Crime, Mystery, Thriller | 74 Mins | Released: 1974
Director: E. W. Swackhamer
Starring: Nick Nolte, Cloris Leachman, Laurence Luckinbill, Alan Oppenheimer, William Shallert, Yvonne Wilder, Herb Voland
Our Rating: 6
Reviews for Death Sentence:
Passable TV Mystery-Thriller
Author:dglink from Alexandria, VA – 4 October 2015
A passably entertaining made-for-TV thriller, “Death Sentence” reveals the killer in the opening scene. Laurence Luckenbill strangles his annoying blonde mistress with his own yellow scarf, because she threatened to go public with their affair, which would have destroyed his cherished family. Cut to the courtroom, where Luckenbill’s wife, Cloris Leachman, has been accepted as a juror in the trial of Nick Nolte, who is on trial for the murder of his wife, the woman that Luckenbill killed in the opening scene. If the premise sounds a bit far fetched, it is, not to mention the murdered woman preferring Luckenbill to the young Nolte. Based on the novel After the Trial, the film cuts back and forth between the courtroom testimony and Leachman’s domestic scenes with her husband and children. As the testimony progresses and evidence is presented, Leachman slowly suspects her husband’s involvement.
The performances are uneven; Leachman is good as the wife, intently listening to witnesses, while slowly connecting the dots. However, Luckenbill, the family-values man, overacts at times, and poor Nolte sits looking at his hands for most of the movie, until he provides brief testimony in his own defense. Director E. W. Swackhamer keeps the proceedings moving fast enough to distract viewers from the inconsistencies and gaps in logic. Absolutely no motive or evidence are presented to implicate Nolte, other than the malicious dislike of his mother-in-law and unreliable claims from a nosy neighbor. Leachman’s suspicions are all circumstantial, and some of her actions are completely implausible. However, for non-demanding viewers with an hour or so to kill, “Death Sentence” is decent entertainment, if they just go with the flow and do not ponder the details.
Contrived, to be sure, but a fun potboiler.
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv – 16 August 2015
Cloris Leachman plays a wife and mother about to go on vacation with her husband when she’s picked for jury duty on a murder trial; naturally, she’s eager to be a good citizen, becoming emotionally (and personally) involved in the legal proceedings. Aaron Spelling-Leonard Goldberg production for TV isn’t a flashy vehicle for the leading actress, but it doesn’t need to be. Leachman is an appealing ‘ordinary’ woman, a good listener with a compassionate nature, and both her home life and her dedication to finding the truth in the murder case are engaging. Nick Nolte has an early role as the accused killer, and Laurence Luckinbill is appropriately smug as Leachman’s spouse. The plot, adapted from the novel “After the Trial” by Eric Roman, is far-fetched, but waiting to see how writer John Neufeld and director E.W. Swackhamer work out all the angles is entertaining.