Dying Room Only (1973)

Dying Room Only (1973)

No one did made-for-TV movies like the seventies. They were pretty low budget, usually grainy and most of the time will never see the light of a DVD release but dammit they make most glossy features since hang their film reels in shame, and rightfully so.

The film begins with a middle aged couple Jean and Bob Mitchell on route home after a holiday bickering about how far behind schedule they are. They stop off at a diner in the middle of nowhere for something to eat (why no one in these films ever learns to take a packed lunch with them for the journey like normal people I will never know) and things go down hill from there.

There are only two people in the place (I assume the rats have a separate dining area), one of which being the owner and the other a redneck cowboy type (he has a hat), and they are not friendly folk at all.
Any request or pleasantry from the couple is ignored or treated with contempt and when old Bob demands to be allowed to order some food, well the diner owner looks about ready to burst a blood vessel ( I’m guessing that no one has ever explained the concept of the exchange of goods/services for currency, but capitalism isn’t for everybody I guess).

So after managing to get the owner to actually bring them some drinks and make them something to eat (no mean feat in this joint believe me), Jean goes to the ladies to ‘freshen up’ after less than a minute she returns to where they both were sitting and finds that her husband is no longer there.
He’s in the bathroom right? Nope he isn’t in the bathroom. He isn’t in the motel next door either and their car is still parked right where they left it.
No one will help her willingly and no one will answer her questions about where her husband has disappeared to. In fact, both the redneck and the owner claim to have not seen where he went at all.
Creepy, yes?

I thought so.

Jean, after quite a while of attempting to get someone to help her and trying not to cry a lot (well come on now, you were ditched in the middle of nowhere in a redneck café you’d be feeling kinda fragile), manages to call the Sherriff, but whaddya know, as she does this her husbands car drives away at speed (but its dark now and we don’t see who was driving the damn thing!), so by the time the police show up, it looks like she’s a whiney chick who’s spouse has had enough and ditched her in the dusty hell motel and diner to teach her a lesson. To make matters worse the redneck and diner owner are making it look like this is exactly what happened, and succeed in making her look like a mental missing her straightjacket.

You can imagine that things don’t get any better from there.

Dying Room Only is an absolute classic in every sense of the word – it’s well acted, and has aged incredibly well. It’s a situation no one in their right mind would want to find themselves in, and far too realistic a possibility to not feel every emotion as Jean experiences it. I’ve got to admit that the second half of the film does wane a little and ends up in a familiar vein, but I would recommend it to anyone who loves those lonely seventies thriller/horrors like Duel and The Hitcher.

Moral of the story? Take a packed lunch with you on every road trip kiddiewinks, and there’s a good reason why chicks always go to the bathroom in twos.

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