Review: ‘The Roots/Cody ChestnuTT’

In America, a man's car is his castle - a home away from home in which he is master of all he surveys. How well does this freeway monarch behave when his rolling fortress is besieged by an apparently stronger force?

In America, a man’s car is his castle – a home away from home in which he is master of all he surveys. How well does this freeway monarch behave when his rolling fortress is besieged by an apparently stronger force?

This is the problem the Universal made-for-tv film wrestles with. Dennis Weaver plays a salesman on his way to an appointment. He drives along a narrow highway located in a sparsely settled western locale. Along the way he passes an enormous oil tanker rig, and later he passes it again.

From then on the picture is all chase – with the trucker alternately playing dangerous games with Weaver and then actually seeming to want to kill him. A clear case of absolute power corrupting absolutely.

Neither Weaver nor the audience ever gets to see the face of the driver (indeed, he has no credit listing), beyond one view of his lower legs and feet and one of his hands waving Weaver on.

The story is adapted from a short tale [by Richard Matheson] in Playboy magazine. But it really plays much more like one of those old dramas in the Golden Age of Radio. For the most part, the production, although clearly not expensively mounted, keeps within the spirit of the teleplay and helps it roll. One intrusive note is the necessity for a good deal of inner dialog voiced over the action to indicate Weaver’s feelings.

[Version reviewed is the original 74-minute telemovie networked by ABC as ‘Movie of the Weekend’ on November 13, 1971. The 90-minute theatrical version was released in Europe in 1973 and the US in 1983. Jacqueline Scott, as the wife, appears only in that version.]

The Roots/Cody ChestnuTT

Production

Universal. Director Steven Spielberg; Producer George Eckstein; Screenplay Richard Matheson; Camera Jack A. Marta; Editor Frank Morriss; Music Billy Goldenberg; Art Director Robert S. Smith

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1971. Running time: 74 MIN.

With

Dennis Weaver Jacqueline Scott Eddie Firestone Lou Frizzell Gene Dynarski Lucille Benson
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