I'm a big fan of John Cheever and these "3 by Cheever" episodes which played on PBS in the late 70's/early 80's were the ones that made me start reading him. OK, I was like only 14 or so but these stuck in my mind until my 20's when I began to read his stories.
Of the three ("The Sorrows of Gin" and "Oh Youth and Beauty" are the other two) "The 5:48" is the best. It's probably due to the morbid tone of the story. It involves a selfish man who carries on an affair with a woman he knows is mentally unstable. He then cruelly dismisses her from her job (she's his secretary) and acts as if he can simply dismiss her. But she will have none of it. She very deliberately stalks him one evening onto the 5:48 train home where she produces a revolver. What does she want? What does she do? Not going to tell you but I'm not sure if these "3" are even on video anywhere. If you want find out, check out the story in Cheever's SUPERB collection of short stories.
This mini-movie made of Cheever's short story is successful because it doesn't attempt to adhere precisely to every plot point in Cheever's story. Like any good adaptation, it creates it's own mood and feeling while remaining fundamentally true to it's source. That's true for all "3" of these adaptations. The same can also be said of the very, very fine adaptation of Cheever's "The Swimmer" with Burt Lancaster.
What's interesting to me about Cheever's stories is that the cliché about them being about spoiled, pampered, solidly middle class whites is pretty much completely accurate. What isn't mentioned is how these stories, and the people in them, are often macabre, very dark and at times, deeply disturbed and disturbing. These people live privileged lives but are still torn apart by passions and cruelties that have an air of savagery to them. Some of the stories are so disturbing that they feel like they'd fit into one of those old Alfred Hitchcock collections of stories. The stories are surprisingly melodramatic and never dull.
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