1 9 7 9 (USA)
6 x 30 minute episodes
Gothic farce Highcliffe Manor aired on NBC from 12 April to 3 May 1979. Although the network ordered six episodes, only three aired.
Helen Blacke (Shelley Fabares) was a recently widowed lady who inherited Highcliffe Manor – a huge creepy stone mansion on a desolate island off the coast of New England.
The Manor was the home of the Blacke Foundation – a “think tank” science institute, set up by her deceased husband and populated with a wide assortment of strange characters.
But even when she was warned by mad scientist Dr Frances Kisgadden (Eugenie Ross-Leming) that the staff intended to harm her, Helen just laughed it off.
MIT graduate Kisgadden had created a handsome mechanical man in the lab, who she named Bram Shelley (Chris Marlowe).
The two were also lovers but Bram was something of a work in progress and temporarily had erector set parts for his left hand and right foot, and he also had a very short-term memory.
Cheng (Harold Sakata) was Frances’s huge silent Korean assistant who brought her cadavers every night for Bram’s replacement parts.
Womanising preacher Ian Glenville (Stephen McHattie) had been carried to the manor by his African American valet Smythe (Ernie Hudson) – a graduate of Oxford University – after being involved in a canoeing accident. They were both escapees from a South African prison.
Glenville was instantly attracted to the widowed Helen, which raised the ire of sexy secretary Wendy Sparkles (Audrey Landers), who wanted Glenville for herself. Wendy’s parents had been killed in a bizarre Grand Canyon accident.
A rivalry brewed as Dr Felix Morger (Gerald Gordon) also found the widowed Mrs Blacke extremely attractive (he loved massaging her feet and chewing on her hair). Felix also had framed photographs of sheep on every wall of his quarters.
Creepy housekeeper Rebecca was played by Jenny O’Hara.
Also in the cast were Dr Lester (David Byrd) and Dr Sanchez (Luis Avalos) who were attempting to sell their nefarious instructions for the cloning of world leaders. They wanted Helen to leave so that they could continue their evil planning, but Helen didn’t take their hints – even when the doctors bought her new luggage and a one-way ticket to Brazil.
Helen was also oblivious as her own impending doom was amplified by the reading of her husband’s will – she got his Flash Gordon clock radio and full control of The Blacke Foundation. Her days were definitely numbered.
Helen Straight Blacke
Reverend Ian Glenville
Dr Frances Kisgadden
Dr Felix Morger