Susan Wilcox (Barbara Parkins) was attacked by a man at the age of thirteen, and was so traumatized by the experience that she stopped speaking. She was sent to a psychiatric facility as a result.
Seven years later, Susan has returned to her old home, where her mother Miriam (Barbara Stanwyck) still lives along with Susan’s step-father, Harold (William Windom). Susan hopes she’ll continue recovering and gain a better understanding of what happened to her, but returning to the scene of the crime may do more harm than good.
A Taste of Evil was directed by John Llewellyn Moxey. The film was written by Jimmy Sangster. It originally aired on ABC on October 12, 1971.
John Llewellyn Moxey directed two of Stanwyck’s TV movies: A Taste of Evil and The House That Would Not Die. I’m glad to have had the chance to watch these films as a fan of Stanwyck, to explore her later career, but they’ve also piqued my interested in the director. These films are both a cut above what you’d expect from ’70s movie-of-the-week thrillers, which makes me want to seek out more of Moxey’s work.
Both films have fine performances, and genuine suspense. A perfect one-word descriptor for Moxey’s style would be “moody.” He lends plenty of atmosphere to these films.
A Taste of Evil is pretty unsettling from the beginning, starting off with a young girl being attacked in a playhouse. It’s difficult subject matter, handled melodramatically, but also pretty sensitively for the time. The young girl is clearly traumatized, but the film focuses on the fact that she’s being taunted by someone, rather than painting her as “crazy.”
As for Stanwyck’s part, she’s given a pretty great role here, one of the more complex characters she was able to play near the end of her career. She begins the film in the simple “concerned mother” role, but as the film progresses, things get wild.
Some twists come to the story, and Stanwyck runs with ’em, bringing new and very sinister dimensions to the character. Mommie Dearest has nothing on Mama Miriam! By the end, she’s completely unsympathetic, delivering one of her trademark rants… but this time, it’s about how her daughter ruined her life. Yikes! (Every Stanwyck thriller/drama requires a good rant, and I was glad to see that tradition continued here!)
A Taste of Evil isn’t quite as good as The House That Would Not Die, but it’s worth a watch for Stanwyck and those wild twists.