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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nightkill (released in 1980) - Starring Robert Mitchum, Jaclyn Smith, James Franciscus and Mike Connors

A perfect suburban set up, the sound of shower water cascading, the brief interlude of  a conversation  between two lovers, unbeknownst to whom - the intimate details of which are being recorded. Katherine Atwell (played by Jaclyn Smith) arrives at the airport in Phoenix, afraid she’s late; till she sees her husband Wendell (played by Mike Connors) at the bar at the airport - he got there earlier, after having stashed a whole lot of greens in one of the airport lockers. Their marriage seems ideal to the average outsider, but peel away the façade and what you get is a whole lot of bitterness and anger at Wendell’s end, which he readily unleashes on Cathy. At work, Wendell’s hell bent on shutting down a research lab, as the government sees it fit to do so - he asks Steve Fuller (played by James Franciscus) to be the harbinger of ill news - the loyal sidekick seems not to like being a ‘hatchet man’. Wendell even asks Steve to step into his shoes and be Cathy’s date at an award function - now this, the latter doesn’t seem to mind!
When the three meet that evening at the Atwell’s residence, Steve gets to see the loathsome manner in which Wendell treats his wife, he even insults the housekeeper. As Cathy peruses through papers that her husband insists she sign without bothering to read, while Wendell plays with his caged pet, Steve laces his drink with a sinister looking substance in a vial. Suddenly, he collapses, and Cathy exclaims that he might be having a heart attack - Steve drily remarks ‘No he’s not, I  just killed the b@*t*d - its tasteless, odorless and real fast.’ He stops Cathy from calling the doctor - and the audience now stumbles on the truth about Cathy’s relationship with Steve - he only asks her to trust him, and tells her that he loves her. All the while somebody is recording their conversation.




They conceal the body in a large freezer, even as the family dog whines beside it. The two then go on to alter the pictures of Wendell in his passport - replacing them with Steve’s. The latter intends to steal the dead man’s identity - intending to travel to Washington under this guise. Proving to the police that Wendell went missing on the trip would then be cakewalk. He leaves Cathy to attend an award function held in her honor by two friends - Herbert and Monika Childs (played by Fritz Weaver and Sybil Danning), giving her an alibi. Steve promises Katherine that he will be back the next day.
Seems fine so far, but the efficient secretary at Wendell’s office - reports him missing to the police. Cathy is then questioned by detective Lt. Donner (played by Robert Mitchum), after which she thinks it’s best to dispose of the body - but when she opens the freezer - Wendell’s body isn’t in it - its Steve’s! Apparently, Wendell was aware of her liaison with Steve, and had bribed a detective to bug the house - he was responsible for the recordings. Meanwhile, Monika Child warns Cathy that she must stop flaunting her affair with Steve - how does she tell her he’s dead? Now, it’s his body she has to hide, putting it in a body bag, and driving off, she encounters a road block, due to an accident - she finally rides out into the wilderness, and leaves the body in an abandoned shack, a former building site - the body rolls into the debris. As she plans to fly out to Denver, she hears Wendell Atwell’s name being announced to proceed to the courtesy telephone - stunned, Cathy stops in her tracks. From a distance, she can make out her supposedly - dead husband’s Stetson as he picks up the receiver to speak to someone - she runs hysterically back into her car.
A thriller that seems slow on the pickup, directed by Ted Post, the film still manages to hold your imagination - Robert Mitchum’s performance is great!

Nightkill (released in 1980) - Starring Robert Mitchum, Jaclyn Smith, James Franciscus and Mike Connors

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