The endangered civil rights of a material witness - especially if she is a single woman - is the focus of a gripping film that stars feminist Marlo Thomas. In The Lost Honor of Kathryn Beck (CBS, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 9-11 p.m.), the honest determination of the police, an unscrupulous circulation campaign of a newspaper editor, and the unforeseen circumstances of single living combine to place Kathryn Beck in a position in which her present and former lives become the object of unpleasant - and unfair - interpretation.
This film, based on a German film, ''The Lost Honor of Katherina Blum,'' which itself was based upon a novel by Heinrich Boll, was developed for television by Loring Mandel and written by Karl Miller. Kris Kristofferson plays the part of a gruff but lovable suspected terrorist who drops unexpectedly into Kathryn's lonely life for just one night, then becomes the object of a nationwide manhunt. Her home, business, car, and personal relationships are all subject to seemingly lawful but hurtful investigation. In the meantime, a circulation-hungry local newspaperman feels free to delve into her life and the lives of all those around her, spreading lies and half-truths, none of which she is able to deny adequately.
The melodramatic and violent denouement may surprise some viewers, but it comes as the result of a series of logical but disturbing events that could easily derange a fragile mind.
Marlo Thomas makes Kathryn a thoroughly believable modern woman, far from morally perfect, but still a human being with the right to preserve her individual sensibilities and the right to choose her own life style even if it does not conform to that of her neighbors. She manages to make the character shy and retiring but still innately strong. The matter of the rights of material witnesses, however, transcends the feminist viewpoint - it concerns all of us, male and female.
Directed with an understanding sense of universality by Simon Langton, ''The Lost Honor'' careens back and forth between harsh action/adventure and delicate relationships. It is a rugged, thought-provoking drama that manages to combine the sensitive issue of personal morality with the universal issue of civil rights - and still emerge as a fine, if disturbing, evening's entertainment.