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.




Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Helter Skelter (TV Movie 1976)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

The investigation and trial of the horrific Tate-LaBianca mass murders orchestrated by the psychotic pseudo-hippie cult leader, Charles Manson.

Director: Tom Gries
Stars: George DiCenzo, Steve Railsback, Nancy Wolfe
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

After a very messy divorce, a man starts suspecting his ex-wife and her new boyfriend of various crimes.

Director: Jeff Bleckner
Stars: Kelly McGillis, Harry Hamlin, Keith Carradine
Love, Lies and Murder (TV Series 1991)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

When a young housewife is murdered, the cops find her troubled daughter guilty after she confesses to the crime - but was she really the killer?

Stars: Clancy Brown, Sheryl Lee, Moira Kelly
Small Sacrifices (TV Movie 1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A peculiar and disturbing case catches the attention of the police when a young mother and her children, all severely injured, show up in a hospital's emergency room.

Director: David Greene
Stars: Farrah Fawcett, Ryan O'Neal, Gordon Clapp
South Pacific (1958)
Musical | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

On a South Pacific island during World War II, love blooms between a young nurse and a secretive Frenchman who's being courted for a dangerous military mission.

Director: Joshua Logan
Stars: Rossano Brazzi, Mitzi Gaynor, John Kerr
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Diane and David love each other, but when they go to separate army academies, David has an affair. Diane snaps and ultimately something very sinister happens that the couple get involved in.

Director: Richard A. Colla
Stars: Holly Marie Combs, David Lipper, Cassidy Rae
V: The Final Battle (TV Mini-Series 1984)
Action | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A small group of human resistance fighters fight a desperate guerilla war against the genocidal extra-terrestrials who dominate Earth.

Stars: Jane Badler, Michael Durrell, Robert Englund
V (TV Mini-Series 1983)
Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

When aliens come to Earth to ask for our help, a few suspicious humans discover their horrific true intentions and prepare to resist.

Stars: Jane Badler, Michael Durrell, Faye Grant
Blind Faith (TV Series 1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A wealthy businessman is accused of murdering his wife to collect insurance money to pay gambling debts. Although his three sons initially believe his innocence, his actions and court evidence soon begin to prove otherwise.

Stars: Robert Urich, Joanna Kerns, David Barry Gray
Echoes in the Darkness (TV Movie 1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Based on the true life story that took place in the 1970s, this movie follows the murder of Susan Reinert and her two children in Upper Merion Township in Pennsylvania, a case that lasted seven years.

Director: Glenn Jordan
Stars: Peter Coyote, Stockard Channing, Robert Loggia
The Twilight Zone (1985–1989)
Sci-Fi | Fantasy | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A collection of tales which range from comic to tragic, but often have a wicked sense of humor and an unexpected twist.

Stars: Robin Ward, Charles Aidman, Richard Mulligan
Cruel Doubt (TV Series 1992)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

A college student and two friends are accused of murdering one's stepfather and injuring his mother whom refuses to believe her son had anything to do with the attack.

Stars: Blythe Danner, Matt McGrath, Denis Arndt


Series cast summary:
 Freddy Kassab (2 episodes, 1984)
 Mildred Kassab (2 episodes, 1984)
 Bernie Segal (2 episodes, 1984)
 Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald, MD (2 episodes, 1984)
 Victor Worheide (2 episodes, 1984)
 James Blackburn (2 episodes, 1984)
 Brian Murtagh (2 episodes, 1984)
 Paul Strombaugh (2 episodes, 1984)
 Colette MacDonald (2 episodes, 1984)
 William Ivory (2 episodes, 1984)
 Franz Grebner (2 episodes, 1984)
 Judge Dupree (2 episodes, 1984)
Alexandra Johnson ...
 Helena Stoeckley (2 episodes, 1984)
 Mrs. Perry MacDonald (2 episodes, 1984)
Frank Dent ...
 Joe McGinniss (2 episodes, 1984)
 Col Pruett (2 episodes, 1984)
Andy Wood ...
 Robert Shaw (2 episodes, 1984)
 Peter Kearns (2 episodes, 1984)
 William Posey (2 episodes, 1984)
Rex Ryon ...
 Jay MacDonald (2 episodes, 1984)
J.P. Bumstead ...
 Col. Rock (2 episodes, 1984)
Brandy Gold ...
 Kimberly age 5 (2 episodes, 1984)
Dylan Galer ...
 Kristen (2 episodes, 1984)
 Dennis Eisman (2 episodes, 1984)
 Joy (2 episodes, 1984)
Nadine Van der Velde ...
 Randi (2 episodes, 1984)
Laurence Haddon ...
 Gen. Flanagan (2 episodes, 1984)
Jack Rader ...
 Provost Marshal (2 episodes, 1984)
 Pathologist (2 episodes, 1984)
Fred Morsell ...
 Agent (2 episodes, 1984)
Roy London ...
 Dr. Thornton (2 episodes, 1984)
Ken Hill ...
 Neighbor (2 episodes, 1984)
 Capt. Somers (2 episodes, 1984)
 Kimberly age 3 (2 episodes, 1984)
 St. Mary's Sister (2 episodes, 1984)
Scotch Byerley ...
 Lab Tech (2 episodes, 1984)
Kathy Christopher ...
 Hippie Girl (2 episodes, 1984)
 MP Sergeant (2 episodes, 1984)
Hortensia Colorado ...
 Nurse (2 episodes, 1984)
 1st Witness (2 episodes, 1984)
David Dangler ...
 MP Lieutenant (2 episodes, 1984)
Matthew Faison ...
 Dr. Bronstein (2 episodes, 1984)
Norman Alexander Gibbs ...
 News Reporter (2 episodes, 1984)
Howard Goodwin ...
 Party Announcer (2 episodes, 1984)
Lance Gordon ...
 CID Captain (2 episodes, 1984)
Norman Lee Harris ...
 CID Man (2 episodes, 1984)
Billy James ...
 TV Interviewer (2 episodes, 1984)
 U.S. Marshal (2 episodes, 1984)
Allan Kolman ...
 Reporter (2 episodes, 1984)
 MP Captain (2 episodes, 1984)
Tracee Lyles ...
 Nurse (2 episodes, 1984)
 Green Beret (2 episodes, 1984)
Clare Nono ...
 Nurse (2 episodes, 1984)
Fred Ponzlov ...
 Reporter (2 episodes, 1984)
Fred Retes ...
 Photographer (2 episodes, 1984)
John Rose ...
 FBI Man (2 episodes, 1984)
Paul Ryan ...
 Talk Show Host (2 episodes, 1984)
 MP in Jeep (2 episodes, 1984)
Grayce Spence ...
 Court Clerk (2 episodes, 1984)
Tom Tarpey ...
 Psychiatrist (2 episodes, 1984)
 Lt. Harrison (2 episodes, 1984)
Arnold F. Turner ...
 Lab Technician (2 episodes, 1984)
Beth Ringwald ...
 Babysitter (2 episodes, 1984)
 Sgt. McPherson (2 episodes, 1984)
 Dr. Sadoff (2 episodes, 1984)
 Secretary (2 episodes, 1984)
Peter Vogt ...
 Jury Foreman (2 episodes, 1984)


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 <armin@sfb288.math.tu-berlin.de>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Thriller


TV-14 | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Död i dimma dold  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

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 »


Freddy Kassab: Mildred, just listen to me for a minute. Page 25 of the Article 32 transcript: Jeff heard Colette scream "Help! Jeff, why are they doing this to me?" In the first place, the hippies were attacking Jeff in the living room while she was still in the bedroom. Who was she talking to? And not only that, how could she talk at all? She had severe stab wounds in her neck and her throat was cut.
Mildred Kassab: Well, there must be some explanation. Maybe she managed to scream just before...
Freddy Kassab: [interrupting] Just a minute....
See more »


References Easy Rider (1969) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Reasonably Doubtful?
26 April 2002 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

If you read Joe McGinnes' book, you'd find it difficult to accuse the author of trying to sell more copies of it by twisting facts around. McGinnis was hired in the first place by MacDonald to tell his side of the story and only gradually did the writer change his mind about MacDonald's innocence. Of course McGinnis wanted his book to sell, so he could become rich and famous, just as MacDonald wanted his story told so he could become rich and famous too. Everyone wants to be rich and famous. But some people want it a LOT more than others and, according to McGinnes, this was Jeff MacDonald's biggest problem.

The book ends with a description of a "narcissistic personality" drawn from the work of Christopher Lasch. There's some reason to believe that MacDonald belonged in that category. One of his last writings to McGinnes detailed a number of his greatest regrets about his life. Chief among them was not having actually gotten a degree from Princeton. (He transferred to Northwestern's medical school after his third year.) That's a pretty dumb thing to put down as a great regret unless you're something of a narcissist.

Of course being a narcissist doesn't make you a murderer. In this case, it was the physical evidence that made the difference. It's true, as earlier comments have mentioned, that the army made a botch of the crime scene. They tramped all over, setting disturbed items upright, even swiping MacDonald's wallet. But some of the comments have been misleading, because McGinnis's book describes all this, and the film does too. Of course, having the army foul up a crime scene doesn't make you innocent either. In the end, McGinnis found MacDonald's story unbelievable because, in addition to the physical evidence, there was the simple fact that MacDonald "hadn't been hurt badly enough."

The murderers in his tale (one of them a girl in a floppy hat) beat the other three members of his family to death and stab them. And here is MacDonald, a trained green beret, who gets tangled up in his pajamas while his wife is screaming in the background and who then passes out, sustaining a few scratches and a neat nick that ends in a small pneumothorax, which sounds terrible but which a doctor would recognize as not in itself life threatening.

And this quartet of murderers in MacDonald's description is pretty interesting in itself. The sort of group that everyone at the time carried around in an easily accessible part of his or her memory, because everyone had been so shocked at the Manson family shortly before. But they are a square guy's cliché of what senseless murderers would look like. I was working on a research project into LSD use at the time of the murders and interviewed dozens of acid heads and dopers from all walks of life. (They included the entire fencing team at an Ivy League university.) They didn't have much in common except that when tripping they were one hundred per cent nonviolent. As one reporter put it, "When people are on acid they can't even organize a trip to the men's room." And nobody would dream of saying something like, "Acid is groovy," while trying to slice somebody up. Any acid head knew that things were a lot more complicated than that. (Nobody involved in the case seems to have had any idea of what the effects of recreational drugs were like. One young woman suspected of being the girl in the floppy hat, can't provide an alibi for herself because she "was out on marijuana" for four hours.) The "pigs" written in blood was a direct ripoff of the Manson family murders, whoever put it up there.

The film follows the book pretty closely, painting a picture of Jeff MacDonald that is distinctly unflattering. Smart but shallow, he got out of the army pronto and lived in a Marina del Rey condo with blonde airheads seriatim. I'd like to see him put away if only out of envy. But was he guilty? Well, there was hardly a rush to judgment. It took years to convict him, long after the immediate sensation of the case died down. What leaves me with some lingering doubts, however, is the lack of any apparent motive. There was evidently no history of spousal abuse, nor of previous violent acts on MacDonald's part, nor of any nucleus in family dynamics for a murderous outburst. There is a sizable hole in the film where motive should be. The book and the film, despite some revisionist statements I've read, convince me that MacDonald probably did it. His alibi is almost impossible to swallow. Still -- I wouldn't have wanted to be on the jury.

21 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Read Fatal Justice viperrider
I knew him in High School, did you? lmtender-2
MacDonald on 48 Hours cami2
The Murder eiganerd
Judith lilpretender
Discuss Fatal Vision (1984) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: