Before being displaced by cable channels, Network TV once excelled in making
docudramas like this poignant biographical film.
Awakened in the middle of the night on April 15, 1865, Maryland physician Dr. Samuel Mudd (Dennis Weaver) opened his door to two strangers. Mindful of his Hippocratic Oath, Mudd set the broken leg of a disguised John Wilkes Boothe (Bill Gribble) and given the late hour and the pressure of delivering emergency treatment, Mudd failed to recognize his patient as the renowned actor he had met casually on previous occasions. The following day, Mudd heard news of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination and contacted the authorities. Despite Mudd’s pro-active honesty, Northern military authorities didn't trust Southerners, and when Boothe was subsequently killed, General Stanton (Richard Dysart) decided that the show trial of a high-profile "traitor" was just what the divided nation needed. Mudd was his designated scapegoat. Denied a civilian trial, Mudd was tried in a military kangaroo court; even esteemed General Ewing's (Arthur Hill) spirited defense couldn’t prevent the predetermined verdict. Mudd was whisked out of the country to a hellish penal colony in the Dry Tortugas, and the valiant efforts of his wife, Frances (Susan Sullivan), fell on deaf ears. When Mudd befriended a fellow convict, George Grenfell (Nigel Davenport), the warden tried to torture Grenfell into eliciting damning statements from Mudd. Certain that hard labor would become a death sentence, Frances instigated a breakout attempt that resulted in her husband’s recapture. When yellow fever swept through the prisons, Mudd once again showed his true colors as a healer. Before being pardoned, Mudd served nearly four years on America's version of Devil’s Island, and exoneration came only 110 years later, from President Jimmy Carter.
Weaver’s no-frills performance is the key to this historical tragedy’s effectiveness, but he's backed by able supporting players and veteran director Paul Wendkos keeps the story of justice denied movie at an outraged clip.
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- Released: 1980
- Rating: NR
- Review: Before being displaced by cable channels, Network TV once excelled in making docudramas like this poignant biographical film. Awakened in the middle of the night on April 15, 1865, Maryland physician Dr. Samuel Mudd (Dennis Weaver) opened his door to… (more)