Elizabeth Montgomery is back in fighting form — slim, smart and commanding centerstage — as the real-life Blanche Taylor Moore, who killed a number of men with poison in the 1980s. Montgomery and director Alan Metzger turn Judith Paige Mitchell’s script into an absorbing study of a determined woman who admits that, if she had money, there’d be no men in her life; her attempts to live by that code should give NBC a healthy boost in the sweeps derby.
North Carolina widow Blanche Taylor, working as a checker in a supermarket, has been playing around for years with fellow worker Raymond Reid, who becomes ill about the time Blanche admits she’s getting weary of him.
Divorced with two sons, Reid goes downhill quickly, with Blanche right there feeding him potato soup and grabbing his power of attorney.
She’s met Rev. Dwight Moore, who tumbles for her, gives her money and asks her to marry him. And feels bad when he hears her “good friend” Reid has died.
She leads Moore on, feeds him a new recipe for potato salad, and watches him deteriorate.
It’s a simple tale of murders, but Mitchell has artfully arranged her teleplay: Blanche confides her feelings (though not her doings) to close chum Ethel (Grace Zabriskie); witnesses to the case, including Blanche herself, testify into the camera to fill in any gaps; and Blanche, talking with a psychiatrist, covers enough of the issues to give the doctor some insight into her character.
Montgomery’s back with a vengeance. Watching her tell off a store manager who’s womanized other clerks is an eyeful; seeing her shrewdly lead Reid or Moore on is a revelation; and one of the telefilm’s surprising twists turns out to be that Blanche isn’t a particularly bright woman–crafty, but not bright.
Settling the blame on Blanche’s father ties up her motivation in too neat a package; after all, who knows what Lady Macbeth’s pop did?
Other outstanding perfs include David Clennon’s loving Rev. Moore, John M. Jackson’s doting Reid and Zabriskie’s ailing Ethel. Guy Boyd’s sexual harassing store manager and Katy Boyer’s blond checker Lujane add more texture to the telefilm.
Program’s tech credits are superior, with Seth Flaum’s editing surehanded, Geoffrey Erb’s lensing topflight. Philip Dean Foreman’s design does a good job of setting up the presumed small-town North Carolina locales. David Michael Frank’s sympathetic score helps sustain the admirable mood.