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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Monday, July 24, 2023

She Waits (1972)

This CBS movie of the week opens with an older woman waking from a nightmare. She hears whispering and wanders off around a dark house calling for Elaine. Eventually another woman, who turns out to be the housekeeper finds her and puts her back to bed. Then we see a newly married couple, Mark and Laura, arrive at the house. The woman from before is Mark’s mother and Laura is nervous to meet her mother-in-law for the first time. There is also some immediate tension due to her telling Mark repeatedly that it isn’t safe for them there.

We find out that Elaine was Mark’s first wife who killed herself one night with a pistol after she and he had a huge fight. Though Mark’s mother later says that he shot her, and she wiped off the gun to protect him and so they could go along with the suicide story. But later we find out that both were mistaken, though I’ll not spoil it here. Though to be honest it isn’t much of a twist. What is clear is Elaine’s spirit isn’t at rest and eventually possesses Laura to get her revenge on Mark, who she also thinks killed her. It gets a bit confusing to be honest. In the end the events of that night are sorted out and the couple goes on happily with their lives. Oh and the ghost of Elaine is also free to move on. I suppose it is a happy ending… for most of them anyways.

This movie had all the makings of a fun made for television ghost story but managed to fail. The cast is decent with David McCallum, who most of us will now recognize from NCIS but at the time was best known for Mission Impossible, starring as Mark. Laura is played by the legendary Patty Duke (not Astin yet!). Both are convincing in the roles and do the best with the material provided for them to work with, which is sadly not all that much. There are also supporting roles from Lew Ayres (Donovan’s Brain, Battle for the Planet of the Apes), and Beulah Bondi (It’s a Wonderful Life). Yeah, George Bailey’s mom is in this! Clearly they had some talent in front of the screen.

Here is where She Waits falls flat for me. The movie is slow…painfully so. The movie is mostly set in one location, the family home. That means we get lots of wandering around in the dark with creepy whispers and billowing curtains. To a certain extent that is fine. But it goes on and on to the point that any atmosphere that it created becomes tedious boredom. I get allowing tension to build up but there are far too many scenes that go absolutely nowhere. Toss in a vital character that is hugely important to the ending who is introduced in the first twenty minutes then disappears until the last ten. This was annoying because as soon as I saw him return, I knew exactly what was coming. Basically, the script is a mess that has difficulty filling up the meager seventy four minute runtime and completely wastes a decent cast.

I normally like Patty Duke’s movies. She tends to liven up whatever she appears in and here does a good job with her line delivery and body language showing the difference between Laura and Laura possessed by Elaine. But even that can’t save what is a dreadfully boring made for TV misfire. Obviously, I’m not recommending you waste your time on this one.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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