02/17/1997 at 01:00 AM EST
HBO (Sat, Feb. 22, 9 p.m. ET)
The Tuskegee Study began in 1932 as a federal health project to monitor and treat syphilis among more than 500 poor African-Americans in rural Alabama. When funds dried up a few years later, the patients were kept on, but the study's objective was modified. It was now a comprehensive study of untreated syphilis. Even after penicillin became available in the '40s, the study's doctors allowed their subjects to deteriorate into madness, lameness and other afflictions. This barbarous chapter in American medicine, which was not brought to a close until it came under Senate scrutiny in 1972, is the subject of a powerful, 2-hour movie starring Alfre Woodard as the fictional Eunice Evers. A nurse, Evers knows that assisting the doctors is horribly wrong but hopes she can alleviate her patients' suffering within her circumscribed means. Woodard, always good, is exceptional here. Battered by guilt, she wages a mighty internal struggle for her integrity but sinks into a moral muddle.