- 1 hr 30 min
In 1973, the television movie "Steambath" premiered, starring Stephen Elliott, Bill Bixby, and Herb Edelman. The film, directed by Burt Brinckerhoff and written by Bruce Jay Friedman, is an adaptation of Friedman's play, which follows a group of recently deceased individuals in a purgatory called the Steambath. The movie opens with Tandy, a cab driver, dying in a car accident and finding himself in the Steambath, a steam room run by God (played by Elliott). The Steambath serves as a sort of limbo between life and death, and those who find themselves there are forced to confront their lives and past mistakes.
Throughout the movie, Tandy interacts with a diverse cast of characters, each with their own unique storyline. There's Morty (Edelman), a wealthy businessman who struggles to come to terms with his own greed, and Harriet (Charlotte Rae), a widow who realizes the error of her ways in life. Meanwhile, we meet the recently deceased and down-on-his-luck plumber (played by a pre-"Columbo" Peter Falk), and we witness his struggles with his own mortality.
At its core, "Steambath" is a morality play, exploring themes of life, death, and the human experience. God, portrayed as a bureaucratic figure with a penchant for fastidious record-keeping, serves as a sort of omniscient narrator, doling out wisdom and guidance to the various characters who frequent the Steambath.
Despite its somber subject matter, "Steambath" does have moments of humor, largely courtesy of the cast's strong performances. Falk, in particular, brings a wry humor to his character's bumbling attempts to make sense of his death.
The film's low-budget production is evident in its spartan sets and special effects, which consist mostly of billowing steam and some rudimentary lighting. However, the minimalist aesthetic only serves to heighten the sense of purgatory and otherworldliness that permeates much of the film.
Overall, "Steambath" is a thought-provoking examination of the human condition, and it's easy to see why its themes of mortality and self-reflection would resonate with audiences nearly half a century later. The all-star cast and tight screenplay keep the movie engaging and impactful, even as it grapples with heady concepts and philosophical musings.
For those looking for a contemplative, thought-provoking film that delves into the human psyche, "Steambath" is a must-see. Its themes may be heavy, but its execution is masterful, and its message ultimately hopeful.
Steambath is a 1973 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.9.