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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A superb film based on an extraordinary true story

Author: elizbdickey from chicago, IL
1 August 2001

An extremely well-acted and well-written film, even more remarkable because the family and events were real. Jeri Lynn Ryan's character, Dawn, sets herself up as a target to catch the criminal who threatens her and her family. William Devane, an actor with an outstanding film and TV career, co-stars as the sheriff who leads the police investigation. Although the film is set in small-town South Carolina, Devane's character breaks down the stereotype of southern police officers. Viewers will cheer Dawn on and marvel at her courage while sympathizing whole-heartedly with her family's plight. The film stays suspenseful to the end.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

I was 12yrs old and lived in Columbia, SC when this happened

Author: Ann Rambo ( from Lacey, Wa
28 June 2008

I lived in Columbia SC when Sheri Faye Smith and Debra Helmick were killed by Larry Gene Bell in 1985, I was 12..I was staying at my grandparents cabin for the summer on Lake Murray when Sheri Smiths body was found behind an old schoolhouse about 2 miles down the road. The flies were so thick that day, and than we heard sirens, my mom made the comment "I hope they didn't find that poor girls body" which of course they had. This movie follows the truth so closely its almost like its happening again. Excellent movie and I recommend it. Larry Gene Bell killed not only Shari but other girls including 11yr old Debra Mae Helmick who lived about 2 miles from were we lived in Columbia before we went to Lake Murray for the summer. I have 3 sisters, Sherri, Debbi and Jean, 2 of which shared the murdered girls names, you can imagine how my parents felt when all this happened. My sister Sherri was 14 at the time and my sister Debbi was 10, both were close in age to the murdered girls also. Larry Gene Bell was put to death Oct 4, 1996 I believe, his crimes will never be forgotten and neither will his victims.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

based on a true story

Author: blanche-2 from United States
10 July 2005

Sadly, this TV movie is based on a true story. The problem with some of these dramas ripped from the headlines is that, after you've seen and heard the real family, there's simply no comparison.

Thanks to some nice performances, however, this film does a pretty good job of telling the story of a beauty queen who disappears outside of her home and whose family is then tortured by the kidnapper even after the young woman's body is found.

The actual shocking details are depicted in the movie - for instance, the poor mother having to keep the killer on the phone, on the day of her daughter's funeral, as the killer asks her if she wants to know how her daughter died. As the real-life mother said in the documentary done on Court TV, "Did I want to talk to him? No. But what choice did I have?" The young woman writes a letter to her family (also depicted in this movie). She states that she is ready to die and requests a closed casket. Though I can't imagine anything more unbearable, in real life, the parents say it has helped provide them with the closure they needed to go on for their lives.

Though this film does a decent job, certainly, the focus is on the Jeri Ryan character, the victim's sister. After viewing the Court TV story, one walks away inspired by the courage of the entire family in the face of such torment, and is haunted by the photo of this beautiful, radiant young woman with her entire life ahead of her.

In 2006, "What Not to Wear" did makeovers on three past beauty pageant contestants when they brought them back to re-enter the competition. One of the former contestants was a rather perky and annoying blond from the south. I later learned she is the sister on which the Jeri Ryan character is based; her sister was the one killed. I went from thinking this smiling and somewhat cloying older women was a pain to thinking she's one of the most remarkable women I've ever seen.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Netflix lists this film as 'Victim of Beauty.'

Author: ashleywolf from United States
12 June 2012

This is one of the better made-for-TV films based on a true story. William Devane is always convincing as either a good guy or a bad one. He does a great job playing the former, town Sheriff, in this one. I also want to add that I've heard from several people that have worked on films with Devane that he is a really nice guy in person as well (just a note).

Netflix has this film in it's database right now and it's listed as 'Victim of Beauty.' I have no idea why names for TV films are so interchanged, but it's irritating. Also, for some strange reason, they have Sally Kellerman on the cover image, who isn't even cast in the film.

The movie is pretty entertaining. As with most films of this nature, some details have been changed, but nothing that compromises the story.

If the real story interests you, you can find some harrowing commentary from the search participants on the web.

Thank you.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:


Author: Nancy-40 ( from USA
20 September 1999

This was a very good movie, sad, and mystery! this girl's sister is kidnapped and the kidnapper keeps calling her and becomes obsessed with her the police can't find him and he continues to taunt her over the phone, its a very good movie, you should watch it!

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Complete and utter garbage

Author: drewstewartcolumbia from Columbia, SC
17 May 2014

As someone who grew up in South Carolina at the time of these events, this movie is crap even by TV movie standards. The attempts at Southern accents by all of the actors are beyond awful. I'm a life-long resident of the Palmetto State and this movie is the only time or place I've ever heard anyone talk like the characters in this waste of celluloid.

The producers couldn't even get their geography right. There's no such thing as Columbia County, South Carolina. I realize the need for creative license, but why not call it, "Murder in Carolina?" or anything other than what the morons called it.

I noticed many of the reviewers like this story because it was something they could relate to personally. That's one of the reasons I hate it. I spent roughly 15 years as a reporter covering this state (I was in elementary school at the time of the Bell murders). But this movie was so poorly produced, it's insulting to everyone involved. Every remaining copy should be boxed up and thrown into Lake Murray for the catfish to eat.

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

You Always Hurt the One You Love, Or Try To Anyway

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
22 November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


It would be hard for anyone to argue that this made-for-TV movie had much going for it. A beauty contest winner whose sister is kidnapped. A family disrupted. A cast no one has heard of except William Devane.

But this isn't as bad as it could have been. First of all, no one should be embarrassed by the performances turned in. William Devane is almost always reliable, like so many other actors who never made it into the top ranks but seldom disappoint -- Tom Skerrit and Bill Macy among others. We more or less know what to expect and, although the roles may be nearly impossible to play, the performances will not sink into awfulness. Jen Ryan isn't as bad as I'd anticipated either. And she's got everything stacked against her. She's absolutely gorgeous, a kind of living Barbie doll with giant-sized lips and cool blue eyes that belong in the Guiness Book of World Records. And she sings too (in French) as part of her beauty contest routine and she flounces around in the most flowery and feminine dresses designable. She's compelled to look frightened and do some weeping. It all ought to fall flat but it doesn't. She may or may not have much range -- it's difficult to tell- but what skills she has work for her here. The rest of the characters don't have much to do. The heartbroken family is a generic heartbroken family. The only other outstanding part, and again there isn't much screen time available, is that of the murderer, played by a guy named -- get this -- Butch Slade. He plays an overweight and unattractive man whose face seems to be all long unkempt black beard and no frontal lobes. Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow? Whose breath blew out the light within this brain? He's as nutty as a fruitcake but he loves Jen Ryan desperately, even though his idea of "love" may be a little different from yours and mine. (It involves giving the girl a choice of shooting, overdosing, or strangulation.) He's great in the role of the madman. When he first appears in court, chained, manacled, hobbled, the first thing he does is smile at Jen Ryan, call out her name, and stumble towards her as if to embrace her. His attraction towards her is understandable. After all, that's what "Miss South Carolina" contests are all about, isn't it?

The writers seem to have had a bit of a tough job filling the time slot. There are woeful lapses into cliche. Ryan, more beautiful than smart, under threat of kidnap and miserable death, nevertheless visits her deserted high school alone, is threatened by mysterious shadows and suspicious figures, and winds up in one of those scenes where the poor girl runs screaming down empty hallways and clanging against doors locked with thirty-pound chains. See the original "Cape Fear" for a better example of this device.

One of the reasons the writers may have had trouble is that after the initial kidnapping, nothing much exciting happens. The killer makes nine phone calls to Ryan but the police fail every time in their attempts to catch him. When the penny does finally drop, they get him pronto and there is time only for five minutes in the courtroom before we cut to Jen Ryan in her church, giving the congregation a speech about her dead sister meant to be spiritually uplifting but which I can't interpret as carrying any message other than, "**** happens," before she begins to sing "Amazing Grace," a hymn so pleasant that I wish it weren't so overused.

Well I don't mean this to sound too nasty. It gets the job done and perhaps a bit more. I don't know what happened to Butch Slade's character. I can understand why a lot of people would want him executed but he'd serve humanity better if he lived a long life under constant psychiatric study.

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A rather predictable, yet somewhat entertaining and exiting.

Author: Erika V. from Finland
19 September 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


This movie is about a beauty queen that's kidnapped. Her sister keeps getting phonecalls from the kidnapper, and he gets rather obsessive through time. The beauty queen is murdered, and the killer wants her sister to marry him.

It's a pretty typical TV movie, with a few exciting seconds. It's pretty predictable, but still entertaining. Check out if you have nothing else to do.

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Who would have thought?

Author: Matt Landrum ( from Atlanta, Georgia
17 October 1998

WoW!! My drama teacher is Larry Gene Bell!! (Butch Slade) Well, Mr. Slade let us view this movie in drama, and I must say, he did a very good job, along with the rest of the crew. I especially like the scene in the court where he jumped out at the crowd. That was pretty cool. I recommend this movie because of its ability to touch something inside of you. If you ever get a chance, see it!!!!

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

This story is still well Known.

Author: Bryce-5 from Lexington, South Carolina
12 November 2002

I am from Lexington South Carolina where this story takes place. The movie is inaccurate by calling it Columbia County because it is not Columbia County it is Lexington County.. Columbia is just the largest city near by. This movie is a true story.. and its funny because it almost happened 20 years ago and it still is talked about and known today.. Kinda scary how things can be shaken up in a small town.

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