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Crawlspace (1972)

A childless middle-age couple adopt a troubled youth they find living in their crawlspace and attempt to get him to rejoin society with tragic results.


John Newland, Buzz Kulik (uncredited)


Ernest Kinoy (screenplay), Herbert Lieberman (novel)


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Cast overview:
Arthur Kennedy ... Albert Graves
Teresa Wright ... Alice Graves
Tom Happer Tom Happer ... Richard Roy Atlee
Eugene Roche ... Sheriff Emil Birge
Matthew Cowles ... Dave Freeman
Dan Morgan Dan Morgan ... Mr. Harlow
Roger Serbagi Roger Serbagi ... Davalos
Louise Campbell Louise Campbell ... Miz Gerard
Fleet Emerson Fleet Emerson ... Wheeler


A childless middle-age couple adopt a troubled youth they find living in their crawlspace and attempt to get him to rejoin society with tragic results. Written by Tom Eiler <teiler@erols.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They Wanted A Son ... He Gave Them A Nightmare!


Horror | Thriller







Release Date:

11 February 1972 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Norwich, Connecticut, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Titus Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Dave Freeman: Wait your turn, huh?
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User Reviews

Tom Happer Comes Out of the Shadows
10 May 2009 | by wes-connorsSee all my reviews

Older couple Arthur Kennedy and Teresa Wright (as Albert and Alice Graves) are in their New England retirement home when handsome young Tom Happer (as Richard Atlee) emerges from their basement, where he has "put in a new coil". Strangely attracted to Mr. Happer, Ms. Wright asks him to stay for supper, and Mr. Kennedy lets him borrow a rare addition of Blake from his library. Happer enjoys his stay, and drives off with the book of poetry. Later, Kennedy goes into the basement to investigate an electoral problem and discovers some of Happer's belongings in the "Crawlspace" under his house, including the borrowed book.

Sometime later, Kennedy and Wright realize the young man is living in the "Crawlspace" under their house. They decide to feed him, and try to get him to move into the spare bedroom. Kennedy wants to find him a job and Wright adds his name to her sister's Christmas card, "Love from Albert, Alice and Richard." The childless couple has obviously "adopted" their intruder has a surrogate son. But, Happer is weird - he carves "GOD" in the garage door, and refuses to come out of the basement for almost two months. Finally, at Christmas, he emerges from the "Crawlspace".

Now nearly mute, Happer helps around the house and yard; and, the three are happy. Still, Happer refuses to sleep in his bedroom, and retires to the "Crawlspace" at night. One day, chief of police Eugene Roche (as Emil Birge) drops by to warn Kennedy and Wright about long-haired Happer, who he believes might be a college drop-out involved with drugs. Happer reveals, when quizzed, that he formerly lived in a cave, and moved to the "Crawlspace" for the winter. Kennedy learns he is actually from Wyoming. All goes well, until Happer begins to interact with the small town's intolerant citizens…

Perhaps because it sticks to Herbert Lieberman's 1967 novel (until the ending), this is an above average edition of the "New CBS Friday Night Movies". Probably, because it was not part of ABC's top-rated Tuesday line-up, "Crawlspace" fell through the cracks. Veterans Kennedy and Wright are terrific as the lonely, unfulfilled couple. And, Happer is extraordinary as the personification of troubled youth - in an extremely difficult role, he manages to make his character both scary and sympathetic - and, he never succumbs to the temptation to overact the part.

If it had aired earlier in the season, the three might have been considered for Emmy Awards. Interestingly, acclaimed director Buzz Kulik did win an "Emmy" during the 1971-72 eligibility period for "Brian's Song" - the movie which dominated the awards that year. Mr. Kulik was replaced on "Crawlspace" by director John Newland, but would return to the creepy loner guy fold with ABC's "Bad Ronald" (1974). But, for the truest version of the alienated, isolated, and/or insane 1970s counterculture outcast youth, Happer's "Richard" shouldn't be missed.

Happer looks like he should have become a much more successful actor. He was one of the many "Dark Shadows" stars awarded parts in TV and theatrical movies during the early 1970s - he played a "Romeo"-type role on "Shadows", and would have continued on the show, had it been renewed for Spring 1971 season. Undoubtedly, Happer was one of the many "Dark Shadows" cast believing "DS" was a small part of a larger career; but, with a few exceptions, fans wanted them to remain in the "Shadows" eternally.

A more successful soap opera career was had by Matthew Cowles (as Dave Freeman), who plays a villainous townie. Jerry Goldsmith's score is also worth noting. "Crawlspace" was released on DVD in unfortunately "un-restored" condition (it's worth looking to see if CBS had a different edit, in some warehouse or vault). Until (if ever!) it's restored, the good folks at "Wild Eye" should receive "Dark Shadows" thanks for making Tom Happer's "Crawlspace" and Jonathan Frid's "The Devil's Daughter" the first two movies in their "TV Movie Terror Collection".

******** Crawlspace (2/11/72) Buzz Kulik, John Newland ~ Arthur Kennedy, Teresa Wright, Tom Happer

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