Tim Matheson stars in a farfetched Rick Way-Jim Lindsay-N.D. Schreiner teleplay, about ambitious Philly assistant D.A. Peter Hudson pressuring an eyewitness to secure a murder conviction. Some suspense turns up in the final 30 minutes, but “Trial and Error” leans to the preposterous for effect; some will buy into the tired concept.
Hudson’s a conservative political figure not above sacrificing principles for ambition.
He picks up on a sure-fire case in which Woody Poole (Ron Small) and his small son spot a man graphically mowing down two other men; based on the witness’s testimony, Hudson goes to work to put away Andrew Barnes (Eugene A. Clark).
Barnes is convicted, and Hudson’s career is assured as, five years later, he becomes D.A. — until Poole tries backing down on what he saw.
Named as a lieutenant governor candidate, Hudson leans on Poole to stick with his testimony.
But it seems someone else wants to put the final dot on Barnes’ death sentence — apparently Barnes’ vicious double, whose body turned up unidentifiable. That old chestnut.
The script tries balancing things out with a convenient wife, mannered Katherine (Helen Shaver), who’s all for real justice and doesn’t like Hudson’s ambitions. Their marriage isn’t remotely convincing.
Hudson’s into going alone on a dark assignation place to meet an anonymous phone caller and into doing all the digging on cases himself; it’s as tough to believe as Katherine’s and Hudson’s love for one another.
That last half-hour involves a political rally taking place at the same time as Barnes’ execution time, and it’s up to Hudson to prove he’s a good guy. Dull but good.
Though director Mark Sobel keeps a fast pace, the territory he’s covering is worn out.
Editor Michael Pacek can’t disguise a flaw like a man’s jaw moving with no talk coming out; no wonder no sound mixer is credited.
Vidpic looks good, and Matheson and Shaver act determined. Clark gives his role dignity, Small as the witness is convincing, and Michael J. Reynolds as the governor is solid.
“Trial and Error” opens with the father and son witnessing two victims being blasted away by a killer.
It’s a violent, appalling beginning that the folks at home get to share.
The scene’s a trial and an error.