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June 08, 1986

Sidney Lumet's Prince of the City (ABC Sunday and Monday at 9 p.m.), based on Robert Daley's book on an actual NYPD detective turned informer on his own colleagues, is a lumpily structured endurance test which addresses both the broad issue of police corruption and the nagging one of personal guilt: How does each one of us deal with the dishonesty we encounter in our jobs? In the central role, Treat Williams, not very convincing as an Italian-American, seems over his head in portraying a young man who's quickly over his head himself, torn by conflicting loyalties and vulnerable on all sides. On the plus side are a strong, vast--126 speaking parts--supporting cast and rich production values, but Prince of the City, while admirable in its seriousness, fails as art or entertainment.

Clint Eastwood, as both an actor and director, has never made a movie so blissfully sweet and funny as Bronco Billy (NBC Sunday at 8:30 p.m.). In the title role, Eastwood is the sharpshooting star of a tiny, struggling Wild West show that plays little country fairs and carnivals. Sondra Locke is a runaway heiress who signs on as Eastwood's assistant.

Meteor (Channel 11 Tuesday at 9 p.m.) is a lackluster disaster film dedicated to the proposition that more is better. An avalanche wipes out most of Switzerland, a tidal wave washes away greater Hong Kong, a fragment of a comet eradicates most of Manhattan. And there's still that meteor the size of Central Park zipping toward Earth with only Sean Connery, a disgruntled former NASA type, and his Russian counterpart (Brian Keith) to save the planet as we know it. Natalie Wood is Keith's translator and Connery's love interest.

The Return of a Man Called Horse (Channel 5 Wednesday at 8 p.m.), decidedly superior to the original, finds Richard Harris' English lord so bored with his luxurious existence at his ancestral estate that he returns to the Dakota Territory to rejoin the Indian tribe, the Yellow Hands, who had enslaved him but who allowed him, after grueling testing, to become one of them. Now it's the Yellow Hands who are in trouble, decimated by other tribes at the instigation of a vicious fur trapper (Geoffrey Lewis). Under the astute direction of Irvin Kershner, the film emerges as a timeless illumination of the tragic confrontations between cultures.

It took so long for Nathanael West's Hollywood classic, The Day of the Locust (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.) to get to the screen that it's a shame the 1975 version directed by John Schlesinger and adapted by Waldo Salt was such a lifeless disappointment. This version, a work of painstaking craftsmanship typical of Schlesinger, is so garish and literal that we never really get involved with William Atherton, a young Yale graduate come west to invade the movies as an art director, or with the weirdos he encounters, or with Karen Black, excellent as a tough but dumb movie-struck type with whom he unconvincingly becomes involved.

In Hour of the Gun (Channel 5 Friday at 8 p.m.) director John Sturges took up where his classic "Gunfight at the OK Corral" left off. In this depiction of the downbeat aftermath of the historic 1881 shootout, so symbolic of the death of the Old West, James Garner takes over for Burt Lancaster's Wyatt Earp and Jason Robards replaces Kirk Douglas' Doc Holliday--and neither is larger than life. Alas, Hour of the Gun commands much respect but never really engages the emotions.

The Last of Sheila (Channel 13 Friday at 8 p.m.) is a delicious murder mystery, concocted by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, which finds millionaire James Coburn, one year after his wife's brutal and mysterious death, inviting six of their closest friends (Richard Benjamin, Joan Hackett, James Mason, Dyan Cannon, Raquel Welch and Ian McShane), all of them cast as familiar Hollywood types, for a week on his yacht off Nice.

Grease, that garish, amusing musical evocation of high school life in the '50s, reprises Saturday at 9 p.m. on ABC. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are the appealing stars, but it's Frankie Avalon, an authentic '50s icon, who lingers in the memory for his big spoofy number, "Beauty School Dropout."

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