Shadow on the Land (1968)

Article 3062 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-25-2009
Posting Date: 1-1-2010
Directed by Richard C. Sarafian
Featuring Jackie Cooper, John Forsythe, Gene Hackman
Country: USA
What it is: Alternate universe United-States-under-dictatorship thriller

In an alternative universe, the United States is under the control of a dictator who uses a special band of law enforcers known as the ISF to control the people. A resistance group known as the Society of Man has arisen to overthrow the dictatorship. In this story, an army general is taken into custody by the ISF, but the resistance group breaks him out of a concentration camp to discover what he knows. The IFS places Major Shepherd McCloud in charge of finding the general, unaware that the Major is a double agent for the Society of Man.

Usually, ideas like this are the stuff of exploitation; I’m thinking of movies like STRANGE HOLIDAY and RED NIGHTMARE. This one tries a different tack; it’s more of an espionage thriller in which the resistance group pits itself against the law enforcers. It’s interesting, but not entirely convincing, and, as a stand-alone movie, it’s rather unsatisfying in the final analysis. But that’s the point; it isn’t really a stand-alone movie, but another pilot for an unsold TV series. I actually was a bit surprised by this discovery (not that the pilot didn’t sell, mind you, but that it was intended as a pilot), because it just didn’t seem like it was an idea that had a real chance of becoming a regular series; I think there would have been a great deal of ambivalence in people’s minds about the concept. Still, as I said, it was interesting; there are odd bits of engaging dialogue, and Gene Hackman is memorable as a priest who must decide on which side he will fight. At any rate, this is one of the odder TV-Movies out there.


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