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  • Director Frank Perry( David and Lisa, Diary of a Mad Housewife)took a true story and turns it in to a very suspenseful film. Starring Oscar winners Cliff Robertson and Joel Grey, the film concerns a murder of a young girl in a small Connecticut town and the police chief(Robertson) who tries to solve the killing. Enter one clairvoyant(Grey) who claims to have visions of the killing and offers to help the police solve the crime.Director Perry keeps the viewer guessing the whole movie as to whether Grey is legitimate or not. Robertson is wary of Grey but keeps him around just by chance he is what he says he is. The ending has a bizarre twist and I wont reveal it here but remember, it was based on a true story and the film is well worth 90 some minutes of your time.
  • Cliff Robertson plays the local sheriff who investigates the murder of Maggie Dawson, an attractive young woman. He is offered assistance by Joel Grey, a local psychic. As the plot develops, it becomes clear that either Grey, playing Franklin Wells, has psychic powers, or is involved in the murder. This is undeniably a "B" movie, but the acting, except for the always awful Elizabeth Wilson, is good-great. The writing is very good, with a scene when Robertson receives a Christmas card that shows how a good screenwriter can take an ordinary event and make it near terrifying. The way the sign of the motel scrawls across Robertson's police car window is very clever. Highly recommended.
  • Oddball mystery that I suspect is not for everyone. Joel Grey plays a psychic, Franklyn Wills, who wants to help the cops solve a gruesome parking lot murder. On their first meeting he establishes some credibility by knowing a number of details not mentioned in the media, thus provoking the curiosity of head cop Lee Tucker (Robertson). How, we wonder, does Wills know these details. Is he a real psychic or maybe even the killer himself just playing games with the cops. Thus begins a stormy collaboration between the head cop and the psychic, as Lee not only investigates the murder but has to figure out what's going on with Wills who keeps coming up with more interesting facts.

    This is one of the more unsettling films I've seen, mainly because Wills' behavior is completely unpredictable when he goes into his sudden psychic trances. He may leap on a desk, roll on the floor, or go into jerky spasms no matter where he is. Grey is an elfin-like presence anyway, so these sudden seizures are truly disturbing, even scary. When not in a clairvoyant state, he's not what you'd suspect from a killer, all smiles and disarming demeanor, even when Lee throws him against a wall in utter frustration. All in all, Grey delivers a cunning performance, one of the most unusual I've seen. His Franklyn Wills remains truly an enigma.

    In contrast, Robertson wisely low-keys his role, with a deadpan expression, soft voice, and unblinking stare as he observes the strange little man who seems in communication with something—but what. And when Lee and his wife start getting strange phone calls and knocks on the door, everyone figure it's got to be Wills, but why. What could he hope to gain. His behavior seems beyond strange.

    In a sense, the movie dwells almost obsessively with the relationship between these two. There are no real subplots or principal characters apart from them. Thus, it's two hours of trying to figure out whether Wills is a true psychic or not. The fact that the film is based on a true story makes the mystery even more intriguing. I suspect many folks are put off by the morbid undertones of the unvarying plot, and that plus an unconventional ending may have something to do with the film's obscurity. Nonetheless, for some folks, like me, it's a fascinating sleeper, with its own style of intrigue, and continues to cast a haunting spell.
  • Cliff Robertson plays a very frustrated small town Sheriff, trying to solve a murder case. Mucking things up is Joel Grey claiming to be a psychic, who can help Robertson find the killer. Unfortunately, Grey supplies just enough officially withheld information to tantalize the police, but not enough to solve the case. This causes Robertson to challenge Grey's psychic abilities with professional testing that is inconclusive and only further muddy the waters. "Man on a Swing" is based on a true murder investigation, and is superbly edited so that it never bogs down. The viewer is interested right up to the open ended conclusion, and is left wondering, just as the creative script intended. - MERK
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Man on a Swing" is based on the real-life murder investigation of a young woman. Made in 1972, we have seen many movies about similar investigations before and since. However, this one still has something different to offer.

    When the girl's body is found in her car in a small town supermarket parking lot, the sheriff, Lee Tucker (Cliff Robertson), investigates the case. Everything looks pretty standard for this kind of film until a self-proclaimed psychic, Franklin Wills (Joel Grey), comes forward with information only the police, or the killer, could have known. This sends the story in a direction that makes this movie standout in a very crowded genre.

    Cliff Robertson plays it straight, and it's the right move because it's the perfect counterpoint to Joel Grey's fireworks. Grey gives a performance, which is every bit as eye-catching as the one he gave in "Cabaret", made about the same time. His Franklin Wills comes across as annoying, narcissistic, and more than a little creepy.

    The real point of difference in the "Man on a Swing" is that it deals with clairvoyance, a subject that was debated around that time, especially as it related to solving crime. There were a number of baffling, high profile cases around the world in the 60's and 70's where psychics were called in - without much success if I recall correctly. You don't hear nearly as much about crime solving clairvoyants these days, could it be that computers and DNA have replaced the Ouija board and the psychic?

    The movie ends on a slightly disturbing note, but doesn't take sides as to whether Franklin is a genuine psychic or not - it's left for the viewers to make up their own minds.

    Frank Perry was an eclectic director. He didn't make many films, and although he covered quite a few genres from westerns and comedies through to historical sagas, psychological drama was his forte, often in collaboration with his wife Eleanor. "David and Lisa" and "The Swimmer" are two others that I always remembered. If his films have one thing in common it is that Perry chose offbeat stories that challenged his actors, and "Man on a Swing" fits nicely into that category. More than just a police procedural, it's the intensity of the human drama and the clash of wills between Robertson and Grey's characters that drives the film.

    The movie was made 40 years ago, and although there are many superficial elements that date it to that time, not the least being Cliff Robertson's hairdo, I found it just as intriguing as I did all those years ago.
  • Based on a baffling real-life murder case wherein a clairvoyant enlisted his services to an investigative reporter to help find the killer of a woman found dead in her car. As the psychic who may or may not be a fraud, Joel Grey (fresh from his Oscar-win in "Cabaret") gives another startling, no-holds-barred performance. He acts rings around Cliff Robertson (whose character is upgraded to police chief) and everyone else in the cast! It's a compelling job, but how's the movie? The actual case chronicled in William A. Clark's book "The Girl on the Volkswagen Floor" was never properly solved, so don't look for any twists in the plot. It's a gritty, well-made film that might've been even better with someone else in Robertson's part (the man stares in silent concentration, but his unblinking expression reveals nothing). Not the battle of wits you may be hoping for, but still interesting. ** from ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A really good and very creepy suspense film directed by Frank Perry without a hint of his usual pretense or needless gravitas. Cliff Robertson is a small time police chief investigating a young girl's murder. Joel Grey is a self-proclaimed clairvoyant bent on helping him. They make a great pair, with Robertson's calm playing well off of Grey's frequently hysterical energy. Perry mounts the film in such a way that it gets increasingly creepy as it goes a long. Both Robertson and Grey are excellent as is Dorothy Tristan as Robertson's patient wife. Based on fact, the movie is very open-ended and some may find that frustrating. Nevertheless, it's still very worthwhile. Big Question: did Budweiser finance this movie? Robertson is seen drinking a can of bud in virtually EVERY scene!
  • 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).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If you are looking for absolute, clearcut solutions, do not see this film. It is a fascinating study in the area of physic phenomena, real or imagined. Grey is excellent as a man who claims he has visions of the murderer. Or does he? No clear answers, but top notch film making and acting.
  • sol121817 February 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    ***SPOILER ALERT*** Starts off as your average run-of-the-mill psychic helping the police solve a crime flick to later becoming something totally different. Something so strange and baffling that the local police chief Capt. Tucker, Cliff Robertson, starts to wonder if he's not the one who needs some kind of psychiatric therapy. Not the person he later suspects in Maggie Dawson's, Dianne Hull, murder self-confessed super psychic Franklin Wills, Joel Gray.

    After teacher Maggie Dawson was found murdered in her Volkswagen in a Laural shopping mall parking lot it became apparent that the killer covered his tracks very carefully. Leaving no fingerprints and having no one, in broad daylight, see him the case begins to run cold until out of nowhere Franklin Wills suddenly comes on the scene.

    Knowing things about Maggie Dawson's murder that only her killer and the police know Wills is taken seriously by Chief Tucker even though he really didn't, or up until then, gave as much as a rat's a** about the occult or clairvoyance that Wills' obviously has. Given all the leeway he needs by Chief Tucker Wills slowly uncovers more and more of the missing pieces of Maggie Dawson's murder. Wills is so good in his ability to track down the clues about what happened to Maggie that fateful afternoon at the Laural Mall that Chief Tucker starts to suspects that maybe, just maybe, he's, Franklin Wills, the person who murdered her!

    The first half of the movie "Man on a Swing" is pure gold in it's buildup to what Franklin Wills is all about and what exactly he knows about Maggie Dawson's, and later in the film Virginia Segretta, murder. You get the impression, just like Chief Tucker, that Wills is the real deal not some phony trying to make both a name and money for himself masquerading around as a crime solving psychic. It's the last half of the movie that really gets a bit overindulgent in trying to cover all the bases, instead of tracking down Wills' very accurate clues, in finding out if in fact Franklin Wills is really the real McCoy that he claims he is.

    Wills himself is anything but normal in his actions like going into spasmodic fits while putting himself under self-hypnosis, to find out who Maggie's killer is, but hell he's been right all along so why complain? We have Chief Tucker go so far as to almost kill Wills when he's wife Janet, Dorothy Tristan, felt that he was somehow threatening both her as well as his life.

    Admittely Wills is somewhat off the wall and even a bit dangerous in his demanding that Janet accept his handkerchief to the point where she became terrified of him. It was as if Wills felt insulted or hurt by Janet in not accepting his gift! Still Wills' never goes so far as even laying a hand or even finger, with the exception of Chief Tucker in showing him how Maggie was strangled to death, on anyone but himself in the movie.

    *****SPOILER ALERT****The film ends on a sour note with the audience as well as Chief Tucker not really finding out if Wills is real or not in his ability to mentally solve crimes. We can only guess, like Chief Tucker,that Wills is really on to something in his crime solving methods but what that is anybodies guess. All we get from Wills, who's predictions in the movie were dead on, is a sinister grin in that he knows something that we don't know as the movie suddenly comes to an end!
  • lee_eisenberg29 December 2014
    Frank Perry's "Man on a Swing" is one of the most haunting movies that you'll ever see. Cliff Robertson plays a police detective investigating a murder who enlists the help of a man (Joel Grey) who claims to be clairvoyant. During his trances this man describes things that he couldn't have learned from the media...but is it real clairvoyance?

    There are a couple of focuses. There's the investigation, but also the presumed psychic's trances that make you wonder if he's about to do something sinister. And then there are the strange things that start happening to the detective and his wife. Is it the presumed psychic or is something else going on?

    The most haunting thing is that this movie is based on a true story that was still unsolved at the time of the movie's release (I don't know whether they solved it afterwards). Joel Grey puts on what must be the most impressive role of his career. Far from the jolly emcee in "Cabaret", his character here makes you feel as if you're walking on eggshells. It's one of those movies that keeps you guessing every step of the way. I recommend it.

    The rest of the cast includes Peter Masterson (the husband in the original "Stepford Wives"), Lane Smith (the DA in "My Cousin Vinny"), Josef Sommer (Harrison Ford's superior in "Witness") and Penelope Milford (Jane Fonda's friend in "Coming Home").
  • The completely serious film (Man on a Swing) opens with a one minute-20 second scene shot with a camera mounted on the police car roof about a foot behind the flashing light bar. While I am sure it seemed dramatic in 1974, it's impossible to view now without remembering the comedic rendition of the same viewpoint that forms the opening of "The Naked Gun". While I can't be sure this was the only "cop movie" that had a similar opening sequence, it's pretty clear to me that this film alone would have been sufficient to inspire the Naked Gun spoof scene.
  • bombersflyup18 October 2019
    Warning: Spoilers
    Man on a Swing is bat crazy and not in a good way, with no coherent plot.

    It's part of the whole, after the fact, presented as the entirety and exaggerated. The police chief doesn't even attempt to solve anything and there's no what for and why, it's all unanswered. It's not even a film really.