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Steve Catlin is a ladies' man - so much so that he has a number of ex wives and girlfriends. Edie Ballew knows, because she was one of them. She came home one day to find Steve in bed with his latest woman, Joyce, whom he later married. Edie is still close to Steve's mother and often pays her a visit; through her, maintaining a relationship with Steve. Then Joyce dies suddenly and shortly afterwards, Steve hooks up with and marries another woman, Dyna. Edie is convinced that Steve has something to do with this, but is warned not to get involved by her husband. Can she carry on an investigation into Joyce's death without her husband's approval? And is Dyna safe?
Steve Catlin is played by Harry Hamlin and he gives a reasonable performance as a thoroughly despicable and selfish man who thinks life owes him everything he deserves. Actually Hamlin gives a good performance within the confines of the film. The problem is that Steve is a very one-dimensional character and although there is an attempt, towards the end of the film, to explain the reason for his behaviour, it really isn't very convincing. The point of the film is obviously to make Steve out to be completely evil, with no mitigating circumstances, and this is understandable as this is a true story. However, as a film, it doesn't really make for particularly compelling viewing.
Helen Shaver plays Edie Ballew. This is a good performance - Shaver works well at convincing the audience of her hurt at Steve's betrayal and her determination to prove that he is guilty of murder. The script lets her down quite a lot though. There are a number of scenes where Edie meets her friends in a local hair salon that one of them runs and the things that they talk about just doesn't sound very natural. Shaver is most certainly at her best when she relies on actions rather than speaking. Bearing in mind that she is far from being the only one that says daft things, I don't think this has much to do with her acting skills.
The film is apparently based on a true story and has another name - Poisoned by Love: The Kern County Murders. To be honest, if I didn't know this, I would have thought that the story was very unrealistic - it just doesn't seem possible that Steve could have done what he did for so long without anyone in the authorities realising. I think the main reason for this is simply that the script isn't very good and the way that the film is organised is just not very convincing. Director Larry Peerce has apparently directed a number of films and TV episodes, but if this is an example of his work, I can't say I'm tempted to watch anything else he has been involved with.
On a more positive note, this is far from being the worst film I've ever seen. The pacing is good enough that I didn't ever get bored and there are a couple of unexpected twists just to keep the viewer guessing. On the whole though, it is a fairly standard thriller and it does all work out the way you expect in the end. The film was made for TV back in 1993 and this is exactly what I would have expected - it certainly isn't good enough to be anything but. The ending certainly could have been more exciting - but then again, as it is based on a true story, it is perhaps portraying more or less exactly what happened.
For anyone who appreciates a well-made film, there is little to get excited about here. The sets are very drab - it is set in California, which I presume is where it was filmed, but frankly it could have been filmed anywhere. There are a couple of panoramic views from the farm on which Steve lives, but it looks so drab that it is not exactly going to work as a tourist advert. The fashions, which were no doubt up to date when the film was made, now look terribly strange - there's a couple of very nasty perms. It all contributes towards making the film look cheap and nasty. Then again, it would have been a waste of resources to spend a great deal of money on it.
There are no extras with the DVD, not even an advert.
For all its faults, the film doesn't pretend to be anything but a cheap, made-for-TV film and, as it is perfectly watchable, it perhaps doesn't deserve all the criticism that I've thrown at it. However, I don't think I can recommend that anyone actually buys a copy of the DVD. If it happens to come on TV in the weekday afternoon slot (I can't believe it would be shown at any other time), then it might be worth giving it a try. Otherwise, leave it be. Two stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £2.99.
Running time: 95 minutes