Poor Zsa Zsa Gabor.
She makes that dreadful error of slapping a Beverly Hills police officer after being charged with a variety of small crimes against society (operating a vehicle without a valid driver's license and having an open container of alcohol on the seat).
The result was a media circus that turned Zsa Zsa into one long and obnoxious joke, laughed at during news broadcasts, daytime talk shows and late-night comedy programs. It was one of the low points of modern journalism. Watching local newscasters guffawing aloud about Gabor was degrading to all concerned. The Gabor jokes rank among the cheapest shots ever taken by such usually clever folks as Jay Leno, Johnny Carson, Bryant Gumbel and Geraldo Rivera.
If that wasn't enough, here comes "The People vs. Zsa Zsa Gabor," a 60-minute grab-bag home video that the producers swear was not "approved or endorsed by Zsa Zsa Gabor." This video hodgepodge of courtroom testimony, TV news footage, person-on-the-street comments and an unctuous voice-over narration is a hurried mess. Much of the video is dreadful, and the sound quality is often worse, especially during Gabor's testimony.
Anyone who wants a newsy look at what happened to Zsa Zsa will find it here. There are no perspectives or thoughtful commentaries. No analysis by Zsa Zsa-her sentence included a two-year gag order; she can't say anything about the case, even if she wanted to. If you saw much of the massive news coverage and snide asides, then the only piece of this video that might interest you is the blowup of Gabor's altered driver's license. The changes are so obvious that they are laughable; it is as if a child's scrawl had changed the birth date, height and weight on the card.
If you're still interested, the tape is produced by IVP/Tri-Coast International at 1020 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, Calif. 90405. A standard-play VHS version costs $14.95. A long-play VHS version is available at $9.95 and is almost unviewable.
VIDEO RESCUES MADE-FOR-TV MOVIES
Some of the finest motion pictures ever made used to play once on prime-time TV and then disappear, except for the occasional rerun and foreign theatrical showing.
Home video has changed all of that. Many made-for-television movies now are being released on videocassette and disc. One of the best, the 1989 "Roe vs. Wade" is now available on Paramount tape (no list price).
This 92-minute docudrama, based on the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring a Texas anti-abortion law unconstitutional, is an intelligent piece of work dramatizing the major issues of a highly controversial subject. There are no villains, just flesh-and-blood characters played with dignity and affection. Allison Cross' script, Gregory Hoblit's direction and the lead actors (Holly Hunter as "Jane Roe" and Amy Madigan as pro-choice Portia) breathe life into various elements of a social issue now ripping the country.
There are no caricatures or oversimplifications. This is the kind of rare film-making that makes it easier to understand the complexities involved in a very complicated subject.
Made-for-TV movies and miniseries, such as "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," "Blind Ambition" and "War and Remembrance," deserve more viewing than one or two showings on prime-time television. They deserve the availability that home video can give them.