Tuesday, March 2, 2010

'Death at Love House' is a flawed TV movie

Death at Love House (aka "The Shrine of Lorna Love") (1975)
Starring: Kate Jackson, Robert Wagner, and Sylvia Sidney
Director: E.W. Swackhamer
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Donna and Joel Gregory (Jackson and Wagner) are researching a book about highly-revered and long-dead Hollywood film goddess Lorna Love. They decide to stay visit Lorna's estate, which is still being tended by her long-time housekeeper (Sidney). Things take a turn for the worse when Joel, whose father had had a passionate affair with Lorna, becomes obsessed with the deceased movie star and starts to have waking dreams of a life spent with her. Is Donna losing her husband to the ghost of Lorna Love?!

I enjoy watching Kate Jackson--she's my favorite "Charlie's Angel" and she made "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" the fun show it was. Her quirky voice, cute looks, and superior acting ability brighten everything she's in, and it's only her presence in "Death at Love House" that pulls it up to a rating of Four (and only barely).

This is a film that's well-acted by a literally stellar cast (in addition to the stars, it features cameo appearances by a whole slew of old-time actors and actresses, including horror great John Carradine), and that takes full advantage of the location--which was actually the home of real-life silent film star Harold Lloyd--but which is killed by a atrocious script and some really bad production design/direction at key moments. The film is overburdened by too many elements that don't pay off in any meaningful way (whatever happened to Lorna's "spiritual advisor" who keeps cropping up?), shoddy details when it comes to historical looks (at one point Joel watches one of Lorna's old silent movies,but instead of looking like a leading lady from 1923, she looks just walked off a porn movie set in 1973), and an already reliance on characters behaving stupidly in order to make the plot work (someone tries to kill Donna, there are three people in the house, and no one calls the cops or checks up on the housekeeper?!).

"Death at Love House" is a weak melodrama that tries to be a suspense/horror movie, and it fails. It's too bad to see such a good cast wasted on such a weak movie, especially the wonderful Kate Jackson.

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