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Three teenagers, led by psychopathic Jess Reber, break into an isolated farmhouse and murder its prosperous owner whose secretary, Linda Atlas, witnesses the crime. The three thugs decide to hold her hostage. Detective Tony Atlas, perplexed by the sudden disappearance of Betty, his estranged wife, tries desperately to locate her. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"My wife is missing and my son's traumatized. Quick! Hand me a doughnut!"
Curiosity value concerning the appearance and acting skill of Barrymore (John's son and Drew's dad) will likely draw several viewers to this minor crime drama, a sort of "Despondent Hours". Garrett, separated from her policeman hubby (Carey), takes a job steno-graphing for an elderly man with her young son in tow. When three toughs break in to rob the man, but accidentally kill him, Garrett's son (Mathers) slips into a degree of catatonia and wanders off along the highway. Eventually, Carey, Garrett's husband, is reunited with the mute boy and it's a race against time to find Garrett before the punks have their way with her or kill her. The hoods are played by Barrymore, Allen and Sarracini. Carey reacts to his estranged wife's disappearance with all the concern and terror that he might have if, say, his shirt were ironed too long and got a triangle-shaped stain on the pocket. Though impossibly big and reasonably handsome, he lets his stoicism as a police officer take too much precedence over any human emotion. Garrett (pushing forty, but playing 27 and referred to as "girl"!) does a decent enough acting job, but, in keeping with the times of the film, behaves pretty foolishly more often than not. She does try to come up with a few futile attempts at escape, though. Mathers is in over his head in his tiny part and would do much better later that year in "Leave it to Beaver" where murder wasn't a part of the storyline. Barrymore is very animated and quite handsome. He leans toward the hammy aspects of acting that so many James Dean imitators were going for at the time, but his portrayal is surprisingly polished (and this isn't exactly a strong screenplay he's dealing with!) Allen (who worked with James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause") gives the most believable and natural performance of the hoods and is very attractive in a boy-next-door way. In fact, these two "vicious criminals" do their dirty work in pullover knit sweaters and cardigans!!! They are quite a contrast to Marlon Brando in "The Wild One". The third boy is played by hulking Sarracini and he is more authentic-looking (ironically, this actor died the year this film was made from the results of a fight!!) There are so many hilariously bad bit players in the film whose dialogue and performances are side-splitting. One lady mutters that her husband doesn't like anything as much as corned beef while he is shown romancing a blonde tart in a bar. Still, the direction is surprisingly adept and there is a memorable rooftop shootout that continues into the subway which is quite impressive. A little more enthusiasm/fret from Carey might have kicked it up a notch.
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