In this gem of a TV movie, Edward G. Robinson plays Emil Pulska, an old man who witnesses the murder of his close friend, but cannot get anybody to believe him. Neighbors who might be able to corroborate some of his story treat him with disdain and contempt. His daughter-in-law suspects he is going senile. Even his son, who has almost unshakable faith in his the father that did so much for him, eventually comes to believe he needs to be under observation. Frustrated, Emil sets out to investigate matters on his own, and is plunged into an unseemly world where nobody can be trusted.
On its face, THE OLD MAN WHO CRIED WOLF is a thriller with Hitchcockian overtones, and it works splendidly on that level. On another level, the film explores uncomfortable questions about the elderly and what to do with them when they seem unable to take care of themselves any more. We know Emil saw what he saw, and we know the local hood who committed the murder is keeping an eye on Emil's every move, but we receive information some of the characters in the film do not. No matter where Emil goes in his search for the truth, he winds up in more trouble and becomes even more disheveled and confused, which, naturally, does not help his case with his family and the doctor who is treating him. The sad irony at the heart of the film is that outwardly Emil shows every sign of losing his mind, but in reality, he is in full possession of his mind, but the brutal world he finds himself in makes him look crazy.
Robinson, my favorite actor of all time, does a superlative job as Emil. As he so often did in his career, Robinson loses himself in the part and is so convincing as a man plunged into a world of paranoia, he can occasionally make us believe that he didn't see what we know he saw. He is backed up by an excellent cast, including Martin Balsam has his son, Ed Asner as his doctor, and fellow Hollywood veteran Sam Jaffe as the friend who is murdered.
A suspenseful, claustrophobic film with a beautifully nuanced turn by a classic Hollywood star, THE OLD MAN WHO CRIED WOLF deserves to be out on DVD. Then again, I can say the same about so many of these Movies of the Week. ½ - JB
IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR GOOD MOVIE QUOTES
(In context, this is the best line in the movie.)