Retro Television Reviews: Linda (dir by Jack Smight)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1973’s Linda!  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

If nothing else, Linda has a wonderfully opening.

Two couples are on the beach.  Paul Reston (Ed Nelson) is talking to Anne Braden (Mary-Robin Redd) about his troubled marriage and his plans to leave his wife.  Paul’s wife, Linda (Stella Stevens), is talking to Jeff Braden (John Saxon) and looking at the rifle that he’s just handed her.  It doesn’t take long to notice that Paul and Linda seem to be closer, respectively, to Anne and Jeff than to each other.

When Anne stands up and walks toward the ocean, Linda shoots her in the back.  When Jeff runs over to Anne’s body, Linda pulls the trigger again and Jeff collapses.  Stunned by his wife’s actions, Paul runs back to his car and drives into town to get the police.  (This is another one of those movies that could have only been made in the pre-smartphone era.)  When Paul and the police return, they find Anne’s body but Jeff and Linda are nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, Linda and Jeff come walking down the beach.  Jeff is carrying a bunch of fish and a fishing pole.  They look shocked when they see the police.  Then, when Jeff sees Anne’s body, he accuses Paul of killing her and attacks him.  Paul is arrested and taken to jail.

As I said, it’s a wonderful opening, full of twists and entertaining overemoting.  In fact, it’s so good that it’s difficult for the rest of the film to keep up.  After being charged with Anne’s murder, Paul hires a folksy attorney named Marshall Journeyman (John McIntire).  Unlike everyone else, Journeyman believes Paul’s story that he’s being framed by Jeff and Linda.  Journeyman sets out to prove that Paul is innocent.

Of course, the audience already know that Paul is innocent because the audience saw exactly what happened.  Watching the film, it was hard for me to not to feel that the story would have benefitted by a little more ambiguity as to whether or not Paul was a victim or if he truly was the delusional madman that both Linda and Jeff tried to paint him as being.  We know from the start what Jeff and Linda are doing so the only question really becomes how Journeyman is going to trick them into revealing the truth.  Unfortunately, even getting them to do that turns out to be a bit too easy.  The movie suggests that Journeyman is a brilliant investigator but, in the end, it all really just comes down to the villains not being very smart.

That said, the film’s cast does a good job.  Ed Nelson is sympathetic as the confused husband and John McIntire brings so much homespun charm to Journeyman that I got the feeling that this film was probably designed to be a pilot for a possible series.  Best of all, John Saxon and Stella Stevens play the scheming couple.  Saxon gets to wear a swimsuit and dramatically shout to the Heavens as he pretends to be shocked over Anne’s murder.  Stevens smirks at every question and accusation and appears to be having a great time playing an old school femme fatale.  The cast makes this movie worth it.

One response to “Retro Television Reviews: Linda (dir by Jack Smight)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 2/20/23 — 2/26/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

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