Deborah Raffin) and Diane (Lynne Moody), two striking young gals from Philadelphia. Both go to college at UCLA and are currently on summer break. And since they've got two months until classes start up again the duo decide to have an outward bound adventure to see the real America that's off of the main roads -- he typed ominously ... Anyways, all goes well until they have a blow out, and with the girls being as mechanically inept as I am they flag down a passing motorist, who happily agrees to help. But as he begins to work a patrol car roars up and skids to a stop. Out comes the local Sheriff (Chuck Connors), who adjusts his gun belt in such a fashion that we're already leery of him as he proceeds to give old George, the man who stopped to help some guff (-- and I unhappily have to point out that George is black and that's the reason for most of the grief from this racist schmuck), and then grows belligerent when George mouths off. After George finishes with the spare, Sheriff Peckerhead won't let the girls pay him for his trouble. But Diane, who also is black, insists, and as she hands over the money George tries to warn her about something but is too afraid to elaborate because the Sheriff is still in earshot.

Heading into the nearest town, the girls stop at a Garage for gas and to get their flat fixed. While waiting on the repairs, when they head over to the cafe for some lunch the surly waitress delivers their food but gives Diane the cold treatment. Then, Sheriff Peckerhead comes in, spots them, and saunters over. Feeling they got off on the wrong foot before, he properly introduces himself and proceeds to ask if these city gals are looking for a good time and if they like to dance. Perhaps in not the wisest of moves, Diane produces her fork and tells Sheriff Danen to do The Twist on the pointy end of it. (Again, I'll point out that making fun of a racist Sheriff in his home town is probably not the wisest of moves.) As the girls laugh at him, through the restaurant's window, we spy the rebuffed Danen retreat outside and make a beeline for the garage, where he starts conspiring with the mechanic as he angrily points at the girls and then to their car. (...This can't be good.) After lunch, the gals pay off the mechanic for the tire, but now, the car "mysteriously" won't start. Checking under the hood, he claims the fuel pump is shot and they'll have to wait until tomorrow for parts. Not suspecting a thing, the girls leave the keys with him, gather up their sleeping bags, and head back to a meadow they spotted on their way into town to camp out. Later that night, as the girls talk about their boyfriends and the trip so far, the film turns darkly sinister with a snap of a twig. Then, Danen walks into their camp, tells them to gather up their stuff because they're both under arrest for trespassing.

At the jailhouse, the girls are put in separate cells at opposite ends of the block. When Danen walks in, playfully jingling the keys, he gives Kathy a lecherous look over but then slides -- make that slithers -- down to Diane's cell and unlocks it. He enters, takes off his belt, undoes his pants aaaaannd I think we all know where this is going, so I'm just gonna skip ahead. The deed done, when the Sheriff leaves the cell-block, Kathy asks Diane if she's okay. When Diane doesn't answer, Kathy cries herself to sleep ... The next morning, the girls are brought before the Judge for sentencing on the trespassing charges. Kathy wants to raise holy hell over the Sheriff's actions but Diane insists she say nothing; Danen's crazy, and the sooner they're out of town and away from him the better. When the Judge (Ralph Bellamy) orders the girls to pay a fifty dollar fine for trespassing, the Sheriff gives a nod to the mechanic, who presents a bill for the work on the car that totals well over $200 -- money the girls don't have. Smelling that they're getting railroaded, Diane decides to speak up and accuses Danen of rape. But the Sheriff quickly counters and accuses Diane of prostituting herself as way to get out of jail. And since Kathy was in a different cell, meaning there were no other witnesses, the Judge sides with Danen. So, the fix is in and the girls are sentenced to thirty days labor at the Badham County Prison Farm. With that, Kathy demands to make her one phone call but no one is listening as the two girls are quickly herded along with the rest of the prisoners to the transport bus, where their nightmare is just beginning...

It all started out innocently enough over at The B-Movie Message Board. I honestly can't even remember the topic, but the discussion turned to Chuck Connors and the worst thing you'd seen him in. And while everyone else thought Tourist Trap was tops, I remembered an old and scurvy made for TV movie about a women's penal farm starring Connors as a lecherous sheriff, which is why I cast my vote for Nightmare in Badham County -- barely beating out The Horror at 37,000 Feet because that was really Shatner's movie. Well, no one else had ever heard of it and I was told to get on the ball and review it, which means I had to watch it again. *grumble*grumble*meandmybigmouth*grumble. *sigh*

Okay, so, quick and dirty: Nightmare in Badham County was a made for TV movie for the American Broadcast Company. It was directed by veteran TV man John Llewellyn Moxley, was written by Jo Heims, and produced by Wilfred Baumes. And if you take the cynicism and violence of Moxley's The Night Stalker, add to it the suspense of Heim's Play Misty for Me, and then mix it up with Baumes' hard-life's lesson learned in Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway, the resulting concoction would probably taste a little like Nightmare in Badham County; yet another message movie, perhaps, about the abuses of small town authorities and the rampant corruption of the penal farm system that exploits their prisoners as cheap labor, all told through the doe-eyes of two pretty city girls, who quickly find themselves in over their heads. Now, being a made for TV movie, you, like me, were probably surprised by the first exposed boob shot during Diane's rape. Yeah. Well, we'll get more into that in a sec. You also might be trying to re-hinge your jaw at the sight of Connors and Bellamy in the midst of all this sleaze, but just you wait until you see who else shows up in this thing.

Back inside the courthouse, as the co-conspirators watch the girls being loaded into the bus, Danen gets an earful from his Honor, who just happens to be his cousin, and is accused of being a sex-maniac. And, if he keeps this kind of crap up, one of these days he'll get himself into real trouble and the Judge won't be able to bail him out anymore. Meanwhile, in the bus, after the two friends are separated because of their race, Kathy tries to console Emaline (Kim Wilson), a young runaway being punished by her evil aunt. In the back of the bus, Diane sits next to Sarah (Della Reese, last seen being Touched by An Angel), who direly warns that their sentence will be longer than thirty days. It's harvest time, and the Farm needs all the help it can get until the crops are in. When they reach their destination, Kathy approaches Greer (Tina Louise, last seen on Gilligan's Island), the volatile head guard, still demanding that phone call. But Dulcie (Fionnula Flanagan -- and I wonder if she's Irish?), the other guard, steps in and saves Kathy from a smack down. Next, the new prisoners are then lined up to meet Superintendent Dancer (Robert Reed, last seen in The Brady Bunch), who gives them a quick inspection. He's not surprised to see Sarah back on the Farm, and as he goes over the prisoner's records, he's intrigued by Kathy and Diane. When Kathy tries to plead her case to him, saying they were framed, Dancer doesn't buy it. (Why? Because he's in on the conspiracy, too.) Dismissing the other prisoners, he orders Kathy to stay and crushes her further, saying there are no phone or mail privileges at the Farm, so she's stuck until her sentence is served out. 

While escorting Kathy through the prison gate, Dulcie goes over the ground rules and a few tips to survive life on the Farm: One, don't make eye contact with the guards; two, don't associate with the black prisoners; and three, keeping your mouth shut are tops on the list. Taken to the bunkhouse Kathy is given a prison smock to wear. Obviously, the bunkhouses are segregated, too, and as Diane settles into her bunk Sarah spots Alma (Torea Stuart), the bull-dyke prison guard, heading toward the white prisoner's bunkhouse with her leather strap and bemoans that "some poor whitey's gonna get it." Sarah then reveals that the guards aren't guards at all, but prison trustees. Guards cost money after all. She also warns Diane that whipping is the least of her worries because people have been known to mysteriously "disappear" on the Farm. Meanwhile, across the yard, Alma storms into the bunkhouse and confronts a prisoner, claiming she ate some potatoes during the picking that day. Then, Kathy and Emaline watch, horrified, as she takes malicious glee in stripping the smock off of the prisoner and proceeds to whip her bloody.

The next day, Kathy manages to talk to Diane while waiting in the chow line. After exchanging all the information they've gathered the two grow very morose because, aside from being stuck in this hellhole, no one knows where they are. After they eat, Kathy is hauled to a field where they start picking beans. Dulcie and Smitty (Lana Wood) are on guard duty but it isn't long before the inevitable catfight erupts into an all out brawl. Bitch slaps fly, smocks are torn off, and hair is pulled with much fervor until Dulcie turns a fire hose on the crowd to pacify them. 

I'd pause to say they're in the middle of a bean field and ask Where in the hell did that fire hose come from? But, who cares as long as we get some wet boob shots right?. *sigh*

When the brawling stops all fingers point to Kathy, the new girl, for starting it. (For the record: she didn't.) Dulcie, who appears to have a *ahem* thing for the young prisoner, tries to defend Kathy but Smitty ignores her. They have their orders. And for causing the ruckus, Smitty sees no alternative but to add another thirty days to the girl's sentence.

Meanwhile, Diane is stuck in the laundry room with Sarah, who tells how all the work they're doing is from the laundry service in town. Seems the town exploits the Farm, and it's prisoners, on many fronts. And Sarah, who is in for a murder that was clearly self defense is stuck indefinitely because the parole board is in on the conspiracy, too, and won't allow any good workers to get out. That night, after Greer watches the prisoners shower she escorts Dancer through the bunkhouse so he can pick out certain girls for special duty. An orgy? No, not yet. They're to serve as waitresses at his garden party and Kathy is among those chosen. Seeing the Judge at the party, she approaches and asks if he'll contact her father and let him know where she is. But the Judge says he can't help her. She tries other guests, but the Sheriff, or Dancer, is always there to shoo her away. Heading into the house to refill her serving tray, Kathy spots a telephone. No one is around, so she quietly takes the receiver and asks to make a collect call to her father. But before anyone answers she hears someone coming, quickly returns the receiver, and then starts filling up her tray just as Dulcie comes in to see what's taking so long. Unfortunately, in her haste Kathy didn't place the receiver back properly, and as the phone starts buzzing Dulcie warns that Greer broke the knuckles of the last prisoner who tried to make a phone call before herding her back outside. When Smitty wants to know what's up, Dulcie won't divulge. But Smitty sees the phone and figures it out, and later that night Smitty and Greer pull Kathy out of bed, strip her down, and whip her back raw for trying to use the phone.

When Sunday rolls around, which is visitation day, while the other prisoners meet with family, Kathy and Diane rendezvous in secret. Neither can stand much more of the Farm life, but when Diane claims to already has an idea for a breakout Kathy begs her not to try anything. But Diane is determined, so Kathy watches as her friend sneaks onto the bus used to bring the visitors in and hides. When visiting hours are over, the families pile back into the bus. An older couple spy Diane in the back, but say nothing and warn her to keep down because they count heads at the gate. As the buses pull away, a hopeful Kathy watches the departure a little too long, tipping Smitty off that something is up. The bus Diane is on does manage to get past the gate, but the alarm is sounded and the vehicle is forced to stop ... As Greer drags the escapee off the bus Diane makes a plea to the others, telling them her father's name, where he lives, and to please get in touch with him because he doesn't even know she's here. But, Greer warns them all to forget what they heard or their own family members will pay for it.

A whole week passes and Diane is still in the box -- standard punishment for the attempted escape. Kathy, meanwhile, is on a work detail delivering laundry into town. Taking a load of tablecloths into the cafe, Kathy takes a chance and asks the waitress if she remembers her. She does, so Kathy asks if she'll get in touch with her father and writes his name and address down. Once back outside, as Kathy is loaded up on the truck she spots her Mustang pulling into the Garage. Then, the mechanic jumps out and appears to be really enjoying his new set of wheels. Man, this just keeps getting better and better ... The work detail arrives back at the Farm just in time to see what's left of Diane being pulled out of the box. Later, when Kathy asks Sarah if her friend's okay, she isn't sure.

That evening, Greer and Smitty are in the guardhouse, down to their underwear, drunk, and watching wrestling. (I do believe that could be somebody's wet dream.) But their reverie is interrupted when Dancer calls and orders them to bring Emaline up to the main house ... Rousting Emaline out of bed, Kathy watches as the guards claim her aunt has come to take her home. As they leave, Smitty happily throws a crumpled piece of paper at Kathy. It's the note she left with the waitress; apparently, the entire damn town is in collusion with the Farm. Delivering Emaline to Dancer, whose just finished a moonlight swim, the guards leave them alone. When Dancer asks if she realizes why he brought her up to the mansion, Emaline is young but she's not stupid. As she protests that she's never been with a man before, he tells her to just relax and things will go easier. 

Okay. Dammit. Stop. Mike Brady is now basically raping Jan Brady ... Now, where's the damned fast forward button on the damned remote!!!

Slowly recovering from her ordeal in the box, Diane is still hell bent on a jailbreak. The other inmates warn that getting out is the easy part; it's staying out that's hard. There's nowhere to go and nowhere to turn since the entire town is in cahoots with the authorities. But all that doesn't matter; Diane is still determined to try. Old Sarah thinks she's crazy, but Diane insists that somebody's got to get out and let people know what's really going on in Badham county. Diane also thinks she can help Sarah once she's out. Touched by this, the older woman tells her to wait until it's time to pick Dancer's personal bean crop. Segregation or no segregation, everybody works to get the boss's beans picked and that'll be the best chance for both of them to escape. Sarah then spies some workers out in a field, beyond the fence, burying something. She knows what it is: they're burying Emaline. But, Kathy told Diane that Emaline got out. Sarah says that's a lie; she was scrubbing the floor of the infirmary when they brought Emaline in after her "session" with Dancer. When Diane asks if he killed her, Sarah says no: Emaline committed suicide by slitting her wrists. And Sarah also bemoans that Emaline isn't the only person secretly buried out in that field. 

The next morning, while working on their escape plan, Kathy tells Diane about spying her car at the garage and how there's a spare set of keys attached to the bumper. So all they have to do is sneak into town, steal the car back, and burn rubber for the county line ... Soon enough, they're both in Dancer's bean field slaving away. During the lunch break, Diane tells Kathy that when the sun starts to set, to drop down and crawl toward the trees along the creek that runs by the field as nonchalantly as possible. Meanwhile, back at the prison compound, we haven't had our lesbian rape scene yet. Luckily, Alma plucks a new prisoner and hauls her into the guardhouse and happily fulfils are sleaze quota as the guard strips naked and watches the prisoner eat all her food. And then it's Alma's turn to eat. (You figure it out.)

As the sun starts to set, Kathy and Diane both manage to make it to the creek undetected and head toward town. But it isn't long before Dulcie notices that her favorite prisoner is missing. The alarm is sounded and Dulcie, Smitty, Greer, and Alma soon have the bloodhounds after the escapees. Using the creek to their advantage, the dogs lose the prisoners scent. Greer then calls off the hunt, deciding to let the Sheriff handle the fugitives -- who perks up noticeably when told whose escaped. Kathy's Mustang is still at the Garage but the mechanic is about to take it out for a spin when Danen pulls up and orders him to leave it sit, wanting to keep an eye on it. He then goes into the cafe, orders a cup of coffee and watches. The girls overhear all of this as they secretly crawl up to the car and find the keys. Kathy thinks they should just make a run for it, but Diane says, no; she'll take the car, as a decoy, and lead the Sheriff out of town; then Kathy can use the Garage's pay phone to call her father and get help -- and she stresses to make sure to have her father call the prison and tell them he knows the girls are there and nothing had better happen to them. Kathy doesn't like the idea, but Diane says they have no other choice. Besides, there's an outside chance she can outrun the Sheriff and get away. With that, Kathy finally gives in and hands the keys over. Diane crawls inside the car, starts the engine, and floors it. And her plan works as the Mustang roars out of town with the Sheriff in hot pursuit. After things quiet down, Kathy sneaks into the phone booth, places a collect call, and prays her father is home. Thankfully, he is, and between sobs, she manages to tell him where she is, what's happened to them, and what he needs to do. With Dad on the case Kathy finishes the call -- just in time, as Greer catches her just as she hangs up. 

Meanwhile, the car chase is on. And Diane does pretty well, but the Sheriff eventually forces her off the road. Crawling out of the wreck, Diane flees into an alfalfa field as Danen pulls out a rifle and takes deadly aim ... Later that night, Dulcie rousts Kathy out of her bunk with a fresh change of clothes. Her father is on the way and will pick her up in the morning. When she asks Dulcie what happened to Diane the guard is quiet for a moment, and then says Diane made a clean getaway. Kathy doesn't believe her.

Early the next morning, Dancer calls an emergency meeting with the town's mayor and the Judge, where they decide to send the Sheriff away on a long vacation so he won't be around to answer any questions. If they're careful, they can cover this up -- just like all the others. When Kathy is reunited with her father, Dancer says that the court has reconsidered the case and the charges against Kathy have been dropped. Demanding to know what really happened to Diane, Dancer insists she got away but Kathy doesn't believe him, either. Regardless, Dancer thinks Kathy should be grateful and to go home while she has the chance. With that, Kathy goes berserk and runs out of his office and spots Sarah working in the field. She calls to her, but Greer has spotted them and warns Sarah to get back to work. Kathy pleads with Sarah and wants to talk to her about Diane and blowing the whistle on Badham Farm. Sarah thinks about it for a second, and then approaches Kathy at the fence. Greer finds her whip and orders Sarah to back away. But as Greer rears back to strike, Sarah dodges the blow and puts the sleeper hold on the guard and drops her like a sack of potatoes. Sarah then tells Kathy and her father that Diane is dead; buried in the field with all the others. And as the movie ends, we pan over that field where all the bodies are buried, and a message comes up on screen saying this kind of corruption is still going on and the Penal Farm system and is currently under investigation. 

The End

Praise [insert your Deity here] and pass the Lysol! Excuse me while I go take a shower in some disinfectant to get the stench of this movie off of me. Be back in a bit...



...There. That's a little better.

So, if Nightmare in Badham County was a made for TV movie, you ask, then where did all that skin and sleaze come from? Well, apparently, even though ABC paid for the film, while it was in production, the actual filmmakers decided to shoot some additional scenes of gratuitous nudity and lesbian brutality with a notion of a naughtier, foreign theatrical release, and eventually, this version would also hit the video aisles in the States. Now, I clearly remember seeing the film when it first premiered many a moon ago as the ABC movie of the week, so you can imagine my surprise when I watched the rental tape and the first boob shot showed up -- an obvious insert of a body-double for Moody to punch up the initial rape scene [... Wait. Did I just type that? Note to self: Take another shower.] And in one of those peculiar twists that you just can't make up, the explicit version of Nightmare in Badham County proved to be an especially huge hit in China. So much so that star Raffin, who was nominated of an Emmy for her role, became the unofficial Hollywood ambassador to China, arranging to get Chinese films distributed in America and American films released in China. Again: You just can't make that shit up.

Before I immersed myself in this film again, I had remembered Chuck Connors being in it, and Robert Reed as the warden. I couldn't believe Lucas McCain, or Mike Brady, could be that evil, either, and, to both actors credit, they do evil pretty well. But I didn't remember Ralph Bellamy and Della Reese being in it, or Tina Louise, who does a nice job against type, too. Still it is kind of boggling to see all of these names slumming in this kind of production. (This movie alone could constitute an entire chapter of Reel Shame.) And one also has to wonder if they'd known about these "extra scenes" that were gonna be added, would they still be in it? Who knows for sure. (Regardless, I'm sure they all cashed their checks.) Aside from all those familiar faces, the film itself left a strong impression on me when I first watched it. And seeing it again, it was still just as depressing; how the girls get railroaded; and how unrelentingly downbeat the whole affair is as each and every escape attempt is thwarted; and it made me angry and frustrated because, frankly, no one's luck is that bad.

If we can separate the sleazy inserts from the rest of the film it does do a good job of capturing an atmosphere of hopelessness and paints a pretty ugly and dire picture of life on the prison farm. I assume the film's original message was to bring out the corruption that goes on in the penal farm system, where prisoners are exploited basically as slave labor. And in this original form it is an effective, and scathing, indictment. However, when I watched it again, when you throw in the nudity and the psycho lesbian prison guard, it cheapens the film and, in a sense, ruins the whole thing. This culminates at the end when the last written statement appears before the credits, saying that this kind of thing really happens and is currently under investigation. Instead of shocking you, it only makes you laugh because it appears they're trying to add some kind of justification for their exploitation piece. 

But, Chad, you say. What could possibly be wrong with nudity and bull dyke prison guards running amok? It's a WIP, B-Movie staple right? 

I'll agree with you. Most women in prison movies are a hoot. They're naughty, naked, and vile, and I have no problem with them unless they cross the line. And the line I'm referring to is if somehow the filmmakers convey, or imply, that the victims deserve what they're getting. I have no patience for that kind of crap, and for those of you who do, get some therapy. 

For some reason, Nightmare in Badham County oozed that vibe to me: a couple of uppity college kids from Philly mouth off, are thrown in jail for it, brutalized, degraded, and one of them is even raped and killed for it. The downbeat tone of the original film, when combined with the WIP staples, somehow adds a lecherous tone to what's happening to our heroines that wasn't there before, making this one hard film to watch.

Nightmare in Badham County (1976) ABC Circle Films :: American Broadcasting Company (ABC) / EP: Douglas S. Cramer / P: Wilfred Lloyd Baumes / AP: Herb Wallerstein / D: John Llewellyn Moxey / W: Jo Heims / C: Frank Stanley / E: Carroll Sax / M: Charles Bernstein / S: Deborah Raffin, Lynne Moody, Chuck Connors, Fionnula Flanagan, Tina Louise, Robert Reed, Della Reese, Ralph Bellamy

Originally Posted: 04/26/02 :: Rehashed: 03/16/2010

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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