Testimony of Two Men, debuting on DVD via Acorn Media, aired in 1977. Unlike other classics born that year (yours truly, Roots, & Star Wars), this mini-series based on the 1968 novel by Taylor Caldwell just doesn’t hold up. I should have known it was going to be a struggle to watch when a note popped up at the beginning of the first episode—a disclaimer about the condition of the audio and video quality of the series. Still, I am a big fan of sappy historical melodramas, with North and South and Thornbirds being perennial favorites, and so I hoped for the best.
The series is only three-episodes long, with each episode running about two hours each. It has a diverse cast with Joan Van Ark, Tom Bosley, David Birney and William Shatner. The story follows Dr. Martin Eaton (Steve Forrest) and Dr. Jonathan Ferrier (David Birney), through life, love, tragedy and triumph in post-Civil War Pennsylvannia. Caldwell’s novel is over 600 pages and made for tv movie adaptations are notoriously famous for cutting out major plot points and for losing the sweeping nature of the epic novel. Testimony of Two Men feels forced and like a really bad soap opera.
Some of the performances are well done, and it was a treat to see William Shatner out of his Starfleet uniform, but the bright spots just could not outshine the flat pacing of the rest of the series. It was fun to play “spot familiar faces in very early roles”, and I swear I saw Kim Catrall in one brief fleeting scene, but after awhile, even that lost its fun. This is not a DVD for the first time viewer or for newcomers to fairweather fans of historical melodramas. Testimony of Two Men will probably only really appeal to those who are still watching old VHS copies that they taped when it aired on TV in syndication.