Review: ‘CBS Sunday Movie the Man Upstairs’

A creaking plot still affords Katharine Hepburn a chance to show how genuine polish can put a shine on worn-out silver. It's an uphill struggle, even for Hepburn, and co-star Ryan O'Neal's shots at light comedy barely rise. But, because of Hepburn's presence, "The Man Upstairs" should climb to the upper floors of the ratings chart for CBS.

A creaking plot still affords Katharine Hepburn a chance to show how genuine polish can put a shine on worn-out silver. It’s an uphill struggle, even for Hepburn, and co-star Ryan O’Neal’s shots at light comedy barely rise. But, because of Hepburn’s presence, “The Man Upstairs” should climb to the upper floors of the ratings chart for CBS.

James Prideaux’s teleplay delivers smalltown spinster-recluse Victoria (Hepburn), untouched by human emotions, living comfortably alone with daytime housekeeper Molly (Helena Carroll). Victoria’s uninterested, as usual, in Christmas, which fast approaches.

Inept petty thief Moony (O’Neal), newly escaped from prison, slips into her attic one night for food and shelter. Naturally, they bump into each other, and Victoria, after ordering him out, recants and he becomes the attic lodger–without Molly knowing. The secret’s half the would-be delight of the piece; the two principals, trading observations on life, and conspiratorially getting acquainted, should be the other.

But neither is that interesting, and without Hepburn’s superb timing and knowing characterzation, the drama would go nowhere. As it is, progress is interrupted by dead stretches, as when Moony (she never asks the obvious–why’s he called “Moony?”) drones on about the system and his mother’s burning him with an iron, or as when Victoria, mentioning she would like to have been a dancer, too vaguely reflects on her flat life.

Carroll’s Molly is diverting, while Brenda Forbes as Victoria’s snooty sister-in-law Cloris gets caught up in a leaden tea scene with Victoria and Moony. She hasn’t a chance.

Lawrence King as Moony’s fellow escapee and Henry Beckman as the determined sheriff are suitable.

Writer Prideaux and director George Schaefer teamed on the 1986 Hepburn charmer “Mrs. Delafield Wants to Marry” and on the smart, wise “Laura Lansing Slept Here” four years ago, so it’s all the more disappointing that this teleplay stalls.

But the production under Schaefer’s immaculate direction looks sharp, with Trevor Williams’ production design handsome, Walter Lasselly’s camerawork terrif. As an early Christmas gift, “The Man Upstairs” is richly packaged. But the contents, except for Hepburn’s luminosity, are disappointing.

CBS Sunday Movie the Man Upstairs

(Sun. (6), 9-11 p.m., CBS-TV)

Production

Filmed in Vancouver by Burt Reynolds Prods. Exec producers, Burt Reynolds, John Dayton, Lamar Jackson; producers, Renee Valente, George Shaefer; co-producer-writer, James Prideaux; director, Schaefer.

Crew

Camera, Walter Lasselly; editor, Dann Cahn; sound, Rob Young; music, Billy Goldberg; production designer, Trevor Williams.

Cast

Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Ryan O'Neal, Helena Carroll, Brenda Forbes, Henry Beckman, James Bell, Brent Stait, Kevin Conway, Florence C. Paterson, Kelli Fox, Lawrence King, Tom McBeath, Robert Wisden, Teryl Rothery, Linden Soles, Sam Malkin, Roark Critchlow, Joe Jut, Redmond O'Neal, Dee Jackson.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Scene News from Variety

Loading