AN AMERICAN DREAM (aka: SEE YOU IN HELL, DARLING) (director: Robert Gist; screenwriters: from the novel by Norman Mailer/Mann Rubin; cinematographer: Sam Leavitt; editor: George Rohrs; music: Johnny Mandel; cast: Stuart Whitman (Stephen Richard Rojack), Janet Leigh (Cherry McMahon), Eleanor Parker (Deborah Rojack), Barry Sullivan (Lt. Roberts), Lloyd Nolan (Barney Kelly), Murray Hamilton (Arthur Kabot), J.D. Cannon (Sgt. Walt Leznicki), Les Crane (Nicky), Warren Stevens (Johnny Dell), Joe De Santis (Eddie Ganucci), Stacy Harris (O’Brien), Susan Denberg (Ruta); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: William Conrad; Warner Archive Collection; 1966)
“At least it has a chilling opening scene.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

TV actor turned director Robert Gisthelms this inept version of a Norman Mailer novel, as he proves he’s too inexperienced to capture what the author was trying to say about the American Dream going wrong. It’s ugly, lurid, violent and surprisingly a long haul in tedium, as Gist turns it into an uninteresting trashy pic. But at least it has a chilling opening scene of an embittered and drunken estranged wife falling off the terrace of her penthouse apartment and landing dead thirty floors below in the street. This scene worked because of the frenzied but captivating bizarre performance by Eleanor Parker as the crazed wife. Unfortunately her early departure results in the pic’s demise, as the pic went suddenly flat after her exit.

Stephen Rojack (Stuart Whitman) is a former war hero and ex-Congressman who is now the acerbic muckraker host of a popular syndicated call-in talk show on television that deals in hot-button issues. His most recent show vents against the LA cops bought off by the Mafia, as he asks why Mafia boss Eddie Ganucci (Joe De Santis) has not been arrested for his mob activities.

Later that day Rojack’s wealthy alcoholic separated wife Deborah (Eleanor Parker) returns home from her long European holiday and calls hubby to taunt him with vivid descriptions of her trysts. The TV commentator visits Deborah’s penthouse to ask for a divorce, but she refuses saying she enjoys keeping him around to humiliate him with her verbal barbs. After a verbal and physical spat, Deborah falls off the terrace ledge. When brought down to the precinct house for questioning, Rojack tells Lt. Roberts (Barry Sullivan) and his team of detectives that it was a suicide and not an accident. Released because they couldn’t prove it was murder, Rojack by chance encounters his old flame, the nightclub singer Cherry McMahon (Janet Leigh), and they become lovers again. But Cherry is Ganucci’s mistress, and Rojack goes from one danger to another. The well-publicized hard-nosed TV man is now tailed by both the Mafia and the police, as he walks down a road filled with puzzling moral dilemmas and very real physical dangers.