Tuesday, January 20, 2009

All the Kind Strangers

Stacy Keach plays photo-journalist Jimmy Wheeler in this 1974 tv-movie. He's driving along some back roads in rural America when he stops to give a ride to a small boy carrying a big bag of groceries. He offers to give the boy a ride home, but home turns out to be an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere where the kid lives with six other children. But they don't have parents -- what they do have is a woman (played by Samantha Eggar) that they've kidnapped and forced into acting like their mother. And now with the arrival of Wheeler, they have captured a father, too. And they don't take too kindly when their "parents" want to leave. Wheeler discovers that previous "parents" who have tried to escape have never been seen again. And there have been many previous ones.
The two adults try to leave, but the kids have a pack of trained attack dogs to keep their "parents" under control. Wheeler tries to escape a number of times, but those darn dogs are too much for him. Eventually Wheeler decides to pretend to go along with this crazy game, hoping to find a chance to escape with "mom."
Clearly, this flick was inspired by the success of Deliverance two years earlier. Two of the older children are played by John Savage (The Deer Hunter) and teen-idol Robby Benson, who even sang the title song.
There's could be worse ways to spend 74 minutes, but I'm hard pressed to figure out how. Actually, that's a little unfair. Some of the kids are atrocious actors to be sure, but Keach and Savage hold their own while wallowing in this sub-par material.

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