'Growing Pains' mom doesn't cut it as a seductress

March 06, 1992|By Rick Kogan | Rick Kogan,Chicago Tribune

If you can't swallow the idea, let alone the sight, of Joanna Kerns (the mom on "Growing Pains") as a Southern seductress, you are going to have a very hard time getting into "The Nightman" (9 p.m. Sunday, Channel 2).

The film is directed by former "Hill Street Blues" policeman Charles Haid with an abundance of arty angles. It sets up a familiar, if sordid, love triangle involving Kerns, as the 37-year-old widow Eve, who runs a fading summer resort on the shores of a Georgia lake; Jenny Robertson as daughter Maggie, 17 and yearning for carnal experiences; and Ted Marcoux as 27-year-old Vietnam veteran Tom, who arrives to take the job as night manager of the resort, not fully aware of all his duties.

The tale is told in flashbacks, which tip us off to the fact that Tom has been serving a lengthy prison term for the murder of Eve and that Maggie has grown up to be a doctor, worried that Tom is out of jail and stalking her.

The flashbacks take us back to the sweaty summer when mother and daughter both coveted Tom's bare-chested attentions. Both were successful, forcing the inevitable

jealous confrontation. There was a gun. There was a bang. There was a body.

The film's ending unveils a silly secret and, throughout, the acting is mediocre, with Kerns almost laughable as she utters, "I'm a woman who needs a man"; Robertson is hard to believe as a teen; and Marcoux, just a hunk.

They are all -- in one of the film's curiosities -- good at smoking cigarettes. I haven't seen this much smoking in a movie since "Backdraft."

It's as if the writers were trying to tell us something: smoking as sexual metaphor. Phooey.

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