10 June 2017 | moonspinner55
Overacted, poorly-scripted TV production of a dinner theater perennial
Luther Davis adapted (and misguidedly updated) Joseph Kesselring's play about two darling little old ladies in Brooklyn, sisters who commit a series of murders, visited by their now-grown nephew who is aghast at the comically grisly goings-on. Broadcast by ABC-TV, this galumphing special was filmed live before a studio audience (with awkwardly interjected pre-filmed exteriors), though the combination of Robert Scheerer's static direction and the manic performances cause even the (amplified) audience laughter to sound artificial. Helen Hayes and Lillian Gish play the murdering siblings (Hayes recreating her role from a previous television production from 1955); while the two seasoned stars have the comic timing to put this production over, they have been encouraged to play up this material to the proverbial rafters. Bob (Robert) Crane (then-hot from TV's "Hogan's Heroes") tries his best as their nephew, but the supporting players are lost at sea, including Sue Lyon (looking unsure), Bob Dishy, Fred Gwynne, Jack Gilford and David Wayne. Writer Davis brings the play into the 1960s in order to make the nephew a TV critic bemoaning all the violence on the tube, though nothing much else is done with the time change (and it plays havoc besides with some of the characterizations, Gwynne's and Gilford's in particular, which seem frozen in the 1940s). Hammy and unfunny in the extreme, this version of the chestnut is stricken with a fatal case of the cutes.