Robert Altman’s THE ROOM (written by Harold Pinter)

The ABC television network broadcast two adaptations of one-act Harold Pinter plays in 1987, both directed by Robert Altman, under the name Basements. Altman adapted Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter (1959) and The Room (1957), the latter of which surfaced online from a VHS rip. The TV movie features Linda Hunt in the role of Rose and Donald Pleasance as Mr. Kidd, as well as featuring Julian Sands and the Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox.

A helpful description of The Room from the always reliable Wikipedia:

The Room is Harold Pinter’s first play, written and first produced in 1957. Considered by critics the earliest example of Pinter’s “comedy of menace”, this play has strong similarities to Pinter’s second play, The Birthday Party, including features considered hallmarks of Pinter’s early work and of the so-called Pinteresque: dialogue that is comically familiar and yet disturbingly unfamiliar, simultaneously or alternatingly both mundane and frightening; subtle yet contradictory and ambiguous characterizations; a comic yet menacing mood characteristic of mid-twentieth-century English tragicomedy; a plot featuring reversals and surprises that can be both funny and emotionally moving; and an unconventional ending that leaves at least some questions unresolved.

Doollee, the playwrights database, summarize the plot of the play:

While her taciturn husband remains engrossed in his magazine, Rose bustles about getting breakfast. As she works she carries on a monologue touching on the weather, the coziness of their cramped quarters, and the mysterious tenant who occupies a damp, windowless room in the basement. The aged landlord, Mr. Kidd, enters, and while he at least responds to Rose’s small talk, he does little to allay her nameless fears of the room below. After Mr. Kidd and Bert, the husband, depart, a young couple appears in search of lodgings and Rose discovers that they had wandered into the basement room while looking for the landlord. Their description of what they saw, or rather felt in the darkness only heightens her growing sense of apprehension. Then, after they have gone, Mr. Kidd returns to tell Rose that she must see the man who has been waiting for her below, waiting for Bert to be gone. The stranger, when Mr. Kidd brings him in, proves to be a blind black man with a message for Rose, and while she disclaims any knowledge.

Fourth Row Centre find Altman’s The Room to be the lesser of the two adaptations, though still find it to be a “strange (though well-acted) chamber piece” that, like The Dumb Waiter, speaks more to Pinter’s style than Altman’s, but that this quality “seems to speak to a real respect for the text, and a desire to stick very close to it.”

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The Seventh Art is a Toronto-based video magazine about cinema.