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Fatal Vision (1984)

TV Movie  -   -  Crime | Drama | Thriller  -  18 November 1984 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 589 users  
Reviews: 21 user | 1 critic

A retiree spends nine years relentlessly seeking to prove that his son-in-law, a former Green Beret Army doctor, murdered his pregnant wife and two children.



(teleplay), (based upon the book by)
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Title: Fatal Vision (TV Movie 1984)

Fatal Vision (TV Movie 1984) on IMDb 7.8/10

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Freddy Kassab
Mildred Kassab
Bernie Segal
Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald, MD
Victor Worheide
James Blackburn
Brian Murtagh
Paul Strombaugh
Colette MacDonald
William Ivory
Franz Grebner
Judge Dupree
Alexandra Johnson ...
Helena Stoeckley
Mrs. Perry MacDonald
Frank Dent ...
Joe McGinniss


Captain Jeff MacDonald, a renowned and an ambitious surgeon at Fort Bragg army base, appears to be a happily married father of two. When the MP enter MacDonald's house in response to his desperate emergency call they find him injured and his wife and daughters murdered. He reports a gang of drugged 'hippies' raided the house and attacked the family. As a massive search for the suspects yields no leads, investigators focus on some inconsistencies in MacDonald's account and he becomes their prime suspect. Written by Armin Ortmann <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Thriller





Release Date:

18 November 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Fatal Vision  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Life Imitates Art: The child actress portraying Kimberley MacDonald, who is murdered by her father, Jeffrey, is Judith Barsi. In 1988, Barsi, like Kimberley, was murdered by her own father, Jozsef. As in 'Fatal Vision,' Jozsef also murdered his wife/Judith's mother (he shot both of them, set their bodies on fire, then shot and killed himself). See more »


Referenced in Rewind This! (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Well acted, well written, and a product of its time...
8 December 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

... that time being 1984. It's been at least ten years -maybe 15 - since I've seen this film on TV. Channels are too busy broadcasting commercials for shamwows and anything else of questionable value that will fit in a paid programming slot to air good old made-for-TV fare like this anymore, so forgive any holes in my review that may be caused by my memory.

By 1984 the pendulum had swung in society and thus in the justice system from slapping embarrassingly guilty criminals on the wrist (circa 1960-1980) to locking them up for mandatory sentences - the era of zero tolerance had arrived. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it also swept up lots of people who weren't necessarily guilty at a time when DNA forensics were not in existence that could validate a verdict. This transitional phase in American justice is the setting of the film (1970-1979), and ironically the pendulum swung precisely because of the emergence of the kind of people - often violent drug addled hippies - that Jeffrey MacDonald claimed entered his home one night and changed his life forever.

The two great performances here are Karl Malden as Freddy Kassab and Gary Cole as Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald. One night in 1970, when MacDonald was still a captain and surgeon in the army, someone kills MacDonald's entire family in their home as they all sleep in their beds - his wife, their unborn child, and his two daughters. However, Jeffrey MacDonald has only superficial wounds and survives. He is instantly suspect number one as far as the military is concerned, and at first father-in-law Freddy Kassab is on his side. An investigation is launched, and eventually the military drops the case for lack of evidence. After MacDonald appears on Dick Cavett and seems to joke around about the murder and the ordeal, Freddy begins to have a change of heart and becomes convinced of MacDonald's guilt.

It doesn't help Freddy that he seems to be a black-or-white all-or-nothing kind of thinker and renderer of snap judgments. It doesn't help MacDonald that he is a bit of a narcissist who seems to really be enjoying his new-found bachelorhood and that he was less than a saint when he was married to Freddy's daughter - he did cheat, and he did use mood altering prescription drugs to deal with his grueling schedule while in the army.

Then both men have to deal with what is really the luck of the draw in any criminal or civil case for that matter - how good is the attorney on your case, and how good is he in particular on the day(s) that he is in front of a jury on your individual case. Of course, Freddy doesn't really have an attorney, but the hard-charging D.A. that decides to go after MacDonald (Andy Griffith as take-no-prisoners Victor Worheide) dies before much progress can be made. Who takes his place? A seemingly mild-mannered southern gentleman (Gary Grubbs as James Blackburn). Freddy, a New Yorker, thinks this guy is just too bland to go after his son-in-law with the necessary vigor and considers drastic action. Meanwhile, Jeffrey MacDonald, now a wealthy doctor, having hired the best counsel, is planning TV appearances, getting manicures, and putting people who were originally on his side ill at ease with his carefree disposition.

How does this all play out? Well, google will give you a better and more complete answer than I ever could, but watching this drama play out on screen is worth your while, even if the film is obviously biased against MacDonald.

There is one scene that is a real eye-roller - I don't know if it actually happened but it lets you know that even in 1984 Hollywood thought gun control would work. Kassab is confiding to his wife that if Jeffrey gets off this time - the 1979 trial - he is considering taking justice into his own getting a gun permit??? If this film has taught us anything is that murderers don't knock and they certainly aren't stopped by gun permit paperwork.

This is a long one at 200 minutes, but worth your time. It may never be on TV again because to air it they'd also have to air a bunch of disclaimers, particularly about some of the prosecutors in the case, several of whom turned out to be less than of the purest motives and ethics themselves. But don't be too hard on them, after all prosecutors ARE actually lawyers. What would you expect? Highly recommended.

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