Strangers on a Bus
Law student Molly (Brigid Brannagh) has problems, mainly Heather (Rosa Blasi) the ex-wife of husband Jeff (Brian Krause) who is not fit to be a mother and is doing her best to stop Molly from legally adopting her daughter. Whilst travelling by bus Molly meets Sophie (Allison Lange), a spoilt brat who not only blames her father for her mother's death but is fuming as he is curtailing her spending. When Sophie suggests that she will get rid of Heather if Molly gets rid of her father Molly won't have anything to do with it. That is until Heather is found dead and Sophie starts threatening to incriminate Molly for her murder.
In 1951 Alfred Hitchcock directed an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel, the movie was "Strangers on a Train". Almost 60 years later TV movie "Next Stop Murder" was made and whilst based on a story by George Stelzner features a familiar storyline to "Strangers on a Train". It means for those who know their Hitchcock movies "Next Stop Murder" will border on sacrilege and for those who don't know, well the less than convincing acting will probably end up causing issues. But the strength of the story, that of two strangers and murder still shines through to make "Next Stop Murder" an entertaining 90 minutes for those who enjoy the TV movie style of movie making.
So as mentioned "Next Stop Murder" is very similar to "Strangers on a Train" changing things from the sex of the characters to a bus being used instead of a train and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact the strength of the idea with a mentally unbalanced woman threatening to incriminate another in a murder is still quite captivating. It is the reason why "Next Stop Murder" despite various issues is still watchable especially when we get a couple of twists, one which to be honest is more predictable than the other.
The trouble is that "Next Stop Murder" rather than being some big production is a made for TV movie and as such suffers from some typical made for TV issues. There is the mostly unimaginative camera work which whilst solid lacks any flare, any Hitchcock style camera angles and that to be honest also leads to a lack of atmosphere as there is no tangible tension.
But the worst of it is the acting and whilst I am a fan of Brigid Brannagh there is no believability to her character especially during the early scenes when she has just met Sophie. Talking of which Allison Lange may pull of the sexy and unsettled look she doesn't convince as someone who is so mentally unbalanced that she could kill. It means that as "Next Stop Murder" progresses and Sophie becomes threatening it all becomes a bit pantomime with over the top looks of villainy.
What this all boils down to is that "Next Stop Murder" suffers partly because it comes across as an inferior update on Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" and partly because it has several common made for TV movie issues. But the strength of the basic idea and story still shines through and makes it watchable especially for those who have not seen Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train".