In the Line of Duty: Siege at Marion
Yet another terrifically tense, terse docudrama in the In the Line of Duty series of TV movies, Siege at Marion is the fact-based story of a late-’70s Utah religious group gone bonkers. Excommunicated from the Church of Latter-Day Saints, John Singer (Norbert Weisser) preaches an extreme form of right-wing fundamentalism and survivalist-training techniques on a Marion, Utah, farm. When he shoots at a police officer and is gunned down, his wife Vicky, played by Tess Harper, gathers Singer’s small group of followers and a large supply of automatic weapons and holes up in the farmhouse. Vicky is convinced that ”the state and the police” will ”murder us for our beliefs.”
Vicky’s son-in-law Addam Swapp (Kyle Secor of City Slickers) soon joins her in the leadership of this tiny sect, and organizes the firebombing of a church he thinks isn’t following the word of God. The FBI steps in, personified by Dennis Franz (Beverly Hills Buntz); he’s helped by a local cop played by Ed Begley Jr. (St. Elsewhere). The latter half of Siege concerns the intricate plans of the FBI to remove Swapp from the barricaded farmhouse without harming the other inhabitants of the house, many of whom are children.
The In the Line of Duty movies, produced by Ken Kaufman and Tom Patchett, are admirable for their resolute lack of melodrama, and Siege has been directed by former Hill Street Blues actor Charles Haid in a way that creates suspense simply by laying out the facts in a crisp, swift manner. All the acting is coolly low-key except for Harper’s, which is only as it should be: With her taut, pale skin, with her blank blue eyes, Harper personifies someone who has driven herself more than a little crazy with fanaticism, and when she barks orders in a voice ragged with hysteria, she’s truly scary. A