W (1974)

PG | 95 mins | Mystery | 4 December 1974

Director:

Richard Quine

Producer:

Mel Ferrer

Cinematographer:

Jerry Hirschfeld

Editor:

Gene Milford

Production Designer:

Cary Odell

Production Company:

BCP, Inc.
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HISTORY

Referring to the film by its working title, Chance for a Killing, a 2 Mar 1973 HR news item announced that Bing Crosby Productions (BCP) president Charles A. Pratt hired Mel Ferrer and Ronald Shusett to produce the picture. Principal photography was scheduled to begin 16 Apr 1973 at Paramount Pictures studios in Los Angeles, CA. Although HR stated that the film’s story was written by Jeffrey Bloom and Ronald Shusett, and a 15 Mar 1973 HR brief added that Bloom co-wrote the screenplay with Gerald Di Pego, Bloom does not receive onscreen credit; instead, James Kelly is credited as co-writer of both the story and the screenplay. Shusett was ultimately credited as a writer, not a producer.
       The 15 Mar 1973 HR also announced that British model, Twiggy, was cast in the starring role of “Katie Lewis” and principal photography was rescheduled to begin 23 Apr 1973; however, HR production charts published 4 May 1973 stated that shooting began 30 Apr 1973, on location at San Pedro Harbor and Trancas Beach, CA. The film made its final appearance in HR production charts on 15 Jun 1973.
       According to a 21 Mar 1974 DV article, BCP’s distributor, Cinerama Releasing Corp., screened the $1.25 million film for test audiences before its projected May 1974 release in various cities, including Providence, RI; San Diego, CA; and Phoenix, AZ. Audience reactions led Cinerama to conclude that Twiggy was not the box-office draw they had hoped for and the company opted to focus their marketing campaign on the picture’s “suspense factors” instead ... More Less

Referring to the film by its working title, Chance for a Killing, a 2 Mar 1973 HR news item announced that Bing Crosby Productions (BCP) president Charles A. Pratt hired Mel Ferrer and Ronald Shusett to produce the picture. Principal photography was scheduled to begin 16 Apr 1973 at Paramount Pictures studios in Los Angeles, CA. Although HR stated that the film’s story was written by Jeffrey Bloom and Ronald Shusett, and a 15 Mar 1973 HR brief added that Bloom co-wrote the screenplay with Gerald Di Pego, Bloom does not receive onscreen credit; instead, James Kelly is credited as co-writer of both the story and the screenplay. Shusett was ultimately credited as a writer, not a producer.
       The 15 Mar 1973 HR also announced that British model, Twiggy, was cast in the starring role of “Katie Lewis” and principal photography was rescheduled to begin 23 Apr 1973; however, HR production charts published 4 May 1973 stated that shooting began 30 Apr 1973, on location at San Pedro Harbor and Trancas Beach, CA. The film made its final appearance in HR production charts on 15 Jun 1973.
       According to a 21 Mar 1974 DV article, BCP’s distributor, Cinerama Releasing Corp., screened the $1.25 million film for test audiences before its projected May 1974 release in various cities, including Providence, RI; San Diego, CA; and Phoenix, AZ. Audience reactions led Cinerama to conclude that Twiggy was not the box-office draw they had hoped for and the company opted to focus their marketing campaign on the picture’s “suspense factors” instead of its leading lady.
       An advertisement in the 17 Jun 1974 Box reported that the film had grossed $103,472 at fourteen theaters in one week of screenings in Miami, FL.
       Although the 17 Jun 1974 Box, noted that Twiggy and her onscreen husband, Michael Witney, were married shortly after the film’s production, Witney’s 2 Dec 1988 NYT obituary stated that the couple’s wedding was not until 1977. While the 3 Jun 1974 HR did not review the film favorably, the 6 Dec 1974 LAT called the picture a “slick, suspenseful tale of terror.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Jun 1974.
---
Box Office
17 Jun 1974
p. 4698.
Daily Variety
25 Apr 1973.
---
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1974.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jun 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Mar 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 1973
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1973
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1974
p. 3, 15.
Los Angeles Times
6 Dec 1974.
---
New York Times
2 Dec 1983.
---
Variety
12 Jun 1974
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Chief elec
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const coord
Props
COSTUMES
Cost supv
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Post-prod supv
Casting
Prod coord
Vice-pres prod
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Chance for a Killing
Release Date:
4 December 1974
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 4 December 1974 at the Palace, Fox Hollywood, and multiples
Production Date:
30 April--mid June 1973
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

ooAs Katie Lewis drives away from her beachfront home, she loses control of her station wagon and crashes. Frightened, she phones her husband, Ben, at his dockside boat repair shop and he returns home to find the initial “W” scrawled on Katie’s car. Sometime later, Katie is shocked by an electrical outlet and Ben tends to her wound, reminding her that she need not fear, nor remember, her past. The next day at the dock, Ben’s car smashes into a boat and, after jumping to safety, he sees the initial “W” on the trunk. Meanwhile, Katie walks her dogs on the beach and is disturbed by their frantic barking. When Ben returns home in a rental car, he notices an object floating just off shore, then loads his handgun and turns on music so Katie cannot hear. As Katie showers, Ben phones Soledad Prison to learn that inmate William "Billy" Caulder, Katie’s former husband, was recently transferred to a nearby penitentiary called McKenna. Just then, Katie screams and Ben rushes to her aid to find another “W” traced on the bathroom mirror. Speculating that William escaped during the prison transfer and is trying to kill them, Ben promises to seek legal advice from his friend, Arnie Felson, but Katie fears that she will end up in prison, herself; William was convicted of her murder because she remained in hiding and changed her identity from “Ellen Caulder” to “Katie Lewis.” Although Katie warns Ben that he could be implicated in the ruse, he phones Arnie the next morning and leaves a message with the lawyer’s secretary. Just then, a private ... +


ooAs Katie Lewis drives away from her beachfront home, she loses control of her station wagon and crashes. Frightened, she phones her husband, Ben, at his dockside boat repair shop and he returns home to find the initial “W” scrawled on Katie’s car. Sometime later, Katie is shocked by an electrical outlet and Ben tends to her wound, reminding her that she need not fear, nor remember, her past. The next day at the dock, Ben’s car smashes into a boat and, after jumping to safety, he sees the initial “W” on the trunk. Meanwhile, Katie walks her dogs on the beach and is disturbed by their frantic barking. When Ben returns home in a rental car, he notices an object floating just off shore, then loads his handgun and turns on music so Katie cannot hear. As Katie showers, Ben phones Soledad Prison to learn that inmate William "Billy" Caulder, Katie’s former husband, was recently transferred to a nearby penitentiary called McKenna. Just then, Katie screams and Ben rushes to her aid to find another “W” traced on the bathroom mirror. Speculating that William escaped during the prison transfer and is trying to kill them, Ben promises to seek legal advice from his friend, Arnie Felson, but Katie fears that she will end up in prison, herself; William was convicted of her murder because she remained in hiding and changed her identity from “Ellen Caulder” to “Katie Lewis.” Although Katie warns Ben that he could be implicated in the ruse, he phones Arnie the next morning and leaves a message with the lawyer’s secretary. Just then, a private investigator named Charles Jasper unexpectedly visits the Lewis home. Ben permits Jasper entry and holds the investigator at gunpoint. Jasper reports that the couple’s recent car problems are suspicious and offers his services, but the Lewises are unresponsive and he leaves. After a short sailboat excursion, the couple returns home to find their dogs bludgeoned to death in Katie’s art studio. That night, the Lewises bury their dogs and Katie implores Ben to contact the police, but Ben phones Jasper instead. When the investigator arrives, Ben alleges that William escaped prison, killed their dogs and stole his gun, but Jasper maintains that there have been no reports of jailbreaks. Jasper concludes that William has been paroled and suggests that the couple implicate the man in a crime so he will be sent back to jail, but Katie protests. Ben agrees to hire Jasper for home security and the investigator stages a phone call, leading the Lewises to believe that he is hiring guards instead of talking to his own answering machine. That night, the couple sits alone in their darkened home when a television news report announces their deaths. Recognizing William’s voice, Ben realizes the broadcast is a hoax and discovers an explosive device rigged to the television. The next morning, Ben calls McKenna Prison and learns that William has not been paroled. Although Ben suspects that Jasper orchestrated the assaults, Katie is convinced that her former husband is seeking revenge. Ben takes a tour of McKenna that afternoon and recognizes William from Katie’s photograph. Enraged, Ben rushes to Jasper’s office, where he seizes the investigator’s gun and threatens to kill him, but Jasper explains that William has a work permit and leaves the prison daily for his job in the community. Jasper procures a 1969 newspaper article reporting the murder of “Ellen Caulder” and accuses the couple of fraud. With the threat of exposure, Ben agrees to Jasper’s $5000 blackmail; however, he only gives the investigator half of the money, stipulating that the rest will come when William’s work permit is revoked. Ben then phones his lawyer, Artie, who meets the Lewises at the beach house. Katie explains that she married William in London, England, while he was stationed there as a U.S. military sergeant, but the man became mentally ill and physically abusive when they returned to America. After a brutal attack, Katie left her husband and met Ben, who helped her regain her life with a false identity. While Ben and Katie take a moonlit walk, police discover the burned wreckage of a McKenna Prison truck, and Lt. Whitfield arrests the couple for murdering William. At the police station, an investigator shows Ben two articles that were found in William’s toolbox, the 1969 report of Katie’s supposed murder and a headline showing Ben and Katie on the beach in La Paz, Mexico. In another office, Katie insists that her current husband did not murder William. When the Lewises reunite, Lt. Whitfield announces that the murder weapon, Ben’s gun, was found on the beach outside the Lewis home, but Ben argues that the weapon was stolen. Katie then recognizes Jasper from police photographs and an officer identifies the so-called investigator as Samuel Tenley, a recent McKenna Prison inmate. Although Ben concludes that Jasper and William worked together, Lt. Whitfield is unconvinced, claiming that Jasper had no reason to kill his fellow prisoner. When the lieutenant reveals that Ben’s fingerprints were on the gun and refuses to set bail, Artie promises to secure his client’s release but warns Ben that he might be convicted of the same crime as William, second-degree murder. Sometime later, Artie takes Katie home and she insists on remaining there alone. When the lawyer leaves, Katie is shocked to find William in her bedroom. William explains that he staged his own murder by attaching two fingers to Jasper’s burned corpse, leading the police to confuse their identities. William beats his former wife and packs her suitcase, announcing that he successfully switched places with Ben and now wants Katie to “disappear” in prison. Katie attempts to dissuade William, but his anger escalates into psychosis. Knocking Katie to the ground, William sees his reflection in a mirror, pounds his bloodied fist into a nearby window, and collapses. As Katie consoles William, Artie returns to the house and phones for help. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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