Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Final Jeopardy (1985)

A long lost made-for-TV movie that I've been searching out for years has finally (and unofficially) made its way onto the Internets. It's Final Jeopardy (1985), which, after years of futile Googling, I was finally able to watch (via YouTube), for the first time since it originally aired over 25 years ago.

Final Jeopardy is the suspenseful story of small-town couple Martin (Richard Thomas, You'll Like My Mother, It) and Susan Campbell (Mary Crosby, The Ice Pirates) whose overnight trip to the big city turns into a Kafkaesque (I've always wanted to use that term!) nightmare.

The Campbells are in Detroit for one evening so Martin can pitch his start-up business idea (something to do with databases) to a prospective partner. Martin drops his wife off to do some shopping in the city's upscale boutiques, while he meets his client at a nearby watering hole, the Carlyle Bar. She'll meet him there later for a (hopefully celebratory) dinner before heading back to the hotel.

Martin gets slightly overwhelmed trying to navigate the bustling streets, and a culture shock is evident when he gets directions from a gruff and annoyed street cop, but he finally arrives (late) for his meeting at the Carlyle Bar.

A few martinis later, with no sign of his client, he phones his office to find he misheard the meeting place. They were supposed to meet at the Carlwyn Bar, not the Carlyle, and his client has already given up on him and gone home for the evening. The whole purpose of the trip is shot.

Making matters worse, the bar no longer serves dinner, and is closing at 7:00 PM, a good hour before his wife was scheduled to meet him there. Exiting the bar, he finds the lot where he parked has closed for the night, leaving him with no transportation until morning.

Susan rolls up in a cab, but the cab leaves before he has a chance to stop it, leaving the couple stranded in what is looking to be the Bad Side of Town.

The businesses are closed, streets are dark and barren. Many of the pay phones are damaged. When they finally do find a working phone, the cab company they call won't send a car to that part of town after dark.

The police won't send anyone either, since no crime has been committed.

They try approaching residents of a rat-infested apartment building, but they are too afraid to provide help.

Finally they cross paths with a violent street gang (they may have comical names like Slash, D.O.A. and Ice, but they were plenty scary to this pre-teen viewer). This results in several tense scenes with our hapless couple creeping behind dumpsters and in back alleys trying to evade the thugs, only to have them pop-up like a Jack-in-the-Box from around the corner, or suddenly dangling down from an overhead fire escape.

It looks like they may finally have found a safe haven for the night when they happen upon an abandoned theater, but while rummaging through the mess of old props and scenery, they uncover.... A CORPSE!

In another encounter, they find a hobo (Jeff Corey, he also played a bum 20 years earlier in Lady in a Cage) who sells them a flashlight and directions to get to the nearest police station... get this... through the underground sewers, so as to avoid detection by the murderous gang.

The Campbells take him up on his offer, and attempt the spooky passage through the dark tunnels, only to emerge back in front of the Carlyle Bar once again!

Final Jeopardy reminded me somewhat of Duel (1971), in that we have a modern, emasculated man (after first encountering the gang, Martin admits to his wife he's never hit a man before, having always talked his way out of tough predicaments) who suddenly finds himself in a survival situation, and must learn to accept that some conflicts can only be resolved through brute force, not rational arbitration.

Also, as in Duel, there comes a point where our protagonist is so consumed with panic over the situation that he ends up frightening people that might otherwise have been convinced to help him, if he weren't acting like a raving madman.

But that's where all similarities to Duel end, as Final Jeopardy is really just a mediocre thriller, not approaching the greatness of that earlier masterpiece.

Final Jeopardy has not been released to DVD as of this writing.


pJ said...

Oh my god, I LOVED this movie! I totally remember the part where his car is locked in the parking lot.

Tom said...

I came across this movie on an old VHS tape a while back. I always liked it when I was a kid. Watching it now, I laugh at scenes such as where the main antagonist tells Richard Thomas, "You're my main squeeze!"

blue said...

I saw this when I was in the hospital as a child, and I've searched for it at various times since I started accessing these fine internets oh so many years ago. Unfortunately I was searching for Double Jeopardy! I finally realized I should match it to my age when I was ill that time and just use "jeopardy." I'm glad to see a few other people out there were also wondering about it, and there's a way to see it.
I couldn't really read your post, though, because I'll have to watch it again first!

ICBM said...

Thank you for posting this! I was 9 when I first saw this movie, ch 11 would play it late nights on occasion I remember. I was a huge fan of class of 84, and similar punk gang movies. Does anyone remember a movie called, (and I may be wrong about the name) Shh Abner? It was about an old couple terrorized by a gang of punks.

Unknown said...

I watched this with my mom when it was a movie of the week. Love Richard Thomas.They don't have good movies like this on tv anymore.