All the Kind Strangers (Burt Kennedy, 1974, USA)

All the Kind Strangers is a 1974 ABC TV movie of the week starring Stacy Keach. Keach at this point was still known primarily as a character actor, having had a minor breakout role in John Huston's 1972 film Fat City. The film is directed by Burt Kennedy, who was best known as a writer of westerns. Nowadays, he is more likely best known for a later collaboration with Keach in the first adaptation of Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me

Keach stars as Jimmy Wheeler, a man who is rather tricked by a young boy into joining a family in a remote area. The family is made up of children of a bootlegger, who have been orphaned. They try to trap strangers into becoming their parents, and they have already done this to Carol Ann (Samantha Eggar), who has become a surrogate mother to them. Keach is intended as the surrogate father, but he puts up resistance and attempts to escape. John Savage plays Peter, the eldest child and leader of the pack. All the Kind Strangers is an odd little thriller. While it is not a masterpiece by any stretch, Kennedy keeps a consistent tone, and the children are uniformly evocative.

There are many thematic resonances in All the Kind Strangers, and it is perhaps not a coincidence that Keach's character refers to his time in Vietnam. The film embodies the general clashes that would so commonly form the basis of horror from the 1970s onward, with the children turning on their elders becoming a cliche. While TV in the 1970s has often been viewed dismissively, there were certainly creators attempting to enhance the craft and bring it to another level. This film exemplifies some of that ambition and makes several interesting creative choices throughout. Keach is a highlight.



Popular Posts