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Crime of the Century

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Before the O.J. Simpson circus came to town, the 1932 kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s infant son was the big top of 20th-century celebrity crime trials. This HBO movie, directed by Mark Rydell (On Golden Pond), deals with the investigation into the murder of the aviator’s child, and humanizes Bruno Hauptmann (Rea), a German immigrant who, with his wife, Anna (Rossellini), sought a new life but found a nightmare when he was set up — according to the film — as the kidnapper. Rea and Rossellini’s strong work is matched by an effective supporting cast, including Michael Moriarty as a tortured politician. But Crime of the Century trips up when it stints on the reasons behind the pressure to find a killer, emphasizing instead Hauptmann’s personal travails. Rydell should have widened his scope to show how the public’s lust for justice can turn to a thirst for blood.

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