|Index||4 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** In a what goes around comes around like episode we have
Judge Howard Stimming, Ronald Reagan, forced to face the music for a
decision he made two years ago in a capital case before him. That's
when he sentenced convicted murderer Sherm Tyler, Scott Marlowe,to
death for first degree murder.
Not satisfied that he had his execution commuted to life imprisonment Tyler later escaped from prison and with his wife Avis, Anne Helm, kidnapped Judge Stimming as he was driving home from work in an effort to exact revenge and punishment on him for what he did to Tyler two years ago. As it turned out Judge Stimming was a lot more tougher then what either Tyler and his wife ever suspected to be. He not only showed no fear at all of their treats to murder him but had them thinking later on what a big mistake they made in trying to murder the Judge in the first place.
**SPOILERS*** Tense filled episode with Judge Stimming not at all intimidated by his kidnappers which in the end made them not himself crack under the very pressure they put on him. Whatever Tyler went through he had it coming in that he was convicted of murder in the first degree and not the innocent man as he liked to think of himself. That fact started to make an impression on Tyler when no matter how much he tried to convince himself in how right he was in what he was doing, like comparing what the judge did to him to what the Nazis did to their victims, his conscience finally got the best of him.
But in the end it was Judge Stimming who learned by his ordeal by fire that justice has to be meted out with an equal amount mercy for it to truly be justice. And as we see at the conclusion of the movie Judge Stimming's decisions especially in capital cases will not be, if they ever were, that easy for him to hand out anymore. that's when the person standing before him, after being convicted by a jury of his peers,life is at stake. But unless he chooses another profession Judge Stimming will be forced by law to hand them out anyway: That's if he has no other choice or wiggle room left in him having the punishment fit the crime!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A Cruel And Unusual Night is yet another winner from the old Kraft
suspense series, a tale told partly in flashbacks of a young man who,
having been saved from death in the gas chamber twice, kidnaps the
judge who sentenced him and puts him through the same ordeal he went
through, which is waiting for certain death over an extended period,
overnight rather than several weeks, holding him at gunpoint the whole
time, making him wear a white shirt, just as he did; and at the
appointed hour he promises to kill him.
The flashbacks of the young man's ordeal in prison are intense, featuring solid performances by mostly little known actors (Wright King and Rusty Lane, among others), and a standout one from Scott Marlowe as the accidental murderer, as he literally counts the hours, then minutes, then seconds, till he's brought to the death chamber, only to have the governor save him at the last minute, then, no sooner is he conscious, deciding that the young man should die after all! As things turn out, the man's life is spared, he is returned to prison, escapes, abducts the judge, then forces him to go through the same torture.
Unfortunately for this young criminal, the judge is one tough dude, refuses to play along, as it were, as he goes toe to toe with his captor, making perfect sense every time he speaks; and he tries to wear down the resistance of the man's wife, who is reluctantly in league with her troubled husband, who didn't even write her a final letter when he was facing death in prison, something the judge does do. The episode tells two tales, one of which concerns the central character, a disturbed young man with a criminal past; the other his tormenting of the hard as nails judge.
I like the way the story, really stories, unfold in this episode. The character development, and there's a good deal of it, is effective and at times surprising; and some interesting issues are raised along the way. The man who holds the judge captive is, for all his flaws, a deeply human, sympathetic individual who has obviously had a very tough life and knows that he's done bad things. On the other hand, the judge is a cold fish, possesses an innate decency but no empathy. We see both sides of the story, and while it's difficult for any reasonable person to find the bad behavior and mental cruelty of the escaped criminal agreeable, one does come to understand something about how and why he got to be this way.
The battle of wills between these two very different individuals is the dramatic core of the story, for while judge has his good points despite his cold, unyielding personality (he could have behaved more wisely in his captivity); while the young man's Achilles heel, aside from his criminality, is his immense self-absorption. Neither man is capable of understanding the behavior of the other. Future president Ronald Reagan's performance as the tough judge is excellent, and he's spot on as a bright but not brilliant man for whom professionalism comes first, humanity second.
A Cruel And Unusual Night is a real nail biter, and the ending, the final scene, is highly unsettling, and to me came as a big surprise. I didn't see it coming, would never have guessed; and I don't think you will, either.
There's a 'letter of the law' judge who is known for his harsh
sentences--including some death penalties he's meted out to defendants.
This is an interesting set-up--particularly since Judge Stimming is
played by none other than Ronald Reagan--just s short time before he
became governor of California!
Soon after the show begins, Sherman Tyler (Scott Marlowe) pops out of the back seat when the judge is driving home. At gunpoint, he takes the judge for a memorable little trip--and where Tyler himself is the judge and sentences Stimming to death for his crimes! And Tyler's wife is there to help him. What follows is a lengthy flashback sequence where Tyler explains why he was a victim of the system and the judge supposedly overstepped his authority.
So the important question is whether or not this is any good. After all, "Kraft Suspense Theatre" was a rather uneven series. For every great episode, they had one that stank and one that was mediocre. Well, I liked the plot--it was a pretty cool idea. And, it was also really macabre and affecting when you saw the folks strapping Tyler into the seat in the gas chamber!! Overall, a very well done and tense episode. I also really appreciate how the show does NOT tell you that the death penalty is right or wrong and it opens it up for a variety of interpretations and opinions.
Of course, this is for me the highlight of the whole show. Outstanding episode supported by awesome performances. But it is never explained how the young convict escaped from prison, from a high security jail, a penitentiary, and not only a country prison farm, after he had his penalty deleted by the governor of the state? And it is not explained what happens to him and his girl friend after they released the judge. It is a shame that those point remains in the shadow. But besides this, yes, I repeat, this is a really excellent psychological character study. A pure masterpiece. Leslie Martinson gave here one of his best, besides BATMAN TV show.
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