The story revolves around Kathy, an assistant D.A., Richard, her lover, who is also the chief medical examiner, and Dr. Highley. Kathy's investigating the supposed suicide of a woman. It seems that she has been going to Dr. Highley for some kind of treatments but when side effects begin to surface, she plans to see another doctor but Dr. Highley kills her before she does. Presently, Kathy's working under the assumption that the woman's husband was the one who killed her, and Dr. Highley also wants to see her to treat her for some injuries she sustained in a car accident. When in reality Dr. Highley suspects that she may have seen him on the night he killed the woman, because she was in the hospital but on medication therefore not certain of what she saw.Written by
"The Cradle Will Fall" is an extremely tame and mundane made-for-television thriller of the mid-eighties, and usually one looks judgmentally at the director in such cases. I don't blame him for the mediocrity, because I know his work and know what he's capable of delivering. John Llewellyn Moxey was, hands down, the most competent TV-director of the sixties & seventies, and he has numerous masterpieces on his repertoire to prove it ("Where have all the People gone", "Nightmare in Badham County", "The Night Stalker", "City of the Dead", ...). In other words, the director knew very well how to generate tension and atmosphere; - the setting and character drawings simply didn't allow for it.
Neither do I want to put the fault on the source material. "The Cradle Will Fall" is based on a novel by Mary Higgins Clark, whom I learned recently died at the blessed age of 92. I have read a handful of books by Higgins Clark, like "I heard that song before", "Daddy's gone a Hunting" and "Terror Stalks the Class Reunion", but unfortunately not this one. Her mysteries and whodunits aren't as good as, say, the work of Agatha Christie, but definitely compelling and suspenseful. The plot of "The Cradle Will Fall" is intriguing as well, albeit quite derivative, as it revolves around a sinister doctor attempting to cover up the murder of a patient on who he experimented with a rejuvenation treatment. The investigating female District Attorney also happens to be a patient of his, and even witnessed how the doctor loaded the dead body in the trunk of a car. She was heavily sedated and recovering from a car accident at the time, but the doctor doesn't know that.
So, who's to blame for "The Cradle Will Fall" being tedious and unmemorable? The era and the producer standards, I suppose. The script contains far too many sub plots and soap opera elements. On top of her murder/suicide investigation, the female protagonist has personal and physical struggles. She has a childhood trauma relating to hospitals, her husband died, her new lover wants her to move to Seattle with her. This is acceptable in a novel, but a film script shouldn't necessarily include all these secondary storylines. The plot is far too complicated for Moxey to properly build up suspense. His TV-thrillers of the 70s were short, straightforward and hence much more effective. The body count is too low and there's an unforgivable shortage of action. Speaking of soap operas, allegedly the film takes place within the universe of a show called "Guiding Light". I never heard of it, but the prominently featuring hospital and even some of the supportive characters apparently come from that show.
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