This adaptation of the James Purdy novel errs on the side of faithfulness; it seems as if every overwrought emotion, every overblown speech that Purdy managed to make believable in his prose has been brought to the small screen, which simply cannot contain that much florid lyricism.

In a Shallow Grave is about Garnet (Michael Biehn), a young Marine whose face was disfigured in a World War II battle.

He strikes up a friendship with a handsome young drifter (Patrick Dempsey), who agrees to deliver the letters Garnet writes to a neighborhood woman whom he loves but is too self-conscious to meet. As a character, the woman (Maureen Mueller) is little more than a vague abstraction; it is the relationship between Garnet and the drifter that provides the story’s central drama.

As overseen by director Kenneth Bowser, ”In a Shallow Grave” doesn’t work. It moves at a crawl, for one thing, and Garnet’s disfigurement isn’t really all that unsightly.

Maybe it’s just this crazy ”Beauty and the Beast” time that we’re living in, but Garnet’s lumpy, mottled visage doesn’t seem repulsive.

It’s inadvertently funny when Bowser has scenes of people literally throwing up when they see poor Garnet. And funniness was one quality Purdy wasn’t going for with his story. C