Movie of the Week: All the Kind Strangers

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As the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.  It kind of makes a person want to stop doing good deeds, but the result would be even worse.  The world would be a much darker place.  Of course, if we’d stop all the darn punishment of good deeds, it would be a better place around, wouldn’t it?  I doubt it– we’d find some way to screw it up and punish the wrong people.

Once upon a time, hitchhiking was a thing. I’ve seen several hitchhikers along the roadside with their backpacks and bundles headed to parts unknown. I’ve seen them headed the same direction as me, but I’ve never picked them up. Why? Because I’ve heard (read and seen) too many stories and news reports of hitchhikers going all murder-minded on the Good Samaritans who gave them a lift out of the kindness of their hearts.

See, that is a prime example of a good deed being punished.

All the Kind Strangers follows such a thread, although it doesn’t have such a gruesome ending. I’m not spoiling anything with that tidbit– if you like silly, grainy, 1970s TV-movie-of-the-week entertainment, this will check those boxes.

Jimmy Wheeler is a photojournalist passing through a rural area. Once he leaves the interstate, he finds himself surrounded by country and little else. Down a desolate backroad is where he drives up on a young boy walking with his arms full of groceries. Jimmy stops and offers to give the boy a lift home.

Home turns out to be even further in the middle of nowhere than Jimmy thought possible. The road to the boy’s house even crosses through a creek at one point. Along the journey, the boy relates to Jimmy that he has other brothers and sisters, their mom is dead, their dad is away on business, and the oldest, Peter, is watching after all of them.

Jimmy thinks he may be on a wild goose chase until they finally arrive at a rundown house in the middle of the woods. A pack of trained attack dogs waits on the porch with the rest of the kids. Also, their mother doesn’t appear to be dead as she is in the kitchen cooking dinner. As she talks to Jimmy, she writes HELP in flour on cutting board.

The kids all want Jimmy to stay for dinner and, since his car doesn’t start anymore, he decides to stay overnight. This one visit may turn into something more permanent. The kids’ parents are actually dead and they use the younger kids to lure adults to the house so they can keep them as parents. If they don’t like the candidates, or the candidates don’t take to being, you know, held captive…let’s just say the kids have gotten away with this for some time because no one has escaped to snitch.

I’m not going to try to convince anyone this is a masterpiece of suspense cinema. It is far from it. Actually, I wouldn’t even suggest watching this during daylight hours unless you want some goofy nonsense. If you are like me and think some artifacts of goofy nonsense are better in the late hours of the night, then, by all means, watch All the Kind Strangers as close to midnight as possible with the lights out and a drink in your hand. Cigarettes are optional.