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In 1932, the nation was shocked when the 14-month-old son of Charles Lindberg was kidnapped, held for ransom, and murdered. Two years later, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested, convicted, and executed. This film dramatizes the investigation against Hauptmann, the trial, and the execution, painting a picture of a corrupt police force under pressure to finger a killer framing an innocent man by manufacturing evidence, paying-off and blackmailing witnesses, and covering up exculpatory evidence. Written by
Steve Derby <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If you're a justice freak like me, you'll find the film difficult to watch because the subject matter is inherently upsetting, but you'll also be glad that it's being told at all. There have been various theories about the real killer of the Lindbergh baby, the most compelling of which is the theory that Lindbergh himself did it accidentally and was able to engineer the high-level cover-up that ended in Hauptmann's execution. This movie doesn't go there, but I recognized many of the passages in this movie, especially the court scenes, as being taken directly from facts and court transcripts. As usual with HBO movies, the production level and performances are excellent. Stephen Rea (Hauptmann) is very moving as he somewhat naively maintains to the bitter end his faith that our legal system, which is so blatantly railroading him to a death sentence, will eventually come to its senses. Isabella Rossellini captured the devotion and dignity of Anna Hauptmann, whom I met in the 1970s when she was being interviewed for a magazine. Scenes of the powers-that-be finagling their conviction were effectively banal, and nauseating, and the final execution scene conveys the unreal horror Hauptmann himself must have experienced -- his speechlessness when they ask him for a statement as he's being strapped into the electric chair says it all, and it's devastating. To tell the truth, I would have given this film high marks simply for telling this story, but it was so well done that it deserves the high marks anyway. I was slightly disappointed that the ending didn't show more about Anna Hauptmann's incredible 60-year effort to clear her husband's name, an untold story. However, Rea and Rossellini were so good that I kept watching. A very ugly story that, as Hauptmann himself said in one of his final letters, will never go away
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