TV Terror Guide: The Strangers in 7A (1972)
Air Date: Nov. 14, 1972 (CBS)
Production Companies: Mark Carliner Productions, Palomar Pictures International
Running Time: 74 min.
Available on: YouTube
Written by: Eric Roth
From the novel by Fielden Farrington
Directed by: Paul Wendkos
Cast: Andy Griffith, Ida Lupino, Michael Brandon, James A. Watson Jr., Tim McIntire, Susanne Benton
Poor Artie Sawyer. Played by Andy Griffith, you know he’s a decent man. However, after losing his job and being forced to make ends meet by working as an apartment building superintendent, then having his spirit constantly crushed by his henpecking wife, Iris (Ida Lupino), he makes a big mistake when she goes out of town to visit her sister.
On her way out the door, she tells him, “Forget the bar tonight.” That’s practically his invitation to do just the opposite, spray on some cologne, and head straight for the corner watering hole. Then, when a pretty girl, Claudine (Susanne Benton), pays him some extra attention, he’s putty in her hands. I don’t believe he ever intended to take her home, but…
…when she tells him she has nowhere to stay that night, and he admits his building has an empty apartment because the residents are traveling, his kindness overpowers his common sense. Imagine his surprise when they go to the apartment, she starts 70s-dancing for him and unbuttoning his shirt, and then three thugs burst through the front door.
As Andy’s friend Gomer would say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” He’s been set-up. This gang of criminals wants to use the apartment to plan and execute a bank robbery across the street. The mastermind, Billy (Michael Brandon), and his crew, Riff (James Watson Jr.), Virgil (Tim McIntire), and Claudine, threaten Artie into compliance… and the terror is only beginning.
The Strangers in 7A (1972) is a terrific TV movie thriller. The cast is perfect, the situation compelling, and the execution marvelous. For an indication of its quality, consider what lies ahead for its writer, Eric Roth: Forrest Gump (1994), The Horse Whisperer (1998), and Munich (2005), to name only three of the high-quality theatrical motion pictures he wrote.
Needless to say, the tension escalates when the neighbors below 7A hear noises coming from the apartment and then Iris returns early, feeling guilty about the way she left. When the robbery goes wrong, events turn to a hostage situation and a race against time as Artie tries to locate and defuse a bomb hidden in the building.
You’ll never think for one second this isn’t all going to end with redemption for Artie and a reconciliation with Iris. But getting to the happy ending is full of twists and turns. It’s a fast-moving wagon full of surprises that takes time to establish the circumstance, then gathers speed as it rolls downhill. Jump on and enjoy the ride.
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