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directed by Richard T. Heffron
USA 1983

The sins of the father.... Convicted murderer Gary Tison (Robert Mitchum) knows all about sin. And after his young sons bust him out of the joint, he makes sure they do too, leading the unwilling boys on a blood-soaked rampage of crime across the Southwest. Based on a true story, A Killer in the Family lays bare the horror of violence and the terrible power a father can exert over his children. The excellent cast includes James Spader, Lance Kerwin and Eric Stoltz as Tison's sons, plunged into a nightmare they cannot escape. But it's Mitchum - who earlier etched two indelible portraits of pure evil in The Night of the Hunter and Cape Fear - who dominates the film like a perverse and raging Old Testament patriarch.

***

Based on a true story, A Killer in the Family lays bare the horror of violence and the terrible power a father can exert over his children. The excellent cast includes Robert Mitchum, James Spader, Lance Kerwin and Eric Stoltz.

***

This made-for-t.v. effort is an effective little crime tale. The script was inspired by a real incident and does a solid job of conveying how familial bonds can blur the line between right and wrong as it delivers a solid variation of the "crooks on the lam" archetype. Robert Mitchum does strong work as the manipulative and sociopathic leader, playing his sons off against each other as his criminal instincts lead them further and further into danger. James Spader, Eric Stoltz and Lance Kerwin all do effective work as the sons, with Kerwin delivering a particularly affecting performance as the youngest and most naive of the clan. However, the biggest scene-stealer is Stuart Margolin, who is alternately creepy and witty as Mitchum's eccentric partner-in-crime. It's also worth noting that Arliss Howard turns in a memorable performance in a bit role as one of the group's victims. Richard T. Heffron's direction avoids flashiness and concentrates on old-fashioned craftsmanship, resulting in a taut narrative spiced up by some effective setpieces: the jail-break is a nicely tense sequence, as is the story's grim finale. The one real defect of the film is the overwrought musical score by Gerald Fried, which sits at odds with the otherwise low-key approach of the film. However, A Killer In The Family is a compelling piece of work despite that misstep and worth a look to crime-movie buffs.

Excerpt from All Movie Guide

Still

Television Premiere: October 30th, 1983

 

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DVD Review: Warner Home Video (Warner Archive Collection) - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:35:21
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.73 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital 1.0 (English)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• None

DVD Release Date: April 21st, 2010
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Chapters 10

 

 

 

Comments

A Killer in the Family is one of the more interesting TV-made movies I've seen. It probably deserved a theatrical release but the topic is not a very pleasant one - adding to its unusual TV exposure. I suspect that it is probably following the actual facts of the case - and the relative absence of poetic-license makes the film unique. It's oddly paced but great performances - notable is Spader - one of his best.

It's standard single-layered Warner MoD (Made-on-Demand) disc and progressive in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and looks very good aside from the colors which occasionally look a little wonky. Detail is at the high-end and there are many instances of surprisingly rich depth. It looks better-than-average for TV-to-SD. 

The mono sound is decent supporting the score by Gerald Fried who was a composer and oboist who did composures for Kubrick films; Fear and Desire, Killer's Kiss, The Killing and Paths of Glory as well as venturing later into work in TV (Star Trek) and the notable Joseph H. Lewis' western Terror in a Texas Town. I enjoy hearing his work in lossless where available. There are no subtitles offered here and no supplements at all. I suspect some discussion would actually garner appreciation of A Killer in the Family.

I've been having a ball watching some TV-movies lately (The Legend of Lizzie Borden, Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story, The Stranger Within, Dying Room Only). I think this is well-worth a $12, or less, purchase if you see it available that reasonably.  

  - Gary Tooze

 



 

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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

  

Distribution

Warner Home Video

Region 0 - NTSC

 




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