Only in York County

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The One Where my husband Writes About Cameron Mitchell

A scene from 1979’s “The Demon,” which was not nominated for any Oscars.

Hi all. my husband here. I’m guest-hosting for Joan this morning. It’s kind of like when you were younger and you were all geared up for “The Tonight Show” and you flip it on and, dang, right there before your eyes it’s Joan Rivers instead of Johnny Carson. Not quite what you were expecting.

Today I’m going to discuss Dallastown’s biggest movie and TV star, Cameron Mitchell.
Joan and I watch a lot of movies, and we keep a fun journal of our movie-watching exploits. Now, these movies we watch — I won’t mince words here — a lot of them are really bad. Awful. Terrible.

This is probably our own fault. Many of the movies we watch are on DVDs produced by Mill Creek Entertainment. Mill Creek produces DVD sets with titles like “Catacombs of Creepshows 50 Movie Pack,” “Decrepit Crypt of NIghtmares 50 Movie Pack” and “Mortuary of Madness 50 Movie Pack.” I did not make those titles up.

Now, when you get 50 movies for less than $20, you pretty much get what you pay for. These are, for the most part, Z movies. And we love them. (Although we drew the line at “Mama Dracula” and refused to watch any more after about 25 minutes.)

So that gets us to Cameron Mitchell…

One of our movie-watching expeditions on the Mill Creek 50-packs brought us to a 1979 flick called “The Demon” (alternate titles were “Midnight Caller” and “The Unholy,” neither of which makes any more sense than “The Demon”).

This movie includes waves crashing against rocks, a serial killer, teachers who spend a lot of time focused on their love lives, a bunch of people in a dark alley and an ending involving a naked woman on a roof. To describe the plot more accurately would be impossible because the film doesn’t appear to know what’s going on any more than we do.

Oh, and the movie also stars Cameron Mitchell as a retired colonel with psychic powers.

His Col. Bill Carson chews away at the scenery. Attempting to solve the mystery of a teenage girl’s death, he makes a dramatic, whirlwind tour of her bedroom. He gropes her possessions, tears the bed apart and sniffs the sheets and pillows and otherwise gets himself into a lather while attempting to tune into the bad guy’s leftover vibes. Or something like that.

It appears that Mitchell’s character is going to be the movie’s hero. But then an odd thing happens halfway through the movie. The dead teenager’s mom, apparently frustrated with the colonel’s lack on progress in the investigation of her daughter’s murder, goes and shoots him in the forehead. The interesting thing is that our Dallastown thespian decides to turn “Getting Shot in the Head” into a long, drawn-out scene. He grimaces, turns slowly and tumbles slowly after suffering the fatal bullet to the noggin. A brave acting choice, indeed.

After our viewings, Joan and I usually look up some trivia about the movie we just watched. And so it wasn’t until we were doing some research on “The Demon” that we discovered that Mitchell was born Nov. 4, 1918, right here in Dallastown. (He died in 1994 in California.)

Now, if we had been more astute followers of local history and read our York Daily Record a bit more closely in past years, we would have known all about Mitchell. How he was born Cameron McDowell Mitzell, was the son of a minister, served in World War II and made a name for himself as Buck Cannon in 97 episodes of the TV series “High Chaparral” from 1967-71.

But, really, it appears that playing Buck Cannon is only half of Mitchell’s legacy. He had more than 200 TV and movie appearances to his credit, and it appears as if many of those movies were of the “Z” variety. His career in schlock horror is nicely summed up in the article “The Tawdry Terrors of Cameron Mitchell.”

With our taste in movies, it seems likely that Joan and I will be running into Mr. Mitchell again on a future 50-pack excursion. And we’ll grin and exclaim: “Hey, its our favorite actor from Dallastown!”

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