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***SPOILERS*** Pretty good made for TV murder mystery that has a man driven to murder his wife because she's can't take his schemings and wheeling and dealing at his job as a real-estate salesman. The scheming just about bankrupted both her as well as him.
Mindlessly maxing out all his wife's, Connie, credit cards as well as his and Connie's joint bank account Harry Cardell goes all out buying this patch of land outside of L.A thinking that it will be developed into a 40 million dollar shopping center. Jumping with joy at the big deal he just pulled off Harry thinking he'll make a cool 250 thousand in no time at all finds out that the land he just bought is, instead of being a multi-million shopping center, going to be used as a toxic dump worth 30 thousand dollar! The man isn't only broke but some, not counting the interest, 50 thousand in the hole. Carrie not wanting to have her, and Harry's, two young children, Benji and Jefnnifer, grow up without a father puts up with the now manic depress and abusive Harry instead of leaving him. This leads to the horrors that he later inflicts on her because he just can't handle the mess that he made for himself and his family.
Right away you see that Harry is a bit unstable when he not only invites his strung out and pot smoking daughter, from another marriage, Nancy but her gang of over-aged hippies lead by her boyfriend Jason, better known as Mr. Pink, to the house. They not only light up and shoot illegal drugs but expose his and Carrie's children, Benj & Jennie, to them and their very unsocial and criminal antics. Harry's behavior becomes so overbearing that Carrie finally decides to leave him and take Benji and Jennie with her which makes Harry, if he wasn't already, an uncontrollable lunatic, even more nutty.
Stalking Carrie and the children at their new address Harry after trying unsuccessfully to act his age gives up being normal altogether and in a last act of desperation, in keeping his family together, then plans to in fact destroy it. By having Carrie knocked off by a hired mob hit-man and make it look like it was a blotched burglary attempt. Getting friendly with Albert, the security guard at Carrie's housing development, Harry has the poor slob go back to his old neighborhood, one of the toughest and crime-ridden in the city, and find one of his old and gangster friends, a guy named Eddie, who's more then willing to do the job for him but at the cost of 10 thousand dollars.
Harry strapped for cash, that he needs to pay Eddie for whacking his wife, gets second thoughts about going through with the hit not that he feels any kind of sympathy for Carrie or even her and his children who would be left without a mother, if his plan goes through, but just wants to keep the cash for himself. Harry decides to do the hit himself for free! It turns out that Harry's alternate plan didn't go that well with hit-man Eddie who's determined to do the hit, and thus collect his ten grand, himself. Eddie Threatens to do in Harry, at no charge, if he back out has a reluctant Harry let everything go according to schedule. Being the deranged and out of touch with reality psycho that he is Harry never sees what was so obvious to anyone watching the movie and pays for it, big time, in the end.
Really a Ben Gazzara, who plays Crazy Harry Cardell, movie with his acting far outshining everyone else in it. Harry goes completely wacko and loses it so bad that he seems to be in another plane or realm of existence during the entire time he's on the screen. An excellent study of madness in the modern world "Downpayment to Murder" is far better then I at first thought. Thinking the film was just another of the many imitations of "Double Indemnity" but after watching the film and Gazzara's unprecedented, as a man totally detached from reality, performance I have to say that it was well worth the 90 or so minutes I spent watching it.
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