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On March 31, 1973, NBC aired the political TV movie Savage, directed by an up-and-coming helmer: Steven Spielberg. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
In Savage, Martin Landau is a television newsman who must decide whether to expose the marital indiscretion of a Supreme Court nominee. The script, by executive producers William Link and Richard Levinson, and writer Mark Rodgers, is a muddle that comes on like a bold, hard-hitting exposé of politics and the media, but ends up pulling more punches than a free-for-all in a hemophilia ward.
Will Geer plays a wealthy Bel-Air party-giver with a stable of pretty girls whom he uses to blackmail prominent people. For reasons never fully explained, he has winsome Susan Howard murdered when she goes to Paul Savage (Landau) with a story about her friendship with Barry Sullivan. Newsman Landau solves the murder, but gets into a ridiculous cop-out situation after Sullivan’s wife, Louise Latham, makes a tearful and psychologically preposterous speech to him.
Director Steven Spielberg’s imaginative camerawork manages to flog this exposition-heavy vehicle along at a bearable pace, and the actors, saddled with some of the most unlikely dialogue ever heard in a television studio, struggle heroically to transcend the material.
Sullivan comes off best, as the conscience-stricken judge, almost suggesting a tragic figure in his noble readiness to face the consequences of his actions. Geer romps gleefully through TV’s obligatory scene for wealthy villains, showing off his art collection to sleuth Landau.
Michele Garey is interesting and softly vulnerable as one of Geer’s girls who is stalked by killer Paul Richards through a spooky, deserted TV studio. Other performers, including Barbara Bain featured as a television producer, have to spend so much time on exposition they never get much chance to create their characters.
Technical credits are generally excellent, with William Tuntke’s art direction and Bill Butler’s photography outstanding. Producer Paul Mason and unite manager Edward K. Dodds provided Spielberg with a visually sumptuous production, including lots of interesting L.A. locations. — Annette Duffy, originally published on April 3, 1973
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