24 October 2009 | eye3
Just saw this on TCM
It was better than it should have been. It seems like it was first slated as a movie-of-the-week but then an fading MGM figured to score some box office bucks with the gimmick of this being one of their last movies shot on a studio lot. Casting MGM veterans in small parts helped some but, this being a detective movie, Jim Garner has to carry it all the way. Which he does with his usual aplomb.
It's a movie of its time. It's a small-town murder mystery with a back story which might have come from a Playboy or Penthouse fiction piece; the type no major studio would have looked at just three years earlier (it was made in 1972), let alone in MGM's heyday.
Faults aside, this movie has its interesting plot twists ratcheting up what little tension there is, so I was hooked until the end. But a loose-end or two are never answered - where did the fresh water come from? And if it was from the bath tub, was any fluoridation found? What happened to Peter Lawford's girlfriend? In one scene she's waving hello with her generous bust; in the next - a crucial one involving PL's character - there's patently no trace of her nor does anyone ask. Eh?
Hal Holbrook and Katherine Ross form the remainder of the troika of leads; Holbrook as the county vet and Ross as his long-haired, long-legged assistant from New York. In other words, she's really there to become romantically involved with Garner's character (a cinematic must.)
Harry Guardino's county sheriff brings in his boys when things get tricky but to no any real effect except the last scene. Garner's character never feels the case slipping away from him or the noose tightening as with Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade in 'The Maltese Falcon.'
June Allyson has a cameo, bringing in yet another plot twist. A better screenwriter and/or director would have put her in more of the picture. Her brief presence lights up the screen far more than the rest of the cast combined - maybe she should have played the detective.