July 13, 1986|Michael Wilmington

Never say die. Kirk Douglas never played, in the movies, the role he prized most: Randle McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"--a part he created on stage and tried futilely for years to bring to the screen. (Eventually, son Michael produced it, with Jack Nicholson.) But Amos (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.) sounds like a fair substitute: Douglas as a feisty old ex-ballplayer, battling a tyrannical head nurse (Elizabeth Montgomery) in a nursing home. Sound familiar? Michael Tuchner directed.

Also on Sunday, The Mephisto Waltz (Channel 9 at 6 p.m.) gives us a peek at life before "MASH" for Alan Alda. It's a stylish occult thriller, which mixes classical music and satanism--directed by the prolific and effective Paul Wendkos.

On Monday, Paul Schrader's Cat People (Channel 13 at 8 p.m.) is a 1982 remake of the elegant 1942 Jacques Tourneur-Val Lewton horror classic about sleek Serbians metamorphosing into murderous cats. It's eerily chic. David Bowie does the title song and there are purringly perverse performances by Nastassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell. Schrader himself thinks it's his best work.

Also Monday evening, director Daniel Petrie shows two strings on his bow. His The Dollmaker (ABC at 8 p.m.) is a warm, humanistic adaptation of the Harriet Arnow novel--about hill people miserably resettled in post-war Detroit--with Jane Fonda heading the cast (see Show of the Week, Page 3). Petrie's Fort Apache, the Bronx (Channel 11 Monday at 9 p.m.) is a gritty urban cop thriller, with Paul Newman helping hold the embattled Bronx precinct.

Tuesday gives us another cop melodrama, a furiously exciting, furiously controversial one: Don Siegel's 1971 Dirty Harry (Channel 7 at 8:30 p.m.)--Clint Eastwood's potent first outing as the cynical, maverick detective. Civil libertarians were outraged at Harry's no-holds-barred pursuit of San Francisco's "Scorpio Killer." But audiences were breathless and white-knuckled. (This is the movie Sylvester Stallone looted, ineptly, for "Cobra.")

On Wednesday, you can see that legendary stomach-churner, The Exorcist (Channel 13 at 8 p.m.) with Linda Blair pouring out profanity and green vomit, and Ellen Burstyn, Lee J. Cobb, Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller trying to stop her. William Friedkin directed, William Peter Blatty scripted. Let's hope the station won't exorcise too much for commercials and taste.

Phil Karlson's Walking Tall (Channel 11 Wednesday at 9 p.m.) was the granddad of all of today's super-violent revenge sagas--and next to most of them this fictionalized bio of Tennessee's Sheriff Buford Pusser (Joe Don Baker) now seems almost dignified.

Night owls can catch a wee-hours classic on Wednesday: Max Ophuls' The Reckless Moment (Channel 11 at 4 a.m.), a virtuosic blackmail melodrama with James Mason and Joan Bennett.

Thursday brings a rebroadcast of Silence of the Heart (CBS at 9 p.m.), a well-regarded problem drama on teen-age suicide with Mariette Hartley, Howard Hesseman and Chad Lowe, directed by Richard Michaels.

On Friday, you can catch two movies savaged by critics on their first release--one of which probably didn't deserve it. John Carpenter's 1982 The Thing (CBS at 9 p.m.) is not so much a remake of the 1951 Christian Nyby-Howard Hawks science fiction classic as an alternative version (closer to the original story, John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?"). It had the misfortune of being released close to "E.T.," with critics in no mood for a paranoid view of first contact. If intact, it's a piece of nail-biting horror with a stunningly bleak climax.

But Michael Ritchie's The Island (Channel 13 Friday at 8 p.m.), from a Peter ("Jaws") Benchley novel, may have deserved ignominy. It's a blandly bizarre modern pirate thriller, with only old reliable Michael Caine staying afloat.

John Sturges' 1957 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (Channel 11 Friday at 9 p.m.) is John Sturges' solid version of the Wyatt Earp-Doc Holliday-Ike Clanton saga, with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas both smoking as the first two.

Many movie critics are infatuated with actress Kathleen Quinlan and can't understand why she's never become a major star. This week's ABC Saturday night movie, When She Says No (at 9 p.m.), may give you a clue to our big crush, though it has a tough subject: the question of "consentual" rape. Paul Aaron directed a Deena Goldstone screenplay, and Rip Torn, Kenneth McMillan and Jeffrey DeMunn co-star.

Also on Saturday's schedule: Blake Edwards' Darling Lili (Channel 2 at 2 p.m.), the Julie Andrews movie that later inspired "S.O.B."; Mel Brooks' Hitchcock parody High Anxiety (CBS at 9 p.m.), and Lynn Littman's post-apocalypse drama, Testament (Channel 50 at 10 p.m.).

Selected evening cable fare: Mask (SelecTV Sunday at 7:30; HBO Monday at 10, Friday at 6; Cinemax Wednesday at 11:30; Showtime Thursday at 11); Prizzi's Honor (HBO Sunday at 9; SelecTV Tuesday at 8; Showtime Wednesday at 9; Movie Channel Saturday at 9; HBO Saturday at 10:30); Modern Times (SelecTV Monday at 6:30); Sam Fuller's Thieves After Dark (SelecTV Monday at 10); They All Laughed (Z Tuesday at 9); Kagemusha (Bravo Tuesday at 10:30); Man of Flowers (Bravo Wednesday at 10:30); Erendira (Z Wednesday at 11); Days of Heaven (Cinemax Thursday at 6).

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