Norm Swallow
Created by Miguel-Tijada Flores

SLEAZE ALERT! Here's a real low-budget pleasure, if your tastes run towards those old noirish B-films of yesteryear. In the densely-plotted 1991 made-for-TV Blackmail, everyone's out for themselves, and nobody's to be trusted. The various schemes, counter-schemes, and counter-counter-schemes loop around and around, circling, circling, like vultures. It's enough to make you dizzy. Think of it as a low-rent, cheesier Blood Simple.

The action kicks off when Scott and Charlene, a couple of young hustlers, set up a lonely, bored, well-off Californian housewife for a little blackmail. But this isn't any ordinary frustrated suburban hausfrau, it turns out. This one's hubby happens to be a big shot mobster.

And then in steps NORM SWALLOW, a shady Fort Worth private eye who's been on the trail of Scott and Charlene since Texas, who decides to cut himself in on the action.

Norm's a good ol' boy, full of tall tales and wise sayin's, who ain't too fussy about scruples. He'll do what it takes, from posing as a lingerie salesman to using a l'il ol' car bomb, to get what he wants. Singer-songwriter Mac Davis, oozing oily charm, plays Norm to greasy aw-shucks perfection in his best performance since North Dallas Forty.

Everyone is this thing seems to think they've got the goods on each other, and it's a hoot watching them scramble around, trying to outfox and betray each other, all trying to make the big score. But, like Norm says, "It ain't that simple."

The film was scripted by Miguel-Tijada Flores, expanded from a short story by Bill Crenshaw that originally appeared in the March 1990 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. But I don't remember a P.I. in it. Looks like I'll have to dig that one out and re-read it....


  • BLACKMAIL....Buy this video
    (1991, Paramount)
    90 minutes
    Teleplay by Miguel Tejada-Flores
    Based on the short story "Passing for Love" by Bill Crenshaw
    Directed by Ruben Preuss 
    Filmed in Vancouver
    Produced by Ruben Preuss
    Supervising producer: Matthew O'Connor
    Associate producer: Benjamin A. Weissman
    Executive producer: Barry J. Weitz  
    Starring Susan Blakely, Dale Midkiff, Beth Toussaint, John Saxon
    with Mac Davis as NORM SWALLOW
    Also starring
    Kevin McNulty, Gary Chalk, David Wasman, Kiara Hunter, Sherry Bie, Ken Kirzinger, Steve Adams, John Destrey, Steve Makaj, Pedro Salvín

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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