Sequel starts silly, ends suspensefully


February 11, 1991|By Michael Hill

The message that tonight's movie on ABC, "Deadly Intentions . . . Again?" seems to want to deliver to the innocent and endangered women among the American public is this: If there was ever a miniseries made about how your husband tried to kill his first wife, then for Pete's sake, watch it and take appropriate precautions.

Otherwise, they might make a sequel with you playing the part of the victim.

According to this film, that actually happened, or at least a reasonable facsimile did. This movie, on Channel 13 (WJZ) tonight at 9 o'clock, was said to be "suggested" by events that happened to Charles Raynor and his second wife.

Raynor, fans of the sicko family genre of movies and miniseries might recall, was the central character of a 1985 miniseries, "Deadly Intentions."

Madolyn Smith played the naive and unsuspecting woman who thought she had achieved the American dream by marrying a doctor (didn't she watch "Fatal Vision"?), but Michael Biehn's character turned out to be one weird paranoid control type who went to all sorts of lengths to do away with his wife.

In the end, he was convicted and salted away for a few years on attempted murder. But then he got out. And, according to "Deadly Intentions . . . Again?" the correctional system had failed to fix the loose wires in this model.

This version gives a bit of a psychological explanation for Raynor's behavior by having him met at the prison gate -- he emerges as Harry Hamlin -- by a sickly yet still domineering mother played by Eileen Brennan.

There's something of a wrestling match at the gate between mom and wife No. 2, Sally Raynor, played by a depressed looking Joanna Kerns, over this poor wretch of an attempted murderer. Sally wins and he leaves with her.

Sally had apparently believed the good doctor's story that he was just the victim of a nasty divorce and custody dispute and a overzealous prosecutor looking for a book and movie deal.

She welcomes him home, where he's stepfather to her two daughters, and helps him get a job working in the lab of a medical clinic while counting the days until he can regain his license to practice medicine.

Soon enough, the weird stuff starts again. Don't get the mail out of the box, let me do it, he tells the family. And no questions, please, about that box I keep in the trunk of the car, the one with the big chain and padlock around it.

Viewers get to see Raynor begin the construction of a new identity using methods oft-depicted in TV movies -- the name out of the obituaries, requests for proper certificates, right down to a mailbox put up on a rural road to receive all the stuff mailed to the new name.

Thankfully, the film does not show us the details of some of Raynor's other tricks, which apparently included successfully tracking down his first wife even though she was in the federal witness protection program.

Through most of all this, Sally, despite her growing suspicions, remains loyal, thinking that once Charles can practice medicine again he'll be just fine.

The crucial scene that turns her is when they sit down and watch the rerun of "Deadly Intentions." She had never seen it, refusing to watch what she believed to be a pack of lies. As he essentially confirms the plot, contradicting what he had told her before, she realizes that she's in a heap of trouble.

Up until that point, "Deadly Intentions . . . Again?" had just been a wallow in this yucky psychological ooze. After that, it becomes a well above average suspense film that hangs its hat on the well-worn female-in-jeopardy motif.

There are some scenes of excruciating tension, heightened by the fact that Charles has already been established as something of an unexploded bomb that could go off at any moment.

Yet he's also highly intelligent, able to outwit most of his opponents, especially after disarming them with his sociopathic charm. Nicely directed, it will keep your attention in that last 45 minutes.

Of course, even when you learn his eventual fate, you can just hear Charles explaining to would-be wife No. 3 that this was all a money-making movie deal cooked up by Sally while he was in prison the first time, that he is really a loving husband who wants to be a doctor once again.

Let's hope she, at least, watched this movie.

"Deadly Intentions . . . Again?"

* * A man whose attempt to kill his first wife was the subject of a 1985 miniseries is up to his old shenanigans after getting out of prison.

CAST: Harry Hamlin, Joanna Kerns

TIME: Tonight at 9

CHANNEL: ABC Channel 13 (WJZ)

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