Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Dying Room Only

(1973) TVM ***

While crossing the desert in Arizona, Bob and Jean take a 100 mile detour so Jean can take pictures to send back to their daughter. After bickering about all the time this detour is costing them, Bob parks the car at an isolated, rundown, roadside café/inn so they can get a quick bite. The only people in the café are a surly cook and a hillbilly patron. Both are immediately hostile towards them but Bob and Jean are tired and decide to stay for a meal. After more bickering Jean excuses herself to go to the bathroom. When she returns her husband is nowhere to be found and the two men tell her that her husband was never in the café. After a futile search for Bob she places a frantic call to the police. Unfortunately the town’s bumbling sheriff would rather eat a hamburger than solve a crime.

What husband?

What husband?

Could I get a burger to go?

This was one of the better made-for-television films I watched this year. Based on a Richard Matheson short story, Dying Room Only is a taught, well-paced little thriller that echoes films like The Lady Vanishes and Flightplan. Cloris Leachman displays some first-rate acting chops and proves that she can do more than play Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The conclusion is fully satisfying. Check it out on You Tube if you get a chance.


Johnny Sweatpants said...

I love the premise! Also, I love the fat guy in the hat! And the other fat guy in the hat!

Whirlygirl said...

Great review!

"Unfortunately the town’s bumbling sheriff would rather eat a hamburger than solve a crime."

This sounds like the cop from Drive Thru.

Octopunk said...

Whoah, I didn't know Cloris Leachman was ever hot!

Being a cop in a horror movie is the easiest job in the world. Although I would rather eat a burger than solve a crime myself.

I want to see the Ruthless People version of this, in which she just shrugs, pays for her meal, and leaves -- hopefully rolling her eyes as the dumb hicks try to charge her for two meals.

Octopunk said...

Sorry I posted the Lovecraft quote above your review, but I thought it was worth it and, really, I don't like you very much.

Oh, I take that back...

I'm not sorry.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

Whenever we see a movie where a cop would rather eat a burger than solve crime then we should, like, chug a beer or something.

The name of this movie also gives it extra bonus points.

"She's precocious... and she knows this... she's got Bette Davis eyes." I haven't stop singing that stupid song for 2 days.

Whirlygirl said...

That sounds better than the song that has been playing in my head for the last two weeks.

Catfreeek said...

I've been singing the Picture Pages song for 3 days thanks to a girl at my work.

Funny review, sounds like a pretty good film.

Matthew Bradley said...

Matheson, who adapted the film himself, has often said that it's the only one of his many scripts that turned out better than it deserved. Aptly, in addition to THE LADY VANISHES, it also feels like an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, to which he was a major contributor. Matheson's original, published in FIFTEEN DETECTIVE STORIES (October 1953), was inspired by a real-life incident that occurred during a cross-country honeymoon drive he made with his wife, Ruth. The film was clearly an influence on the Kurt Russell vehicle BREAKDOWN. For further information, see my book RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN (, now on sale.

DCD said...

Whoa, check out the real random guy comment!

Not that the rest of you aren't real - or random - I just always kind of dig it when someone from "outside" stops by.

Catfreeek said...

Yeah, thanks for commenting Matthew.

Matthew Bradley said...

My pleasure. DYING ROOM ONLY seems to be one of several '70s TV-movies that really stuck in people's heads, like DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. Of course, Matheson was responsible for several of the most famous, e.g., DUEL, THE NIGHT STALKER, and TRILOGY OF TERROR. Not a bad track record!