A possibly impossible 'ID that movie/show...' query

Okay gang, this one’s been puzzling me for about 30 years.

When I was a very young girl, in the mid-to-late-1970s, I was traumatized to the point of hysteria by a scene from a TV episode, or possibly a movie. Now I’m curious to know just what the heck this thing was.

The scene begins at night, with a husband and wife. The husband, either a senior citizen or middle-aged guy, has a heart condition and is hooked up to some kind of audio monitor / EKG that “beeps” along with his heartrate. All of a sudden, or possibly due to his having taken some kind of spiked medication, we hear the machine beeping faster and faster. His heart’s accelerating. He staggers into another room and tries to take more medication (I think) but it doesn’t appear to be helping. The wife is present during all this, but I don’t remember if she’s watching in horror or satisfaction. I also have the impression that someone is purposely fiddling with this machine, perhaps an old-fashioned pace-maker? In other words, someone is deliberately speeding up his heartrate. This method of murder sounds ridiculous but I’m not saying this was a scientifically/medically accurate drama!

Anyway, long and the short of it, the guy’s heart finally gives out and he dies. I don’t know how the rest of the movie/episode went because I was busy having a crying / screaming fit. No joke.

Other hints:

  1. This would’ve been on a Friday or Saturday night. My parents were out at a party, and my teenaged sister was babysitting.

  2. Again, this was in the mid- to late-seventies, and it was on network TV; almost certainly ABC, NBC or CBS. Considering my age, I don’t think this was late at night; probably primetime.

  3. This could very well have been a TV mystery series, like Quincy, Columbo, or Rockford Files. It was, I believe, at the start of the episode, and I think we knew the identity of the murderer right off the bat. I seem to recall seeing someone fiddling with that machine dial. This format indicates that it might’ve been a Columbo, since that was the show’s shtick, right?

Pointless personal reflection in spoilers so you can ignore it:

[spoiler]This frickin’ scene made me freak. the. hell. out. I was trembling, horrified, crying, the whole shebang. My sisters had to call my parents at the party and ask them to come home, I was so traumatized! Admittedly I was always an easily creeped-out little kid. My worst night terror ever was induced by the ‘Tevye’s Dream’ scene in Fiddler on the Roof conflated with the book cover of Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun.

But this particular scene actually affected my whole life, to the point where I’ve always been skeeved out when leaning on someone’s chest and hearing their heartbeat, or when lying on my ear and could hear my own pulse. I’m still like that and I’m 43! Crazy. The sad irony is that now I have tinnitus, which sort of pulses with every heartbeat. Every time my heartrate increases, for normal reasons, I start panicking a bit. It’s like a Twilight Zone punishment – being unable to get away from my childhood terror!

Anyway, I’ve been dying to know what the hell this bleedin’ show was, out of morbid curiosity for the show that’s led to my heart-o-phobia.[/spoiler]

Seems hopeless with so little info, but maybe this will jog the memory of some Doper with a penchant for cruddy old TV mysteries.

Can you ask your sisters? They might remember the incident.

Heh. A great question. Unfortunately it was only my closest-in-age sister who was watching with me, and she doesn’t remember what it was. My older sister, who’d be more likely to have known what this was, was off playing the piano or something like that.

But yeah, they definitely remember the incident – and still make fun of me for it!

I’m not a doctor, but from what I understand overly speeding up someone’s heartrate by a drug should work as a murder method. IIRC, that’s one of the ways foxglove/digitalis can kill when used as a poison; it speeds up or slows the heart until failure occurs.

This sounded familiar enough that I was going to guess Columbo, too (since that’s the only TV mystery series from the 70s that I ever watched semi-regularly).

Oh! Yes, that much I know, Der Trihs. Big fan of murder mysteries, especially the types that would use that sort of poison. (Agatha Christie loved her digitalis!) I meant the idea that someone had an external machine that controls his heartrate, and someone else having access to it, and using said machine to speed up the heartrate by twisting a dial like someone trying to amp up the volume on a stereo.

Maybe pacemakers used to be like that, I dunno. It just seems incredibly risky.

Edited to add: Ooh, Archive Guy, this does sound familiar to you?? You’re the first person ever to recognize this scene. In thirty years! Cool.

Agreed, Columbo always (?) showed the murder - and murderer - first, and then the remainder of the episode was Columbo trying to trap the killer. However, this method might fit another series as well, since it would make sense to get that part out of the way, if the focus is on the detective work.

Wiki has a list of Columbo episodes if that helps.

I just scanned the list of Columbo episodes, and the phrase "heart attack’ only shows up twice: “A Stitch in Crime” (2/11/73) and “Double Shock” (3/25/73).
Neither synopsis seems to fit your memory.

I suggest some other show.

MacMillian and Wife, and Snoop Sisters showed along with Columbo. Either of them have episodes like that?

I don’t think so, aruvgan. Also, IIRC, both those series were much more… light-hearted, for lack of a better word (hey, we are talking about murder mysteries, after all). This would’ve been a departure of style for M&W for sure. And looks like The Snoop Sisters had a very brief run, only a few episodes, and those were on Wednesdays.

Were there Movies of the Week on Fridays/Saturdays? I think there were, which broadens the spectrum of possible sources for this creepy scene.

And thanks for checking Columbo, Gagundathar! I didn’t see anything that looked likely, except for one that had a doctor trying to kill someone during heart surgery by poisoned sutures or some such thing. Hee.

Memory plays tricks after 30 years. It’s not quite the way you describe but there’s a murder by messing around with heart medicine and a machine thus causing a heart attack in an episode of The Avengers.
clip here

Oh, thanks, Peter Morris, but no, that’s nothing at all like it. The scene didn’t have any fantasy / bizarre element to it; I admit my memory’s not what it used to be, but it couldn’t be this far off. :slight_smile: Mine is definitely a night scene, definitely in a regular home (or possibly a rest home / hospital, considering the heart monitor aspect). And the most important and memorable thing about the scene I remember is that we heard the heart beating through the audio monitor, getting faster and faster until he died. That creepy effect is directly responsible for my phobia.

But this was fun to watch, so thank you for the possibility and taking the time to link the clip. Funny too because we were big fans of The Avengers (original flavor, with Diana Rigg as God intended)! I’m pretty sure if any version of TA were shown on a Friday / Saturday evening in the seventies, it would’ve been The New Avengers. And I think that was shown late at night, at least here in the U.S.

Going with shows on Friday or Saturday nights in the 70s that might have fit the bill, I’ve come up with this (dates are years they were first aired; some ran more than one year):

1972 – Ghost Story, Banyon, Streets of San Francisco, Mission: Impossible
1973 – ABC Suspense Movie
1974 – The Rockford Files, Police Woman
1975 – Hawaii 5-0, Barnaby Jones
1976 – Serpico, Most Wanted
1977 – Quincy, M.E.
1978 – Eddie Capra Mysteries
1979 – Eischeid

I’d guess that the ABC Suspense Movie sounds most likely to have something that grim, though it could have been something like Barnaby Jones.

Could it have been a “Night Gallery” type of show? There were a plethora of shows like that: “hey, let’s show creepy things and then throw in a plot twist or a commuppance at the end”.

And good luck with the counseling that you’ll be looking into, now that you’ve completed Step One :slight_smile:

Seriously, we could have a whole thread on “skeeving-out” things like your pulsophobia. I think we all have them to some degree…

Well, since “Night Gallery” has been mentioned, this is pretty surely not it, but it’s a free bump:

In one vignette, Finnegan’s Flight, Burgess Meredith plays a person who is incredibly susceptible to hypnotic suggestion. In the climactic scene, he is, under hypnotic suggestion, placed in the cockpit of an airplane. However, as he’s “flying,” the doctors conducting the experiment haven’t taken into consideration that. . . he doesn’t know how to fly!

So, the “airplane” starts a nosedive, accelerating faster and faster–Meredith’s face getting sweatier and sweatier–until it “crashes,” at which point the bed erupts in flames.

Wow, thank you, RealityChuck Believe it or not I went through 90% of the ABC TV movies (I ignored the titles that were unlikely, like Scream of the Wolf et al. No luck there.

Considering my age was probably between 8 - 11, I’ll guess that we’re talking 1974 - 1977, with possible 1978 if we’re stretching it. I don’t think I’d have had such a hysterical reaction at older than 12, though I must cop to being a pretty big wuss. Also, after 1977 my oldest sister would’ve been away at college, so not available for babysitting.

Anyway, this narrows down the options on your list.

Rockford and Police Woman seem unlikely; too lighthearted IIRC. Hawaii 5-0 I don’t remember that well, but maybe it’s possible. I’ll have to check these shows’ episodes.

digs, it could certainly have been one of those “Night Gallery” types of shows. I just spoke with my sister (the one who watched with me) and she thought it might have been a sci-fi movie. I don’t remember it that way, but again, I only saw like the first ten minutes before I lost my marbles.

Ha! Very true. Actually while looking around I came across this site:

Which, besides having an awesome name, might give me another place to hunt.

You mean he’s mentally flying a plane? That’s creepy as hell. No, that’s definitely not it, but hey, did I mention that spontaneous combustion is another past phobia of mine? Thanks for bringing that up! :smiley: