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MOVIES OF THE WEEK

August 24, 1986|Kevin Thomas

Sidney Lumet's absorbing The Verdict returns Sunday at 9 p.m. on NBC. Paul Newman digs deep into himself to show us the rebirth of a decent man, a Boston attorney on the skids who lands a case never meant for trial. It involves a young woman admitted to a Catholic hospital who lapses into an irreversible coma after being given the wrong anesthetic--and whose relatives file suit against the archdiocese. It is at once the engrossing story of Newman's redemption, a crackerjack courtroom drama (in which Newman is pitted against the archdiocese's suave Establishment attorney James Mason), a suspense piece--and a stunning rendering of Boston and its distinctive atmosphere.

The Spy Who Loved Me (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.), the 10th James Bond film, achieved a kind of perfection of preposterousness. Not only one, but two nuclear subs (one British, one Russian) have disappeared without a trace. Giving chase are both 007 (Roger Moore) and Soviet agent XXX (Barbara Bach), which leads them to the underwater palace of supervillain Curt Jurgens.

Also repeating is Trackdown: Finding the Goodbar Killer (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.), a standard detective story that is the sequel to the theatrical feature, "Looking for Mr. Goodbar." George Segal stars.

Last year Liza Minnelli made a strong TV movie debut in A Time to Live (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) as the real-life Mary-Lou Weisman, the mother of a young muscular dystrophy victim. Even with her bright presence, however, the film is a fairly routine "fatal illness drama," a TV movie staple for years.

In John Frankenheimer's engrossing film of James Drought's The Gypsy Moths (Channel 7 Monday at 9 p.m.) Burt Lancaster, Gene Hackman and Scott Wilson are members of an itinerant skydiving act who arrive in the heat of the summer in Wilson's small Midwestern home town, where Lancaster, a man who asks too much of life, meets Deborah Kerr, a woman who asks too little of it. The Gypsy Moths is a timeless drama about how chance can bring together a group of people and set in motion a chain of events that leaves their lives forever altered.

Under the Rainbow (CBS Wednesday at 8 p.m.) is an underrated 1981 comedy inspired by the purported real-life shenanigans indulged in by the little people producer Mervyn LeRoy hired to play the Munchkins in "The Wizard of Oz." Inciting laughter for its own sake--and at no one's expense, including the little people--Under the Rainbow stars Chevy Chase as a secret service agent (never mind what his assignment is) and Carrie Fisher, who's an "Oz" production coordinator in charge of the little people. Among the co-stars are Eve Arden and Billy Barty.

The Big Fix (Channel 13 Friday at 8 p.m.), Jeremy Paul Kagan's highly affecting film of Roger L. Simon's novel, is at once a comment on the disillusioned idealists of the '60s and a deft, atmospheric suspense piece. Richard Dreyfuss stars as a former Berkeley activist turned private eye; Susan Anspach is an old Berkeley flame, now working for a middle-of-the-road candidate someone is trying to smear.

David Birney stars in the intense 1981 TV movie The Five of Me (Channel 4 Friday at 8 p.m.), playing a Korean War veteran afflicted with a dangerous multiple personality. Also repeating is the stupefyingly inane Getting Physical (CBS Friday at 9 p.m.), the "Flashdance" of body building, which has a fairy-tale plot about a 22-year-old woman (Alexandra Paul) who solves all of life's problems when she accidentally stumbles into a gym.

It's best to forget that the late, highly accomplished Donna Reed starred in the 1983 TV movie Deadly Lessons (ABC Saturday at 9 p.m.), playing the uptight head of an exclusive girls' school struck by a serial killer.

William Friedkin's The Brink's Job (Channel 13 Saturday at 8 p.m.) transmutes a famous robbery into an almost totally nonviolent caper done as an amusing low-life comedy, the heart of which is the original and vigorous characterization by Peter Falk, surrounded by Boston at its seediest.

Selected evening cable fare: Straight Time (Movie Channel Sunday at 9); Down and Dirty (Z Monday at 7); The Ballad of Narayama (Bravo Tuesday at 9:30); Irreconcilable Differences (Showtime Wednesday at 9); Agatha (Movie Channel Thursday at 7); Vengeance Is Mine (Bravo Thursday at 9:30); Mikey and Nicky (Z Friday at 7); Heaven Help Us (Z Saturday at 7).

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