This gripping drama certainly is among the cream in the recent crop of true-life telepix, with an atypical but compelling star turn by Harry Hamlin propelling well-executed hostage story into a white-knuckle event.
“Deliver Them From Evil” is the true story of a Utah man, Richard Worthington (Hamlin), who takes a hospital maternity ward hostage for 18 hours in a desperate attempt to kill the doctor (Gary Frank) who had performed a tubal ligation on his wife some years back.
Thinking the operation was done behind his wife’s back, Worthington snaps into action one night and enters the hospital with ammunition and the makings of a bomb. What he finds are several nurses, some newborn babies and a woman who, with her husband and sister there, is about to give birth.
The story, written by John Miglis, is difficult to impel–once the hostage crisis occurs–as it follows a stalemated situation. Yet Miglis and director Peter Levin cleverly succeed, focusing the drama on Worthington’s explosive reactions to police negotiators and on the crisis’ effects on the hostages. By the end of a grueling 18 hours, a strange emotional attachment begins to build between the hostages and their captor.
The story also covers the power struggle outside the hospital, as Utah police , SWAT teams and FBI end up undermining one another in their attempts to get control. Standing the midst of much confusion is level-headed veteran hostage negotiator Don Bell (superbly portrayed by Terry O’Quinn), who ends up circumventing the command center to try to resolve the situation.
Hamlin, best known as the lawyer on “L.A. Law,” is almost unrecognizable as a blue-collar Mormon hellbent on revenge. He presents a terrifying picture of a man who believes he has little left to lose.
Teri Garr also does an outstanding job as the head nurse, Susan Wooley, who finds an inner courage through her religious faith to keep the other hostages together, deliver a baby and eventually take on the role of negotiator when Worthington is double-crossed by the police. It’s a meaty role that this seasoned actress handles with aplomb.
Filmed on location in Utah, the production credits are exceptional, as panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains behind the hospital–via the ever-present police helicopter–present a serene juxtaposition to the intense turmoil inside the building.
Telefilm is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, as Levin’s direction unfailingly builds momentum throughout this tautly executed story.