Death in Small Doses (1995)
TV Movie Dies Slowly
When Richard Lyon (Richard Thomas) is awoken by the sound of his wife Nancy (Glynnis O'Connor) in agony, doubled up over the toilet in the bathroom he rushes her to the Webster Memorial Hospital, calling her mum to come and look after their children. Nancy sadly dies and after a few weeks it is discovered that she had Arsenic in her system and could have been poisoned. It leads to Nancy's family accusing of Richard of poisoning her and his arrest when evidence starts to stack up against him. As the court case progresses Richard brings proof that maybe Nancy poisoned herself but the question is whether the proof is indeed that or manufactured.
"Death in Small Doses" is two things; firstly it is a true story movie based on a real case which is easy to find information on through the internet. The other thing is that it is also a Richard Thomas movie and another one which allows him to explore the dark side of a character. Unfortunately neither is "Death in Small Doses" the best adaptation of a true crime story nor the best example of Richard Thomas's ability to play dark characters. It is still entertaining but ultimately surprisingly ordinary.
Now I guess I should say spoiler alert but as I said you can find the outcome of the case quite easily on the internet and pretty much everything I read about "Death in Small Doses" mentions the outcome. So what we watch after Richard rushes Nancy to hospital is the initial animosity between him and her family as her father takes over and her brother and sister scurry off to Richard's house to look for pills and evidence of poisoning. We even hear Richard talking to another woman and moaning about Nancy's family's dislike of him. And then after Nancy's death and Asst. D.A. Jerri Sims starts looking into the case we get Nancy's brother flinging around all sorts of allegations as he says Richard did it.
All of which sounds like an open and shut case which makes you wonder where this is going as Richard finds himself charged with murder but then we get him throwing in the curveball as he shows evidence that Nancy poisoned herself. The trouble with all of this is that whilst the story has potential to be spicy it ends up incredibly mundane as progresses through the story in a pedestrian way. In truth I imagine the real story whilst having numerous twists and turns was also mundane and so it was impossible to create the excitement needed which makes you question as to whether the story needed dramatizing in the first place.
The most disappointing thing for me is that the movie under serves Richard Thomas as whilst he gets to play a darker character and one we come to understand didn't fit in with his wife's family it doesn't allow him to really deliver the sinister side of the character he had shown in the past.
What this all boils down to is that in truth I don't think the true story on which "Death in Small Doses" was based should have been made into a movie as whilst it has twists and turns it doesn't really have excitement. And sadly that make "Death in Small Doses" a mundane movie which never has the energy needed to grab and hold your attention.
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