about ironic. Philanthropist Elaine Chaddick’s primary residence was Chicago,
but she was kidnapped during a regular stay in their Palm Springs vacation home.
Of course, they were well known in Palm Springs society. Harry Chaddick
happened to own the racquet club. Understandably, it remains one of the city’s
most notorious crimes, so there should be considerable local interest when Jørn
Winther’s Do It or Die (trailer here) screens today
during the 2017 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
and Elaine Chaddick were quite the power couple in 1979. One million dollars was
also a lot of money at that time, so when Bobby Ray Robbins kidnaps her,
demanding a million-dollar ransom, he does not sound like Dr. Evil. Thanks to
his wife Ginger, the cocktail pianist, Robbins knew when old Harry would be out
of town (“Do It or Die” becomes their motivational mantra). Frankly, the
grabbing part they executed out pretty smoothly. However, keeping her under
wraps and negotiating with Harry are details far more complicated than they
Chaddick pretends to follow their instructions, but he actually had his friend,
the Palm Springs police chief, secretly bring in the FBI. Chaddick himself will
also be a handful for Special Agent Herb Clough to deal with, but his reputation
as the Bureau’s best kidnapping expert keeps the concerned husband somewhat at
retiring, the late Clough settled down in Palm Springs, where he became poker
buddies (or whatever) with Winther, who took on the Chaddick kidnapping as his
first feature directorial project. Winther’s credits include some pretty high
profile television gigs, including the original Frost-Nixon interviews and
Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare special.
Unfortunately, DIOD feels very
TV-movie, circa 1980. Frankly, the look is even more down-market than MST3K favorites Mitchell or Riding with Death.
cast is also uneven, to put it diplomatically. Denise DuBarry and John Callahan
are reliable professionals, who have some nice chemistry together as the
Chaddicks. On the other hand, Andrew J. McGuinness and Viktoria Stamm are just
plain awkward as the kidnappers. Still, it is nice to see David Naughton as
Clough, even though he is way grayer and dignified-looking than we remember him
from An American Werewolf in London and
My Sister Sam.
The Chaddick kidnapping is an interesting case
and you have to admire her resiliency. Frustratingly, the film just doesn’t do
it justice, even though it was shot at many of the actual locations involved in
the crime. Honestly, there is no way a film of its caliber would play the Palm
Springs festival, without the built in local interest. Unless you remember
where you were at the time of Chaddick’s abduction, you can safely skip Do It or Die when it screens today (1/4)
at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Labels: David Naughton, Kidnapping films, PSIFF '17