Accidental Meeting

(Michael Zinberg, USA, 1993)


Linda Gray has been a riveting performer in Melrose Place and sensationalist telemovies, giving the kind of star turn that Joan Crawford and Bette Davis made immortal in that camp, gothic extravaganza What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

Never very far from complete hysteria, Gray’s recurring part as the Professional Older Woman offers the mass media’s best demonstration that conventional feminine role models are, at best, an uneasy masquerade.

Accidental Meeting takes the central premise of Hitchcock’s classic Strangers on a Train (1951), adapting it for the era of female psycho-thrillers such as The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) and Single White Female (1992). Director Michael Zinberg has had a prolific career as a TV director from The Bob Newhart Show in the ’70s to Law and Order: SVU and The Practice today.

Jennifer (Gray), offended by her husband’s philandering with younger women, wanders about her soulless marital mansion lighting stray fires. One day on the road she bumps into Maryanne (Linda Purl), who confesses that she hates her misogynist boss and jokes that she would like to see him dead.

An infernal pact forms in Jennifer’s mind, whereby each woman will kill the accursed male bugging her comrade. Naturally Maryanne has no such intention, but finds herself ineluctably drawn into the whirlpool of her doppelganger’s psychotic acts.

This compellingly melodramatic telemovie has a binary structure all the way: where Jennifer is childless and has Attila the Hun for a husband, Maryanne has the perfect daughter and a Sensitive New Age Guy.

Happily, such a horrible schism only serves to push Linda Gray to ever-greater heights of histrionic dementia.

© Adrian Martin September 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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