Crawlspace (TV Movie 1972) Poster

(1972 TV Movie)

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Tom Happer Comes Out of the Shadows
wes-connors10 May 2009
Older couple Arthur Kennedy and Teresa Wright (as Albert and Alice Graves) are in their New England retirement home when handsome young Tom Happer (as Richard Atlee) emerges from their basement, where he has "put in a new coil". Strangely attracted to Mr. Happer, Ms. Wright asks him to stay for supper, and Mr. Kennedy lets him borrow a rare addition of Blake from his library. Happer enjoys his stay, and drives off with the book of poetry. Later, Kennedy goes into the basement to investigate an electoral problem and discovers some of Happer's belongings in the "Crawlspace" under his house, including the borrowed book.

Sometime later, Kennedy and Wright realize the young man is living in the "Crawlspace" under their house. They decide to feed him, and try to get him to move into the spare bedroom. Kennedy wants to find him a job and Wright adds his name to her sister's Christmas card, "Love from Albert, Alice and Richard." The childless couple has obviously "adopted" their intruder has a surrogate son. But, Happer is weird - he carves "GOD" in the garage door, and refuses to come out of the basement for almost two months. Finally, at Christmas, he emerges from the "Crawlspace".

Now nearly mute, Happer helps around the house and yard; and, the three are happy. Still, Happer refuses to sleep in his bedroom, and retires to the "Crawlspace" at night. One day, chief of police Eugene Roche (as Emil Birge) drops by to warn Kennedy and Wright about long-haired Happer, who he believes might be a college drop-out involved with drugs. Happer reveals, when quizzed, that he formerly lived in a cave, and moved to the "Crawlspace" for the winter. Kennedy learns he is actually from Wyoming. All goes well, until Happer begins to interact with the small town's intolerant citizens…

Perhaps because it sticks to Herbert Lieberman's 1967 novel (until the ending), this is an above average edition of the "New CBS Friday Night Movies". Probably, because it was not part of ABC's top-rated Tuesday line-up, "Crawlspace" fell through the cracks. Veterans Kennedy and Wright are terrific as the lonely, unfulfilled couple. And, Happer is extraordinary as the personification of troubled youth - in an extremely difficult role, he manages to make his character both scary and sympathetic - and, he never succumbs to the temptation to overact the part.

If it had aired earlier in the season, the three might have been considered for Emmy Awards. Interestingly, acclaimed director Buzz Kulik did win an "Emmy" during the 1971-72 eligibility period for "Brian's Song" - the movie which dominated the awards that year. Mr. Kulik was replaced on "Crawlspace" by director John Newland, but would return to the creepy loner guy fold with ABC's "Bad Ronald" (1974). But, for the truest version of the alienated, isolated, and/or insane 1970s counterculture outcast youth, Happer's "Richard" shouldn't be missed.

Happer looks like he should have become a much more successful actor. He was one of the many "Dark Shadows" stars awarded parts in TV and theatrical movies during the early 1970s - he played a "Romeo"-type role on "Shadows", and would have continued on the show, had it been renewed for Spring 1971 season. Undoubtedly, Happer was one of the many "Dark Shadows" cast believing "DS" was a small part of a larger career; but, with a few exceptions, fans wanted them to remain in the "Shadows" eternally.

A more successful soap opera career was had by Matthew Cowles (as Dave Freeman), who plays a villainous townie. Jerry Goldsmith's score is also worth noting. "Crawlspace" was released on DVD in unfortunately "un-restored" condition (it's worth looking to see if CBS had a different edit, in some warehouse or vault). Until (if ever!) it's restored, the good folks at "Wild Eye" should receive "Dark Shadows" thanks for making Tom Happer's "Crawlspace" and Jonathan Frid's "The Devil's Daughter" the first two movies in their "TV Movie Terror Collection".

******** Crawlspace (2/11/72) Buzz Kulik, John Newland ~ Arthur Kennedy, Teresa Wright, Tom Happer
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Provocative, unusual TV-movie falls apart in the final act...
moonspinner553 April 2009
Ernest Kinoy adapted this bizarre story from a novel by Herbert Lieberman, concerning a young, unemployed electrician in a small town who returns to the last house he worked at--that of a friendly, elderly couple--and lives in seclusion in the basement. The couple, who have no children of their own, are initially disturbed to learn the kid has been sleeping in a damp, cramped crawlspace under their house...but soon they find themselves welcoming his appearances, fixing him dinner, buying him clothes, and giving him things to do. The local sheriff, and apparently some of the town residents, quickly find out about this unspoken arrangement between the wayward youth and his benefactors, causing all hell to break loose. For a TV-movie, this is pretty strong stuff, commendably given a matter-of-fact treatment which helps the plot unfold naturally (even if the material itself is unconventional). Unfortunately, Kinoy's teleplay goes awry in the third act, changing the personalities of its key players without warning and concluding on an absurdly melodramatic note. Otherwise, two-thirds of a good picture, and the performances are excellent all around.
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Powerful Short Film
halinen mari13 March 2007
I saw this movie when I was 18 and never forgot it. It is a shame that it is not shown in re-runs. It was absolutely unforgettable. One of the most powerful short films I ever saw, for being a made for TV movie.It was so relevant to the times,the end of the Hippie culture. It also played on the generation gap conflict that was part of the 60's and early 70's.

The characters draw you in because they are so real and believable. If they ever tried to redo it, they would have to find really convincing actors for the parts. I encourage everyone to try to find a copy of this film, it ranks up with Duel.They made some really good short made for TV films in that series.
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You, me … and the creep beneath our kitchen
Coventry26 March 2015
I had nearly given up all hope to ever see this particular "Crawlspace"! When you're actively searching for this title, you can encounter a couple of interesting cult movies, but not easily this 1972 made-for-TV movie. Now that I did finally get my eager little hands on a decent copy, I can safely state that it's another delightfully curious and out-of-the-ordinary TV-gem! On one hand it's a typical 70s TV-thriller, meaning that it is short and low- budgeted and not featuring any special effects, but on the other hand this also means that the plot is uniquely bizarre and that the atmosphere is moody and unsettling throughout. Additionally, it also means that it stars several adequate actors and actresses and that the story, although highly implausible and far-fetched, remains stuck in your mind and keeps you contemplating. Albert and Alice form a lovable elderly couple living in a remote countryside mansion. One day, they discover that the 20-something homeless and extremely introvert Richard has moved into the crawlspace underneath their house uninvited. So Albert and Alice react like any normally functioning person would react… They feed him milk & cookies, knit winter sweaters for him and invite him over to the family Christmas diner! They adopt and welcome Richard like the son they always wanted but never had, in fact. Problems arise when Richard turns out to be a bit of an aggressive sociopath and runs into a dispute with the local grocery boy. Based on a novel that I haven't read, the intriguing basic concept and character developments are undoubtedly the strongest points of this film. These, along with the excellent performances of Arthur Kennedy and Theresa Wright, make "Crawlspace" one of the finest TV-thrillers I have seen in my life. The pacing is slow but intense, the music and ambiance are continuously eerie and the inevitable climax is almost emotional. Matthew Coles also gives a good performance as the arrogant small-town bully, while Tom Happer (as the crawlspace resident) hits the exact right tone being simultaneously pathetic and menacing. Believe you me, this thriller is way better than director John Newland's widely acclaimed but vastly overrated "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark".
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A sort of requiem for the 1960s
Timothy Phillips19 September 2014
Like the reviewer above me, I saw this when I was young and it returns to my thoughts has a certain haunting quality to it that is hard to define. Powerful and evocative and yet very understated. There is an air of reconciliation for the generations here, after the turbulent and impassioned separation of the 1960s, just passed.

No performances stand out in my mind...Matthew Cowles is believable as the small-town heavy, and Arthur Kennedy turns in a memorable performance in the twilight of his career.

It's the eerie and unexplained presence of the young man...almost like a lost child, how the old couple summons him up from the crawlspace and just accept him as their surrogate child, that's always stuck with me and made this movie return to my thoughts again and again, after all of these years.
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Okay Made-for-TV Flick from the 70s
Rapeman16 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Albert and Alice Graves are a retired elderly couple who discover a wild-looking homeless man named Richard living in the crawlspace of their basement. At first they are a little worried and ponder ways to get rid of him but eventually their sympathetic side gets the better of them (as well as Alice's motherly tendencies) and they take him in. First they begin leaving food outside his hole and then Alice even knits him a wee jumper for Xmas. In return Richard helps around the house, mainly chopping wood (he seems have a thing for axes).

Everything is going along swimmingly until the jock at the grocery store rips off Richard $20 and he goes back that night and trashes the store with an axe. Albert and Alice cover up for Richard as they are beginning to think of him as the son they never had, but one night after returning home from the orchestra, the couple discover Richard has smashed Alice's loom (he has abandonment issues) and they begin to get a little worried. As time goes on Richard's behaviour becomes more and more psychotic & violent and the old couple basically become prisoners in their own home as Richard refuses to leave & won't let them leave either. This all culminates into a pretty bleak finale involving drunken jocks, the police and an axe (surprise, surprise).

Based on a novel by Herbert Lieberman and directed by John Newland (Don't be Afraid of the Dark), Crawlspace is a decent little low-budget 70s thriller. Arthur Kennedy's (Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Emmanuelle on Taboo Island) performance as Albert and Tom Happer's as Richard are both brilliant and Jerry Goldsmith's eerie score adds loads to the already tense & claustrophobic atmosphere. 4/10
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Worth seeing if you're curious
suegrantmayaseth5 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was pleased to see this old TV-movie was on DVD; we'd had the novel around the house when I was a kid, and I always wondered what this movie would be like. I just finished watching it a few minutes ago, and in my opinion, it's pretty much of a mess. If you're curious about these old 70s TV-movies, it's worth your time, but its brisk running time is actually one of the biggest problems. The plot moves so quickly, and so unrealistically, that some of it was almost laughable. It might be interesting to read the novel, as there MUST be more to this story than its choppy rendering here. It has that grainy, creepy early 70s feel (reminded me of "Let's Scare Jessica to Death" in that way), but don't rent/buy it expecting much, or I think you'll be very disappointed.
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An engrossingly creepy 70's made-for-TV thriller
Woodyanders4 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Albert Graves (splendidly played by Arthur Kennedy) and his wife Alice (a top-drawer performance by Teresa Wright) are a nice middle-aged couple who discover young, homeless, troubled Richard Atley (a frightfully edgy portrayal by Tom Happer) residing in a crawlspace in the basement of their house. They adopt Richard as if he was the son they never had. Things work out for a spell, but eventually turn sour when Richard's volatile nature asserts itself with tragic results. Director John Newland (who also gave us the terrifically freaky "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"), working from an intriguing script by Ernest Kinoy, does an able and effective job of creating and maintaining an absorbingly mysterious tone. Jerry Goldsmith's beautifully classy and eerie score adds substantially to the tension. Urs Furrer's slick, pretty cinematography likewise hits the spot. Kennedy and Wright do sterling work in the leads; they receive bang-up support from Happer, Eugene Roche as folksy, responsible sheriff Emil Birge, Dan Morgan as doddery old shopkeeper Harlow, and Matthew Cowles as local troublemaker Dave Freeman. This offbeat and enjoyable little winner would make a perfect double bill with the similarly solid and unnerving "Bad Ronald."
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Not a bad film, but the book is better
Desecr8924 August 2006
I'm afraid the other poster may be misremembering--I believe they are thinking of Bad Ronald, another ABC TV-movie of this period. Crawlspace, anyway, is about a retired couple who discover a young drifter living in their--surprise!--crawlspace and attempt to "adopt" him to fill a void in their lives. They try to socialize him and include him in their new "family," with tragic results.

I bought a used copy of the book online. I haven't read it since 7th grade, but so far it is just as good as I remember. My recollection is that the movie is entertaining, but not as good as the novel. Arthur Kennedy and Theresa Wright were both excellent, and it was pretty suspenseful for a movie-of-the-week.
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Some History of this movie
lou-maiorino17 February 2005
The movie was partly filmed in my father's old grocery store in 1972 in East Norwalk, CT. I was only 13 years old and all I remember was eating the many different kinds of cereals that were used for props in my father's store. I know that it took about 1.5 to 2 days to complete the shooting of the store scene. I was told that part of the movie was also shot in Westport or Weston, CT. There was also another movie shot in my father's store about a year later, but I am not sure what then name of it was. I would be interested in purchasing a DVD of this movie if I could find one. I have seen the movie when I was 13 year old, but I only remember the store scene and the scene were the boy lived in the crawlspace of a house.
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