Sorry to disappoint, but this essay isn't about my family. It's about a movie. Ah...the things one can unearth on YouTube. Once upon a time there was this television flick, which starred Robert Mitchum and a twenty-something James Spader playing a teenager. Called A Killer in the Family, it premiered in 1983. I remember watching it by pure chance and had no idea it was based on a true story.
The movie recounted the dramatic tale of convicted murderers Gary Tison and Randy Greenawalt, their escape from prison, and subsequent vicious and violent crime spree. To say that this small-screen production was simultaneously creepy and compelling wouldn't do it justice. I distinctly remember the station announcer chillingly intoning after each commercial break, "We now return to A Killer in the Family!" Shivers! This made-for-TV motion picture was quite intense and shockingly brutal—it really was. And I admit to being somewhat unnerved after watching it, and feared that Robert Mitchum and his weaselly accomplice, played by Stuart Margolin, Jim Rockford's "Angel," would invade my dreams.
I've long since forgotten what it was, but something—many, many years later—resurrected the memory of A Killer in the Family. I desperately wanted to see this movie again. I wondered if it was available on videotape, and whether or not it was ever shown in reruns. But no luck. Since I'd long since steeled myself to its gruesome unpredictability and horrific denouement—no happy ending here— I had to see it, at the very least, one more time. I had to know if it was as I remembered.
Decades passed...nothing...and then one pleasant autumn October day in 2010, I searched YouTube for A Killer in the Family, or as that announcer dramatically bellowed twenty-seven-years-earlier: A KILLER IN THE FAMILY! And eureka! Some generous soul had put the entire movie up, in parts, on the site!
For those of us getting a little long in the tooth, this cyber portal is a real godsend, resurrecting countless media moments from days gone by, which otherwise would have been lost to us forever. And so, I can now watch A Killer in the Family in its entirety, which I haven't seen in almost three decades. Will I be thoroughly discombobulated after seeing it, as I was a long time ago, or bored silly and unimpressed? After all, I'm an almost fifty-something, jaded man now. 1983 was then and this is now. It's time to find out.