Friday, March 04, 2016


A German co-production filmed in Arizona, Avco Embassy’s muddled thriller NIGHTKILL may more accurately be described as escaping to theaters, if it played anywhere at all. Mild profanity and graphic burn makeup indicate it was made for theatrical distribution, but it doesn’t appear to have received a rating from the MPAA and probably debuted on network television.

Jaclyn Smith’s first starring role in a motion picture casts her as Katherine Atwell, who’s trapped in a loveless marriage to nasty industrialist Wendell Atwell (Mike Connors, cast nicely against type), who treats his wife, the maid, and his corporate vice president, Steve Fulton (James Franciscus), worse than he does his pet monkeys.

Steve finally has enough of fetching Wendell’s drinks and poisons him right in front of Kathy, his lover. She’s initially horrified, but begrudgingly agrees to Steve’s plan to hide the corpse in the deep freeze. While Steve flies to the East Coast to set up an alibi, Kathy is surprised the next morning by a visit from police detective Donner (Robert Mitchum), who’s investigating a missing persons report from Wendell’s secretary. And then the twists begin…

Avco Embassy’s decision to dump NIGHTKILL seems odd, considering a mystery film with this cast should have drawn at least a few eyeballs (Fritz Weaver and Sybil Danning are in it too as another unhappy married couple). Of course, NIGHTKILL isn’t very good. Aside from a not terribly exciting car chase, it consists of much talk and little action, which has the unfortunate side effect of asking Smith (CHARLIE’S ANGELS) to carry the film alone. She’s in nearly every scene, but is unable to make us root too hard for her.

Connors gets to ham it up in a big cowboy hat and Western accent, while Franciscus and Mitchum pick up paychecks. Some odd stylistic choices and the prominent placing of the producers’ names in the opening credits suggest post-production tampering with director Ted Post’s vision. Post previously directed BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES with Franciscus, who was making a lot of disaster and Italian horror movies during this period. He played JFK in 1981 with Smith as JACQUELINE BOUVIER KENNEDY.

1 comment:

Randy Clark said...

This definitely first appeared on network TV. It was intended for theatrical release but an NBC executive saw a screening somewhere, called out of the blue, and offered the studio a few million dollars for it. I remember this vividly because I am a huge Robert Mitchum fan and I actually felt that I had been cheated out of a chance to see his film on a big screen.