15 March 2017 | Coventry
Oh, that poor girl!
"The Longest Night" is the type of film I feel you really can't write too much about
You can't state that the script is implausible, grotesque or too far-fetched, because it's based on a true story and allegedly sticks very close to the facts. You can't write too much about the production values, neither, as it's a made- for-TV film from the early seventies without much action or spectacle. It's a more than competent effort, especially in terms of acting performances and direction, and mainly thrives on oppressed tension and family drama. Without using excessive violence, a carefully prepared couple abducts the young daughter of a wealthy businessman and leaves the mother tied up and petrified in a motel room. Instead of locking her up in a basement or isolated cabin somewhere, the kidnappers bury Karen in a meticulously constructed hole in the ground that only provides air, supplies and lighting for a period of five days maximum. Their fiendish plan includes that the girl will in case the ransom demands aren't met in time, or in case they are apprehended or shot by the police first. Unquestionably, the whole dramatic and shocking impact of the film (as well as the news bulletins around the original true crime case) emerges from these miserable conditions the poor girl has to survive in for four long days and nights. We witness Karen's honest and understandably terrified reaction when she's brought to her "grave" by her kidnapper, and during several interludes throughout the film we return to this place only to see how she hears ominous noises, suffers from panic attacks and loses her hope to make it out alive. Meanwhile, her father and the authorities move heaven and earth to confront the kidnapper, but this is less interesting to see, as it's more familiar subject matter. "The Longest Night" is effective and successful because you notice yourself constantly repeating things in your head like: "Oh, that poor girl" and you sincerely hope that her father – or anyone else for that matter – finds her in time. Otherwise it's a rather anonymous TV-movie, certainly not on par with some of the other classics that ABC released in that same era, and only worth tracking down in case you're a fan of any of the cast members (David Janssen, James Farentino, Phyllis Thaxter) or – like me – director Jack Smight ("Damnation Alley", "Airport 1975", "The Travelling Executioner"
). Little fun fact, "The Longest Night" is of course a very serious and emotionally heave retelling of the true crime case, but a wildly fictionalized version the same story also got turned into a rancid exploitation flick called "The Candy Snatchers".