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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

NEARLY FORGOTTEN TV THRILLER FROM THE 70S.

4/10
Author: Todd Maines (todd_maines@yahoo.com) from Phoenix, AZ
28 April 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*Extremely Light Spoilers*

The writer of this film, Richard Matheson, remains one of the most influential horror writers of the past fifty years. Many of his novels have been produced as feature films. They include `What Dreams May Come,' `Stir of Echoes,' `The Incredible Shrinking Man,' `The Omega Man,' `Somewhere in Time,' `The Legend of Hell House,' and more.

However (unusual as it may seem), it is in television, not feature films, that Matheson's screenwriting work really shines. Including the much lauded TV thriller `Duel' (directed by Steven Spielberg) and cult favorite `The Night Stalker;' which remain two of the greatest horror films ever produced for television. Other above average TV work includes the mini-series `The Martian Chronicles,' `Dracula' (with Jack Palance), `Dying Room Only,' `The Norliss Tapes,' `Scream of the Wolf,' and some of the best episodes of the original Twilight Zone and Night Gallery series.

However, even a writer as talented as Richard Matheson stumbles once in a while, and `The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver,' is a clear demonstration of that.

I have been hunting down this movie for 15 years, and thanks to the glory of Ebay, I finally tracked down a copy this week.

As a huge Richard Matheson fan, I am still very happy that I tracked down the film. As I've collected most of his work, it would've been a great regret to have never seen it. And as far as nostalgia goes, it doesn't disappoint.

However, when comparing this film to his total body of work, it simply pales in comparison.

I imagine that the film was inspired by the great success of the TV horror film `Trilogy of Terror,' as it reunited the talents of Karen Black and Richard Matheson (Trilogy of Terror was based on short stories by Matheson). As a matter of fact, in Trilogy of Terror, Karen Black plays two sisters who are nearly identical to two characters she portrays in The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver. Watching these two movies back to back, you get the impression that the Mrs. Oliver story is a direct descendent of the middle segment of Trilogy of Terror. Matheson simply took the same plot `twist' and re-imagined it for a feature length story.

Unfortunately, while the `twist' of Mrs. Oliver is certainly interesting, it's doesn't justify a feature length film. It would have made a pretty good Night Gallery episode, but as a full length feature it fails, due to lack of story. Most of the 74 minutes feels like empty filler.

On the positive side, Karen Black is very convincing in her duel roles, and she's clearly the best part of the movie (yes, she's a bit overwrought, but that's why we love Karen Black). While the script has its moments (Matheson on a bad day is better than most on a good day); the film is further undermined by Gordon Hessler's uninspired direction, and the lackluster co-stars, including George Hamilton, who barely registers a pulse.

I'm glad I saw this movie, however, because no Richard Matheson collection would be complete without it. And as a slice of 70s TV nostalgia, it's certainly harmless enough.

But, after watching it this afternoon, it became quite clear why `The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver' was never released on video or DVD.

For Matheson's sake, let's hope it stays that way.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A prim and proper matron suddenly develops a second wild personality.

7/10
Author: Deusvolt from United States
26 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Karen Black portrays a staid, schoolmarmish matron who inexplicably lives a double life as a wild party girl. Is it a case of possession or schizophrenic split personality? The horror content is mostly in a recurring dream where she sees herself lying in a coffin being accorded pre-burial rites at a funeral home. A haunting but strangely familiar tune is being played on the organ. You'll never guess what the tune is and I assure you that while it sounds appropriately funereal on a slow tempo on the organ, it was a very popular teeny bop song in the 50s. Spoiler ahead: You'll find out what the song is when the other personality takes over and dances to the tune at a pub/pick-up joint. I loved that song but it was never the same for me after seeing this TV movie as I began associating it with death.

A chill sense of terror fills you when Black is confronted by the mother of the dead girl she is allegedly impersonating.

It is both a horror and psycho thriller movie. Well done by fantasy and sci-fi screenplaywright Richard Matheson who has done a lot of work for Twillight Zone and Star Trek.

If you liked this movie you should also watch Ray Milland in A Premature Burial or Vincent Price in The Tomb of Lygeia.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Dull made for TV movie

5/10
Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
8 June 2008

The seventies was definitely the decade with the best made for TV movies and there were plenty of goods ones; the best of which as far as I'm concerned being Gordon Hessler's Scream Pretty Peggy which he made in 1973. Fast forward four years and he's back to making TV movies, this time with prolific cult queen Karen Black, although the result is nowhere near as good as the earlier film. This film takes on ideas of reincarnation and split personalities and explores them through Miriam Oliver, a woman who starts to take on characteristics of another woman who died five years earlier. This sounds like a possible good premise for a decent mystery/psychological thriller, but unfortunately The Strange Possession of Mrs Oliver does not capitalise on its strong points, and the result is actually a really boring film. The premise is really stretched, even for a mere seventy minute running time and there's just not enough action and/or mystery to keep the audience entertained all the way through. Karen Black is good enough in the lead role as the woman at the centre of it all; but her performance is not enough to save the film unfortunately. Overall, this movie is rare and hard to come by; and I'm not surprised at that. Don't go out of your way for this one!

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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

This movie is psychological rather than horror.

Author: townley-1 from Oklahoma City
7 June 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I last saw this movie in 1987. I don't know where they have hidden it since. Karen Black plays a woman married to a successful businessman played by George Hamilton. She is well dressed in a conservative way. As she begins to charge her dress and behavior, the viewer might suspect she is being possessed by a dead woman, The title also leads to that idea. Actually, she took the identity of a dead woman after trauma and is only now beginning to let her old identity surface. I liked it, I suppose, because they kept me in doubt about what was really happening. It is a psychological drama rather than horror. Both Black and Hamilton did their roles well although his was really only a supporting role.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

70's Thriller/Chiller so bad it's GOOD!

Author: robyn02458-189-442128 from United States
17 October 2011

I saw this when I was very young and loved it! Karen Black is the drab,dull wife of an executive overcome by the persona of a woman who died years earlier. Mrs Oliver tries on a blond wig in a department store and becomes sexy "Sandy" who's the life of the party unlike the shrinking violet she normally is. The result is deadly! I saw this when I was very young and loved it! Karen Black is the drab,dull wife of an executive overcome by the persona of a woman who died years earlier. Mrs Oliver tries on a blond wig in a department store and becomes sexy "Sandy" who's the life of the party unlike the shrinking violet she normally is. The result is deadly!

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