By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Somebody is listening in.
Kathy (Jaclyn Smith) is married to Wendell (Mike Connors) a wealthy, but unethical businessman living in Arizona. She’s unhappy in the marriage and wants a divorce, but Wendell promises to make things hard for her if she does, so she reluctantly stays in it, but on the side has an affair with Steve (James Franciscus) his close business associate. Steve poisons Wendell and sticks his body inside the freezer of Wendell’s home and then impersonates him on a flight to Washington to make it appear that he’s still alive. Kathy remains at home only to become harassed by a aggressive detective Donner (Robert Mitchum) who’s suspicious that Wendell has become a victim of foul play. Kathy decides she must get rid of the body, but when she opens up the freezer she discovers it’s no longer Wendell’s corpse that’s inside, but instead Steve’s.
Odd thriller that was produced by a German film company, but filmed in the US. The film succeeds with having a distinct score and great location shooting of Arizona in which it’s dry, desolate landscape helps reflect the empty, inner nature of the characters. It was directed by Ted Post, who’s best known for the cult hit The Baby, which is famous for its twist ending, and there’s a lot of story twists here too, but for whatever reason fails to be captivating and this is mostly due to the dull characters.
Kathy was the one that got on my nerves the most. One minute she’s telling him that she can’t stand him and then the next minute she’s upset and sobbing over his unexpected death, so which is it? It seems like she should’ve been elated when he keeled-over and having her played-up as being this innocent is unrealistic. When you spend your life associating with bad people it tends to rub-off and it’s hard to imagine she wouldn’t have been tainted by the corruption of not only her spouse, but lover and Smith’s poor attempt at crying just makes it all the more worse. I rather have openly bad people going after each other and seeing which one is left standing then some idealized angel who’s completely out-of-place in the setting and would have to be extraordinarily naïve not to have caught-on to the shenanigans that were going on long before she does. If anything Sybil Danning, who is seen in a much smaller role, should’ve been given the lead as her conniving, sauciness was exactly what the character needed to have made it interesting.
Franciscus isn’t in it long enough to make much of an impression and Mitchum sleep walks through his part and thus making his onscreen presence quite bland and his big name, star status adds nothing. The only one that is fun is Connors, best known for his starring role in the cop TV-show ‘Mannix’. Here he plays against type by being an obnoxious jerk that delights in upsetting some caged monkeys that they have in his home. The rotten personality of his character is over-the-top enough to be fun and it’s just a shame he had to die-off so quickly.
An mentioned there are some nifty twists, but it ultimately adds up to little. The biggest problem is that Mitchum, who’s just as shady as Connors and Franciscus, ends up getting away with it, by stealing the stolen money that Connors has in his airport locker and flying out of the country, which isn’t exactly an audience pleaser. Smith doesn’t completely die either as we see her injured body on the bathroom floor calling the police making it seem that with her information there was still a chance he could get caught and the film should’ve played this out to completion and not left it open to guessing.
Lots of logistical issues too. For instance Mitchum kills Francsicus supposedly at the airport, but for some reason, we never see it but can only presume, drags the dead body back to Smith’s home just so he can put it into the freezer, but why bother? Also, where does he put Connor’s body when he replaces it with Franciscus’? Where does he get the mask of Mike Connors’ face that he uses to disguise himself that he is him? Does he know a manufacturer that makes specially made masks to resemble someone they know and if so what company is this because I’ve never heard of it? Also, how does he know there’s a cop inside the police department named Donner as he pretends to be this man when he investigates the case even though he’s really a private eye named Rodriguez? These along with several other questions never get answered, which significantly hurts the plausibility.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: December 18, 1980
Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes
Director: Ted Post
Available: DVD-R, Blu-ray