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Weekend Tv : 'Stranger': Cold Look At A Killer

May 03, 1986|HOWARD ROSENBERG | Times Television Critic

He was Mr. Perfect: bright, handsome, articulate, charming and seductive, adored by women and admired by men. He was clearly going places in life. He was also a killer.

"The Deliberate Stranger" is a taut, suspenseful, scary NBC two-parter (9 p.m. Sunday and Monday on Channels 4, 36 and 39) about this man, the notorious Ted Bundy, who is on death row in Florida's Raiford State Prison.

Bundy was granted a stay of his scheduled March 4 execution pending appeal of his conviction of the murders of two college co-eds and a 12-year-old girl. He is also suspected of 36 other sex-related murders in California, the Pacific Northwest, Utah and Colorado.

Mark Harmon is chillingly believable as Bundy, the remorseless, arrogant, innocent-appearing sociopath who is depicted here as having a mystifying need to murder young women when under stress.

Harmon, the growing star who exited this season from "St. Elsewhere," plays Bundy with just a trace of disturbance in his eyes, someone who was able to fool even friends. Says one about Bundy the monster: "The Ted I knew couldn't do anything like that. He was a friend. He stayed at our house, baby-sat for our little girl."

Glynnis O'Connor is excellent as Bundy's girlfriend. George Grizzard depicts Dick Larsen, the Seattle Times newspaperman who covered Bundy, as almost excruciatingly passive. Frederic Forrest and Ben Masters play two of the determined cops so often thwarted by the slippery Bundy.

"The Deliberate Stranger" is based on a book by Larsen. Written by Hesper Anderson and produced and directed by Marvin Chomsky, it carries no message except that evil is not always identifiable.

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