Horror, She Wrote explores the episodes of the ever-popular detective series Murder, She Wrote, featuring Angela Lansbury’s unstoppable Jessica Fletcher, that were highlighted by performances from genre film actors.
Blessed with a radiant presence, Jennifer Runyon brought a delightful grace to the screen in such terror themed projects as the girls’ school slasher To All A Good Night, renowned comedy Ghostbusters and the Roger Corman produced Carnosaur. This purity made her a natural to play innocents accused of wrongdoing in two episodes of Murder, She Wrote.
In 1989’s Seal of the Confessional, Runyon is Kelly Barrett, a frightened native of Cabot Cove, the fictional town where many of Jessica Fletcher’s adventures took place. Sure that she has murdered her abusive stepfather, Barrett takes refuge in a church with a handsome priest (soap opera stalwart Hunt Block). Determined to cover up her crime, she ultimately resists the clergyman’s offer of help and runs away. Of course, Fletcher eventually discovers that the culprit is not the frightened young woman, but not before Runyon gets to play, thoughtfully, in the fields of wide emotion, enacting everything from elusive terror to steely determination.
Scripted by Lynne Kelsey, this storyline actually is one of the long running show’s most poignant. Graced with the series’ usual down home charms and lighthearted mystery, it also reflects, subtly, the emotional damage inflicted by parental misadventure. Runyon’s bruised portrayal aids greatly here, allowing the audience to feel, fully, for her character and proving that she would have been perfect to play tortured heroines in those gloomy noir epics of the 40s.
Nicely, 1991’s Murder, Plain and Simple has more of a soap opera edge. Focusing on an Amish community ruled over by an extremely evil patriarch (Michael Sarrazin), this episode also reunites Runyon and Block. The two play former sweethearts torn asunder by Sarrazin’s devious Jacob Beiler. Naturally, Beiler winds up dead, found by Runyon’s Rebecca, a pitchfork shoved deep in his chest.
Runyon glows with resigned dignity here, relieved to be out of Beiler’s controlling grasp, but glad, once she is no longer considered a suspect, to be free of him, as well. Sarrazin, who imbued such projects as The Reincarnation of Peter Proud and Frankenstein: His Story with the gravity of his deep set eyes, nearly steals the show, though. He is obviously having a ball being so heartless and the scenes where he twists logic and decorum to get his needs met would make any arch daytime drama baddie proud.
Meanwhile, fans of the series should be sure to check out Murder She Wrote Fans: https://www.facebook.com/Murder-She-Wrote-Fans-120892357995729.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!