THEATER IN AMERICA: THE RIMERS OF ELDRITCH (TV)

Summary

One in this series of regional theater productions. This episode presents a television film version of “The Rimers of Eldritch,” a play about the circumstances surrounding a murder in a small rural town. In the small decaying town of Eldritch, Iowa, a man named Walter comes to town looking for work, and speaks with Cora Graves, owner of a nearby roadside diner. Mary Winrod, an elderly resident of Eldritch, starts behaving strangely and carrying on cryptic conversations with the other townsfolk. Teenagers Eva Jackson and Robert Conklin hang out together, intercut with scenes at a trial concerning an attack on Eva by an unknown man; the story proceeds with a jumbled chronology of events. Robert, nicknamed “Driver Junior” after his older brother Driver, may plan to leave Eldritch, although he is unsure of what to do with his life. Mary’s daughter Nelly has just inherited the local mill from her father, who recently passed away from old age. Nelly resents Mary, who encourages unsightly rumors about her and is disliked around town. Nelly sends Mary to bed; Mary mutters about the “evil town” surrounding her. Eva returns home to her mother, who is suspicious of the time she is spending with Robert. Eva takes the stand at the trial, which is to determine the guilt or innocence of Nelly for an unstated crime. She claims that she didn’t see anything and is highly upset. There is a great consternation and argument at the trial, with mention given to a “heathen in the fold.” Cora takes on Walter as her new employee, with whom she is also carrying on a relationship. Patsy Johnson, another young woman in Eldritch, resents the town and wishes to move somewhere else. Mary becomes distressed by her nightmares, which she feels prophesize of someone getting “butchered” in town. One night, Eva is walking home when she encounters Skelly, an old disheveled hobo, who tries to tell her something about Robert. She is unnerved by him and leaves immediately. Some of the men in town construct a makeshift courtroom for the trial, remarking on the circumstances surrounding it. Walter refurbishes Cora’s diner to make it look more inviting. While eating there, Patsy notices Walter and comments on his attractiveness; there are rumors spreading around about his relationship with Cora. One night Patsy informs her father that she caught Skelly spying on her, claiming that he ran when she screamed. It is slowly revealed that a murder took place in Eldritch, attracting a degree of local attention. Skelly finds Robert sitting in a wrecked car; his older brother died when he crashed it during a stock car race. People in town remember Driver fondly, but Skelly begs to differ, revealing that Driver beat his girlfriend. Robert does not wish to listen to Skelly and runs away. Eva begins talking to Mary, who shows her a little makeshift pet cemetery she made. Patsy starts secretly seeing Walter, and they have sex. Eva asks Robert why he doesn’t have a car, but he sees no need for it, believing that other boys his age are too car-obsessed. Eva believes that Robert’s resentment stems from Driver’s death. During the trial Robert claims that Skelly knocked him unconscious from behind. One night Walter returns to the diner late, finding Cora waiting up for him. She suspects that he is cheating on her. Out in his shack in the woods, Skelly prepares supper for his dog and reminisces about the town’s more prosperous days, and about his girlfriend when he was a young man. He feels sorry for Eva and for Patsy, whom he believes is being abused by her father. Mary testifies at the trial, asserting that she saw both Skelly and Robert assaulting Eva, although her continual cryptic speech throws the veracity of her claim into question. Nelly testifies that she went out to investigate the scene, armed with her shotgun. Patsy threatens to tell Cora about Walter, concerning a matter which is left vague. Cora and Walter go to visit Skelly, who is raising a few pigs. In private, Skelly tells Walter that he’s seen him with Patsy. At night, Cora tells Walter about her dream of one day leaving town and starting a new life for herself. Peck and Josh Johnson, Patsy’s father and brother respectively, confront and threaten Skelly before leaving. During Robert’s testimony at the trial Eva screams. Walter leaves Cora in the middle of the night, leaving her in tears. Patsy’s boyfriend Chuck asks her to marry him, a prospect which she finds daunting. While out in the woods with Robert, Eva believes she hears something, but Robert does not. Nelly visits Maven, Patsy’s mother, and talks to her about Patsy’s upcoming wedding and other matters. Cora speaks to Eva in private about her encounter in the woods with Skelly, where she insists Robert’s testimony is correct. However, Cora believes there is something Eva is hiding from her. It is revealed that the townsfolk believe that Skelly attempted to rape Eva in the woods, and that Nelly shot and killed him to protect her. Out in the woods, Eva tells Robert that her mother suspects them of having sex, when that is not the case. Robert becomes uncomfortable with this and insists that they go back. However, Eva finds that she wants to have sex with Robert, but Robert says that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and is too young for it. However, after becoming agitated by what he feels are negative insinuations, Robert attempts to rape her. Skelly emerges and shoves Robert away to protect Eva. Nelly arrives and shoots Skelly dead, ignoring his plea to help Eva. At the trial, Robert gives his testimony, falsely claiming that Skelly attacked unprovoked, prompting Eva’s scream. Ultimately Nelly is cleared of the charge of murder. After the trial, Eva and Robert silently confront each other before they each walk off separately.

Details

  • NETWORK: PBS
  • DATE: March 20, 1974 8:30 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 01:30:00
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: B:87189
  • GENRE: Drama
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Drama
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1974-1979
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Jac Venza … Executive Producer
    • Matthew N. Herman … Producer
    • David S. Howe … Associate Producer
    • Davey Marlin-Jones … Director
    • Lanford Wilson … Writer
    • Vance Sorellis … Music by
    • Roberts Blossom … Cast, Judge/Preacher
    • K. Callan … Cast, Evelyn Jackson
    • Cliff Carpenter … Cast, Peck Johnson
    • Sarah Cunningham … Cast, Nelly Winrod
    • Kathleen Doyle … Cast, Lena Truit
    • Will Hare … Cast, Skelly Mannor
    • Kate Harrington … Cast, Martha Truit
    • Rue McClanahan … Cast, Cora Groves
    • Clifford Pellow … Cast, Trucker
    • Joanna Roos … Cast, Mary Winrod
    • Susan Sarandon … Cast, Patsy Johnson
    • Vance Sorellis … Cast, Josh Johnson
    • James Staley … Cast, Robert Conklin
    • Helen Stenborg … Cast, Mavis Johnson
    • Frances Sternhagen … Cast, Martha Truit
    • Ernest Thompson … Cast, Walter
    • Carol Williard … Cast, Eva Jackson