#221 – Wichita

(1987, US, 104 min) Dir Gary Schmaltzer. Cast Tom Hanks.

Before he was stranded alone on an island in Castaway a pre-America’s Everyman/modern day Jimmy Stewart Tom Hanks was stranded alone in a new house in Wichita, a film probably best remembered for its TV ad campaign – a dark screen with someone whispering, with increasing urgency, “Wichita! Wichita!! Wichita!!!” followed by a shot of Hanks’ terrified face. Here he is Jim Grady, loving husband and father, whose family are moving to a new house in – yes, you guessed it – Wichita, Kansas. While his wife stays in New York with the kids packing up their things he’s in the new place overseeing the repairs. As the film starts he’s waving goodbye to the workmen leaving him in the house with just the family dog for company. He cracks open a beer and heats a tin of beans for dinner with the sun going down outside the window, talking away to Jake the dog the whole time in a terrifically funny and sustained one-sided conversation. That’s when the noises start and the light hearted banter ends. Is it an intruder? Are there supernatural secrets to this old house? The film keeps the viewers guessing an admirably long time. It’s a bit of an oddity for Hanks, sandwiched as it was between Dragnet and Big, though it nonetheless shows his serious acting chops being fleshed out in anticipation of later dramatic fare and in fact a late scene in the film in which he breaks down to a police officer is eerily prescient of the final scene in 2013’s Captain Philips.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

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