A 1992 made-for-TV domestic violence saga released to home video, TILL MURDER DO US PART is based on a celebrated tabloid case. Headlong and predictably structured, the film is nevertheless strangely compelling, in large part because it's so firmly grounded in the mundane realities of
Betty Broderick (Meredith Baxter) is a textbook housewife whose fragile world develops hairline fractures when her lawyer husband of 20 years, Dan (Stephen Collins), decides to retire. The couple have enough money to begin to realize the good life, but their relationship begins to come apart as
each new acquisition takes on insidious connotations. When Dan treats himself to his dream Corvette, he celebrates over cocktails with his perky assistant Linda (Michelle Johnson), who made all the arrangements for him. Always excitable, Betty overreacts by burning Dan's clothes in the front yard.
When he buys her an expensive piece of jewelry for Christmas, she's resentful because it's not the one she asked him for.
Soon enough, money becomes a wedge between them, as Dan increasingly uses his newfound largesse to surprise his friends and loved ones, while excluding Betty from financial decisions. After Dan summons her to a pricey lunch to discuss a separation, Betty begins dropping the kids off with him
unannounced, breaking into his new home to spread chocolate cake all over his bed, and generally getting nuttier by the minute. When Dan finally files for divorce and begins openly dating Linda, Betty trashes his home. Dan secures a restraining order and, when Betty refuses all realistic market
offers for their house, obtains judicial leave to sell it without her consent. Informed of this in the middle of her own dinner party, she excuses herself to ram the front of his house with her car. She's arrested for assault but released, and when Dan goes public with his upcoming marriage, she
buys a gun. Breaking into their home for the last time, she shoots Dan and Linda while they sleep, bragging from a pay phone afterward, "I finally shot the sonofabitch." A tag informs us that Betty was convicted and sentenced to the maximum of 32 years to life.
Partly because the events as chronicled are easily within the average person's imagination, and partly because the treatment is so consciously realistic and unstylized, the narrative carries quite a horrific punch, as events spiral toward an inevitable conclusion. Betty's paranoid worldview--a
weird blend of sitcom platitudes and cockeyed logic--is nicely sketched, and Baxter's performance is both plausible and strangely sympathetic. The drama's creditable refusal to force either partner into the villain role turns what could have been a run-of-the-mill web sudser into something more.
(Violence, adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: A 1992 made-for-TV domestic violence saga released to home video, TILL MURDER DO US PART is based on a celebrated tabloid case. Headlong and predictably structured, the film is nevertheless strangely compelling, in large part because it's so firmly grounde… (more)