The Corpse Had a Familiar Face” brings to CBS the life of Edna Buchanan, one of America’s best police reporters, who sniffs around crime scenes in Miami and writes wickedly raw journalism. As with “Dave,” the skein based on Dave Barry, newspaper characters are lost in the shuffle to the small screen, and the results are more like caricatures.
Always watchable Elizabeth Montgomery isn’t given much help with a script that throws her into the fire right off the bat. Before viewers get a chance to even look at Montgomery’s Buchanan, she’s playing Superwoman, dodging the gunfire of cops and bad guys, running here and there for more information, filing her story.
The action settles down eventually and the telepic’s core plot emerges; at the same time, Montgomery, director Joyce Chopra and scripters Derek Marlowe and Dennis Turner sedate the Buchanan character to the point where she becomes believable.
Sixteen-year-old Alice Nicholson (Luanne Ponce) is missing. Pesky reporter Buchanan stumbles onto the story and eventually falls deep in the drama, playing sleuth and reporter at the same time. She becomes caught up in the emotions of the father (Lee Horsley), but fortunately cop pal Harry (Dennis Farina) steers her back to the road of objectivity.
Cast is the strongest element of this vidpic, including Yaphet Kotto, Farina and Horsley. Montgomery takes a bit to warm to the role, but she could have easily succumbed to the caricatured aspects in the script.
Director Chopra pushes the extraordinary life of Buchanan too hard at the beginning: Buchanan seems like a superstar one minute and a moody misfit the next, which may be the case, but for those who don’t know the byline and don’t realize this is a real-life person, “The Corpse Had a Familiar Face” may seem to be a painful stretch of believability.