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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Mystery > Telefilm > TV Movie > Dying Room Only (1973/Warner Archive DVD)

Dying Room Only (1973/Warner Archive DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Telefilm: C+



Richard Matheson is one of the masters of storytelling suspense, from his landmark novel I Am Legend to his work on the original Twilight Zone, to helping put Spielberg on the map with Duel and his scripts for the first two Night Stalker TV movies with Darren McGavin among his many great works.  One of the less seen is another TV movie of note that Warner Bros. is finally releasing from its Lorimar holdings through their on-line-only Warner Archive site (see note below) for the first time.


Cloris Leachman (at the peak of her commercial and critical success in a very long and enduring career) and Dabney Coleman (just before his long character actor career led to a star career) are a married couple driving around in the desert when they decide to stop for a bite to eat at a dilapidated diner run by an unfriendly bartender (the great Ross Martin) with only a suspicious customer (Ned Beatty in one of his darkest roles) who seems to be a regular.  The service is bad, but the husband eventually snaps at the men and gets what they want.  Then he leaves the room and disappears, leaving his wife to wonder where he is.  Have they nabbed him?  Killed him?  Is she imagining things or is she correct in her suspicions?


Formatted to take advantage of commercial breaks to pump up suspense, this is not a bad telefilm, but it has dated in odd ways (she does not have a cell phone, but service could have been dead out there anyways) and Leachman has to carry the film which lasts only 74 minutes (a typical length for TV movies at the time; they rarely make them now or very well) leaving some details, developments and other possibilities short.  However, it is worth a look, but I can see why only some of this stayed with me from the original broadcasts and reruns.


British journeyman Director Philip Leacock was well-known for begin able to deliver fine, solid genre work and does a good job here, though with a cast and script like this, it is hard to mess up.  This was the first Matheson-penned telefilm since Night Stalker and Night Strangler set record ratings that held for over a decade, so this is why all this top talent agreed to the project.  Those who like thrillers will want to catch it again, especially in such a good copy.  Dana Elcar, Louise Latham and Ron Feinberg also star.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot in 35mm film and is a brand-new transfer with fine color, detail and even depth considering the age of the program.  Warner and Lorimar stored the original materials well and now you can see once again how good older telefilms can look.  Director of Photography John M. Stephens (Billy Jack, Blacula, The Fantastic Plastic Machine) boldly shoots the night scenes like night in a feature film and that is one of the reasons this holds up so well and does not date as much as it might otherwise have, making this the first time most will see just how good his cinematography is here.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also very clean and clear for its age, even when it shows its sonic limits.  Charles Fox (Bug, reviewed elsewhere on this site) is known for his comedy and even musical work, plus hit records (Killing Me Softly With His Song, I Got A Name) and many classic TV theme songs, but this is one of his rare dark scores and he was just as great at them as his usual work.  There are no extras.



You can order this and other Warner Archive releases at this link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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