NIGHT DRIVE (NIGHT TERROR-tv movie)
(director: E.W. Swackhamer; screenwriters: Richard DeNeut/Carl Gabler; cinematographers: Frank Beascoechea/Vilis Lapenieks; editor: Aaron Stell; music: Fred Steiner; cast: Valerie Harper (Carol Turney), Richard Romanus (The Killer), Beatrice Manley (Aunt Vera), Nicholas Pryor (Man in Sports Car), Michael Tolan (Walter Turney), Jan Burrell (Waitress), Edward Cross (Dr. Jacobson-voice only), John Quade (Old Derelict), Quinn Cummings (Nancy), Damon Bradley Raskin (Buddy), Gary Springer (Gas Attendant), Gary Barton (Gas Attendant), John War Eagle (Indian); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Daniel Selznick/Joel Glickman; MGM; 1977)
“The slight story might work for television, but as a movie it doesn’t come close to channeling Spielberg’s similar themed legendary made-for-TV brainchild Duel.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Veteran TV director E.W. Swackhamer(“Man and Boy”) adequately directs this made-for-television, damsel-in-distress thriller. The teleplay is by Richard DeNeut and Carl Gabler.
In Phoenix, Arizona, the Turney family are moving to Denver, Colorado, because the patriarch Walter’s (Michael Tolan) firm is transferring him. His wife Carol (Valerie Harper) is a nervous wreck. Her sister Vera (Beatrice Manley) is a calming influence, who will fly with the kids (Quinn Cummings & Damon Bradley Raskin) to Denver first so that the parents can drive to Denver together and make the drive into a second honeymoon.
In Phoenix, Carol is left alone in a motel because Walter’s firm keeps him out of town for business. Late at night Vera calls to tell her sister that their son is hospitalized and needs her permission for a minor operation. The harried housewife can’t reach hubby and learns that the Denver airport is closed because of a snow storm. Even though it’s midnight, Carol decides to take the 16-hour road trip to Denver alone. Running on a near empty tank, she’s refused service at closing time by two rude gas attendants (Gary Springer & Gary Barton). Unable to locate another station, she gets on the freeway anyway. Carol witnesses a police officer chasing a speeder and tries to get his attention to ask where she can get gas, but the cop is executed with a high-powered rifle (Richard Romanus). The fearful Carol is then pursued by the crazed killer, who has seen her face in the headlights. She must use her wits to get gas, elude the killer and survive a nerve-wrecking trip.
The slight story might work for television, but as a movie it doesn’t come close to channeling Spielberg’s similar themed legendary made-for-TV brainchild Duel. That’s the memorable sinister thriller where Dennis Weaver is in peril from a crazed driver.
REVIEWED ON 3/16/2017 GRADE: C+