The Deadly Tower (1975)
Sniper in the College
After another nights duty officer Ramiro Martinez (Richard Yniguez) returns to precinct where he learns that he has been passed over for promotion to sergeant again. It is the bad news which causes a row with his wife when he returns home. Meanwhile ex-Marine Charles Whitman (Kurt Russell) murders his mother and then his wife and then along with his own weapons as well as further guns and ammo which he obtains from a gun shop heads to the tower at the University of Texas in Austin. From there he starts his massacre, indiscriminately shooting those in the crowds below. Martinez on his day off hears of what is going on and attends the incident and is ordered up to the tower whilst many civilians with their own rifles try to shoot Whitman, putting themselves in danger in doing so.
When ever there is some major tragedy it seems like a TV movie is not far behind; the Chileans miners crisis was followed by a TV movie, a child abducted which made press headlines a TV movie followed and whilst it came 9 years after the events "The Deadly Tower" is based on the real life events surrounding Charles Whitman and the massacre at the University of Texas in Austin during 1966. But whilst I am no expert on what happened that day, not surprising as I wasn't even born yet, I do know that "The Deadly Tower" is not completely factual and deviates from the true story as well as delivering altered characters.
The thing about "The Deadly Tower" is that it is not really about Charles Whitman; yes we see his actions from murdering his mother and then see his actions at the top of the tower as he picks people off like a sniper but that is it. It never really delves into what may have caused Whitman to become disturbed and start killing people with no rhyme or reason to those he shoots. Instead the focus shifts over to the character of Martinez and his problems from suggesting he was passed over for promotion because of his nationality to his issues with his wife nagging him. It means unfortunately that "The Deadly Tower" misses a trick to explore the real story of what caused Whitman to snap.
The most annoying thing about all this is that "The Deadly Tower" had such a great set up in casting Kurt Russell in the role of Charles Whitman because whilst he was no longer the child star many still saw him as the nice kid in Disney movies and so having him play a killer could have been shocking. But because they never explore Whitman's issues Russell's talents are wasted. Having said that Richard Yniguez plays his part well and because of that "The Deadly Tower" is still an entertaining and interesting movie.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "The Deadly Tower" isn't a disappointing movie and has a lot going for it, it is sadly not the movie it should have been as it fails to deliver any character depth when it comes to Whitman which could have been done without coming across as too sympathetic to the character.
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