I KNOW MY FIRST NAME IS STEVEN (1989, 180 minutes) was quite the blockbuster miniseries and well deserved. No story like it had been produced before, and risks were taken with this film that paid off: the risk of telling the entire truth.
Young Steven Stayner ("Corky" Nemec in his star-making role) was abducted at age 7 by one Kenneth Parnell (an uncredited Arliss Howard who always plays pathetic villains). Parnell was a notorious child molester and rapist who went through Lord only knows how many victims. As a teen, Steve, who has since been known by the name Dennis Parnell, witnesses the rape of a young boy Parnell has just kidnapped. He's had enough and makes a harrowing escape with the little boy in his arms.
Steven is processed through law enforcement and returns to his family. Paterfamilias Del Stayner (John Ashton - I do not know why I keep recalling Craig T. Nelson in this role) is somewhat bothered by the teen Steven who returns home. When he discovers what has transpired, he blames his son for being raped. Yes, that's right: he blamed his son for being raped. The remainder of this tale of bravery and heartwrenching sadness will have you leaping out of your seat. Even today I weep when I see it.
If you look closely, you will see the real life Steven Stayner in this film, in the uncredited role of a police officer who visits the Stayner's home. There are two horrific epilogues to the Stayner tragedy: Steven was killed shortly before the release of this film, in a motorcycle accident. Then only some years later, his brother the infamous Corey Stayner was charged with being the "Yosemite Killer". A vicious real-life serial killer. Perhaps you recall that true story along with this true story as told in the film.
All in all, it seems these people really were cursed - a subject that arises in the film and is addressed along with Parnell's habitual rape. There are naturally no explicit scenes here, but the distant cries of a little boy being raped by Parnell and overheard by Steven will have you weeping angry, helpless tears. It does that to me every time.
This reminds me of several related local tragedies; one in particular is documented in the book Why Johnny Can't Come Home, regarding the case of Johnny Gosch and written by his mom Noreen. The disappearance of Des Moines native Johnny Gosch, who is said to be alive and in contact with his mother, is probably the most haunting case since the famous Boy in the Box from the 1950s.
Get this - you must not miss it if you haven't ever seen it. I cannot accurately describe to you what it was like to see this when it first aired in May of 1989. (I can't even recall the network, was it ABC?) However, it has lost none of its power, and nothing comes close to this masterful exposé except perhaps the pathetic 1999 film The Deep End of the Ocean (see my review) based on the novel that tried a little to rip-off the Stayner story, The Deep End of the Ocean (Oprah's Book Club).
You must see this film. It will get you involved in ways you never thought possible, to help put a stop to this kind of crime.