An astronaut crash lands in what appears to be America, but is it?
Spoiler Level: Mild
Colonel Neil Stryker (Glenn Corbett) along with two other astronauts are on a long-range space mission for NASA when something goes wrong with their guidance system. All three of the men black out and Stryker wakes up in what appears to be a military hospital. His room has no windows and, even though he seems to be in good physical condition, he is not allowed to leave the room. He is not allowed any contact with the outside world at all. Dr. Revere (Tim O’Connor) attempts to gain his trust, but Neil realizes something isn’t quite right. He has also been having dreams where he is reliving all the events of his life and feels that he is talking in his sleep. His suspicion grows and he believes maybe he is in an enemy country’s facility being tricked into thinking it is an American hospital. When he finally does escape, he discovers it is far worse than that! With the help of some new friends, he makes along the way, Neil formulates a dangerous plan that could get him back home. Can Col. Stryker succeed in his quest to return to America, or will he forever be trapped as a stranger in a strange land? Watch and find out!
Originally broadcast on February 26, 1973, on NBC, it was intended to be a pilot for an ongoing series but was never picked up. It was re-released for syndication under the new title, Stranded in Space, and was also featured on the movie-mocking television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1991. The series pulled in Orwellian themes with a “Big Brother” type of government called the “Perfect Order”, and where war and famine have been eradicated, people don’t smile as much anymore and there isn’t very much art or music. The idea of being unique or a “free thinker” is viewed as dangerous, and anyone who dares to oppose the government disappears or is lobotomized in “Ward E”. There is also aspects of the 1967 cult British television series the Prisoner and it could have used a bit more of that shows style to jazz it up a bit.
I had never seen this movie before and was pleasantly surprised by it, and I am unsure why it was not picked up as a series, it definitely had potential. Directed by Lee H. Katzin, the use of odd camera angles gave the film a wonderful style and worked well displaying a world so like our own, but just slightly off. The performances were good with Glenn Corbett playing the charismatic and charming astronaut, who becomes a fugitive in a strange new world. Cameron Mitchell plays Benedict, who heads the security team hunting Stryker. He is stoic and passionate about preserving the status quo. Lew Ayres expertly plays Professor Dylan MacAuley who opposes the “Perfect Order” and helps Neil try to get back home. He is kind, funny and intelligent. They did introduce a romantic element with Dr. Bettina Cooke (Sharon Acker), but I felt it was rushed and her conversion from faith within the system to traitor of the “Order” happened just a bit too quickly with not enough lead in. Like many movies in the 1970s, it had to have a car chase, and in this film, it involved a helicopter, and it went on for far too long and wasn’t all that thrilling, when they could have spent the time exploring the relationship and the budding romance between Neil and Bettina. Overall, I did enjoy this film and is one of the few productions I feel should be remade for today’s audience. The premise and themes are all intriguing with complex nuances which would be fun to explore.
Overall this was a fun and interesting television movie.
You can watch The Stranger for free on You Tube.
Movie of the Week: The Stranger (1973)
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Acting - 7/107/10
- Music - 8/108/10
- Production - 7/107/10
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