Some people know him as Kolchak. Others know him as the dad from A CHRISTMAS STORY. Few people know Darren McGavin as a director. Maybe that’s because he only directed a handful of TV episodes, a lost documentary, and a single feature film. It might even be that the single feature film, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, LOVE GEORGE (1973), also known under the less clunky title, RUN STRANGER, RUN, would have been a forgettable thriller if it weren’t for a stellar cast. One IMDB reviewer called it “Kolchak directs Frau Blucher, a singer, and Opie in a hokey thriller.” That’s a pretty apt summary.
The plot is simple enough: Johnny, a teenage adoptee, arrives in a small New England fishing town looking for his birth parents. He knows who his mother is, but has no clues about his father. On his journey he meets a cantankerous widow, her vaguely off-kilter daughter, and a police chief who keeps a near constant eye on him. There’s been a rash of disappearances in their small town and, with no leads, the cop suspects Johnny’s arrival has something to do with it. Like any movie that takes place in a small town, the layers come peeling off and nothing is as it seems on the surface.
Ron Howard plays Johnny. He was between “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Happy Days” and got to have a rare angst-ridden teen role. Cloris Leachman played his birth mother. Bobby Darin puts in an interesting performance as a grizzled fisherman. Patricia Neal, less than ten years after winning an Oscar for her performance in HUD appears to have the most fun in her role as the angry, bitter widow who probably has more secrets than anyone. And, of course, you have Darren McGavin’s directing, which keeps the pace going, despite the hokey, predictable story.
It’s worth a watch, if anything, for the novelty factor of having so many actors playing against type.
Question of the night–which region has the best seafood?