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TV REVIEW : 'Breaking Point' Thrills in Hitchcockian Vein

August 18, 1989|LYNNE HEFFLEY

An American intelligence officer, carrying vital knowledge about the Allies' planned invasion of Normandy, is captured and tortured by the Nazis. He wakes up in an American military hospital in Germany and learns the war has been over for two years.

Or has it?

Tonight's TNT cable movie "Breaking Point," at 5 p.m. and again at 7, 9 and 11 p.m., is an abundantly stylish remake of "36 Hours," the 1964 film with James Garner, Eva Marie Saint and Rod Taylor. Directed by Peter Markle and written by Stanley Greenberg, this suspense thriller in the Hitchcockian vein entangles both hero and audience in an intricate web of deception.

Markle has cast his principal cast with care. Corbin Bernsen ("L.A. Law") is the bothered and bewildered amnesia victim, Maj. Jefferson Pike. His wife Diana is dead, he's told, but nurse Anna, a former inmate of Dachau--or is she?--hauntingly resembles her (exquisite Joanna Pacula plays both roles). Dr. Walter Gerber (John Glover), who seems to take Pike's case to heart, encourages Pike to cross the "psychological chasm" that blocks his memory by talking about what he last remembers: The plans for D-Day.

Director of photography Don Burgess' moody lighting makes a major contribution to the film's pervasive, vaguely threatening atmosphere.

There are some lapses. The physical evidence offered to Pike as proof of the postwar date is too slight. It was more substantial in the original film. And just as the original's finale bogged down, Greenberg, Markle and the fine cast don't altogether carry it off here either, despite fundamental script changes. The climactic chase scene is wildly self-indulgent; it could have been lifted from countless action films.

Still, getting there is delicious, beginning with the opening credits, which roll over stark, black-and-white World War II newsreel footage as Billie Holiday's sweet, mournful voice is heard singing in the background.

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