Friday, March 27, 2015

1975 - THE DEADLY TOWER, a TV movie based on the Charles Whitman shooting spree

This is one of those TV movies that were popular during the 1970's.  These movies would take real life events and dramatize or fictionalize them for the viewing public.  Some of them were OK occasionally they were actually good most of them were terrible.  The Deadly Tower is probably one of the better ones.  This is a dramatization of the Charles Whitman shooting from the Austin University tower in 1966 given the usual fact mixed with fiction treatment as if the actual events weren't dramatic enough.

Kurt Russell who at the time was transitioning from Disney kid actor into more "adult" roles played Whitman.  Back in the good old days of Hollywood, if you wanted to show you weren't typecast as a Disney actor you had to make a 180 degree turn and play either a crazed killer or a sexed up bimbo.  Obviously Russell decided on the killer route.  For a 1970's movie the 2nd lead is a Hispanic actor named Richard Yniguez who was one of the the cops that climbed up into the tower and finally stopped Whitman.  The rest of the cast is a couple of TV perennials, John Forsythe, & Pernell Roberts.  New York actor Clifton James again plays a redneck law enforcement officer and this appears to be an early role for Ned Beatty.

Just the actual situation itself is dramatic enough and this is probably the best part of the film.  Where things run a little off course is in the hokey dramatic events that the story veers down.  The Hispanic cop is passed over for promotion at the police department.  His wife wants him to quit his job and take something less dangerous etc.  This was the kind of stuff they would cram into these films.

This is probably one of the few films to take an anti-gun position.  At one point Forsythe yells at the gun store owner who sold all the guns and ammo to Russell without questioning what he was going to do with it.  Try getting that in a film today.  If there is one thing I am sure of, everyone in Texas probably owns a gun. 

100 minutes

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