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This is one of those Hallmark Hall of Fame specials that helped to cement their reputation for being well-made, well-acted quality production. Kay Lenz is outstanding as Lisa, and the supporting cast is also excellent. This is one that still holds up today, even though it was made many years ago. When this was made, mental illness wasn't a popular subject for serious treatment by television, but this sensitive,thoughtful movie helped to be a pioneer for all of the television movies dealing with mental illness (like Sybil, The Cracker Factory, and many others)that would come afterwards. The Seventies was a coming of age time for television drama. Lisa, Bright and Dark was a definite pioneer.
I read the book "Lisa Bright and Dark" and this movie holds up next to the book really well. The performances were strong and it dealt with a subject that most decent people didn't talk about at that time-mental illness. I was a teen when I first watched it and read the book and while thankfully me and my friends didn't have the problems that Lisa did, I could still relate to the teen girls love and concern as they watched Lisa slip further and further into mental illness. I wish they would release the old made for TV movies that came out in the early 70's on DVD. I haven't seen this one in 30 years and would love to watch it again.
"Lisa, Bright and Dark" is a frustrating made for TV movie to watch. In
some ways, it's really well made...but in other ways the movie really
drops the ball. The overall effect is frustrating.
Through the course of this film, Lisa (Kay Lenz) is unraveling mentally. While the stupid and self-absorbed parents (Anne Baxter and John Forsythe) deny that she's having serious difficulties, it's obvious to anyone who cares that Lisa is a mess. After all, she's been lighting things on fire, slashing her wrists and has been in a stupor. The layman would say she's having a nervous breakdown and she keeps upping the ante in a desperate attempt to get her parents' attention...with little success. Her friends care and try a wacky intervention that left me confused...and it will really confuse you as well. What's also confusing is the end...which just seems abrupt.
With a small re-write, this would have been an excellent film and alerted folks to teen mental illness and parental neglect. But the ending and the intervention just seemed slapdash. Watch if you must and if you do at least you can seen Anson Williams and Erin Moran before they went to work on "Happy Days".
I've been collecting & trading 70's "Made For TV" movies for years and this is one title I have been searching for FOREVER but never have come across!! Not only is Kay Lenz excellent in her role but the supporting cast is great too! First read the book in school back when we ordered through "The Scholastic Book Club"...and the movie is a very good adaptation. Two other books that became part of my "70's TV Movies" collection, (that I was lucky enough to finally find), were Ann Heads "Mr. & Mrs. Bo Jo Jones" (1971) & Blossom Elfman's "The Girls Of Huntington House" (1973) which were both adapted into movies well and I very much recommend both the book & movie of these titles!
As a person with Bi-Polar ( it never goes away, just regulates and
deregulates), I have experienced every symptom portrayed in this movie.
And like this movie I also had a denying and uneducated mother toward
mental health issues, who was overly concerned with her reputation in
the community...well that spelled frustration to the max for myself at
the age of 15 in 1980. This would have been the perfect movie for us to
Sometimes critics are unaware that a film with a strong central theme can carry itself just fine despite what would otherwise be shortcomings. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed every quirk:) Kay Lenz has always been a favorite of mine as well. The perfect made for TV production IMHO. Hallmark presentations were always tops.
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