Nostalgia is a moveable feast. Now that Ivan Mozjoukine and Buster Keaton have been safely embedded in film history, it comes as Mighty Mouse and Audie Murphy or Fellini and Fassbinder or (think Filmink) Jaws and Clint Eastwood.
I got a whiff of this when You tube offered me In a Stranger’s Hands, which used to be ...And Then She Was Gone, a l991 Movie for TV with Robert Urich of Spenser for Hire and Megan Gallagher, who propped up Dabney Coleman in the excellent Slap Maxwell series. Despite the beautiful copy, I was about to surf on when David Greene’s director credit came up.
That was a name I knew. After doing odd jobs, Greene had been invalided out of the WW2 navy and became an actor (a 1950 Thérèse Raquin) and director in un-promising fifties British TV. This did bring him into contact with producer Herbert Brodkin, then peaking with The Defenders and its satellite series. Greene did episodes of prestige U.S. titles like Twilight Zone and Playhouse 90 and Brodkin’s The Defenders, For the People, The Doctors and the Nurses and his excellent 1963 British series Espionage, along with Michael Powell and Ken Hughes.
Dirk Bogarde, Lilli Palmer, Sebastian
Greene’s feature debut was the atmospheric 1967 The Shuttered Room (Oliver Reed searching for Carol Lynley by the light of a blazing teddy bear) and he did Sebastian, produced by Powell in 1968 with Dirk Bogarde, Susannah York and Lilli Palmer as Cold War code breakers. This one should have attracted more attention. He followed with distinctive features Madam Syn with Bette Davis, cop movie The Strange Affair, Those People Next Door and Godspell.
However, with British production in steep decline, Greene moved to the area where he would make his most sustained contribution - US movies for TV. He was one of the few people - think Joan Tewksbury and Paul Wendkos - whose work could be noticed in this deluge. ... And Then She Was Gone is not the best of his efforts but it is elevated by a strong cast and a plausibly detailed Los Angeles texture.
Urich, his makeup tan visible in the High Definition copy, is a one time Dartmouth football hero, who has risen in the world of computing (“serial connecting ports”). A key negotiation with Asian clients comes up at the same time as his repeatedly postponed Antigua vacation with striking redhead Isabella Hofmann.
...And Then She Was Gone
Meanwhile, Gallagher’s young child Caitlin Dill (her only performance) has been abducted. Despite his priorities meaning Isabella goes off outraged, Urich is sidetracked, when the missing child drops her rag doll in his subway car and his well-intentioned attempt to return it to the address located from a photo poster gets him roughed up by neighbours and dragged off to the station, where Detective Vondie Curtis-Hall remembers Bob's triumphs on the sports field.
Waitress Gallagher sympathises (“You got hit again”) and is shocked to find his tie damaged in the scuffle, which she offers to replace, costs ninety dollars. About now the contrivance in the writing starts to weigh the piece down. Urich recruits the company’s Ivy League computer guy to use his dormitory hacker experience to track the nasties through the phone system and becomes one of the heroes you keep on wanting to shout “Call the cops!” to. When he does, they put him on hold, so he goes solo vigilante.
Despite this, the film has elements, which show Greene operating above his pay grade. Like Hoffman, a pre West Wing Janel Maloney registers. There’s a chilling scene where junkie-whore Christine Dunford knowingly ODs, like Janet Munro in Sebastian"
... And Then She Was Gone is not going to change anyone’s worldview or live in the collective memory but it is as good a snapshot of the entertainment of its day as we are going to get. I was sucked in ... and that copy is so good.