Matthau Takes on the State
When Judge Stoddard Bell (Harry Morgan) sets himself up in business in Baltimore as a lawyer dealing with federal cases there is one man he wants to come to be his partner and that is curmudgeonly lawyer Harmon Cobb (Walter Matthau). So with a job, a home and a car handed to him Cobb arrives in Baltimore with his widowed daughter-in-law Billie (Susan Blakely) and granddaughter Nancy (Ariana Richards). But soon Cobb is bored with uninteresting federal cases and decides to take up the cause of a young woman who was tricked in to signing herself in to a mental hospital and now is refused release from it. Reluctantly Bell backs Cobb in proving the system is wrong and the woman has been poorly treated whilst Cobb has to deal with Billie finding herself being courted by a local man, something he finds hard to do.
"Against Her Will: An Incident in Baltimore" opens up with some shocking scenes of patients being mistreated in a mental hospital which reminded me of the 1946 movie "Bedlam". Unfortunately that is not the most shocking thing about this made for TV movie and the second of three which saw Walter Matthau star as Harmon Cobb as sadly the script is shocking and if it wasn't for Walter Matthau and Harry Morgan this movie would have been in serious trouble.
The storyline of Cobb having to deal with corruption in a state mental hospital lacks oomph, nothing to real get your teeth in to despite it being obvious that there is malpractice going on. And the subplot of Cobb finding it difficult to accept Billie meeting another man also feels surprisingly underwritten. In fact that is the general issue with "Against Her Will: An Incident in Baltimore" as the basic storylines has potential but the writing either seems rushed or chunks of narrative were dropped to keep the running length down.
As such what "Against Her Will: An Incident in Baltimore" really trades on is the patter between Morgan and Matthau, another take on the whole Odd Couple set up as we have two wily old coots winding each other up but are in truth good friends. If it wasn't for the fact that Morgan and Matthau are old time performers who have great comic timing this 2nd movie would be hard work. You just need to see how different the scenes are when Matthau works with Blakely as the timing isn't there and Blakely's performance as Billie borders on soap opera-ish.
What this all boils down to is that "Against Her Will: An Incident in Baltimore" ends up middle of the road as thanks to the performances of Matthau and Morgan it lifts a script which struggles for depth and to grab the audience.