16 November 2012 | bkoganbing
Tison Family Values
Robert Mitchum stars in this fine made for TV film, A Killer In The Family as true life serial killer Gary Tison. This one should have been given theatrical release. Mitchum really pushes himself in the acting department playing Tison, a man who made killing a family project.
I did a bit of checking on Gary Tison and Randy Greenawalt played here by Stuart Margolin and their escape from state prison in Arizona and the subsequent crime spree they indulged in and the facts are pretty accurate in this prison. But an actor of Mitchum's ability and charisma are needed to put over a part where a guy who is in prison persuades his three teen sons to leave the straight life and help him escape from the correctional facility which Mitchum is incarcerated in.
You can see it in the family picnic atmosphere where Lynn Carlin brings her three boys to visit dear old dad who acts like a concerned father, even proud of his eldest James Spader who is in college and thinking about a career in law. The other two are nothing special except to their parents, the middle child Eric Stoltz is none too bright and Lance Kerwin is one mixed up teen, but nothing if not normal.
But the two younger ones feel a sense of duty to a father whom they think due to Mitchum's stories is a man wrongly put upon by society. And Spader in the end goes along with the younger ones out of a sense of duty to them as well as his father. But he knows better.
It's quite a jailbreak they pull off, of course planned by Mitchum and Margolin. Once out in society it doesn't take long for both these guys to reveal the kind of amoral sociopaths they are. And the kids are now trapped in Daddy's web of killing.
For a made for TV film it's quite graphically violent, but over 30 years later it still is a powerful film with a powerful performance by Mitchum.