Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (rare 16mm print!)

Looking downright evil in aviator sunglasses, an all-white suit and a take-no-prisoners gait, Powers Boothe won an Emmy for his portrayal of Peoples Temple honcho Jim Jones, the paranoid cult leader who commandeered nearly one thousand followers to suicide at his Jonestown compound in Guyana. The best made-for-TV movies are ones that grip you by the back of the neck within the first minute — and if the heart-stopping and dynamically tense opening moments of Guyana Tragedy are any indicator, then this is one of the greatest miniseries from the Golden Age of the form. This gritty two-parter rapidly envelops you in the complex web of how Jones’ righteous good intentions in the Fifties gave way to him exercising harrowing thought control, slithering moral deceit, hardcore drug addiction, infidelities both gay and straight, and epic delusions of grandeur. Guyana Tragedy also comes with an incredible pedigree: not only a script from Shaft/French Connection scribe Ernest Tidyman, but also a Character Actor Hall of Fame supporting cast of Ned Beatty, Randy Quaid, Veronica Cartwright, James Earl Jones, Brad Dourif, LeVar Burton, Colleen Dewhurst and Diane Ladd. It doesn’t get much more satisfying a TV-movie experience than this.
Dir. William A. Graham, 1980, 16mm, 192 min.