(director: Robert Wise; screenwriter: Based on the Novel by Frank De Felitta/Frank De Felitta; cinematographer: Victor J. Kemper; editor: Carl Kress; music: Michael Small; cast: Marsha Mason (Janice Templeton), Anthony Hopkins (Elliot Hoover), John Beck (Bill Templeton), Susan Swift (Ivy Templeton), Norman Lloyd (Dr Steven Lipscomb), Philip Sterling (Judge Harmon Langley), Robert Walden (Brice Mack), John Hillerman (Scott Velie), Stephen Pearlman (Russ Rothman), Mary Jackson (Mother Veronica), Aly Wassil (Maharishi Gupta Pradesh); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: De Felitta/Joe Wizan; United Artists; 1977)
“An old-fashioned thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Made after the recent success of The Excorcist, as eclectic veteran filmmaker Robert Wise (“West Side Story”/”The Body Snatcher”/”The Andromeda Strain”/”The Haunting”) presents an unconvincing and overlong psychological thriller with eastern spiritual overtones that degenerates into Hollywood hokum. It is based on the bestseller by Frank De Felitta and he also supplies the screenplay, which is too stiff to give the film the breathe it needed.
Anthony Hopkins plays Elliot Hoover, a British-born scientist whose five year old daughter Audrey Rose died on the slick Pennsylvania Turnpike on October 3, 1965 in a car accident that also killed her mother. After living in India and gradually believing in the Hindu belief of reincarnation, Elliot becomes convinced that his daughter was reincarnated two minutes after her death into Ivy Templeton (Susan Swift), the 11-year-old daughter of the respectable middle-class New Yorkers Bill and Janice Templeton (John Beck & Marsha Mason). After following Ivy from her private school to the fancy doorman apartment building where she resides, he makes contact with Ivy’s concerned parents, who think he might either br a kiddie pervert or extortionist, and in the presence of their lawyer Russ he tells them two psychics in India told him in detailed terms that Ivy is the reincarnation of Audrey. Audrey gets severe nightmares around the time of her birthday and when she gets one in the presence of Elliot, he is the only one able to calm her down by telling her he’s her daddy and she’s Audrey Rose. The protective parents think that he’s a lonely man who is a nutcase and could be potentially dangerous, but as the nightmares increase Janice gradually believes Elliot, who again helps Ivy settle down, while her hubby violently opposes his presence around their daughter.
It leads to a ridiculous courtroom climax, where the question of reincarnation is put on trial. What also follows is a hokey trance-like scene where Ivy crawls into her Catholic school’s bonfire before rescued, and ends with a tragic hypnosis session ordered by the court where the soul of Audrey Rose is set free–which supposedly leaves the film with a happy face. To make all the hokum seem creditable, the film closes with a quote about endless life from The Bhagavad-Gita.
What the film does get right is the emotional tension caused in the family about the possibilities of reincarnation and a sobering and, at times, intelligent look at a belief that has not been accepted by most in western society. It’s an old-fashioned thriller that even though it gets too far ahead of itself in its absurd take on reincarnation, nevertheless stumbles over an interesting way another culture looks at life.
REVIEWED ON 10/14/2005 GRADE: B-