For, Nov. 29, 2013

Long before he earned an Oscar as Hannibal the cannibal in "Silence of the Lambs" (1991), Anthony Hopkins won an Emmy for his portrayal of a real-life killer in a 1976 TV movie about a sensational 1930s crime that captured the attention of the nation.

"The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case" aired on NBC back when the major networks churned out serious movies as a regular part of their business, and while the film did have a VHS release in 1987, until now it has never been on DVD. Fortunately, the Sony Choice Collection, a manufacture-on-demand label, has seen fit to rectify this oversight and the film is now available online.

In March 1932 the infant son of world-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh was kidnapped. A homemade ladder was used to get to the second floor nursery and the child was abducted from his crib. A ransom was paid but the child was not returned. Then, six weeks later, the baby's remains were by chance discovered in a wooded area.

Hauptmann was arrested some time later and eventually executed for the crime, which was called by the press at the time "The Crime of the Century." And it certainly was that.

Hopkins' performance, while compelling, stops short of earning sympathy for the character, which is as it should be. He's brilliant and earned his Emmy. The other players are overshadowed a bit but competent in their roles — Cliff De Young and Sian Barbara Allen as the Lindberghs, along with fine support from Martin Balsam, Dean Jagger, Tony Roberts, David Spielberg, etc.

My only complaint is the film's length. At two-and-a-half hours it feels long. But then, it was, of course, created to fill a three-hour prime-time network TV time slot.