I was excited to find out that the true crime book Evidence of Love, the case of the Texas housewife who killed her ex-lover’s wife with an axe in self-defense, had been made into a TV movie (alternate title A Killing in a Small Town) and that it was streaming on Netflix. Of course, the fact that it was made is old news, 22 years old, but I’ve never had much interest in TV movies of the “one woman’s struggle against whatever” variety; I’ve even ridiculed that type of movie more than once on this blog. However, I do like true crime stories, and I do like the book Evidence of Love a lot. I liked it even better after I’d read it and realized that the same John Bloom who co-authored it is our friend in the trashy film universe who is also known as Joe Bob Briggs. Who would have known that the real person was capable of such thoughtful, restrained fare as this book, and about such a potentially trashy subject? Not I.
So, even though I knew the book was a serious portrait of a tragic killing, and delved deep into the motivations of all involved, I thought that surely the movie was going to be a delightfully lurid tale. Such was my expectation of TV movies outside the realm of horror. It isn’t lurid. What it does offer, though, is a remarkable performance by Barbara Hershey as Candy Morrison (Candy Montgomery in real life) who was put on trial in death-penalty-happy Texas for killing her church friend and cuckoldee Peggy Blankenship (Betty Gore in real life, played here by Lee Garlington), and who got off and presumably lives and thrives today. Not that it should be surprising that Ms. Hershey brought the role to sympathetic life. She deserved the Emmy she won, and I’m not sure I fully understood the murder defense and its success until I’d seen her become Candy Montgomery on the witness stand. Also reminding us of why he ruled the movie world of the 90s is Brian Dennehy as Ed Reivers, the defense attorney who’d never before defended a criminal until he took this case out of friendship for Candy.
The movie was necessarily briefer than the book, and I would have liked to see Betty Gore’s background included as it was in the book, but otherwise it was very faithful to the story. All the characters and even the neighborhoods where it took place were as I’d imagined them while reading. But unless I’m very wrong (perish the thought) about the average “true story” TV movie, filmmaker Stephen Gyllenhaal showed restraint in bringing this story to the screen. That’s good for the subject matter, but perhaps bad for my TV Tuesday post. You might come here only to see what ridiculous movie I’ve dug up most recently, and if so, I apologize that I’ve posted about a well-made movie today. I shall have to do some more research on another Tuesday.
So for fans of the book, check out Evidence of Love on Netflix, but for fans of TV style exploitation, proceed with caution. I’ll be back next Tuesday with something more like what I imagine when I think of a TV movie, namely Rick Springfield playing a vampire detective in 1989’s Nick Knight.