Carol Burnett plays Martha, a lonely rich widow, and her daughter Carrie Hamilton plays Bonnie, a surly escaped convict, in the CBS Sunday night movie "Hostage," at 9 on Channel 9.
"What did you do?" the widow asks the convict soon after they meet. "Go to hell," says the girl.
Martha: "How old are you?"
Bonnie: "Shut up!"
The two of them don't exactly hit it off. And soon they are hitting each other, during a big slugfest in the widow's garage. Bonnie-Carrie delivers one heckuva haymaker to Martha-Carol's jaw. Pow! At this point the film is merely embarrassing and ludicrous.
But there are several more brutal beatings to come, and director Peter Levin dwells on them lovingly, so that the film stops being dreadful and starts being offensive. It's a real crowd-punisher, ugly and distasteful, and a very odd choice by Burnett as her first costarring film with her not-recognizably-talented daughter. Hamilton looks like one of the lost boys after a particularly lost weekend.
Stephen H. Foreman wrote this tripe, in which the germ of an idea -- Martha, taken hostage, develops maternal, protective feelings for the girl -- is trashed up with gratuitous violence. The screenplay is gimmicked further with the menacing character of Bonnie's father, a sadistic molester who whacks her around even on city streets.
Hostage and hostage-taker separate and reconnoiter through implausible circumstances. Finally, and understandably, Martha asks, "How are we going to get this whole thing over with?" One does indeed wonder. It won't be a moment too soon, because it is already several moments too late.
CBS didn't buy this movie from an independent supplier; it's a CBS Entertainment production, and thus even more of a network black eye than it might have been. The acting is uniformly poor with two exceptions. As the girl's father, Leon Russom is especially terrible, and as her mother, a poor lady who lives in a shack, Priscilla Smith achieves a genuine, mournful verisimilitude. Her last line in the film is beautifully read. And what a relief it is to get to anybody's last line in a film as wretched as this one.