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This movie, I feel, is so true to life. It is one of those movies that grips you so deeply that is stays with you long after you have seen the movie. I keep wanting new information on the real people who committed this crime and I feel a movie that causes someone to do that is excellent. I thought some of the acting in it was a little over done, but all in all I think this movie deserves a 10 rating.
I went to college at Emporia State and actually had classes with someone involved with the case. After watching the movie it made it seem more real and close to home. I would recommend it to those who think all religious people are perfect. This one goes to show even the mighty can fall. The city still has not gotten over the popularity and close knit ties that are still there in Emporia. The movie was a sore spot to a lot of people and to mention anything about the case will draw a lot of undue attention. The places are real and accurate except for the offices where the Sheriff Dept is. I would recommend this movie because it is accurate to a point and very real and really happened.
This is a pretty good TV true-crime murder show. Emporia, Kansas
minister Tom Bird takes up an affair with his floozy secretary, played
by JoBeth Williams. They pray that God will let them be together by
getting rid of their spouses for them. When God doesn't cooperate, they
decide to give God some help and murder their spouses.
Keith Carradine is state trooper John Rule who investigates the auto "accident" in which Mrs. Bird is killed. He's not a homicide investigator but he knows accidents and is certain that this was no accident. Rule pushes and pushes his investigation and runs into bureaucratic stone walls. His superiors only get interested in re-opening the case when Williams' husband is murdered along a highway.
The acting in this picture is pretty good and look out particularly for John Goodman, who plays a sheriff investigating the second murder, and future Oscar winner Kathy Bates as a reporter. Carradine plays Trooper Rule with a very plain Kansas doggedness---think of perhaps Sheriff Andy Taylor doing a murder investigation but without any humor or bumbling deputy tagging along.
I've looked up info about the real-life case and the movie. The two killers, Anderson and Bird, served very extended prison sentences but were eventually paroled and then released from any parole restrictions. Both were married and Bird is, weirdly enough, a marriage counselor now. Anderson still insists that it was Bird who killed her husband even though he got acquitted of that murder. Even stranger, Anderson's children are very reconciled to her despite her involvement in the murder of their father.
The movie seems to have been as controversial in Emporia as the murders themselves. The movie came out before Bird's trial in the Martin Anderson murder and the investigators in that case didn't want to participate in any movie lest they ruin their case. So the filmmakers pumped up the role and involvement of Trooper Rule to make him a far bigger hero than he was in the real investigation. The town paper's journalist (the Kathy Bates character) later became mayor of Emporia and she said that Rule's role was extremely overblown and that it was actually a confidential informant who got the insider story to the press, not Rule. Over 25 years later, there still seemed to be a lot of resentment about how the movie portrayed the story. A weird side-note, the then Governor of Kansas appeared in the movie but as an extra, someone walking in at the newspaper office.
None of the Emporia churches wanted anything to do with the movie so the exterior and interior scenes of the church were shot in Lawrence, Kansas. The movie does do an excellent job of picking up and depicting the rhythms of small-town Kansas life. Filmed entirely in Kansas locations, Kansas itself becomes a character in the story in much the same way that the character of the state was the back drop of the earlier true-crime movie, "In Cold Blood". Both movies depict cruel murders being committed by sociopaths and being confronted by the virtuous, pious, quietly hard-working small town Kansans.
I'm originally from Council Grove which is in between where Sandy Bird was murdered and Martin Anderson was murdered. I've heard about both cases all of my life and my parents know a lot of the people that were involved. I've been doing research on this story for sometime now and I'm currently doing an article for Emporia State's newspaper. I work with one of the extras in the movie too. I've been out to the bridge a few times and each time I get weird feelings while there. I don't think enough people know the actual story of what happened either. In fact most of the people I know in Emporia say they have heard of the bridge and the ghost stories but as far as knowing what actually happened many have no idea.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Married minister Tom Bird, the father of 3 children becomes attracted to and
has an affair with Lorna Anderson, the local Jezebel, herself married and
the mother of 4 (including a set of twins) girls. At first, Tom hires her to
be his secretary, knowing her husband is a drunk and abusive. But then, one
thing leads to another and Tom and Lorna begin a torrid affair. Meanwhile,
Sandy Bird, Tom's wife, is a workaholic, seeming to care more for her career
than her family and Martin, Lorna's husband, is an abusive alcoholic. To
solve their problems, Tom and Lorna figure they could kill their spouses and
be together with their 7 children. The crimes would have been perfect had it
not been for the absolute determination of traffic officer John Rule, who
suspects Mrs. Bird's automobile accident was anything but. Bird was
convicted of conspiring to kill Lorna's husband and eventually was found
guilty of murdering his wife. He beat her almost to unconsciousness, pushed
her over the bridge until she dropped into the water and then put her body
into the car and rolled the car off the bridge. What a vicious way to murder
the mother of his children!
This is an excellent movie and one I've seen many, many times. JoBeth Williams as Lorna and Terry Kinney as Pastor Tom Bird are particularly well-acted. Ms. Williams' performance reveals the immature, promiscuous needy woman behind Lorna and Mr. Kinney's performance shows the hypocricy and pride hidden just beneath the veneer of the good pastor. It also shows the transformation from a wholesome, excellent minister to a greedy, prideful conniving man.
The only drawback is that, since it was made in 1987, the same year Lorna was eligible for parole, we have no idea of what has happened to the cast of characters. Tom is in jail and their children are living with their uncle but what about Lorna? Is she still married to the choir singer she met? Are John and Lorraine Rule still together? How are the Bird children doing today - 20 years after their mother's murder? Perhaps this movie isn't the place to find the answers to those questions but I still am curious about this.
I spent ten years working at the correctional facility where both Tom Bird and Lorna Anderson did their time. Lorna was transferred when the female inmates were all sent to Topeka, but Tom Bird remained at Lansing Correctional Facility for his entire incarceration. The resemblance between the real Tom Bird and the actor was amazing. However, the children, especially the youngest girl could have been related. I remember one time feeling especially bad when the children flew in from another state to visit their father, I was working the visiting room at the time, and saw that the movie was playing on a local channel about the time the kids probably got to their motel. They would visit their father for 5 days in a row since they were so far away. The actors that played Tom Bird's parents were uncanny in their looks and actions as well. I suppose this did much to explain my high marks for the movie. I have seen many docu-dramas depend on sensationalism, but this one played it close to the vest, and really did get the point across about the relationship between the two. Unfortunately the movie was made before Lorna Anderson was convicted of her husband's death or before Tom Bird re-married. He was paroled just last year. I am hopeful there will be no cause to make a sequel about the murder of yet another Sandra Bird. Keith Carradine and Kathy Bates were excellent as well in the movie. Their performance was every bit as good as a huge production rather than a made for TV movie. They should all be commended for such good work. It is just sad that no studio will release this excellent work on DVD and the only way to see it is to catch it on late night TV.
One of the best TV movies ever made, this riveting film tells the
true-life story of the murder of a preacher's wife in rural Kansas in
the early 1980s.
In one long flashback that covers the year before the wife's death in a presumed accidental traffic mishap, the script meticulously evolves the sordid relations leading up to the tragedy and the suspicion of one highway patrolman that this was no accident. In time, an ongoing tangle of lurid involvement between the preacher and his attractive church secretary leads others to the same conclusion.
As the truth of a conspiracy starts to emerge and with law enforcement closing in, the confidently smug pastor, Tom Bird (Terry Kinney) reassures his panicky co-conspirator, Lorna (JoBeth Williams) that everything will be okay. "Endureth all things, Lorna ... didn't God test Abraham in the same way?" Of course, his naïve parishioners stand by their man, no matter what.
On-location filming in Kansas adds to the realism, as does court transcripts of some dialogue. Cinematography, production design, casting, and acting are all high quality. Editing is especially impressive. Yes, it's a long film, but the complex story involves conspiracy, murder, hit men, adultery, and possible incompetence in public office.
The subject matter is unusual in that we don't normally think of a preacher as a murderer. That only happens in fictional stories. Yet the unbelievable is precisely what makes this film so mesmerizing. The events really happened. For that reason alone "Murder Ordained" is worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although it runs no less than 185 minutes, this made-for-TV drama really holds the attention and never let's go of the tension from start to finish. Partly this is due to the evil fascination of the real-life story itself, partly to the superb acting of an absolutely faultless cast, and partly to brilliant writing and direction by Emmy award- winning TV specialist Mike Robe (who has, to date, never worked in any other medium but television). I could run through the entire cast, giving ticks here, there and everywhere the courtroom exchanges and characters are absolutely brilliant but, like almost everyone else, I fasten my attention on the brilliant performance of Terry Kinney who, despite the fact that he's listed way down the cast list is actually the screenplay's principal character, the real-life Pastor Bird, a charismatic but totally evil preacher. Available on a superb RAAM DVD.
I think this movie is excellent. I have followed this case for many years now and I have spoken to Dave Racer thru e-mail who wrote the book about this case and he was strongly trying to get me to see the other side. I read the book, I have seen the movie and I still feel the movie was accurate. I often wondered what the trooper, John Rule thought of the book caged bird and I just finished reading a newspaper article from 2004 that stated he did in fact read the book and he said he was even more convinced of what he believed to have happened. I warred with myself for years over Tom Bird's guilt or innocence and I personally believe he was somehow involved if not directly. The movie is dramatized in places but I think anybody can tell by watching it, that some places are speculation and not fact but I think it was pretty darn accurate even with the dramatization.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the better made-for-TV movies about a true life crime.
Yes, it is predictable, but it is a good story. I have it on VHS and am
hoping that soon it will be put out on DVD.
Since the movie was made, Tom Bird has been released on parole (in 2004) but Lorna has NOT (even though another review says otherwise). Here is a link to her online inmate record: http://docnet.dc.state.ks.us/kasper2/offender.asp?id=14525 I believe I read that she will be released on parole in Nov. 2005 or 2006.
(I am happy to have read that the Rules are still happily married). I would love to hear how well the children of the Birds and the Andersons are doing. I hope that they have done well in spite of what has happened in life.
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