Artistic Impact Of Updike Story Distilled For Television.
The rich texture of John Updike's prose forms the basis for this American Playhouse adaptation by Morton Neal Miller, who also produces here, of Updike's 1964 New Yorker Magazine story, "The Christian Roommates", included in the author's 1966 collection. "The Music School", but as must be expected, the original is a template not easily approximated. Miller has utilized substantial portions of the story's dialogue for this well-cast film in an effort to capture the spirit of the Updike piece, but the psychologic insights prominent within the original could only be effectively transmitted into cinema through an unrealistic employment of large-scale voice-over. Intrinsic interest for most viewers from this affair's targeted audience will be provided by the sharp contrast between the two principals, dormitory underclass roommates at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois during the 1952/3 academic year, theirs a less than happy blend that becomes the source of the film's primary conflict and resolution process. The roommates are Orson Ziegler (Lance Guest), from a very conservative small town South Dakota family, son of a Northwestern graduate, and Henry "Hud" Palamountain (Barry Miller), a free thinking acolyte of Gandhi and general anti-establishment sort, from Oregon, each young man decidedly having difficulty adjusting to the other's presence due to their widely disparate personality traits that supply ingredients for the screenplay, as is the case with the Updike tale. The latter is milked for its content but not improved by a bald attempt to ginger up the storyline with the inclusion of a pretty co-ed whose favours are sought by each of the roommates, as well as a closing audio only portion consisting of a telephone conversation between Orson and Hud held many years following their graduation, scripted by Miller, that is ineffective and poorly crafted, weakening the impact of what has gone before. "The Christian Roommates" is not top-tier Updike, but is a very fine short story nonetheless and, as with all of his output, it is quite unfilmable, yet Morton Miller has created a suitable cinematic rendering for its intended television airing. Whereas it hardly can efface the original, it is not designed to do so, and a good deal of ancillary quality is found in the production design, costuming, and editing, in conjunction with creative cinematography by Jeff Jur.
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