Presumably controversial story about a Houston mouthpiece defending two accused murderers in separate cases boils down to circles within circles: the man’s standing altercation with an arrogant, antagonistic, appallingly self-assured femme judge Parker (played tensively by a luminous Jill Clayburgh); his involvements with the two defendants; and a soapsy marital stalemate in which his wife’s unfaithful and he can’t let go. Despite top direction by Paul Wendkos and a superior cast, “Trial: The Price of Passion” comes off as mighty contrived.
Lawyer Warren Blackburn (a deadly serious portrayal by Peter Strauss of a willing sufferer), out of commission for a stretch because he believed a defendant’s story and lied to Judge Parker, returns to be assigned as public defender for Mexican Hector Quintana (Marco Rodriguez), accused of killing an Oriental shot in the victim’s car.
Flamboyant Texan attorney Scoot Shepherd (Ned Beatty) also hires him to be his aide defending full-blown, hotsy-totsy Johnnie Faye Boudreau (Beverly D’Angelo), bigoted girlie club owner who claims self-defense for gunning down her wealthy lover.
Coincidences run rampant. Far-fetched action, such as Blackburn’s mean-spirited wife Charm (strikingly played by Laila Robins) interrupting a business conference between her husband and Boudreau, is a headshaker.
Miniseries almost makes it all the way through without a trite writhing-in-bed scene, but luck doesn’t hold out–the sheets-and-shoulders exercise shows up late in the proceedings.
Courtroom scenes are dramatically successful as Blackburn adroitly handles his assignments.
Blackburn, treated like dirt by three women in the telepic, finds court reporter Maria (Colleen Flynn, presenting an effective naturalism) faithful and willing.
Terry O’Quinn as the ambitious prosecutor on the Boudreau case, Lorraine Toussaint as the responsible d.a. are pro.
D’Angelo rings bells as the sexy nitery owner, but her top contribution is her witness chair appearance–it’s a pip. Rodriguez quietly convinces, and Beatty works up a hackneyed interp of the extravagant Texan.
Designer Paul Peters develops a succession of credible images as background for the weighted stories Blackburn strides glumly through, and tech credits for the production are good. Charles Bernstein’s score is okay, considering the action.