At one point in “Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs” (8 p.m. Saturday, Lifetime), the aging Rulon Jeffs (Martin Landau) bemoans the way the outside world sees his polygamous sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“They hate us,” he tells Warren (Tony Goldwyn), one of his several dozen children. “They think we’re freaks and perverts.”
It’s like that old saying, “If it looks like a freak and a pervert, talks like a freak and a pervert and uses its status as a self-proclaimed prophet to arrange marriages involving child brides and have borderline-consensual sex with underage girls like a freak and a pervert …”
At least that’s how the movie depicts Warren spending his days in Colorado City, Ariz., between maneuvering his way into leading the church after his father’s death in 2002 and his arrest four years later on Interstate 15 just north of Las Vegas.
“Outlaw Prophet” is an exploitative, stomach-churning exercise in shock and disgust. Take a seflie while watching it, and your face will look like you just swallowed some anchovies smothered with cottage cheese. From 1974.
Yet it feels almost completely at home on Lifetime, given the way Lifetime movies treat women only slightly better than the “Friday the 13th” movies treat lusty campers.
There’s a general sense of dread and foreboding whenever Warren gets anywhere near a young girl. The early scenes between him and 14-year-old Elissa Wall (“Fargo’s” Joey King) might as well be accompanied by the theme from “Jaws.”
“Your mother tells me that you’ve been getting your monthly visitor,” Warren informs her. “That means you’re ready.”
He’s come to “place her” with her older cousin. Despite weeping and begging her mother not to make her go through with the arranged marriage, she’s assured that it’s “what God wants” before she weds, tears streaming down her face, in a cheap motel room.
Then, when Elissa’s husband-cousin complains to Warren that she won’t consummate their relationship, Warren is incredulous. “Women respond to authority. You’re the man. Be forceful.”
Later, Warren poaches nearly enough of his father’s “widows” to form a softball team. “You all have the honor of becoming the wife of our new prophet,” his wife, Annette (“Deadwood’s” Molly Parker), says while inspecting their nails and the tightness of their braids. “Clean and orderly is not enough. You must be immaculate.”
Warren is determined to marry each of them despite not knowing all their names. Then he makes them call him “Uncle.”
Some of “Outlaw Prophet’s” revelations are just odd. After investigator Gary Engels (David Keith) compares him to the Taliban in a TV interview, Warren tells his congregation that God just delivered a new set of laws. As a result, he bans sports, all media except radios, secular music, dancing, the color red and dogs.
Warren Jeffs bans dogs.
Even that town from “Footloose” would have been, like, “Hey, buddy, loosen up a little.”
But for the most part, the movie, based on Stephen Singular’s book “When Men Become Gods,” traffics in the lurid.
While having sex with a very young girl, Warren asks if she feels the presence of the Lord as three other naked girls wait for them to finish.
Later, he persuades a half-dozen naked girls — again girls, not women — to fool around with each other. “I want you to learn ‘the heavenly gentle touch,’ ” he tells them. “When you touch someone, the fiery spirit of God is felt by that person.” Then he pretty much has them hold the most reluctant one down while he has his way with her.
There are some things you can’t unsee.
You know how most of the “teenagers” on TV look like they’re 20 and are played by people on the wrong side of 30? Not these. King, who portrays Elissa, is 14.
It’s all just so very, very wrong.
And pity the poor, unsuspecting viewer who tunes in just because she really loves Goldwyn as Fitz on “Scandal.”
Still, it could have been worse. Considering that it’s (surprisingly) executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron of “Chicago,” “Hairspray” and NBC’s “Sound of Music” fame, “Outlaw Prophet” could have been a musical.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at email@example.com or 702-380-4567.