Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cry Panic (1974)

Network: ABC
Original Air Date: February 6th, 1974

Even with the upcoming release of Dark Night of the Scarecrow the fact still lingers that most of the classic television movies have yet to find a home on DVD (or even on vhs for that matter). Whether they are stuck in copyright hell or the studios just think a DVD release won't generate any revenue, there are still plenty of interesting movies available. I’m always shocked at what I can find on disc in some cheap release. Would I prefer a better transfer, extras and perhaps a little commentary from the actors or filmmakers? Sure, but beggars can’t be choosers, and I support the release of any TV film wholeheartedly.

Looks dead to me!

I was happily surprised when I picked up a copy of Cry Panic, which is featured on a two movie disc with something called The Inside Man (not a TV movie), to find a very good movie. I think it’s easy, even for big fans of television films (yeah, all three of us!) to forget that dozens, if not hundreds of television movies came out in that golden era and just because it doesn’t have Trilogy or Satan in the title, they’re still worth checking out.

She's got a secret.

And that brings me to the actual film (I know, enough already, on with the movie!). John Forsythe puts in a good turn as David Ryder, a man who’s been driving all night to a job interview. As he’s passing through a small town, he accidentally hits a man, knocking him (and his own car) into a ditch. Once he realizes he’s killed this man, Ryder high tails it to the first house to call for help. A beautiful woman (Anne Francis) answers the door, leads him to the phone and hands him a stiff drink. Back at the sight of the hit and run, Sheriff Cabot (the great Earl Holliman) has already begun pulling out the car and searching for the dead man. When no body is found, Ryder is led to the police station to make a statement and told he’s just drunk and tired and needs to rest. The mysterious woman shows up a bit later at a bar, giving Ryder the heads up that something is just not right in this idyllic little desert town. Things begin to unwind in a confused fashion as nothing Ryder claims to have happened can be substantiated. Has he gone crazy or are his conspiracy theories correct?

They've got a secret too.

Cry Panic is pretty great. There’s a little bit of Lynch-esque beats with Francis and the concept of nothing-is-what-it-seems-in-this-small-town. Of course, it never goes to the extremes Lynch does, nor does it possess any kind of nightmarish imagery, but there is definitely a feel to this film, or at least during the first half. The second half is played a bit more straight as the mystery gets ironed out, but is just as enticing as the first.

The actors in Cry Panic are great, giving every bit of dialog a second meaning. Is the postman really trying to abscond with Ryder’s mail or is he just sorting the letters? I love the way it all unfolds in front of Ryder. The pacing is phenomenal. It’s slow, yes, but deliberate and helps make the mystery interesting to us. The bits with the mysterious woman are done in just such a way that it leaves a palpable air of unease afterwards. Cry Panic is a movie that knows its medium and how to pull off small screen thrills without going to grandiose measures. It’s all about the little things here and does not disappoint.

Ryder has seen better days.


john said...

when i watched this i picked up on a lynch type vibe as well. i really thought that it might end with the main character being the next hit and run victim and the entire cycle starting all over again with the next driver. thanks for your review.

Unknown said...

This movie was ten times more entertaining than anything David Lynch has ever made.

SmokyKnows said...

Great flick! Saw it in the 70s while tripping lol!

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this gem - like an episode of the Twilight Zone