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Ann Morgan Guilbert
This little-known TV-movie would likely have forgotten forever if not for a recently produced bargain DVD which makes it available to a new audience more than 30 years after its initial airing. Griffith plays a laid-off factory worker doing time as an apartment building super with his wife Lupino at his side. One day, when she goes out of town to visit a sick relative, he is practically seduced by a young blonde who asks him for a place to spend the night. He arranges for her to stay in 7A while the tenants are away on a trip, but that's only the beginning of the story. It seems Brandon and his two cronies want to stay as well so they can use the building's location in a heist of the bank next door. Eventually, Griffith has to take on the thieves in order to save his, Lupino's and the tenants of the entire building's lives. This is not the Griffith of Mayberry. While his inherent goodness remains intact, he actually gets shirtless in preparation for adultery! His character here is more flawed and susceptible than most of the ones he's played on TV. Lupino is reasonably solid as his wife, wearing one of those awful 70's wigs that permeated so many TV shows and TV movies of that decade. She is 10 years older than her character, but at least she has that excuse. Griffith looks ten years older than his and he isn't! Brandon gives a typical cocky, yet unhinged, presentation of a Vietnam vet turned criminal. He isn't bad, but it had all been done before and would be done again many times. As his pals, Watson and McIntire aren't given a lot to do. Hildur is billed as "Introducing....", but she would fall off the televisual landscape almost instantaneously. She isn't bad, but does have a tendency to over-emote, especially in her fairly preposterous opening scenes. Despite the stark nature of the story and the dim settings, the film has more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, mostly thanks to the groovy aspects of some of the filming and the overwrought nature of some of the confrontation scenes. Still, the film is worth a look for fans of Griffith and fans of the old-style TV movies which were a breed to themselves. This one was produced by the same man (Mark Carliner) that supplied a pair of intense Shelley Winters vehicles. His flicks tended to be just a tad more serious and violent than the ones Aaron Spelling did (though Spelling's are undeniably entertaining as well.) Another plus is some kicky music by Morton Stevens, the man who gave the world the theme song to "Hawaii 5-O", notably in a "Shaft"-esque opening credits number that sets a nice tone for the rest of the film.
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