Dying Room Only (1973)

Genres - Mystery  |   Run Time - 74 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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This taut little suspense film is a great example of the kind of memorable made-for-television filmmaking that was frequently seen on American networks during the early 1970's. Like any good suspense outing, Dying Room Only builds its foundation on a clever, tightly-plotted script: Richard Matheson's narrative starts with a great hook -- the idea of someone disappearing in plain sight, in the space of a minute -- then continues to pile on clever twists and reversals of expectations at every turn. The acting is also quite impressive: Cloris Leachman is both sympathetic and believable as the unlikely heroine while Ned Beatty has a lot of fun playing a sleazy, menacing townie who takes perverse delight in rattling Leachman's nerves. There is also fine work from Dabney Coleman, who delivers an amusingly (and convincingly) cranky turn as the soon-to-disappear husband, and Dana Elcar, who does subtle and efficient work as the likeable yet skeptical sheriff. Finally, Philip Leacock's direction does an effective job of ratcheting up the story's tension, building it steadily and achieving a surprising-for-t.v. intensity in the story's final stages. In short, Dying Room Only is a genuine white-knuckler of a suspense film and all the more impressive for achieving its effects purely through skillful storytelling and sharp performances.