12 May 2012 | Bloodwank
Pleasant but unremarkable science fiction drama
So this one middle class businessman seeming type named Clay Howard wants to drop out of the rat race, and after a little celebration, Splat! Ka-pow!, near fatal car crash. He winds up with a metal plate in his head and his wife and he go on a bit of a recuperation vacation. Stopping in a small town, they stay a couple of nights, enjoy pleasant rural company and good food at the local diner, purchase a lovely Art Deco lamp for a song at a local antiques store, then head on their way having experienced a delightful rest in rural Americana. Actually, there's weird sh!t going on. Sorry to disappoint fans of films about cookery and antiquing, this probably isn't for you. Though thinking about it, like cookery and antiquing it does offer some interest and mild thrills, so maybe it is a good recommendation. But yeah, weird sh!t is going on. I have to give Night Slaves some credit, it goes for some thing different to the many devil cult/political conspiracy/murder set up explanations so popular at the time, though not entirely original it does make a nice change. Also interestingly, the mystery of what's going on plays out with intrigue rather than menace, an enticing but inconsequential puzzle that largely avoids the standard escalating paranoid tension. It's a film favouring reason and acceptance, an approach that raises some moral problems that are never resolved but does give it a nicely unconventional yet very much of its time vibe. On the other hand the general lack of tension means that the film is far more likely to bore people, and the actors have to work harder. Happily the cast do well in selling events, James Franciscus may not bring much depth to Clay but his matinée good looks and easy charm make him a pleasant protagonist, and he is neatly balanced out by Lee Grant as his fretful and nervous wife, cagily watching a situation play out that she never even intended getting into in the first place. The two have good chemistry and an effective charge to their more dramatic moments, and the rest of the cast support them well, most notably Leslie Nielsen as the local Sheriff, a sturdy and realistic type who wants no trouble, just to get to the bottom of things, as well as oddball character acting legend Andrew Prine as a local weirdo who ends up playing a bigger role than expected and the lovely Tisha Sterling as a mysterious girl who may hold the key to proceedings. So the cast and the general interest of the film hold it together for a pretty solid 70 minutes or so, but it isn't the most memorable, thought provoking or exciting of films. Probably only recommended to science fiction and made for television buffs, and not at all bad as such, just a little above average.