This is this week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering. We watched it with Svengoolie and a yummy merlot.
Dave Mannering (Leif Erickson) takes his wife Ellie (Patricia Breslin) to a business meeting out of town. At the last minute, their babysitter cancels, forcing them to leave their teenage daughter Libby (Andi Garrett) alone with their younger daughter, Tess (Sharyl Locke), for the night. Libby’s friend Kit Austin (Sara Lane) is to come over for dinner, with her father picking her up at 11:30.
The Mannerings live on a farm out in the middle of nowhere. The two sisters are in the habit of making prank phone calls and, once the adults are gone, show Kit how they do it: pick a name at random out of the phonebook*, call that person and pretend to be someone they’re not. For example, if a woman answers, Libby adopts a voluptuous voice and asks to speak with the husband. She says to tell him “Suzette” is calling.
They call several people, saying, “I know what you did, and I know who you are.”
Yeah, it’s all fun and games until they happen to tell that to a guy who’s just returned from trying to bury the body of the wife he’s murdered.
The movie was based on a 1964 thriller novel Out of the Dark by New Mexico author Ursula Curtiss.
The viewer is presented with an intriguing premise: teenagers have their pranks come back to bite them in unexpected ways. Naughty girls playing with innocent people’s lives catch hell. Later, not realizing she’s already come close to being murdered twice, Libby will say, “It was all just a game!”
Most of the action seems predicated on the victims constantly put themselves in harm’s way. Told to lock up all the windows and doors, Libby leaves a kitchen window wide open. From this window, the bad guy hears her talking to Kit (who is home by now) about the news Kit heard on the radio—a woman’s body found off the side of the road.
Exercising poor judgment is not restricted to the “innocents,” however. The bad guy’s copy of How Not to Murder Your Wife for Dummies must have gotten lost in the mail.
Sharyl Locke, the actress who plays the younger sister Tess, was about ten when the film was made, though she seemed to be portraying a much younger child. She is surprisingly convincing.
An odd and creepy sexuality works its way into the film. Libby, a putative sixteen-year-old, slips into the “Suzette” persona for the prank phone calls with remarkable ease. Kit asks her what she would do if she met the guy they’ve been prank calling. Libby becomes infatuated. She concludes, “His voice was so deep, so exciting. It was like he was running his hand down my back real slow.”
Joan Crawford plays Amy Nelson, a love-sick neighbor of the bad guy. Even after she figures out he killed his wife, she wants to marry him. EWWW. She figured the Mrs. had it coming.
The most unsettling thing about the movie was the music. It struck me as inappropriate for the subject matter, sounding at times more like the theme music of a sitcom than a thriller like this. Perhaps it was intended to lighten to mood, but it struck my ear as incongruous. I half-expected Austin Powers to jump out and cry, “Yeah, baby!”
The threat to the girls is real. Adding to the tension is that they repeatedly do foolish things that increase the likelihood of one of them ending up on the wrong end of the bad guy’s knife.
I can’t call this movie outstanding, but it was entertaining.
*Kids, ask your parents what a phonebook is.
Title: I Saw What You Did (1965)
William P. McGivern (screenplay)
Ursula Curtiss (novel)
Joan Crawford as Amy Nelson
John Ireland as Steve Marak
Leif Erickson as Dave Mannering
Sara Lane as Kit Austin
Andi Garrett as Libby Mannering
Sharyl Locke as Tess Mannering
Released: May 15, 1965
Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes