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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"1776" director Peter H. Hunt's made-for-television crime thriller "Sworn to Vengeance" qualifies as an occasionally compelling adaptation of a real-life, triple-homicide and the relentless policeman who refused to concede defeat in his search for the killer. "Wild Wild West" actor Robert Conrad delivers a thoroughly convincing performance as career Canon City Police Sergeant Stewart who makes a personal vow to the three dead teens that he is find their killer. Initially, the two detectives assigned to the case cannot develop a suitable suspect. They believe that the father of the slain teenage male is the killer. Chief Kelly (Peter Breck of "The Big Valley") replaces them with Stewart. Stewart was visibly shaken by the crime scenes; the nude bodies of the two girls lay sprawled in the wilderness. Later, after Stewart exhausts his own list of suspects, Chief Kelly removes him from the case and reassigns his predecessors. Stewart feels so strongly about the investigation that he resigns from the police department after the Chief takes him off the case. He convinces Sheriff Pete Hall (Michael Cavanaugh of "The Gauntlet") to hire him as a jailer at the county jail after he learns about a likely suspect, Michael Burke (William McNamara). Earlier, the original detectives, Ed Barry (Tom Atkins of "Escape from New York") and his partner received a phone call from a woman, Sylvia Haskell (Sharon Farrell of "The Reivers"), who claims to his seen the murder in his mind's eye. Stewart interviews her and everything that she says fits Michael Burke's description. She describes a tattoo on his left forearm of a bird and remarks that he killed the teens with a knife. Stewart doesn't have much luck convincing the District Attorney's Office about his evidence. Eventually, Stewart falls back on jail house talk, much of it from Burke, but the case reopens with an accomplice breaks his silence and confesses to the crime. William McNamara is good as the psycho killer and Clifton Collins has a small role as one of the killers. Although he was much older and white-haired when he made "Sworn to Vengeance," Conrad takes the time in one scene to remove his shirt and display is still splendidly muscled physique. Peter Breck has a few scenes as Chief Kelly, and Michael Cavanaugh makes a strong impression as the local sheriff. Altogether, "Sworn to Vengeance" starts out strong, but loses momentum as it approaches the end. The decision on the part of our hero to quit the police force and trash his pension is pretty heavyweight. The actual case is probably far more striking than this run-of-the-mill thriller. As it turns out, the triple-homicide was a mistake. The killers killed the wrong woman when they make their attack.
The movie was based on a true story that took place in a Texas city. There is also a book about the events that took place. I read the book and thought it was a great book and could not put it down. I saw the film and even tho there is a lot they don´t explain I think Robert Conrad did a fair job playing the real hero of the story.
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