Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vanishing Act

David Greene | 1986 | 95 mins | USA

This comedy-tinged whodunit stars Elliott Gould as Lieutenant Rudameyer, a New York cop transplanted into a small town nestled in the mountains, where the air is too damn fresh and you can't find a decent smoked meat sandwich to save your life.

When a man named Harry Kenyon (Mike Farrell) bursts into his police station claiming that his new bride has disappeared during their honeymoon, Rudameyer is skeptical at first, but becomes increasingly embroiled in the strange case. Kenyon claims that his wife Chris, a woman he met only a week before in Las Vegas and fell in love with at first sight, has mysteriously disappeared only days after they began their honeymoon in the snowy oasis.

When the wife (Margot Kidder) turns up in the care of a local priest, Father Macklin (Fred Gwynne), the case seems neatly tied up, except for one thing: Harry Kenyon is adamant that the pretty brunette standing before him is not his wife. There's no evidence to support Kenyon's wild claim that the newly rediscovered Chris is an impostor, but of course he's the only person in town who's ever seen her before, so it's all rather difficult to prove.

The film slowly escalates in tension as suspense, as the husband, the wife and the priest all dance around each other, each more suspicious than the next. Only dear old Rudameyer is reliably unconcerned and uninvolved, spending most of his time talking nostalgically about the good old days, when he lived in smoggy, dirty, beautiful New York. While everyone else is in some kind of thriller, he seems to be acting in a near-slapstick comedy. It's awesome.

Vanishing Act is decent for a TV movie, but not much more than that. At least there's enough payoff in the 'twist ending' to make the 95 minutes seem worthwhile. Sort of.

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