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The Deadly Tower(1975)

It happened on a hot summer day on August 1, 1966 at the 300 foot high observation tower of the Austin Campus of the University of Texas. A twenty-five year old ex-Marine marksman by the name of Charles Whitman, armed with several guns and ammunition, climbed the observation tower. In addition to the guns, he carried with him sandwiches, peanuts, toilet paper and a transistor radio. When he reached the 27th floor, he encountered a receptionist whom he killed with the butt of his rifle. He then barricaded the stairway, shooting down two people who were attempting to climb the stairwell to the roof. What the police had yet to learn was that Whitman had murdered his mother and his wife the evening before, leaving at the scene a rambling note which railed against his father along with cryptic statements like "I am prepared to die" and "Life is not worth living." At approximately 11:40 a.m. Whitman began shooting at pedestrians and students below, killing 13 people (some accounts list 15 fatalities) and wounding 33 others within a ninety six minute span. After several failed attempts by low-flying aircraft to dislodge him, police officers staged a raid on the barricaded stairway. In the ensuing fracas, Whitman was shot to pieces. A later autopsy showed that Whitman had a tumor in the hypothalamus region of the brain but doctors expressed some doubt whether this was the cause of Whitman's rampage.

In The Deadly Tower (1975), the film version of this horrific incident and one of the creepiest features ever made for prime time television, Kurt Russell plays Charles Whitman. Until his peformance in this film, Kurt was best known for his wholesome presence in such Walt Disney fare as "Superdad" (1974, with Bob Crane), The Strongest Man in the World (1975), and "Now You See Him, Now You Don't" (a teen invisible man). The Deadly Tower definitely shows you another side of this former child actor. By the way, there was another film inspired by the Charles Whitman bloodbath entitled Targets (1968)

Targets (1968)

targets It was Peter Bogdanovich's feature film debut and it featured a psychotic Vietnam vet sniper (Tim O'Kelley) who goes on a shooting spree, eventually winding up at a drive-in theatre where he suffers a complete breakdown in the presence of aging horror star Boris Karloff, who plays an aging horror film star reduced to running the drive-in theater. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy, a brief gun-control prologue was added to "Targets."
The Deadly Tower (1975)
January 13, 1998 on TNT at 2am
Rating: TV-14-V.

Joe Bob's Mailbag

[Note: MonsterVision for the week of November 22, 1998, was Mel Stewart's docu Four Days In November based on a book by the same name, following Jaws]
Dear Joe Bob,
I am watching (and loving!) the Kennedy film.
I guess you may have taped it weeks ago (?). But, I'm "mad" at you for not inviting me!
Seriously, I am a major "Kennedy-phile."

Your comment about why Oswald-the-crazed-revolutionary did not claim the credit and admit shooting Kennedy was interesting. Joe Bob, I think it's a matter of trends. I have a theory that revolutionaries were like gays in the 1960s - they were all in the closet - well, at least to some extent. I mean, Liberace dressed like a flaming gay guy. But, he certainly did not admit his sexual preference in the '60s. Oswald did all those revolutionary things, went to Russia, demonstrated, etc. But, I just don't think it was "the thing to do" to boast openly about killing the President. I see Oswald as a guy who was rebellious enough to do the the things he did, but was still basically the product of the typical American hypocritical upbringing. Obviously, I'm no political historian. Yet, it seems to me that terrorist bragging stuff started in the late 1970s.
Ooops, sorry - didn't mean to ramble. (You started it!)
Joe Bob, I LOVE this show. You are really good at the interview thing. I wish you could do more of it.


Dear Nancy,
They just didn't have that crazed-revolutionary thang DOWN yet in 1963, did they?
Joe Bob


Dear Joe Bob,
No one will ever accuse you or Mel Stuart of compromising your story regardless of the truth.

Stuart admitted his intent in filming the documentary was to show the "climate of the time", so, he did no investigation into any aspect of what he was presenting as the facts. He just put on film what the official story was as it was handed to him by the officials in Washington and Dallas. Who if there was a conspiracy are the most likely suspects.

That you present this totally biased piece of work as the true facts of what actually happened and scoff at Oliver Stone and other people who prefer to look at all the evidence shows your ignorance and inability to comprehend what you present and expect others to believe.

I love it when people like you (you must be a Republican) present your "facts" because you constantly contradict yourselves and can't see it.

Mr. Stuart claims to have read Oswald's private diaries and says Oswald was obsessed with the idea of killing President Kennedy (implying he had something personal against him). He wanted to kill Kennedy to "make himself famous". After he succeeds, instead of claiming the fame you say he seeks, he " runs and hides, tries to blend into the crowd" and denies doing it right up until the time of his death. You want it both ways! Oh, that's right, he's supposed to be crazy - how convenient for you.

Your next blatant contradiction is about Ruby. Stuart claims he's been seething over JFK's murder for a couple of days. By Sunday he's so upset emotionally he's seen prowling angrily around the pool of his apartment complex collects a gun and sets out to kill Oswald. Yet around 11 a.m. he's calmly wiring money to one of his girls in need and less than 20 minutes later he's slipping into the basement of the police station (where he has remarkable access by the way) with his rage fully restored and by lucky happenstance manages to run into Oswald just in time to shoot him. If he had been there five minutes before or after he would have missed Oswald.

Why don't you wake up and smell what you're shoveling?! This was a man calmly taking care of business to a prearranged time table. I will only point out two obvious flaws in yours and Stuart's (and any other fool who swallows the Warren Commission's report) theory.

If there was no government conspiracy or duplicity in the assassination, why have the records been sealed until the year 2075? If the evidence proves once and for all that Oswald was a lone lunatic gunman like you claim they would have published those reports in triplicate for all to read.

Secondly, there is acoustic evidence recorded on a police motorcycle radio of five shots fired in Dealy Plaza not 3. I have a copy of the recording myself. It clearly shows that shots 3 and 4 were almost simultaneous and could not have been produced by a single bolt action rifle.

You and Stuart probably even believe that "magic bullet" did all that damage and then dropped lightly onto the ER dolly in almost flawless condition.
You're hosting the right program.
Your theories belong in there with the rest of the monsters, fairies and other fantasies.


Dear Susan,
My, aren't WE grumpy today?
Like every other reporter who worked in Dallas, I've covered this story so much that I can say with some authority: You're laboring under a delusion, dear. I don't know why people have such a NEED to believe in a conspiracy, but the tenor of your letter proves my point. You're speaking to me as though I had crushed a religious icon.
Lighten up, lady.
Joe Bob

Fun fact: the kid who fights an evil troll in the 1980s drive-in movie of the same name with help from the good witch who lives upstairs (June Lockhart/Anne lockhart) is named Harry Potter in the movie and his dad, Harry Potter Sr., is played by Michael Moriarity of It's Alive
Note: Mel Stewart's most recent MonsterVision movie was the popular Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

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Trivia about another deadly tower: Filming for The Towering Inferno was completed on September 11th, in which the world's tallest building is on fire and fire chief Steve McQueen has to send his men in to try and save the people inside
Monster movie description above Bill Laidlaw. All Rights Reserved.

TNT's Weekly Weird MonsterVision description of The Deadly Tower & Targets
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