STRANGER IN TOWN
Canada, 1998, 94 minutes, Colour.
Harry Hamlin, Rebecca Jenkins, Graham Greene, Trevor Blumas, Alison Pill.
Directed by Stuart Margolin.
Stranger in Town is a mixture of police thriller and romance.
There is the familiar story of the widow, Katherine, played by Rebecca Jenkins, taking her two children from Chicago to a small town and getting a job, the boy at Barron finding it difficult to settle in, the young daughter not. The project is to renovate an old mansion. A passerby offers to help and ingratiates himself into the family with his work and his bonds with the boy, training him in the renovation of the house.
A murder is reported and suspicion is on a vagrant with mental problems, played by Graham Greene, who lives in a junkyard. The local children torment him.
The passerby, Jack, played by Harry Hamlin, is viewed with suspicion by the young son and, with the help of the girl in the town (Alison Pill later to be an older actress) begin to investigate and suspicions are on Jack.
In the meantime, Aaron’s mother has fallen in love with Jack.
Audiences are suspicious of Jack throughout the film – but also may be hoping for his not being the killer and their being romantic ending. There is a twist and the revelation as to who is responsible and the film literally ends with Jack and Katherine kissing.
1. The title? The family moving to the country town? Jack and his presence in the town?
2. Chicago opening, moving out of Chicago, the country town, old homes, repairs, the streets, the surrounding countryside, the junkyard? The musical score?
3. Katherine, her husband’s death, the two children, packing and leaving Chicago, their being unwilling, the town, the old house? Settling in? Her academic work? Wanting to let a room? The children, their age, Aaron not wanting to be in the town? Kim settling in?
4. Jack, arriving, genial, wanting the room, examining the house, pointing out difficulties? Getting to work, teaching Aaron carpentry? Criticism of the painting? The foreman and
his anger, Jack’s response? The loss of the job, Jack returning?
5. The situation in the town, the police, their personnel, the death of the old woman? Suspicions on Eddie Lister and his reputation?
6. Eddie, personality, vagrant, stealing the pie, the kids in their pursuit? At the junkyard? Spying, pranks, Aaron and his fall, Eddie bandaging him, and his death in the crusher? Aaron defending him?
7. Aaron and his attitude towards Jack in the house, wary, not knowing him, suspicious of his mother’s response? Helping with the work?
8. The children, Hetty and her friendship, the vehicle, their becoming detectives? Going to the old house, seeing Jack’s signature? Suspicions? Jack and his reaction, threatening? Katherine and her not believing? Going to the police and the discussions?
9. The children of the town, ganging together, outings?
10. The children, the threats, the police and their work, clues? The officer taking Aaron out onto the hill and explaining drug deals in the past?
11. The policeman and his button, Aaron seeing the clue, changing the situation, the policewoman and her looking after Aaron, wanting to kill him, going to the junkyard, Jack and his return, the drama of the car crushing, Jack rescuing Aaron, the officer killing the policewoman?
12. Apologies all round, Jack fixing the vehicle, accepted, happy family, the end with the romantic kiss?
STRANGER IN TOWN
US, 1998, 95 minutes, Colour.
Harry Hamlin, Rebecca Jenkins.
Directed by Stuart Margolin.
Stranger in Town is an entertaining, if somewhat routine, television movie - even though it has an unexpected and rather implausible twist at the end. It has the old theme of a family getting out of the big city, trying to make its way in a country town, under suspicion from the locals. It also features the convention of the stranger in town who starts boarding with the family, helping to repair the house, gradually becoming suspicious, especially when a murdered body is found. Graham Green is also in the cast as the town eccentric, wandering around, stealing pies, also under suspicion for the murder. One's suspicions actually fall on the sheriff, who is quite ingratiating to the family. This is only to find that the minor character of his middle-aged female assistant is actually the murderer, leading to a rather melodramatic finale in a used and abandoned car area, with Harry Hamlin to the rescue of the son who has been suspicious of him all along, but has fallen into the clutches of the murderer.
1. An entertaining telemovie? Family themes? City versus country? Murder, suspicions, melodrama?
2. The city, the countryside, the small town, the details in the small town, shops, police station, cinema? The house and its needing renovation?
3. The title - for the family, for Jack?
4. The portrait of the family, Katherine and her being a widow, taking the children to the countryside, trying to get them settled in, the support of the son and daughter? Her having to cope, decisions about Jack, the builders cheating her? Jack finishing the house? The dead body, the growing suspicions? The danger to her son? The happy ending? The young boy, settling into the town, friendship with the young girl, his growing suspicions, protection of his mother, the little girl and her being brash, giving out information easily? His growing to depend on Jack, the fixing of the bike, working on the house? His becoming suspicious again, with the girl, trying to prove Jack guilty? His being with the policewoman, the revelation of the truth, her taking him to the car lot, trying to kill him, the rescue? The happy ending?
5. Jack, the stranger, the wanderer, the flat, helping with the house, violent outburst against the cheating workmen? Apologies, friendship with Katherine, friendship with Aaron, fixing the bike, helping him to work, being a father figure? Under suspicion, trying to explain himself to Aaron? His coming to the final rescue?
6. The man wandering around the town, stealing the pies, the townspeople's suspicions, wanting him imprisoned? The attack on him, his being innocent?
7. The sheriff, liking pies, always calling in, genial? His assistant - and her revelation of why she had committed the murder?
8. A satisfying popular entertainment with a range of ingredients from family life to murder and melodrama?