Crawlspace (TV Movie 1972) Poster

(1972 TV Movie)

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Tom Happer Comes Out of the Shadows
wes-connors10 May 2009
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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Provocative, unusual TV-movie falls apart in the final act...
moonspinner553 April 2009
Ernest Kinoy adapted this bizarre story from a novel by Herbert Lieberman, concerning a young, unemployed electrician in a small town who returns to the last house he worked at--that of a friendly, elderly couple--and lives in seclusion in the basement. The couple, who have no children of their own, are initially disturbed to learn the kid has been sleeping in a damp, cramped crawlspace under their house...but soon they find themselves welcoming his appearances, fixing him dinner, buying him clothes, and giving him things to do. The local sheriff, and apparently some of the town residents, quickly find out about this unspoken arrangement between the wayward youth and his benefactors, causing all hell to break loose. For a TV-movie, this is pretty strong stuff, commendably given a matter-of-fact treatment which helps the plot unfold naturally (even if the material itself is unconventional). Unfortunately, Kinoy's teleplay goes awry in the third act, changing the personalities of its key players without warning and concluding on an absurdly melodramatic note. Otherwise, two-thirds of a good picture, and the performances are excellent all around.
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Powerful Short Film
halinen mari13 March 2007
I saw this movie when I was 18 and never forgot it. It is a shame that it is not shown in re-runs. It was absolutely unforgettable. One of the most powerful short films I ever saw, for being a made for TV movie.It was so relevant to the times,the end of the Hippie culture. It also played on the generation gap conflict that was part of the 60's and early 70's.

The characters draw you in because they are so real and believable. If they ever tried to redo it, they would have to find really convincing actors for the parts. I encourage everyone to try to find a copy of this film, it ranks up with Duel.They made some really good short made for TV films in that series.
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An engrossingly creepy 70's made-for-TV thriller
Woodyanders4 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Albert Graves (splendidly played by Arthur Kennedy) and his wife Alice (a top-drawer performance by Teresa Wright) are a nice middle-aged couple who discover young, homeless, troubled Richard Atley (a frightfully edgy portrayal by Tom Happer) residing in a crawlspace in the basement of their house. They adopt Richard as if he was the son they never had. Things work out for a spell, but eventually turn sour when Richard's volatile nature asserts itself with tragic results. Director John Newland (who also gave us the terrifically freaky "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"), working from an intriguing script by Ernest Kinoy, does an able and effective job of creating and maintaining an absorbingly mysterious tone. Jerry Goldsmith's beautifully classy and eerie score adds substantially to the tension. Urs Furrer's slick, pretty cinematography likewise hits the spot. Kennedy and Wright do sterling work in the leads; they receive bang-up support from Happer, Eugene Roche as folksy, responsible sheriff Emil Birge, Dan Morgan as doddery old shopkeeper Harlow, and Matthew Cowles as local troublemaker Dave Freeman. This offbeat and enjoyable little winner would make a perfect double bill with the similarly solid and unnerving "Bad Ronald."
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A sort of requiem for the 1960s
Timothy Phillips19 September 2014
Like the reviewer above me, I saw this when I was young and it returns to my thoughts has a certain haunting quality to it that is hard to define. Powerful and evocative and yet very understated. There is an air of reconciliation for the generations here, after the turbulent and impassioned separation of the 1960s, just passed.

No performances stand out in my mind...Matthew Cowles is believable as the small-town heavy, and Arthur Kennedy turns in a memorable performance in the twilight of his career.

It's the eerie and unexplained presence of the young man...almost like a lost child, how the old couple summons him up from the crawlspace and just accept him as their surrogate child, that's always stuck with me and made this movie return to my thoughts again and again, after all of these years.
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Okay Made-for-TV Flick from the 70s
Rapeman16 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Albert and Alice Graves are a retired elderly couple who discover a wild-looking homeless man named Richard living in the crawlspace of their basement. At first they are a little worried and ponder ways to get rid of him but eventually their sympathetic side gets the better of them (as well as Alice's motherly tendencies) and they take him in. First they begin leaving food outside his hole and then Alice even knits him a wee jumper for Xmas. In return Richard helps around the house, mainly chopping wood (he seems have a thing for axes).

Everything is going along swimmingly until the jock at the grocery store rips off Richard $20 and he goes back that night and trashes the store with an axe. Albert and Alice cover up for Richard as they are beginning to think of him as the son they never had, but one night after returning home from the orchestra, the couple discover Richard has smashed Alice's loom (he has abandonment issues) and they begin to get a little worried. As time goes on Richard's behaviour becomes more and more psychotic & violent and the old couple basically become prisoners in their own home as Richard refuses to leave & won't let them leave either. This all culminates into a pretty bleak finale involving drunken jocks, the police and an axe (surprise, surprise).

Based on a novel by Herbert Lieberman and directed by John Newland (Don't be Afraid of the Dark), Crawlspace is a decent little low-budget 70s thriller. Arthur Kennedy's (Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Emmanuelle on Taboo Island) performance as Albert and Tom Happer's as Richard are both brilliant and Jerry Goldsmith's eerie score adds loads to the already tense & claustrophobic atmosphere. 4/10
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Worth seeing if you're curious
suegrantmayaseth5 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was pleased to see this old TV-movie was on DVD; we'd had the novel around the house when I was a kid, and I always wondered what this movie would be like. I just finished watching it a few minutes ago, and in my opinion, it's pretty much of a mess. If you're curious about these old 70s TV-movies, it's worth your time, but its brisk running time is actually one of the biggest problems. The plot moves so quickly, and so unrealistically, that some of it was almost laughable. It might be interesting to read the novel, as there MUST be more to this story than its choppy rendering here. It has that grainy, creepy early 70s feel (reminded me of "Let's Scare Jessica to Death" in that way), but don't rent/buy it expecting much, or I think you'll be very disappointed.
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Not a bad film, but the book is better
Desecr8924 August 2006
I'm afraid the other poster may be misremembering--I believe they are thinking of Bad Ronald, another ABC TV-movie of this period. Crawlspace, anyway, is about a retired couple who discover a young drifter living in their--surprise!--crawlspace and attempt to "adopt" him to fill a void in their lives. They try to socialize him and include him in their new "family," with tragic results.

I bought a used copy of the book online. I haven't read it since 7th grade, but so far it is just as good as I remember. My recollection is that the movie is entertaining, but not as good as the novel. Arthur Kennedy and Theresa Wright were both excellent, and it was pretty suspenseful for a movie-of-the-week.
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Some History of this movie
lou-maiorino17 February 2005
The movie was partly filmed in my father's old grocery store in 1972 in East Norwalk, CT. I was only 13 years old and all I remember was eating the many different kinds of cereals that were used for props in my father's store. I know that it took about 1.5 to 2 days to complete the shooting of the store scene. I was told that part of the movie was also shot in Westport or Weston, CT. There was also another movie shot in my father's store about a year later, but I am not sure what then name of it was. I would be interested in purchasing a DVD of this movie if I could find one. I have seen the movie when I was 13 year old, but I only remember the store scene and the scene were the boy lived in the crawlspace of a house.
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You, me … and the creep beneath our kitchen
Coventry26 March 2015
I had nearly given up all hope to ever see this particular "Crawlspace"! When you're actively searching for this title, you can encounter a couple of interesting cult movies, but not easily this 1972 made-for-TV movie. Now that I did finally get my eager little hands on a decent copy, I can safely state that it's another delightfully curious and out-of-the-ordinary TV-gem! On one hand it's a typical 70s TV-thriller, meaning that it is short and low- budgeted and not featuring any special effects, but on the other hand this also means that the plot is uniquely bizarre and that the atmosphere is moody and unsettling throughout. Additionally, it also means that it stars several adequate actors and actresses and that the story, although highly implausible and far-fetched, remains stuck in your mind and keeps you contemplating. Albert and Alice form a lovable elderly couple living in a remote countryside mansion. One day, they discover that the 20-something homeless and extremely introvert Richard has moved into the crawlspace underneath their house uninvited. So Albert and Alice react like any normally functioning person would react… They feed him milk & cookies, knit winter sweaters for him and invite him over to the family Christmas diner! They adopt and welcome Richard like the son they always wanted but never had, in fact. Problems arise when Richard turns out to be a bit of an aggressive sociopath and runs into a dispute with the local grocery boy. Based on a novel that I haven't read, the intriguing basic concept and character developments are undoubtedly the strongest points of this film. These, along with the excellent performances of Arthur Kennedy and Theresa Wright, make "Crawlspace" one of the finest TV-thrillers I have seen in my life. The pacing is slow but intense, the music and ambiance are continuously eerie and the inevitable climax is almost emotional. Matthew Coles also gives a good performance as the arrogant small-town bully, while Tom Happer (as the crawlspace resident) hits the exact right tone being simultaneously pathetic and menacing. Believe you me, this thriller is way better than director John Newland's widely acclaimed but vastly overrated "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark".
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After Almost 30 Years, Still Timely--Unfortunately!
Ainsley_Jo_Phillips1 June 1999
It's been awhile since I've seen this one, but I remember what it was about. A different young man is taunted by the so-called "normal" kids until he's finally driven to kill violently. This movie may be almost 30 years old, but (unfortunately) its message is still timely. Time to dust this one off and show it again. Good to watch as a family with discussion afterwards.
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Scary Movie when I was a kid!
hitwriter14 July 2005
I would love to see this film as an adult... It would air as the CBS Late Night movie when I was a kid... (I think it was made by the network as a TV film originally) and scared the heck out me as a kid.

We had a crawl space and the sounds from the duct vents would horrify me after seeing this for weeks!

It always seem to air when I would visit my grandfather's house (out of town) as well. He lived in a home from the turn of the century.

Talk about a house that could make some noise after midnight.

I too would love to see this released on DVD.

With Arthur Miller and Teresa Wright it ought to have been made available to the public by now? It appears a remake is due for 2007 which should get the original re-released on DVD.
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An imperfect but riveting story.
Scott LeBrun6 April 2018
Screen veterans Arthur Kennedy ("The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue") and Teresa Wright ("Shadow of a Doubt") play Albert and Alice Graves, a childless middle-aged couple living outside a small town, on the edge of the woods. They discover that Richard Roy Atlee (Tom Happer), a young man who's recently left his job, is now squatting in a crawlspace underneath their kitchen. Initially disturbed, they come to welcome his presence, and although somewhat sullen and withdrawn, he does appreciate the kindness that they show towards him. He never does, however, take them up on their offer to move into one of their actual rooms; he prefers the crawlspace.

There is a feeling of grim inevitability to this engaging made for TV combination of character study and psychological horror. Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise when Richard displays a dark side to his personality. Yet, one can't really hate him; you do feel some sympathy towards him, and realize that he is mentally imbalanced and needs family ties & a sense of belonging.

Of course, this being a TV movie, it's disturbing without being graphic in any way, even when people are felled by bullets or an axe. It's all directed with efficiency by John Newland, who went on to make 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark', one of the most famous TV horror movies of the 1970s. It gets by largely due to convincing performances by the main trio of actors, and capable work by character actors Eugene Roche ("Slaughterhouse-Five"), as the concerned local police chief, and Matthew Cowles ('All My Children') as a young troublemaker. Kudos, also, to Jerry Goldsmith for his affecting music score and the filmmakers for creating a sombre atmosphere.

Good, if not great, material was scripted by Ernest Kinoy, a TV veteran who worked on things such as 'The Defenders' and 'Roots', from the novel by Herbert Lieberman. It doesn't conclude as strongly as it starts, but it keeps its grip for a decently paced 75 minutes.

Seven out of 10.
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Why TV movies are weird goodness
Sam Panico7 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Based on the novel by Herbert Lieberman, Crawlspace is what happens when Albert (Arthur Kennedy, The Sentinel, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) and Alice (Teresa Wright, Best Supporting Actress for the film Mrs. Miniver, as well as The Little Foxes and The Pride of the Yankees) Graves take in Richard Atlee as their adopted son.

Well, let's hold on a second. The Graves have moved to a small town to help Albert recuperate from his heart attack. And when their furnace goes, the repair company sends Richard to fix it. They invite him over for dinner and the furnace goes bad a few days later. When the new repairman shows up, he tells them that Richard disappeared.

Strange sounds come from the crawlspace. Turns out Richard has been living there. And even when the Graves adopt him and try to care for him, he refuses to sleep anywhere but the crawlspace.

Even after Sherriff Birge warns the couple about the boy, they keep him in their home. But then, Richard starts acting out. His violent outbursts toward the Graves and the entire town (particularly a general store) increase in intensity and menace.

Directed by John Newland and Buzz Kulik (who also did Bad Ronald), this February 11, 1972 TV movie is slow, haunted and pretty effective. You can see why the couple wanted Richard in their lives, as he becomes the only topic of their conversations. And as he begins to fix things around the house, he becomes oddly necessary.

"What the hell are we doing with a boy in the hole in our cellar?" You'll wonder this same question! This is a real actor movie, with Arthur Kennedy really shining here, his anger toward what he perceives as Richard's rudeness balanced by Teresa Wright's need for someone to care for. The scene where she asks if she should add Richard's name to Christmas cards is heartbreaking.

The police finally give up on trying to convince Albert and Alice to give up Richard and refuse their calls when a gang of boys he's feuding with attack their house. Despite pleas for Richard to leave, despite offering him money, despite all attempt at sanity, Richard will not leave.

An attack from the gang of boys leads to Richard killing one of the men and Albert covers for Richard one last time. Alice loses her civility and screams that she wants Richard to leave. He attacks her, leading to Richard shooting him and dying for a stress-related heart attack. Only Alice is left behind in the crawlspace.

Crawlspace is filled with sadness. A couple that could never find a child. A man who can never find his place in the world. And even in the brief moments of happiness they find together, there is always the chance that it could fall apart at any moment. You can see the ending before the characters do, but that doesn't lessen its impact.
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Odd But Interesting Drama-Thriller
Rainey Dawn5 December 2016
This film is so odd that it becomes very interesting quickly. It would have been better to have a bit more backstory on Richard (the guy living in the crawlspace). The middle aged couple, the Graves, are without child and when they, found the young man Mrs. Graves' motherly side wanted to keep him, nurture him while her husband was reluctant at first but decided to be a father to him and try to reintroduce into society. Things are okay but weird for awhile but when Richard had trouble at a store with some ill-mannered young punks things start to get ugly. The Graves start having mixed emotions over Richard: they want to love him as Richard wants but they are also afraid of Richard.

A pretty darn good thriller - the film gets intense and scary. I found this one to be a worthwhile movie.

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Some Fine Performances but the Story Didn't Work for Me
Michael_Elliott25 October 2012
Crawlspace (1972)

** (out of 4)

Made-for-TV film has an elderly couple (Arthur Kennedy, Teresa Wright) finding out that a strange young man (Tom Happer) has been living in the crawlspace in their basement. The couple never had their own children so they decide to let the man stay there and try to teach him right and wrong but slowly things start to go bad. CRAWLSPACE has a lot of interesting ideas but sadly none of them have much done with them and in the end we're left with a very talky and long feeling movie. The film actually runs just 74-minutes so it's certainly not long in any way but while watching it the thing feels to go on and on. A lot of this is due to the fact that not much happens in the picture outside of the characters constantly talking about everything that's happening. This is one of those films were the people talk more about something that happened rather than us actually seeing what happened. I say this because there are so many conversations between the husband and wife yet they never seem overly worried about everything that's happening. I mean, I had an extremely hard time believing that anyone could find someone living in their crawlspace and being okay with it. I never believed the story being told and I think had they simply had a reasonable discussion about it then I could have bought into it more. The film does contain some very good performances with both Kennedy and Wright coming off extremely good as the couple. Happer is also good in his role, although he isn't given too much to do since most of his time is unseen in his crawlspace. The film really doesn't turn to the horror elements until the very end so for the majority of the running time we're watching a drama that just never connects.
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These folks do what any couple would do when they find some young guy living in their crawlspace...
MartinHafer16 October 2016
Albert and Alice Graves (Arthur Kennedy and Teresa Russell) have a most unusual infestation in their house. Instead of rats, bugs or raccoons they have a teenager who has taken up residence in the crawlspace under their house!! Do they call Orkin or some other pest control company? Nope. Do they call the police or social services? Nah. Instead they decide to keep him and take care of him like a member of their family!! After all, they don't have kids and they sort of adopt the guy. Their response to this weirdo is anything but typical, that's for sure!! And as for this weirdo they name Richard, he is super-odd--looking a bit like a caveman and having some obvious emotional and possibly intellectual problems. It certainly is NOT like an episode of "Father Knows Best"!! So, what's to become of this odd family? Will they have a happily ever after or will Richard end up actually being a serial killer or, worse, an used car salesman?! Look for the film on YouTube to find out for yourself.

Interestingly, although the plot for this made for TV movie sounds ultra- bizarre, for the ABC Movie, it's actually relatively tame. After all, this is the same series that brought us alien impregnation ("The Stranger Within"), Witches reincarnated from the colonial period ("Crowhaven Farm"), Monsters living in the chimney ("Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"), a possessed piece of equipment ("Killdozer") and Hauntings ("The House That Would Not Die")...among other weird topics. Sure, many of the films were more mundane...but the network has got to be commended for approving pretty much any strange idea the writers came up with during the course of the series!

So is this a great made for TV movie? No. The plot leaves many plot holes unanswered--such as the couple never trying to get Richard any counseling as well as how quickly they went from a happy family to a couple under siege (their change in attitude towards Richar was simply too fast to be believable)! And, when they later had really SERIOUS problems, why didn't the couple go to the police and why did they behave like they did?! But on the other hand it is never dull in the least and deserves to be seen.

In some ways, this plot sounds like it was reworked into another made for TV movie, "Bad Ronald"'s also about a young man living within the walls of a home and some unsuspecting folks movie in to the place! It came out two years after "Crawlspace", so it looks like "Crawlspace" spawned at least one imitator!
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