The Road Builder (1971)

Article #1645 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-15-2005
Posting Date: 2-12-2006
Directed by Alastair Reid
Featuring Patricia Neal, Pamela Brown, Nicholas Clay

Two women living in the country (a blind elderly woman and her repressed middle-aged daughter) take on a handyman that arrives unexpectedly one day. What they don’t know is that the handyman has a secret…

The feelings of deja vu were pretty strong for me with this one, and if you’ve seen the 1937 movie NIGHT MUST FALL, you’ll have them as well. It will also clue you in on the handyman’s secret, which isn’t made explicit until the movie’s halfway point, but seeing as to how every plot description I’ve read of this one gives it away, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find out that the handyman has racked up a body count over the years. Nonetheless, despite its strong similarities to NIGHT MUST FALL, it’s hardly a rip-off or a remake; as the story develops, the character relationships take on distinctly different forms than the ones in that movie (which, combined with the fact that this movie didn’t have to adhere to the rules of the Hays Office, makes it somewhat more unpredictable), and I actually think those who are fond of the earlier film might find this variant on the story rather interesting. Certainly, the fact that the script was written by Roald Dahl should give an idea of the darkness behind the story. Nevertheless, I’m not quite sure the movie really works; there are some rather awkward moments, and its overall effect is one of sheer oddness. Both of the titles of the movie refer to the handyman’s method of disposing of the bodies.


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