Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Gary Cole as Jeffrey MacDonald
FATAL VISION (1984 telefilm/mini-series). Director: David Greene. Screenplay by John Gay from Joe McGinniss' book.

"They'll never come to know the beauty and wonder of the world." -- Mildred speaking of her late grandchildren.

In 1970 the Green Beret doctor, Captain Jeffrey MacDonald, made a frantic call to police claiming that four people invaded his home and slaughtered his family -- his wife and two little girls -- and left him with minor injuries. At first his wife's parents, Freddy (Karl Malden) and Mildred (Eva Marie Saint), are supportive of Jeffrey and furious that the Army suspects him of the murders, but later they learn that his story of intruders just doesn't hold up and is indeed contradicted by forensics. Leads about the alleged intruders go nowhere. Freddy sees Jeffrey on television saying things that he knows are not true, such as how he required surgery due to his injuries that night. Eventually Freddy becomes his former son-in-law's greatest nemesis, refusing to let the matter drop and dogging prosecutors until they put MacDonald on trial. Cole is a little too boyish at times, but he gives a fine performance as MacDonald, matched by an excellent Malden and Saint. Also notable are Barry Newman as MacDonald's lawyer, Andy Griffith as a prosecutor, and Mitch Ryan as a forensic pathologist. Gripping throughout its three hour running time. There are still those who insist MacDonald is innocent.

Verdict: Memorable television on a horrific true case. ***1/2.

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