Picks and Pans Review: Dead by Sunset

updated 11/20/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/20/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

NBC (Sun., Nov. 19, 9 p.m. ET)

B

This tense two-parter, based on Ann Rule's true crime book of the same name, presents a gripping portrait of a far-from-merry widower. Brad Cunningham (thirtysomething's, Ken Olin) is an Oregon investment wheeler-dealer. Out in the world, he's a sensitive, charming guy. But at home, he's a sullen bully, a misogynistic manipulator who is conducting a concerted, diabolical campaign to undermine and intimidate his wife (Annette O'Toole), a high-powered attorney. In the course of an ugly divorce, she discovers that Olin has hidden from her an extensive marital history. In fact, he already has Wife No. 5 lined up and waiting for their divorce to be final.

As the second installment begins (on Monday), O'Toole has been murdered and the police are circling Olin intently, trying to mount a case without a witness or a murder weapon. The victim's family resorts, to bringing a civil suit against Olin. (This all has an awfully familiar ring to it, doesn't it?) Eventually murder charges are brought, and during the film's memorable climax, Olin, his personality now splintering, demands to defend himself in court. Though the pace of this film is often too deliberate, the story is disturbing. Olin makes an absolutely chilling villain.

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