This is the remake of the original 1955 film.
A man with kids and wife is out of work, and robs bank, accidentally killing someone. He is put in prison.
Richard Chamberlain (priest from the 1980's "Thornbirds") plays a prison con man who hears from a cellmate about that stolen $50,000 hidden away in the house of the cellmate's wife. Chamberlian kills that man in prison in a raging attempt to make him talk about where the money is. This sets the tone for his later pretensions of honestly and integrity.
When Chamberlain is released, he disguises himself as an itinerant preacher with an unknown background, in the effort to get in good with his former cellmate's widow (Diana Scarwid, "What Lies Beneath"), her two kids, and the local church she attends...all in the effort to locate the money.
Chamberlain convinces the town and eventually the widow that he is honest and full of integrity, and ends up getting married to the widow. He is manipulative and abusive toward the kids since all he cares about is the money and not fatherhood. The kids see this early on, but the mother is too trusting and would rather assign error to her kids than acknowledge reality. He kills the mother when she discovers his true motives, ends up chasing the kids into a river to get the money, and dies as a result.
There are two criticisms of the remake: The ending scraps the one present in the 1955 original, and many have said Chamberlain was "miscast" for this role. While the first criticism is true, the second is not. Chamberlain is truly disturbing to watch as he manipulates his way into this family. We know early on that all he cares about is the money, and Chamberlain takes full advantage of the fact that the viewers know his true motives, but the local townsfolk and the widow don't.
There is one particularly disturbing scene that is better in the remake than in the orignal. Although married now, he still expresses no intimate affection to the wife. Though she waits expectantly on their wedding night, Chamberlain plays an unforgettably savage religious guilt trip on her, letting her know that the marriage is about "raising the kids", and that sex within marriage is sinful. He does this after making her stand topless in front of a mirror. The viewer is left stunned at this well-acted scene showing a man's unbelievably callous indifference to his wife's marital needs.
Diana Scarwid's performance plays well to the pretensions of Chamberlain. She is the innocent widow, the trusting church-going woman who tries to look past the faults and make herself see only the good, thereby allowing Chamberlain to weasel his way even further into the family.
This remake was made for tv, so of course the director needed to cut various scenes from the original in order to edit for time. Yes, we would have liked to see more plot development: more uncertainty and pain of the widow as she contemplates moving past her first husband's death. Perhaps the kids could have called the police, and then Chamberlain would have been driven more furious at the end as he chases the kids around looking for the money. But what made-for-tv movie, pressed as they are for time, passes this criteria?
I don't know why other reviewers don't appreciate the remake, but Diana Scarwid and Richard Chamberlain give us completely believable performances, and I was made somewhat tense throughout the movie when I first saw it in 1995 on tv. The son and daughter did not do the greatest job acting, but this is easy to forgive. Actually they do a pretty good job. The son is believable as the kid who knows the new father is a liar but can't convince his mother to see reason. The daughter is a cute squeaky girl-with-curls who does a good job at 7 years old, though the movie makes her look about 5.
Since the Disc is burned as a PAL 2 Region, most dvd players sold in the USA will not play this disc. However, it does play through a computer's dvd drive, and it is a very simple matter to make the disc work on USA-made stand-alones.