Luke Miller (Mike Connors) is an architect who is close to making a deal for creating a swanky high rise apartment complex when he receives a telephone call. Immediately he has to tell his business partner he has to leave, and when questioned why the answer is very grave: it's to do with his daughter Danielle (Joey Heatherton), and she's in serious trouble. On landing in San Francisco, Luke meets with the lawyer (George Macready) handling the case who fills him in with the details as he knows them: basically Danielle was caught up in an argument with the boyfriend of her mother Valerie Hayden (Susan Hayward), Luke's ex-wife, which resulted in the man being stabbed to death with an artist's chisel...
If you know your Hollywood Babylon, then you'll recognise this as one of the twentieth century's major celebrity scandals, except that in spite of the similarities, nobody involved ever admitted this was based on the troubles Lana Turner suffered in the fifties. Not the studio, and certainly not the author of the original novel Harold Robbins who had a habit of scanning the headlines for material, then denying his stories had anything to do with real life, no matter how much the opposite appeared to be the case. Hollywood fell for Robbins in a big way, adapting many of his books featuring casts littered with stars, and indeed the director of Where Love Has Gone had recently completed a production of his The Carpetbaggers.
No matter how compelling Robbins plots may have been on the page - and he sold millions, thrilling them on the world's beaches and just before they turned the lights off to go to bed - when they were made into movies the results were, every one of them, absolutely ridiculous. Not one of them has lasted as a recognised classic, and are now relegated to the lovers of camp to praise them, no wonder in this case when you had two of the most forceful actresses of their time in Susan Hayward and Bette Davis, who played Valerie's mother, sparring verbally as Mrs Hayden ruinously controls her daughter's life and that of her family. She's the sort of wealthy matriarch who will buy a lavish home for Valerie and Luke on the condition there is a huge portrait of herself hung prominently in the living room.
She likes the way the eyes follow you around, so she says. The film was essentially split into two, with a lengthy flashback informing us of how Valerie and Luke were united in marriage, had their baby, then the mother-in-law split them apart through her machinations as she prevented Luke's dream of setting up lucrative architecture contracts now he's home as a war hero just so he would be forced to stay with the Hayden family business, a state of affairs which leaves him an alcoholic. As for Valerie, she wasn't an actress as Lana Turner was, nope she was a sculptor, completely different so how could anyone have made the mistake of connecting actual events? They might as well have cast Lana for all anyone was convinced, but it's the second half which concerned itself with the aftermath of the crime.
At the time and to this day, many were speculating that Turner really was the killer, murdering her abusive gangster boyfriend and pinning the blame on her daughter who as a juvenile could not be charged with murder, and all the signs were the filmmakers were guiding us to that conclusion as well. Well, they managed a twist there but before that finale, which takes Valerie's reactions to new heights of kitsch lunacy, we were treated to minor sixties icon Joey Heatherton emoting as the fifteen-year-old Dani as the plot offered shocking revelations such as her not being a virgin anymore - the horseback riding excuse doesn't cut the mustard with the authorities, either. With its flat lighting and exactly the same production design in every set, be they sixties modern or forties, er, modern, coupled with absurd dialogue designed to push the characters' buttons this had a certain amusement as Valerie it turns out is most artistically inspired when she is sleeping around, leading to a priceless yelling match as a drunken Luke returns home one night to find her in flagrante delicto. Slightly mindboggling. Music by Walter Scharf.