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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Perfection is the enemy of good.

Guilty Conscience (TV Movie 1985) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Arthur Jamison (Anthony Hopkins) is “one of the most prominent criminal attorneys in the state if not the country.” He's in high demand as a lecturer in his home town of San Francisco and as a guest attorney in other states (like Texas.) He applied him­self rigorously in law school to the extent of holding mock trials with his fellow students. He married a pliable, blonde beauty Louise (Blythe Danner) to capitalize on her dad's connections who was a judge. Unfortunately, Jamison discovered too late, a traffic court judge didn't have any connections. Furthermore, when his wife's beauty faded, their love petered out as well. He has become a philanderer and his wife now accustomed to living large has got the goods on him for his illicit dealings, which she holds over him to get a better divorce settlement.

tombstoneHis solution is to murder the old lady, but “murdering a spouse has its difficulties.” The living spouse becomes an auto­matic suspect. So he does some meticulous plan­ning, going through various scenarios in his head, including mock trials as he'd done in school. As he mentally tries out and then rejects one approach after another, we begin to wonder if it's even possible to commit a perfect murder. The smart attorney finds fault with every approach. It's as Adrian Magson wrote in one of his Harry Tate thrillers, “The term fail-safe was laughable, unless you were talking about taking sharp instru­ments away from three-year-olds” (40.)

workloadEven if he were to kill her, the dame has got compromising information on him in an envelope locked away in her safety deposit box. The box would be opened by authorities in the event of her death. Drats! No worries, though. He knows where she keeps her key. Her face is not well known at the bank, and persuasive fellow that he is, he can get a female accomplice to forge her signature and retrieve it. He plans to use his current girl­friend (“I'm his mistress”) Jackie Willis (Swoosie Kurtz) who'd filled in from a temp agency when his regular secretary was out sick. She knows how to get a job done lickety split. How­ever, as Magson also cautioned, “Using off-the-books talent was a double-edged sword, especially if they responded to a more tempting offer from else­where or used others from God alone knew what kind of dodgey milieu” (129.)


Here is a cautionary tale of a man who went down the wrong path. There's a warning in the good book, (Prov. 1:10-19)

My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

Ordinarily one might not think that applied to white collar crime, but here the greedy lawyer was led to the brink of murder, and he put his own life in jeopardy.

Production Values

” (TV Movie 1985) was directed by David Greene. Its screenplay was written by Richard Levinson and William Link. It stars Anthony Hopkins, Blythe Danner, and Swoosie Kurtz. Kurtz was a riot of personality as the off­beat mistress. Danner filled out thoroughly the role of an elegant and thought­ful wife. Hopkins was a perfectly tuned, corrupt attorney. The characters were dressed formally.

It passed certification in the USA and was rated PG in the UK, likely for adult themes and violence, though the former was boring and the latter quickly executed. It was filmed in San Francisco, California, USA. The DVDs tend to be of poor quality. Mine was sharper once I adjusted the aspect ratio for TV screen dimensions. Editing created speed bumps where commercials were to be inserted, but they can be ignored.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

This film was wall-to-wall drama, most of it in a courtroom of the mind. Think Perry Mason but with less personality. It emulates a play for its limited settings, even fewer characters, and extensive dialogue. I pretty much enjoyed it because I'm easy to please. If it sounds like your cup of tea, then it would be well worth your while, but it won't appeal to everyone.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Used a double for self-dialogue. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, Print.

Magson, Adrian. Terminal Black. Copyright © 2019 by Adrian Magson. London, England: Severn House Pub., 2020. Print.