Crawlspace (1972)
By: Robert Winter on March 12, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Wild Eye (USA). All Region, NTSC. 4:3. English 2.0. 75 minutes
The Movie
Director: John Newland
Starring: Arthur Kennedy, Teresa Wright, Tom Happer, Eugene Roche
Writer: Ernest Kinoy
Country: USA
Not to be confused with the sadistic film of the same name in which Klaus Kinski plays a mad nazi surgeon, this particular tele-movie from 1972 is a solemn tale of innocence, prejudice, insanity and betrayal.

When an introverted, immature young man, Richard Attley, turns up at aging couple Albert and Alice Graves' isolated country home to do repairs, the lonely, childless couple ask him to stay for dinner. Feeling a sense of parental longing, Albert and Alice are none too disturbed when they learn Richard has set up home in a crawlspace beneath their kitchen floor. After two months of talking to the reclusive young man via a hole in the floor, Albert takes down a suit and invites him up for Christmas dinner. Much to their surprise, Richard makes a disheveled appearance and the doting pair talk him into staying in their spare room. As the weeks pass, the local townspeople are concerned about Richard's strange behaviour, which turns from vandalism to something much more brutal.

Directed by John Newland, who brought us the chilling Don't Be Afraid of the Dark in which goblin-like creatures drag unsuspecting tenants down a hole in an old fireplace, Crawlspace has no otherworldly creatures, but is an engaging, understated psycho-thriller that exponentially builds to a tragic climax. The pacing is deliberately slow, carefully weaving plot ambiguities into an arresting, believable whole. The central grand-parental characters of Albert and Alice play their parts with sincere, naïve optimism which is at odds with the cold, harsh and withering prejudice of the local population. They nevertheless try their best to nurture and protect their 'adopted' child and we genuinely feel their pain when they are forced to face the reality of Richard's increasingly disturbed mental state.

Crawlspace works because of the ordinariness of its drama. In fact, it's the gentle sobriety and mundane verisimilitude of the narrative that renders the film an unsettling and poignant experience regardless of its age.   
The full-frame transfer is not very pleasing at all. The print is soft, colours washed-out and faded, and is riddled with dirt and scratches.
The mono audio is passable, with dialogue being clearly audible. However, the melancholic, tele-movie soundtrack meanderings sound quite tinny and abrasive.
Extra Features
Not one hidey-hole.
The Verdict
Like The Devil's Daughter, Crawlspace is part of Wild Eye's TV Movie Terror Collection series. Given that many people have a strong affection and nostalgia for these tele-movie gems, I would like to see some care and attention put into their DVD presentation. A little restoration wouldn't go astray as well as tracking down some of the actors for their thoughts.  
Movie Score
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