The first question I have to ask myself isn’t whether or not I’ll like Mother but how in the heck have I missed this tightly knit thriller my entire movie watching life? I have a strong feeling this one is going to make my list of new to me discoveries that I will highly recommend in my year end wrap up.
Released by Universal the movie stars Patty Duke as a widowed young woman bussing it to Minnesota as a heavy snowstorm descends upon the rural area she is headed towards. At seven months pregnant she is looking to meet the mother of her late husband for the first time with the idea that she may want to be a part of the babies life. The journey to the country side estate reminds me of Jonathan Harker’s journey to Castle Dracula. There’s an odd look on local faces as Patty looks for directions and a ride to the home of Rosemary Murphy who is portraying Mother.
When the one time child actress arrives she’s met at the door by a look of disdain and told that her timing isn’t the best. Behind Murphy is a crying Sian Barbara Allen and Murphy volunteers that they’ve just had to drown some kittens. Good God!!!! I’d have lost my head on this woman right then and there. Beating Louis Fletcher to the screen by three years, Miss Murphy just might be a shoe in for second place as the most evil woman on screen in the 1970’s next to Fletcher’s Nurse Ratchet.
Yes she’s a rather cold bitch and flatly tells poor Patty that she has no intention of welcoming her or her unborn child into the family home. There will be no money forwarded to her and she holds her responsible for not seeing her son during his final few months as he would normally come home while on leave from military duty. On top of that she suggest putting the baby up for adoption so Patty won’t have any further troubles.
Again! Good God! I just want to grab this woman by the throat and toss her in with the poor kittens weighed down with some rocks in a potato sack.
Hey isn’t that a painting of John Boy Walton (Richard Thomas for you amateurs) on the wall in the family living room? Apparently it is and it’s explained to Patty that he was a nephew of the family who hasn’t been seen in years. That might be but he’s going to figure prominently over the final half of this 93 minute feature put out on blu ray from Scream Factory.
Evil abounds and when the snow storm becomes too heavy, Patty is stranded in the home where she’s clearly not welcome. The only thing she’ll find comforting initially is the friendly Barbara Allen who is herself handicapped and can barely put two words together. On top of that she seems to be terrified yet somehow attempting to warn Patty of impending doom if she stays any longer in the house.
The plot cranks this up to an edge of the seat snowbound thriller when poor Patty goes into labor and Richard Thomas turns out to be a near clone of Norman Bates. There are some dark family secrets to uncover over the final half of the film and yes I was indeed on the edge of my seat here in the movie room at Mike’s Take. I’d love to give you more and that’s mainly because I want to discuss the film with someone else who’s seen it to get their views on it and see if they liked it as much as I did. Alas, who can I turn to at the office that would have seen this one? Not likely anyone so I’m turning to you to let me know your thoughts if you’ve seen this thriller directed by Lamont Johnson that features a very suitable score from Gil Melle.
Though this was a theatrically released feature it does have a strong sense of the television thrillers that invaded the small screens during the 1970’s and considering it stars Patty Duke and Richard Thomas that shouldn’t be too surprising. Even the director Johnson worked in television for a good majority of his career. Everything from Have Gun Will Travel episodes to a pair of highly acclaimed telefilms, The Execution of Private Slovik in 1974 and Fear On Trail in ’75. Both earned him Emmy Award nominations.
Richard Thomas at this time was just beginning his long run on The Waltons in the role he’d forever be associated with and aside from this feature, Miss Duke would work primarily in television over the next forty plus years before passing away in 2016. Rosemary Murphy who I instantly recalled from To Kill a Mockingbird freely moved back and forth between television and features as well.
I guess it’s kind of obvious I disagree with the film’s title but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like this film. On the contrary. Loved it. A top flight thriller should you be looking for one.