2 August 2008 | Dan1863Sickles
Powerful Television Drama, But Different From The Book
A pompous, self-admiring college academic makes an utter fool of himself by seducing and making pregnant a vacant, clingy co-ed.
Written at the height of Sixties campus turmoil, WAR BETWEEN THE TATES was meant to be an acid, (pun intended) look at the Sixties counterculture. Alison Lurie's book paints everyone in the most unflattering light possible, from stoned hippies who follow the herd like cattle to stuffy professors who cheat on their wives to bored housewives who take up feminism just as a way to have something to do. It's a wonder Lurie didn't find time to take a few cheap shots at crazed, baby-killing Vietnam vets as well! This television movie was made several years after the book, so much of the topical appeal was lost. The movie also tones down the nastier side of Lurie's satire, and makes the characters seem almost human at times. Richard Crenna's bad-boy smirk makes it clear he's not entirely the stuffed shirt he pretends to be, so that it's easier to enjoy his seduction of Wendy. Annette O'Toole gives the young college girl a lot more fire and passion than she has in the book. Elizabeth Ashley makes the victim of the piece, Erica, a much more queenly and appealing figure. Even Erica's lost love Sandy is allowed to "rise to the occasion" in ways never acknowledged in the book.
One thing that was probably a mistake, however, was to allow legendary rocker Mick Jagger to have a cameo as the idealistic youth worker on campus. Mick's big speech is clearly stolen from Karl Malden's epic address in ON THE WATERFRONT. "So you cats think that the crucifixion only happened in Cecil B. DeMille? Bet again, man. Every time some hung up faculty pig puts his hands on a groovy flower child, man, that is a crucifixion! I'm telling you, man, Jesus is with you in the head shop, he's with you when you're looking to score. He's with you when you put out for some hung up old dude with a frigid wife and two bratty kids. And every time the man hassles you for smoking dope or skipping class, man, that is a crucifixion!" Jagger's cockney twang renders the whole thing laughable, and the professors who hoot and jeer are a lot less menacing than the longshoremen in WATERFRONT. Maybe someone at network owed Mick Jagger a favor?