Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
"The Slender Thread" Is Strong Drama
Cleveland Press 1965
The action of the movie encompasses only a brief time and the film itself is blessedly short. "The Slender Thread" is a carefully constructed study in suspense, its climaxes well sustained.
The scene is Seattle, a city with a Crisis Clinic, which is a place for people to call if they are in trouble.
A full-time university student (Sidney Poitier), a volunteer worker at the clinic, has just come on duty as the doctor (Telly Savalas) who heads the staff leaves for the evening.
Moments later the phone rings. The caller (Anne Bancroft) has purposely taken an overdose of sleeping pills. She doesn't want to be saved. She just wants to talk.
She makes it clear that if there is any attempt to talk her out of suicide she will hang up. The problem is to keep her talking long enough to trace the call, to find out where she is, to learn as much as possible about her.
In fragments her story emerges -- the discovery by her husband that he is not the father of their child, her earlier suicide attempts, her search for help and her feelings of rejection.
The flashbacks are there for more than just revelation. They break up what writer and director must have felt would be the more static scenes involving the phone. But the telephone scenes emerge as quite the best part of the film. The rest gets sticky.
For Poitier the portrayal is a tour de force, an exercise in how to act under limiting conditions. He is confined to one room and the phone is his only prop He pleads with it, laughs at it, screams at it, scorns it. Every emotion registers on his face, in the movements of his body, the sag of his shoulders, his gestures.
Miss Bancroft has no easy job either. We hear her voice in the present, see her only in the past. Not until the end does the camera present her as she is talking on the phone. Her role is a study in nerves stretched to the snapping point.
"The Slender Thread" is the old race-against-time formula, but a couple of great stars make it look almost fresh.