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December 15, 1985|KEVIN THOMAS

Until it overreaches in its final minutes, Clint Eastwood's The Gauntlet (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.) succeeds in making the fantastic credible. The getting there, however, is so outrageous and witty that those who admire Eastwood's laconic style behind the camera as well as in front of it are likely to overlook that flawed finale. Eastwood is a seedy Phoenix cop with an overfondness for whiskey and an order to go to Las Vegas to extradite terrified hooker Sondra Locke to be a witness at a mobster's trial.

In the new TV movie remake of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1948 Oscar-winning A Letter to Three Wives (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.), Loni Anderson, Stephanie Zimbalist and Michele Lee fill roles originally played by Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern and Linda Darnell. They're three wives who receive a letter from a divorcee telling them she has left town with one of their husbands. (The husbands are Ben Gazzara, Michael Gross and Charles Frank; in the original they were Jeffrey Lynn, Kirk Douglas and Paul Douglas.)

It's Humphrey Bogart vs. Fred Astaire at 8 p.m. as Channel 13 presents a week of Bogart films airing opposite a week of Astaire films on Channel 5. The Bogarts are: The Two Mrs. Carrolls (Monday), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Tuesday), Beat the Devil (Wednesday), Sahara (Thursday) and The Barefoot Contessa (Friday). The Astaires are: The Barkleys of Broadway (Monday), The Band Wagon (Tuesday), Blue Skies (Wednesday), Broadway Melody of 1940 (Thursday) and Holiday Inn (Friday). (Note: The Two Mrs. Carrolls, despite a teaming with Barbara Stanwyck, and Sahara are lesser Bogarts; on the other hand, Broadway Melody of 1940 is an unjustly overlooked Astaire.)

Not all the skill of Lee Remick, Angela Lansbury and director Delbert Mann can inject much vitality in The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story, a 1983 TV movie repeating Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBS. Lansbury is the beloved mother of Remick, who must cope with two unexpected losses in the midst of Christmas holiday preparations.

Inside Daisy Clover, an uneven but not unappealing story about the rise of a young movie star (Natalie Wood) in the '30s, airs Saturday at 8 p.m. on Channel 13. Robert Redford is Wood's homosexual husband, Ruth Gordon is Wood's eccentric mother. Robert Mulligan directed from Gavin Lambert's adaptation of his own novel.

Blazing Saddles (CBS Saturday at 9 p.m.) is Mel Brooks at his most raucous, rowdy and hilarious. This often-aired 1974 spoof of Western movies has Gene Wilder as its unlikely hero. Cleavon Little is no more likely as the sheriff (and just as funny). Harvey Korman's the bad guy, Madeline Kahn the torchy singer, and Brooks himself plays a shifty-eyed, lecherous territorial governor. John Morris did the score with the unexpected help of Count Basie and his prairie swingers.

Airing Saturday at 10 p.m. on Channel 28 is Lerner and Loewe's Brigadoon, one of the last (and most obviously set-bound) of the lush Golden Era Metro musicals, but it does have Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse under the always-stylish direction of Vincente Minnelli.

Selected evening cable fare: State Fair (Movie Channel Sunday at 6); I Married a Shadow (Cinemax Sunday at 7); Irreconcilable Differences (Showtime Sunday at 8, Movie Channel Wednesday at 10, Showtime Thursday at 8, Z Friday at 9); The Goodbye Girl (Cinemax Sunday at 9, Friday at 6); Comfort and Joy (Z Sunday at 9, Thursday at 7); Madigan (WTBS Monday at 8); That Hamilton Woman (WGN Monday at 9:30); Birdy (HBO Monday at 10); Finnegan Begin Again (HBO Tuesday at 6); Johnny Belinda (WOR Tuesday at 6); The Gang's All Here (Z Tuesday at 7); Hollow Image (Lifetime Tuesday at 8); Babes in Toyland (Disney Tuesday at 9); Heads or Tails (ON & SelecTV Tuesday at 9:30); Lianna (Movie Channel Tuesday at 10); The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) (Movie Channel Wednesday at 8); A Kid for Two Farthings (Disney Wednesday at 9); The Member of the Wedding (WTBS Wednesday at 10); More Than a Miracle (WOR Thursday at 6); Choose Me (Cinemax Thursday at 8); Carnal Knowledge (Movie Channel Thursday at 8); A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (WGN Thursday at 9:30); Android (Movie Channel Thursday at 10); The Old Curiosity Shop, also known as Mr. Quilp (WOR Friday at 6); Escape From New York (Z Friday at 7, Movie Channel Friday at 8); It Happened One Christmas (WGN Friday at 9:30); Major Barbara (Movie Channel Saturday at 6:30); The Stars Look Down (AE Saturday at 6:45 and 10:45); A Soldier's Story (ON & SelecTV Saturday at 9); Repo Man (Showtime Saturday at 10).

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