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Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Slender Thread (1965)

A graduate student (Sidney Poitier) volunteers at a crisis clinic monitoring phone calls in Seattle, Washington. Alone in the office in the evening, he receives a phone call from a woman (Anne Bancroft) who's just swallowed a bottle of barbiturates. As he attempts to keep her talking on the phone, a race against time begins to trace the call and get to the woman before she dies. The feature film debut of director Sydney Pollack, he does an admirable job of keeping up the tension quotient as the film switches back and forth between her backstory and the events that lead up to her suicide and the struggle to locate her. The film's problem is in its screenplay by Stirling Silliphant. Silliphant was responsible for much of the writing on such early 60s TV shows like THE NAKED CITY and ROUTE 66. Those shows don't hold up well today because of the contrived writing, artificial sounding dialog and mouthpiece moralizing of its writer. What makes those shows watchable today depends on the quality of the acting and the same applies here. Fortunately, Poitier and Bancroft deliver strong performances that mostly (but not always) overrides the unnatural dialog. The wiry score is by Quincy Jones. With Telly Savalas, Steven Hill, Dabney Coleman, Indus Arthur and H.M. Wynant.

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