Movie Madness and/or Mania: Snowbound (1978)

Welcome back, Constant Readers and thank you for casting a vote in last week’s poll to determine what ELSE we should look at inside a 42-year old issue of Seventeen magazine. With a full 50% of the vote, we shall take a look at the assorted, vaguely supposititious-sounding goods and services advertised in the tiny, black and white advertisements in the back of the magazine. Next week!

These are strange times, and I want to match these times with equally strange content. Also, all of the free-floating anxiety has withered my attention span to the size of a gnat’s. So in the coming weeks, I am going to feature some of the weirder, briefer, not-ready-for-Prime Time vintage teenage artifacts I have laying around the house, so be on the lookout for more magazine selections, comics, movies, advertising, maybe some music or other kinds of relics that can be shared in about 900 words or less.

As always, I am definitely open to suggestions for content, so if you have a great idea for something vintage-teen oriented to feature in this space, post a comment or shoot me an e-mail!

So, THIS week, we’re going to look at a short film based on a beloved Lost Classic, and peek behind the curtain to see how I operate in both generating ideas and doing research.

I am going to start by baring my soul- or at least my browser history:

As you can see, I started out doing VERY IMPORTANT RESEARCH about the 1978 made-for-TV movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, which is obviously a totally normal thing to do in the course of  an average workday.

However, I soon got sidelined in the filmography of actress Lisa Jane Persky, and in particular a 1978 episode of Special Treat, NBC’s answer to ABC’s Afterschool Special and CBS’s Schoolbreak Special, all of which were anthology series that aired irregularly, and often adapted popular YA novels of the era, particularly those in the Social Problem genre.

I was soon able to confirm that the Persky-starring episode “Snowbound” was indeed based on the beloved Harry Mazer novel that was featured in this space way back in 2013. Better yet, is even available to watch on Youtube, a worthy way to pass 32 minutes:

The book was briskly paced, and the film further streamlines the story of teenage odd couple Tony and Cindy, and their trying ordeal as they get stranded in a blizzard on northern New York State’s Tug Hill Plateau.

Shot mostly with a handheld camera, the movie plays like an ambitious student film project, doing away with most of Cindy’s and all of Tony’s backstory, instead picking up at a wonderfully atmospheric combination bus station/roller disco.

Cindy is introduced attempting to buy a bus ticket to Watertown, NY, but learns that the bus is over an hour late, as informed by the surly clerk played by cult movie fav Shirley Stoller:

She takes notice of Tony, an older, more popular classmate having DRAMA with his bitchy girlfriend, Janine, and in order to get her goat, impulsively offers to drives Cindy himself.

Persky makes a pretty wonderfully dorky Cindy- chubby, braces, and I don’t EVEN know what she has going on with her hair:

As Tony, Michael Mullins has teen idol good looks in the Matt Dillon mold, although he also has a distracting amount of gray hair (Mullins was nearing 30):

They make an appealing team, visually reminiscent of John and Lorraine from Paul Zindel’s Pigman books.

They end up stranded in the remote northern NY wilderness when Tony sees state troopers checking to see if people have snow tires on their cars (he doesn’t) and takes them on a detour down a county road. They end up crashing the VW bug in a ditch when Cindy suddenly grabs the steering wheel, for reasons that are MADDENINGLY unexplained.

There is more drama in their trials to get back to civilization, including multiple attacks by feral dogs, one of which kills Cindy’s pet terrier. Cindy is given a more physically active role in the film than in the book, in which she served as mostly the brains of the operation.  Also, unlike the book, the ending touches on the possibility of a budding romance between Cindy and Tony, as he wakes up in the hospital as Cindy arrives at his bedside with a whole box of Oreos for him (very sweet). Bitchy Janine shows up to “claim” him, but Tony calls after Cindy, as she walks out of the hospital, confidently smirking.

For its budget, it also features some pretty spectacular scenes filmed in what looks to be an actual blizzard, possibly in winter of 1977?

And where WAS it filmed???? Some of these shorts intended for classrooms or television have next to nothing readily available online about their production. While, like Mazer’s novel, references are made to real places in northern NY, Tony’s reference to the state troopers checking for snow tires on “the turnpike” stuck out, because I was not aware of any highways in NY state with the turnpike designation.

So that was the first search- I did turn up a reference to Route 190 near Plattsburgh referred to as Military Turnpike, which is at least in the right part of the state (although it would be about a three-hour drive to Watertown).

Next clue was a “special thanks” credit to St. Anthony’s Hospital, Denver, Colorado. But I also don’t associate Colorado with having turnpikes, but lo and behold, they do have Route 36, the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. Maybe those are really Rockies and not Adirondacks that Cindy and Tony are trying to escape?

There is a very nice scene at the toll plaza, when Tony decides to take the back roads, but the cinematographer was pretty clever about only getting a barely-readable “TURNPIKE” into the shot:

Back to the “Special Thanks” credits, which also include Brodie Ski Resort. Ski resort sounds like it could be Colorado… but instead I turned up a now-defunct resort by that name in northwestern Massachusetts. Could Cindy and Tony really be on one of the most famous turnpikes in the country?

The Massachusetts Turnpike went cashless and started demolishing their toll plazas in 2016, and the first round of older images I found had plazas with very different signage:

But! Then I found a vintage postcard image:

Looks like a match to me!  

Odds and Ends Department:

I again have to update the Name That Book! page, since a few titles have been successfully named! Congratulations and thank you- keep up the good work!

On the subject of research, I also want to thank Lost Classics Reader Sheesh for pointing out that in 1978 Seventeen was being published by Triangle, not Hearst, nullifying my Good Housekeeping joke; arguably Triangle’s most famous publication was the Racing Form, and I’m kicking myself over missing the opportunity to make a much funnier joke!

Stay healthy, stay inside and come back next week!

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4 Responses to Movie Madness and/or Mania: Snowbound (1978)

  1. Cee says:

    Lisa Jane Persky also appeared as Mary Anne in the excellent The Great Santini, and also in The Big Easy. Great actress.

  2. Duanne Walton says:

    We watched this two years in a row in Junior High! We were all grossed out by the guy eating dog food and got upset when the little dog was killed.

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