|John Garfield Jr., and John Anderson|
In the prologue to The Stepmother, jealous businessman Frank Delgado (Alejandro Rey of Blindfold) comes home early, realizes his friend, Alan (Mike Kulcsar), has slept with his wife, and strangles him. As he's burying the body, a fight breaks out between a couple nearby and the man starts strangling his girlfriend, and this man becomes a suspect in Alan's murder. If you're expecting a riveting, clever suspense film to follow, be forewarned that the script for this movie seems to have been written each day of filming, and there are lots of unanswered questions. The picture is half over before Frank's son, Steve (Rudy Herrera Jr.) shows up and the "stepmother" of the title -- Frank's younger wife, Margo (Katherine Justice) -- who has already caused enough problems, begins to make a play for Steve ... The Stepmother is a cheap exploitation item that has competent acting but needs a tighter script, to say the least. Rey has his moments, but he is put into situations that would test any actor's mettle -- and you can only understand about a third of what he's saying -- and perky Justice, while professional, is a bit insufficient as the resident femme fatale, if that's what you can call her. Larry Linville of Mash plays another friend of Frank's, and Marlene Schmidt is his wife, who develops a yen for Frank. John Anderson [Zane Grey Theater] is as professional as ever as the cop assigned to Alan's murder, and John D. Garfield (aka David Garfield or John David Garfield), son of the famous John Garfield, amiably plays a photographer nicknamed Goof. Young Garfield died at only 51, lasting 12 years longer than his father.
Verdict: From Crown International, so you get what you expect. **.