Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    On June 16, 1968 the nude body of Barbara Ann Butler, a 23-year-old junior high school teacher, was found in her car at a store parking lot near Dayton, Ohio. William A. Clark, a reporter for the Dayton 'Daily News', covered the subsequent police investigation—an investigation made far more complicated by the involvement of a psychic named Bill Boshears. Barbara Butler's murder was never solved. Nonetheless, Clark turned his reportage into a minor classic of the true crime genre entitled 'The Girl on the Volkswagen Floor' (Harper & Row, 1971). When David Zelag Goodman ('Straw Dogs') adapted Clark's book to the screen, he turned the William Clark figure into Police Chief Lee Tucker (Cliff Robertson) but did not really account for the fact that a busy police chief's routine duties and investigative methods would surely differ from those of a newspaperman. For example, Tucker takes a somewhat unlikely trip to a distant university to confer with para-psychology expert Dr. Nicholas Holnar, played by George Voskovec. Furthermore, Cliff Robertson plays Chief Tucker in a mostly deadpan fashion, making for a less than inspired performance. In stark contrast to Robertson's stereotypical tough guy cop is the manic, fitful, and deeply unsettling performance of Joel Grey as Franklin Wills, the psychic who wants to help Tucker solve the crime but makes Tucker suspicious that Wills may have some direct involvement in the crime. At any rate, Grey's performance is so good that it makes up for Goodman's muddled script and Frank Perry's trite direction. DVD (release date unknown).