Picks and Pans Review: Wife, Mother, Murderer

updated 11/11/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/11/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Sun., Nov. 10, 9 P.M. ET)

B

She's not your ordinary housewife," says the prosecutor (David Dukes) of Marie Hilley (Judith Light) at her murder trial. That's an understatement. The real Hilley, who was convicted of murder in Alabama in 1983, was a woman whose machinations would make a supermarket-tabloid writer blush. Among the items on her résumé: poisoning her husband, attempting the same with her daughter, remarrying under an assumed identity, disappearing and then returning to tell her new husband that the woman he married was dead and that she was her twin sister. In the TV movie, when the past catches up with her, her bewildered spouse (David Ogden Stiers) can only ask, "So why'd you play me for a fool, Teri/Robbi/Marie?" (How did Marcy Walker miss this role?)

After years of being shackled on Who's the Boss?, Judith Light gets, in Hilley, a chance to exercise her considerable dramatic talent. She smartly mixes discipline and abandon as this silver-tongued southern sociopath, a Blanche DuBois who always depends on the gullibility of strangers.

The fact-based movie is a dogged, rather superficial dramatization, but Light and the dark character she portrays are transfixing.

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