|WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN? (director: Bruce Malmuth; screenwriters: Jack Sholder/based on the novel by Mary Higgins Clark; cinematographer: Larry Pizer; editor: Roy Watts ; music: Sylvester Levay; cast: Jill Clayburgh (Nancy Eldridge), Max Gail (Clay Eldridge), Harley Cross (Michael Eldridge), Elisabeth Harnois (Missy Eldridge), Elizabeth Wilson (Dorothy Prentiss), Barnard Hughes ( Jonathan Knowles), Frederic Forrest (Courtney Parrish), James Purcell (Robin Legler), Clifton James (Chief Coffin), Joseph Hindy (Detective Morella); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Zev Braun; Columbia Pictures; 1986)|
by Dennis Schwartz
overwrought melodrama with a murky plot that's
weakly directed by Bruce Malmuth ("The
Man Who Wasn't There"/"Hard to Kill"/"Pentathlon").
It's based on the best-seller by Mary Higgins Clark.
The script is written by Jack Sholder.
Francisco resident Jill Clayburgh's two children Peter
and Lisa are killed when kidnapped on her birthday.
Jill is wrongly accused of killing them, but is
nevertheless found guilty and sentenced to the gas
chamber. But the conviction is overturned on a
technicality. A retrial is not possible because a key
witness (James Purcell) has left the country
and her college professor husband has committed
suicide. Seven years go by and Nancy has changed her
identity and appearance and has relocated to Cape
Cod, Massachusetts. She's now
happily married to a realtor (Max Gail) and has two
kids (Harley Cross & Elisabeth
Harnois). On her birthday,
during a storm, a psycho (Frederic
Forest), Jill's former husband, kidnaps her
kids and takes them to a scary old house. There he
plans to kill them, but first feeds them milk and
cookies and goes into rants about what bothers him.
Jill gets support from her her new hubby but is
treated suspiciously by the police chief (Clifton
James). The lovable eccentric local retired shrink (Barnard
Hughes) offers his wisdom on the situation.
After an hour of this dreary story, the police target
the psychopath and pursue him.
The whodunit framework is poorly constructed. The villain psychopath is too goofy to make heads or tails out of. And, the movie could have used another director. Brian De Palma, the first choice, turned down the offer.
REVIEWED ON 5/30/2015 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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