A Town Has Turned To Dust

  • 1998
  • 1 HR 30 MIN
  • NR

By the time this dour, allegorical odyssey ends, you'll feel as if you're the one who's been turned to dust, or at least granite. Trumpeting itself as being "based on a 'Playhouse 90' presentation of a Rod Serling teleplay," the film proves that some past achievements are better left achieved. Failing to improve on the small-scale original, this revamp...read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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By the time this dour, allegorical odyssey ends, you'll feel as if you're the one who's been turned to dust, or at least granite. Trumpeting itself as being "based on a 'Playhouse 90' presentation of a Rod Serling teleplay," the film proves that some past achievements are

better left achieved. Failing to improve on the small-scale original, this revamp lavishes contemporary production values on badly dated moralizing. It's 2215, several years after Earth's apocalypse. A new order exists in a drought-plagued universe in which Earth has been reduced to a depopulated,

barren wasteland, mined for scrap metal by Native-American "drivers" and ruled by white "dwellers." Enraged by the attentions his wife pays their driver-servant Tommy (Zahn McClarnon), successful dweller-merchant Jerry Paul (Ron Perlman) has Tommy arrested on false charges of rape and theft. The

town's weak-willed marshal, Harvey Denton (Stephen Lang), upholds Tommy's right to a fair trial, but he capitulates in the face of a vigilante mob led by the racist, rabble-rousing Jerry. Hannify (Gabriel Olds), a visiting TV reporter, secretly records the lynching, but doesn't plan to give it

quite the spin Jerry expected. Will Jerry's status quo stay in place? Will the principals ever stop mouthing platitudes? Does the shocking revelation that a similar race crime was committed in the past do anything more than prolong the running time? Give this bit of sci-fi credit for trying to

jazz-up the genre with literate dialogue, but what may have seemed innovative in 1958 doesn't stand up four decades later. Hampered by weighty editing, this lecture cum drama gives birth to tired ideas after pregnant pauses; you could squeeze entire feature films into the spaces between line

deliveries. Jerry and Denton square off against each other in a pompous climax Serling reworked from HIGH NOON, but instead of six guns, the characters fire off recriminations. And it's the audience that bites the dust... so much dust.

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