Those in my age group (somewhere in their 40's or 50's) surely remember the glorious heyday of TV movies in the 70's. Most know The Night Stalker and Duel. Others are aware of Trilogy of Terror and possibly Bad Ronald. The list is long, however, and there were so many good horror movies being made. And a few great ones too.

The one I always wanted to see was Crawlspace, but I missed it when it first played. I remember reading about it in the TV Guide and getting delicious shivers imagining a house where some maniac dwelled in the crawlspace. My parents were probably watching some piece-of-shit variety show or something. This was before the average family had a television set in every room.

Funny, Crawlspace didn't get talked about with enthusiastic glee at the schoolyard the next day. Not the way The Night Stalker or Trapped or numerous others were. And it never, to my knowledge, replayed as some of them did. Crawlspace slipped through the cracks and became a sort of legend.

There's a reason for this, I think. I said that I imagined a fiend living below a couple's house. That's sort of true and sort of not. For Crawlspace isn't exactly a horror film and it's the kind of story where immature viewers complain that 'nothing happened'.

Years passed, but I never forgot Crawlspace. Always a voracious reader and lover of all things macabre, I picked up a book at a used bookstore back around 1980 called City of the Dead. It appeared to be a George Romero walking dead ripoff. Back then, I actually would love to read a gut-munching zombie book. Times have changed, huh?

City of the Dead was written by a writer named Herbert Lieberman and it was not about the living dead. No, it was far scarier than that. It is a nightmarish story of a week in the life of the NYC Chief Medical Examiner. A man whose life is immersed in death, death, death. It surrounds him and eventually invades his own personal world, with hideous consequences. City of the Dead is a brutal, brilliantly-written novel that makes most conventional horror stories pale in comparison.

I realized that Herbert Lieberman write books that had a lot more going on in them than met the eye. I eventually read the majority of his books and each of them is multi-faceted and none of them are simple stories about simple people.

Reading about Lieberman's previous books, I was quick to note that his first novel was called Crawlspace. Checking some movie reference books, I confirmed that it was the source of that old TV movie that I had never gotten to see.

Years and years passed and Crawlspace, the film, became a kind of Holy Grail for those of us that missed it and loved the TV movies of its time. Eventually I talked to people that had seen it and they said that it was an excellent movie that deserved a lot more exposure and acclaim.

Now, finally...thirty five years after Crawlspace aired on national television, it is coming to DVD in a legitimate edition from Wild Eye Releasing. Wild Eye specializes in those fantastic old TV terrors that gave so many of us sleepless nights.

Right up front I'm going to tell ya: Don't expect the kind of audio/visual quality of Synapse or Blue Underground. The picture is a bit rough. But, I mean, this is Crawlspace! One of the most elusive genre movies of all time! And it's kind of cool to watch it as I would have back then...with iffy reception. Still, the picture isn't terrible and I had no trouble watching it. And I usually have no patience whatsoever with blurry bootleg recordings.

As for the story, a lonely, childless, but happy older couple show kindness to a strange young man that is helping a contractor work on their secluded house. They allow him to eat with them and the man even loans the boy a valuable book of poetry. Neither are quite sure why they invited him to dinner or why they trusted him with the book. Perhaps it is because he seemed so needy and vulnerable.

The strange young man leaves and is forgotten. Almost. Yet his presence haunts the couple and when the man discovers a bedroll and in the crawlspace and they begin to hear noises in the night, they are quick to guess that the boy is living under there.

Still drawn to him, they try to tame him as they might a wild animal. But their trust comes with a price and Crawlspace is a lesson on the dangers of taking in strays.

On a personal note, we have a daughter with Asperger's Syndrome, which is a type of high-functioning autism. The young man in Crawlspace bears more than a small amount of resemblance to her and had our Europa been raised with no parents and no guidance, she might behave in very similar ways. She likes to stay in tight places, where she feels safe. She's not so far gone that she'd choose to sleep in a crawlspace, but if she had no home or family, she could be like a feral animal. And she becomes obsessive and extremely possessive, as does the poor lost boy from the film.

Did Lieberman intend his character to be autistic? I have no idea as it's been a long time since I read it and back then I had no idea of what autism really is. But I do know that the man's fiction is rich and nothing can be taken for granted in it.

Yes, Crawlspace is only marginally a horror story. It's really more of a psychological drama with dark overtones. No drooling fiend creeping from a crawlspace with cannibalism or rape on his mind. Just a sad story of lonely people and how the best of intentions can lead to tragic endings.

Crawlspace is an excellent movie that I think was far ahead of its time. People wanted well-defined thrills and chills, or maybe action or laughs when they plopped down for a TV movie. It's a lot more like an art film than an exploitation shocker.

Check out the website and consider picking up Crawlspace. It has been neglected for far too long and it deserves to be seen.

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