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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lindsay Wagner took on a real challenge in this made for TV remake of I
Want To Live. Susan Hayward's performance as Barbara Graham that got
her the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1958 was still fresh in
everyone's mind. It's one of the greatest acting jobs in the history of
film on sound. Lindsay bit quite a bit off to chew.
I think she digested enough of it so that she doesn't have to be ashamed of anything she did in this version of I Want To Live. In one way Wagner's version has an advantage over the Hayward film. This one concentrates on her whole adult life and how through the bad associations and bad choices she made, she slipped into a life of crime.
The issue in the Graham case was not her criminal career. She clearly was a criminal and was not above a lot of things. The issue was whether she could be convicted on nothing more than accomplice testimony. Don Stroud's character may very well have lied about her participation in the murder of Mabel Monahan for reasons of his own. There was no independent evidence establishing her presence at the crime scene. That was her argument and still remains the main reason why she should not have gotten the gas chamber at San Quentin.
As in the 1958 film, she was her own worst enemy in many ways. She had a previous rap for perjury and when she was caught trying to buy an alibi for the night of the homicide, her goose was cooked. In fact she did a whole lot of dumb things her whole life, consistently made the worst choice in any situation.
Still because you see a great deal more of her life before the Mabel Monahan homicide, you do develop a lot of sympathy for her. The sympathy you feel in the Hayward film is strictly because of the jackpot her criminal friends have put her in. In fact Harry Dean Stanton and Seymour Cassel do fine work as her criminal partners as does Martin Balsam as her overwhelmed lawyer during the trial.
Nothing can compare to Susan Hayward's performance in the first film version. But Lindsay Wagner did a fine job supported by an able cast. She wants to live, but on her own terms.
This is a dreadful remake but it has its moments. I doubt Lindsay
Wagner ever looked better even though she can't act to save her life.
Harry Dean Stanton does an odd Emmett Perkins and Seymour Cassel is
fine as the evil John Santo. But Pam Reed as the gratuitous bitchy
feminist reporter is ridiculous. Robert Ginty is also good as Bab's
junkie husband, Henry.
Just like the original, this bland made-for-TV flick tries to paint Barbara Graham as a well trod-upon girl-who-never-got-a-break. It also tries to make her out as innocent of the Mabel Monohan murder. That is all bull hockey. Babs was a mean as hell and guilty to boot. Throw in the obvious feminist slant and it's enough to put you off your TV dinner.
I seen this TV movie back in 1989 it was so great so sad I would love to see this movie again .. I know what she done was bad but what they put her though is worse ,, my children where very young when this movie was played on tv back in 1989 I have talk to my children about this movie many times over the years and I keep a eye on my tv guide list hoping that someday they will add this movie back on tv once again for all the young hearts to see .. this movie is a A++ to me .
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