Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Failing of Raymond (1971)



Network: ABC
Original Air Date: November 27th, 1971

Jane Wyman made her small screen movie debut in The Failing of Raymond, a movie that will come across as a fantasy for those who felt the school system let them down. I’d ask you to raise your hand but there’s just way too many of you – and that’s too school-like anyway. Raymond (Dean Stockwell in a brilliant performance) is an outsider whose fate was set the day he failed a test in high school. What followed over the next ten years was a life of misery and more disappointments, landing him in a mental institution. When he figures out that the teacher who done him wrong, Ms. Bloomquist (Jane Wyman) is retiring, he escapes the institute and terrorizes her.

Creepy dream sequence

The Failing of Raymond is an interesting comment on the education structure and places the blame of Raymond's horrible life on both his and his ex-teacher’s shoulders. Raymond definitely had issues, he suffers from paranoia and can be a little slow on the uptake, but Ms. Bloomquist also put her married lover (Dana Andrews with a really bad tan and dye job) over her students. I won't say she's a bitch, but she certainly does come off as self-centered and partially unable to communicate with her kids. How ten years have changed both she and Raymond, only her life seemed to get better, or at least more centered. Raymond spent his days in ridicule and abuse. It's a compelling take on the trigger effect concept. The fact that one test in high school can map out the rest of your days makes for a disturbing premise, and the ideas are handled with a lot of thought here.

A very young Katey Sagal and a middle aged Murray Hamilton

I like that Raymond isn't portrayed as pure evil. He's really a very sad character who just wants to prove that he could have passed the dang test if only Ms. Bloomquist had attended to him properly. He even has a girlfriend at the institution who is this lost, wide-eyed creature (a very young and pretty Katey Sagal in her first role! Her father Boris was the director). It's obvious Raymond would never hurt her, and you can tell by the gentleness of their situation that he really doesn't want to hurt Ms. Bloomquist either, he just needs to prove his case.

The cast is amazing and besides Stockwell and Wyman you’ll also see the late great Murray Hamilton and Tim O’Connor. Boris Sagal was quite the television film and mini-series director before his untimely death in 1981. Besides fathering the lovely Katey Sagal, he was also the dad of Jean and Liz Sagal from Double Trouble. I.E. The best show that ever aired in the history of the world and even the whole universe. Really.


One colored Dana Andrews. Why Dana - Why?!?

Like my last post on the ultra rare Seven in Darkness, The Failing of Raymond kind of symbolizes the problem with being nostalgically inclined. Here is an ultra-rare TV movie that I have spent years searching for, based solely on the enticing premise. The upshot of being so inclined to love and seek out these films is that I’m seldom disappointed. I guess that’s why you won’t find too much in the way of negative reviews here. But as I’ve said before, I’m not here for that. But I’d like to think I watch these movies with more than just a pair of rose colored glasses. The Failing of Raymond is a well thought out thriller that will please any fans of the sub-genre. It’s not so hard to find now that the internet exists – and frankly, the internet and my iPod about the only two things I think I’d have trouble giving up if I got a chance to go back in time. Oh yeah and my friends and family too, I guess.

2 comments:

Craig Edwards said...

They really made some interesting movies in those early TV movie years. I'd want to see this one based on the premise alone - but with the added bonus of Stockwell? Fugeddaboudit!

VoyagerG said...

They really don't make TV movies like this anymore. Nothing that really addresses an issue and speaks to a viewer. This problem of a student's life hinging on one lousy exam is an explosive problem in Asia, particularly Japan and Korea. Their TV dramas feature those themes too often, students cracking under pressure, jumping off rooftops, etc, it's a sad situation. Interesting how the pressure's off these days in the American School system, compared to the time this TVM was made. There's a positive and negative effect for the both the lax and strict ways of schooling and testing.