Stylish thrillers are so rare in TV-movie land that "The Long Journey Home" (9 p.m. Sunday, CBS Channels 2 and 8), is especially noteworthy. It features a couple of stars with palpable sexual chemistry, one dazzling location, and a suspenseful situation that isn't completely implausible.
The stars are real-life marrieds Meredith Baxter Birney and David Birney, and their clinches do set off sparks. The location is an immaculately contemporary mansion that looks like something the original William Randolph Hearst might commission, if he were alive and commissioning in 1987.
The plot--well, here we run into a few problems. A wealthy San Francisco investment banker is about to have her missing-in-action husband declared legally dead so she can marry again, when guess-who pops up out of the dark, in a genuinely jolting moment.
Because an assassin is after him, the couple go undercover. The woman puts her fiance (Ray Baker) into the same position she has been in--the mate of someone who's presumed dead (though no body has been found).
Her husband's excuse for going AWOL from his marriage for all those years is murky. The nail-biting, as well as the credibility of Karen Clark's script, might have been intensified if the wife doubted the husband's story sooner or more visibly.
Nevertheless, the Birneys make their characters' mutual passion real enough that the narrative carries us with it. And the ending isn't a TV-style cop-out.
VCR owners who tape "Journey" may want to review a couple of scenes in order to clear up the corners of the plot--and even then, a few problems remain. Still, it's a tribute to this Rod Holcomb-directed film that anyone would bother to make the effort.
One viewing is too much for most TV thrillers, but here's one that merits a push of the rewind button.