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MOVIES OF THE WEEK

August 04, 1985|KEVIN THOMAS

The Blues Brothers (ABC Sunday at 8 p.m.) turns loose Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi as that weird musical duo they created on "Saturday Night Live" in an overblown $30-million John Landis production that has them trying to reassemble their old band to raise money to save their orphanage in Chicago. (In the process Chicago seems to suffer more damage than it did in its famous fire.) The compensations in this disappointing off-the-wall comedy are an array of musicians, including Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles and James Cleveland's terrific gospel choir.

Ravagers (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.) is a relentlessly dull post-nuclear saga that finds Richard Harris as one of the few survivors in a blighted land menaced by murderous, roving bands called the Ravagers. One of the packs rapes and murders Harris' wife (Alana Hamilton), setting off a pursuit-and-revenge chain reaction. You're better off waiting for "The Road Warrior" to turn up on the tube.

A series pilot, The Covenant, about a San Francisco family whose wealth was built with Nazi gold, airs Monday at 9 p.m. on NBC. Jose Ferrer stars.

The Wall (CBS Tuesday at 8 p.m.), a three-hour 1982 TV movie based on John Hersey's novel of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, is a strong, admirable work but is nonetheless oddly uninvolving. Millard Lampell's adaptation is long on detail and powerful set pieces, but his characters never come fully alive. They remain cogs in this tragic denouement of Hitler's madness--the systematic extermination of more than 400,000 Polish Jews congregated in Warsaw's ghetto, and of the 650 who staged a brave but ultimately futile fight for survival. Unfortunately, "The Wall" tends to speak in generalities, and individual stories become more or less lost.

The Cradle Will Fall, repeating Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBS, reportedly marked the first time that members of a daytime soap, in this instance "Guiding Light," reprised their roles in a TV movie. But it's not enough to save this 1983 suspenser, starring Lauren Hutton as an assistant district attorney whose life is endangered when she witnesses a crime, from the routine.

Alas, Venom (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.) is more hiss than bite. Trapped in a stately town house in London's posh Belgravia are a 10-year-old asthmatic (Lance Holcomb), his grandfather (Sterling Hayden), his would-be kidnapers (Klaus Kinski, Susan George and Oliver Reed)--and a black mamba, the world's deadliest snake, which Holcomb was given by mistake in a pet shop. In time the house is surrounded by a Scotland Yard team headed by Nicol Williamson, affecting one of his working-class accents for the occasion; not helping matters is that Williamson has allowed himself to be duped into letting Kinski take toxicologist Sarah Miles as hostage. There's been much strenuous labor expended in setting up this predicament--but then the film fails to milk it for all it is worth.

So much is funny, so much sweetly, maniacally innocent about George Hamilton's performance(s) in Zorro, the Gay Blade (CBS Friday at 9 p.m.) that you find yourself wishing passionately that the rest of this 1981 film matched it. It sags badly, veers out of control, then swings back again to reward you with a delicious piece of silliness. Hamilton plays Don Diego Vega, exiled for fooling around with the wrong ladies of Spain. Arriving in Los Angeles in 1840, he discovers his late father was none other than the masked do-gooder Zorro--and assumes that role. Later, Don Diego's Anglicized, effeminate twin, calling himself Bunny Wigglesworth, turns up--and steps in as Zorro when Don Diego is sidelined by a sprained ankle. The lady of Don Diego's heart is an upstanding Boston revolutionary, played by Lauren Hutton with great verve.

The handsome, robust 1982 TV movie version of Sir Walter Scott's medieval classic Ivanhoe returns Saturday at 8 p.m. on CBS. Especially fine is the late James Mason as Isaac of York.

Selected evening pay TV/cable fare: Cloak & Dagger (Showtime Sunday at 8, Movie Channel Friday at 8); Phar Lap (Cinemax Monday and Saturday at 8); Das Boot (Parts 1-3, Z Monday at 8; Parts 4-6, Z Tuesday at 8, Parts 1-6, Z Thursday at 1:30 a.m.); Truffaut's The Man Who Loved Women (Z Wednesday at 7); 2010 (ON and SelecTV Thursday at 9).

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