Based on the true story of the McMartin family who, accused of a heinous crime, suffered six years of public humiliation before being found innocent. The scandal that tore a family and a nation apart. ' 'Riveting, frighten... more »ing, dynamite.' ' (The Washington Times)« less
"This account of the most celebrated trial arising out of the child molestation and satanic abuse hysteria of the eighties and nineties-a witch hunt far worse than that of the McCarthy era in terms of lives destroyed and innocent people thrown in jail, and even worse than the Salem witch trials of the 17th century in extent, except that nobody was actually stoned or hanged, was only the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of innocent people went to jail and some are still there. Nobody can give them back their lives, ruined by immoral prosecutors bent on career-building at any cost and by guilt-ridden latch key parents out to excite their blood lust. Yes, children do lie and more important, as this film demonstrates, they can be brainwashed and coerced into telling the most outrageous and horrific tales (and believing them) to escape the gestapo tactics of their interrogators. Oliver Stone produced, and Abby Mann, who wrote the celebrated Stanley Kramer film, "Judgement at Nuremberg" (1961) and Myra Mann penned the compelling script. James Woods is excellent as Ray Buckey's attorney, but Lolita Davidovich who plays the evil and sick Kee MacFarlane (who led the indoctrination of the children) is both too pretty and too sane to be truly effective. Mercedes Ruehl plays incompetent L.A. County prosecutor Lael Rubin with enough vile to drip. Sada Thompson brings warmth and charm to the part of Virginia McMartin, and Henry Thomas plays Ray Buckey to a perfect fit.But this movie was made too soon. In the five years since its production, the full extent of the hysteria has come to light. When a significant portion of a society is taken in by something like this, it takes the passage of time before the full truth can be accepted. Had director Mick Jackson known of the near pandemic extent of the sickness he might have made a larger film. As it is, this is a vivid and compelling film."
The Value of an Open Mind
Harry Chandless | Hasbrouck Heights, NJ USA | 05/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You will be engrossed in this film from beginning to end. Can you believe that a whole family who operated a pre-school would be indicted for sexual abuse? This is a true story. Can you believe that only a little known lawyer (James Woods is a masterful performance) would dare to take the case? This is a true story. Can you believe the defendants were in a California jail for years before the cases were over? This is a true story. Can you believe the defendants lost everything they owned, including their good names? This is a true story. Can you believe the people and the press believed and pronounced the defendants guilty from the day of the indictment and arrest? This is a true story.Can you believe that little children can be cajoled into lying? This is a true story.Watch the video tapes of how it is done.Can you believe, if you see this picture, that you will feel a new meaning to the words "innocent until proven guilty" when someone is arrested and indicted. That will be a true story."
Excellent and engrossing
Alexander L. Gillam | Virginia Beach, VA | 05/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the second best HBO movie ever made, being closely behind And the Band Played On. The whole cast gives excellent performances, especially James Woods and Henry Thomas, who won emmy awards for their performances. This movie clearly shows that an injustice was done and that the Justice System of the US isn't infallable. The defendant's lost everything because of the LA District Attorney's Office, and it amazes me that anybody could have believed any of the children the way they kept changing their stories. This is an excellent movie but not for the weak of stomach. It is a little difficult to watch the first time through."
Beyond The Veil of Truth
Ellison Lowry | Pasadena, CA | 08/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is something here in this movie beyond the veil of truth that the media never spoke of during the actual witch-hunting of the 1980s. I grew up in the aftermath of these California trials and it was with much angst that I met with families affected by them. Indictment looks at the era from the point of view of the real "victims," which are the McMartins. If you speak with any of the surviving families they will tell you that they "believe the children" which was the slogan adopted by families during the actual era. However the ones that never got to speak are the ones who knew what had actually happened. At the time I didn't know that it was from a paranoid schizophrenic woman that these charges came about, even more shocking was that she continued to send her son to the McMartin preschool after the allegations were made. What followed in this woman's wake was a series of events that nobody could control. There was too much power in the hands of too few. At that time, in the early 1980s, California law was trying to come down hard on pedophiles. They needed someone to blame to move legislation forward. So they used the McMartin case to their advantage. The power that they used over the McMartins and the children "interviewed" violated just about every civil right law in the constitution. It a was scary time for anyone working with children. There was a woman, Kee McFarlane who had no valid credentials for "interviewing" kids suffering from abuse trauma. One of my friends had come into contact with her through the CII organization which at the time was trying new methods of bringing repressed memories of abused children to the surface. During his sessions with her he was put through so much trauma he was willing to tell anybody what they wanted believe. Kee McFarlane's power came from the public who wanted "justice" for their children. Little did the public know that all of these allegations came from fabrications by Kee McFarlane. The only change to come from this case and the trial was the questioning of children because they are impressionable and vulnerable to suggestability. For those interested in the era that drove most families in California into hiding, see this movie but be aware, it's a horror story. "
Excellent Film And A Stellar Cast: James Woods Shines!
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 11/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Indictment: The McMartin Trial" is an excellent film. I do not live very far from Manhattan Beach, and was once a junior lifeguard there. I still jog and bicycle down there when I get the chance. I do remember very vividly when these events occurred. One of the things that I don't know is whether or not the children were molested. However, I do remember how nearly everyone where I worked at the time presumed these people were guilty. Even the LA Times showed unflattering pictures of the accused. Therefore, I do believe that there was a frenzied and carnival-like demonizing of the McMartin family. The film itself is very good. (James Woods) gives an outstanding performance as the attorney who defends the McMartin family.
There is no doubt in my mind that the public hysteria over the allegations this family was charged with, and the media hype, were responsible for a grave miscarriage of justice. I feel for the children too: As they were equally victims of an out-of-control legal system that failed them too! Mercedes Ruehl also gives an outstanding performance as the lead prosecutor who abused the power she was given. Her performance as the win-at-all-costs prosecutor, was absolutely stellar. Ruehl's character compliments the performance given by defense attorney Danny Davis (James Woods).
Moreover, the entire cast was great in this film. With Henry Thomas [of ET fame] as the son accused of several counts of molestion; which would result in the longest trial ever; along with actress Shirley Knight, as the mother; and Sada Thompson as the matriarch of the family, this is one great film. And one sad chapter in the California legal system. Also, Lolita Davidovich gives an excellent performance as the prosecutors main line of attack in the molestation charges against the McMartin family: As her taped videos of the children led to many of the initial charges against the McMartins. The film is an HBO released film, therefore, as with many of their films it is not anamorphic or letter-boxed, but full screened. Maybe someday the film will be released in a better format. Otherwise, this is a 5 star film. Only the DVD format gives it minus half a star. Highly recommended. [Stars: 4.5]"