Harry Hamlin shakes off Michael Kuzak of "L.A. Law" and gives a knock-'em-dead performance in "Deadly Intentions . . . Again" at 9 tonight on WJZ-TV (Channel 13).
The film features Hamlin as the demented Dr. Charles Raynor, who was convicted in 1979 of attempting to murder his first wife. It's a tour de force for Hamlin, a two-hour dazzler of such consistent and focused acting that you won't think of Michael in the ape costume once.
The story opens with the parole of Raynor in 1986, who is going to live with his second wife, played by Joanna Kerns.
Hamlin's meticulous performance literally begins with Raynor's first on-screen steps. Raynor leaves the prison yard in that opening sequence, loping toward his waiting wife. Hamlin has turned his usually casual on-screen gait into an animal's kind of easy, practiced stalking. The actor has lots of these tricks, as he reveals to us, bit by bit, a creature who talks about a new life but whose eye is on the revenge and murder of his first wife and the prosecutor who got him convicted.
Constant references to the previous murder attempt, trial and conviction are the major drawback in tonight's film. ABC aired a four-hour mini-series about Raynor's first conviction, titled "Deadly Intentions," several years ago. The case and the made-for-TV movie are repeatedly referred to in this film -- as if we'd kept Raynor and his demons on file to be referred to before viewing this latest installment of madness.
But those are relatively small irritants in a movie of large emotions and one very big performance.
One warning, though: This is docudrama -- that troubling mix of fact and fiction -- which means all, some or none of what we see tonight may may be true. But that's another issue. As drama, this is powerful stuff.
Most made-for-TV movie images fade away before the late news ends and the lights go out. The image of Raynor and his madness, which Hamlin's performance etches in the mind's eye, won't.