The question before a Reno, Nev., District Court judge in the case of James Vance vs. Judas Priest was whether some of the heavy-metal band's lyrics carried subliminal messages that caused two teen-agers to attempt suicide in December 1985. One of them, Ray Belknap, succeeded; his friend James Vance survived, and PBS viewers can see him tonight (10 p.m., Channel 22) terribly disfigured, trying to explain his feelings at the moment he pulled the shotgun trigger: "It was like I had no control over it."
"Dream Deceivers," the hourlong documentary in the "P.O.V." series of independently produced works, tells its grim story through interviews with members of Judas Priest, with the parents of Belknap and of Vance (who has since died) and with other young fans of heavy metal as well as through courtroom testimony.
The so-called subliminal messages, which the judge decided were accidental combinations of sounds, are incidental to the program's real subject: youths unmoored from their families and adrift in lives that had little to compete with the pounding highs of noise and light shows.