Friday, August 24, 2012

She Cried Murder (1973)

Network: CBS
Original Air Date: September 25th, 1973

I am always swooning over Christopher George. I suppose I just can’t get enough of his tan and chiseled charms. But while I’ve been busy mooning over Chris’s darkly handsome looks, I seem to have neglected his lovely wife. I honestly adore Lynda Day George, the striking blonde who often appeared alongside Chris in films and television. What an amazingly gorgeous couple.

OK, enough drooling. This is Lynda's moment!

Shot in Toronto, Canada, She Cried Murder is a thriller featuring Lynda as Sarah, a model and recent widow who sees someone murder a woman by pushing her onto the subway tracks. She calls the police but when they arrive to take her statement, she recognizes Inspector Brody (Telly Savalas) as the murderer. This, of course, sets of a string of events that pits Sarah against a police officer that no one believes could be a killer.

She Cried Murder is essentially one brisk and suspenseful chase scene. Clocking in at a mere 66 minutes - quite shy of the average 74 minute running length of the tele-films from this era - there is no time for subplots, or anything that might look like a distraction. From point A we can clearly see point B coming, but the chase scene maintains interest thanks to the location changes every few minutes.

While there is not much in the way of character development, screenwriters Timothy Bond and Merwin Gerard, along with Lynda's understated performance, create a rather interesting depiction of Sarah. She is originally painted as a vulnerable widow, prone to over emotional moments. When she tells the cops she must be wrong about seeing the killer, the police and her friend shrug it off as grief creating hallucinations (Yellow Wallpaper, anyone). Also, her livelihood is based on her beauty, as if to support a stereotype of women who should be seen but not heard. However, Sarah will prove that she’s much stronger than anyone is willing to give her credit for (and that’s including herself). At one point Sarah’s son is taken hostage by Inspector Brody and her deer caught in the headlights expression led me to believe she'd just limp over to the madman, but instead she works calmly against the odds, turning them in her favor. She manages to stay one step ahead – barely – of the menacing Inspector, while the other police officers (led by Mike Farrell) are always just one step behind.

Mike Farrell is given little to do, but Savalas is fantastic as the dangerous Inspector (as if there was any doubt). He uses his power as a cop to stay close behind our heroine, which keeps her on her feet! We only know a little about why he's a good cop gone bad, but there are many allusions to sordid dealings leading to far darker crimes. It also doesn't hurt that Savalas looks creepy! No offense Telly, but you were one serious looking dude!

Timothy Bond would go on to write the excellent slasher Happy Birthday to Me, which also featured a young heroine crippled by the death of a loved one (although her ending was not so happy). Merwin Gerard worked mostly in TV movies, and he also wrote The Screaming Woman (1972) and The Invasion of Carol Enders (1973), which are, much like She Cried Murder, great examples of lean filmmaking. Director Herschel Daugherty had previously teamed up with Gerard for the excellent 1972 tele-thriller The Victim, which starred Elizabeth Montgomery, and is yet another instance of letting the low budgets work in your favor. The Victim was a little more stringent in its presentation, as it was locked mostly into one location, but the woman-in-peril genre never looked better than in these kinds of films because actresses suited for the small screen knew how to bring just the right amount of soft glamour along with a sense of strength and dignity to their projects. Yes, I have wrongly relegated Lynda to being Mrs. George too often. She certainly holds her own in She Cried Murder.

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