March 11, 1996 in Features

Serious Tone Makes It Hard To Save ‘Face’

John Martin New York Times Syndicate
 

“A Face to Die For,” NBC at 9, would make a great gothic suspense story.

Like “The Phantom of the Opera” it is a tale of heartache and revenge on the part of someone who has been disfigured and betrayed. It could never happen, but properly staged, it could transcend its unlikely twists and turns.

Unfortunately it’s told with such straight-faced seriousness that it collapses under its own weight, leaving you shaking your head as to how the cast and script came together.

“Baywatch” beauty Yasmine Bleeth stars as a young woman whose face is hideously scarred in a auto accident at the age of 6. As she grows up, she remains withdrawn and self-conscious until she meets a handsome young poet (James Wilder).

You can see long before she does that he’s a con man. When they cross paths years later, she’s changed her name as well as her face, thanks to miracle plastic surgery. Revenge is on her mind.

Among the film’s many problems are Bleeth’s unconvincing performance, a throwaway role for Robin Givens and an abrupt ending that makes practically no sense.

Overriding all this is how hard it is to believe that no one, not even her own sister, recognizes the reconstructed heroine.

I think the movie might have worked better if a different actress were cast in Bleeth’s role prior to the surgery. But the network paid for a “Baywatch” babe, and, boy, do they expose her, if you catch my drift.

“A Face to Die For,” which moves along at an achingly slow pace, never pays off on its premise. Even “Baywatch” fans may find it too much to swallow.

Highlights

“Second Noah,” ABC at 8: This haunting episode should be saved for Halloween. The Becketts are convinced that a ghost has moved in.

Actually, the specter is Bethany’s strange new friend, played by Paul Winfield. There’s lots of sweetness packed into this hour.

“Melrose Place,” FOX at 8: There’s back-stabbing, cheating, power playing and lots of primping going on. So what’s new? Not much except that Billy continues his efforts to climb the corporate ladder at D&D.; Jo discovers that Jane set the fire at the fashion show. Kimberly has a new identity.

“Murphy Brown,” CBS at 9: Wisconsin and campaign ‘96 jokes fly fast and furious when the “FYI” team is stranded in a Dairy State diner while trying to cover the presidential campaign.

“High Incident,” ABC at 9: The police drama turns in another standout hour. This one touches on racism issues when Gayle Van Camp’s father (R. Lee Ermey), an ex-Marine, joins his daughter on patrol. He embarrasses her with his racist remarks and right-wing opinions.

“Murder One,” ABC at 10: Rapist Eduardo Portalegre (Nick Corri) becomes a suspect in this whodunit soap opera that has started to drag its feet.

Cable Calls

“MTV Unplugged,” MTV at 9: Politically correct MTV recycles. The first of four nights of “Unplugged” repeats features a 1995 performance by Live.

“Outside the Lines,” ESPN at 6: The revelation by boxer Tommy Morrison that he is HIV-positive prompts this report on “AIDS in Sports.”

“Spies Above,” DISC at 10: Anyone interested in the military, espionage and the Cold War will enjoy this revealing history of high-flying photographic snooping.

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