Killjoy (1981)


(director: John Llewellyn Moxey; screenwriter: Sam Rolfe; cinematographer: Robert B. Hauser; editor: Denis Duckwall; cast: Kim Basinger (Laury Medford), John Rubinstein (Dr. Paul Trenton), Nancy Marchand (Dr. Martha Trenton), Robert Culp (Lou Corbin), Stephen Macht (Dr. Max Heller), Ann Dusenberry (Joy Morgan/Elaine Steel), Ann Wedgeworth (Rosie); Runtime: 100; Lorimar Productions; 1981)

“I hate to be a killjoy but guessing who did it, unfortunately, was the only enjoyment I got out of the film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A made for TV movie that looks and feels like a made for TV movie (it was stale). It’s entertaining ala Columbo’s TV style, as the last scene has all the suspects in the morgue and Lou Corbin (Robert Culp) as the cop who tricks the killer into confessing — just like on TV. Since I wasn’t held in suspense, I instead turned my attention on guessing who did it by using my conditioned experiences from watching such formula TV shows; therefore, I knew it wouldn’t be the most obvious one. I did guess who it was about half way through on a hunch, since the plot didn’t leave much in clues. Instead, it tried many different twists to throw you off, giving all the suspects a reason for doing the killing. I hate to be a killjoy but guessing who did it, unfortunately, was the only enjoyment I got out of the film.

The film opens as a blonde woman is being slashed to death with a pair of shears by an unseen assailant.

Set in a city hospital the film pays homage to soap operas like General Hospital, as in numerous scenes a patient is seen watching the unnamed soap. So is the bartender, Rosie (Ann Wedgeworth), watching the soaps where the doctors hangout. Dr. Paul Trenton (John Rubinstein) is the head of pathology at the hospital; his overbearing widow mother is a doctor at the same hospital; Dr. Max Heller (Stephen Macht) is the poor boy with ambition who worked his way through med school to his position as a heart surgeon and is best friends with the wealthy Trentons. Max is an arrogant playboy and pictured as a surgeon of questionable skills; and, then there is Laury Medford (Kim Basinger), the gorgeous trophy wife that both Paul and Max are seemingly after. Her father is the chairman of the hospital board, which bodes well careerwise for whichever doctor lands her.

At the bar Paul learns that Laury, his lifelong friend and the one his mother compulsively wants him to marry, has just become engaged to Max. When Paul’s mother finds out that he’s about to lose her, she goads him to let her help in getting Laury back. Paul is determined to be his own man and tells his mother to mind her own business.

Paul has Laury receive a letter addressed to Max from Max’s secret lover, Joy Morgan. Paul secretly wrote the letter and made sure Laury got it; he did it in order to get Laury’s attention that her future husband spent the night with a girlfriend the night he proposed to her. This upsets Laury and she goes with Paul to Joy’s house and finds evidence that Max and Joy knew each other.

Lou Corbin (Robert Culp) tails Laury and Paul as he’s suspicious that the missing travel agent, Joy Morgan, who is someone he once dated before she broke it off to date a doctor, is a victim of foul play. Corbin meets individually with all the suspects and only discloses that he’s a cop after his investigation is in its final stages.

It’s a forgettable film, relying on a surprise ending (coming out of nowhere) for it to make sense; it was probably intended as a pilot for a possible TV series. I saw it on the Mystery Channel at 3 a.m., when I was suffering from insomnia after a particularly grueling day. The B-film left a warm spot in my heart, but only because it cured my insomnia.