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The play that "Gil Weston" is appearing in is "Prescription: Murder", an actual play from 1962 written by William Levinson and Richard Link, notable for introducing their most famous creation, Lieutenant Columbo. In the original play, Lt. Columbo was portrayed by the famous character actor, Thomas Mitchellin what would be his last acting role. See more »
Writers Richard Levinson and William Link wrote some great scripts in the sixties and seventies, including some for Hitchcock. A psychological thriller that first aired in 1979, "Murder By Natural Causes", is arguably Levinson and Link's best work. With twist upon twist upon twist, and subtle dialogue clues scattered throughout the plot, it's a film that fans of suspense thrillers need to see, as an example of superior script writing.
Forty-something and wealthy entertainer Arthur Sinclair (Hal Holbrook) wows audiences with his mental telepathy skills as he seemingly reads peoples minds. Allison (Katharine Ross) is his attractive thirty-something wife, a person with a roving eye and a desire for riches. What kind of story do you think this setup suggests? Can you guess how the film ends? Don't bet on it.
The film could easily be transformed into a stage play since most scenes take place indoors on sets. Production design is adequate. Intermittent background music is at times spooky, and there are a couple of scenes wherein the music is reminiscent of the shower scene in Hitchcock's "Psycho", shrieking and shrill. Good editing keeps the plot flowing nicely for the most part, though the middle Act trends a bit talky in a couple of scenes. Color cinematography is adequate. Casting and acting cannot be improved upon.
All film elements come together perfectly in that final sequence when a character walks in the front door of Aruthur's big house. The dialogue here is entrancing. Camera movement is faultless. And that final scene where the camera moves in close to a character's eyes is breathtakingly dramatic. It's one of the great final sequences in film history.
It's too bad this film never received a theatrical release. It is far better and more entertaining than most major Hollywood thrillers of the last fifty years that I have seen. The film won an Edgar Allan Poe Award for best television film of 1980. One might even assert that "Murder By Natural Causes" is the best TV movie ever made. I probably would not argue with that assessment.
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