Review: ‘In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride and Madness’

Filmed in Wilmington, N.C., byAMBROCO Media Group Inc. in association with Dan Wigutow Prods. Executive producer, Dan Wigutow; producer, Jeff Bleckner; co-producers, Julie Cohen, Robert L. Freedman; line producer, Robert Bennett Steinhauer; director, Bleckner; script, Robert L. Freedman, based on the book "Bitter Blood" by Jerry Bledsoe; Kelly McGillis and Harry Hamlin star as Southern Gothic psychos in two-part miniseries, with Keith Carradine as her husband and ultimate target of pair's wrath. Robert L. Freedman's script takes its time, but those attracted by the subject matter should find their four hours entertainingly spent despite depressing conclusion.

Filmed in Wilmington, N.C., byAMBROCO Media Group Inc. in association with Dan Wigutow Prods. Executive producer, Dan Wigutow; producer, Jeff Bleckner; co-producers, Julie Cohen, Robert L. Freedman; line producer, Robert Bennett Steinhauer; director, Bleckner; script, Robert L. Freedman, based on the book “Bitter Blood” by Jerry Bledsoe; Kelly McGillis and Harry Hamlin star as Southern Gothic psychos in two-part miniseries, with Keith Carradine as her husband and ultimate target of pair’s wrath. Robert L. Freedman’s script takes its time, but those attracted by the subject matter should find their four hours entertainingly spent despite depressing conclusion.

Convoluted tale of intra-family jealousy, murder and other sinister activity was filmed under the title of the nonfiction book from which it was adapted, “Bitter Blood.” Evidently finding a leftover colon in their TV Movie Titles file , though, CBS at last moment opted for the less catchy, more generic “In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride and Madness.”

Murder of mother and sister (Louise Latham, Coleen Flynn) of dentist Tom Leary (Carradine) leads to a sort-of whodunit — though real mystery is why it takes Leary so long to figure out killer’s identity.

When Tom’s marriage to Susie (McGillis) fails, she moves back home to North Carolina with their two sons, countering his endeavors to see them.

As the custody battle heightens in intensity, Susie enters into an affair with her first cousin Fritz (Hamlin), son of the town quack — a doctor who sees massive doses of vitamins as the cure for everything from the common cold to polio. Fritz, who is not particularly bright, not only shares his father’s unconventional views of medicine but enjoys playing with weapons just a bit too much for anybody’s good. Before long, he’s giving the boys their vitamins and preparing them for “combat,” while teaching Susie to fire machine guns at watermelons while picturing Tom.

Story is told very straight, though there are flashes of subtle wit in Freedman’s script. When Susie’s parents catch her and Fritz in bed, she justifies their actions: “Royal families of Europe marry their cousins all the time.”

Large cast turns in good work under Jeff Bleckner’s assured direction; it must have been difficult for some of them to keep straight faces during all these shenanigans. Tristan Tate excels as a flighty youngster in some of the pic’s most exciting scenes.

In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride and Madness

Production

CBS, Sun. Jan. 16, Tues. Jan. 18, 9 p.m.

Crew

Camera, Alan Caso; editors, Alan Shefland, Charles Borstein, A.C.E.; sound, Tom Nelson; music, Don Davis; production designer, Donald Light-Harris. 240 MIN.

With

Cast: Kelly McGillis, Harry Hamlin, Keith Carradine, Holland Taylor, Jayne Brook, Ken Jenkins, Elizabeth Wilson, Louise Latham, Wayne Tippit, Tom Aldredge, Anne Pitoniak, Marian Seldes, Nick Searcy, Tristan Tait, Coleen Flynn, Erik vonDetten Eric Lloyd, Mary Joy, Sonny Shroyer, Ralph Wilcox, Ira David Wood IV, Courtland Mead, Tom Mason, William Neely, Randell Haynes, Joe Inscoe, Lynda Clark, Rebecca Koon, Pilar Herrera, (additional cast credits unavailable).

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