Raiders of the Lost Ark, which did such a flawless, exciting job of capturing the fun of the old Saturday matinee serials, at last has its TV premiere on ABC Sunday at 9 p.m. Producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg (with an assist to Lucas on the script from writer-director Philip Kaufman) have got it just right. They've brought a sophisticated, affectionately tongue-in-cheek tone to their virtuoso cliffhangers, lightning pace and a high-adventure plot. Harrison Ford and spunky leading lady Karen Allen couldn't be better. It's as if the romantic, witty and sexy stars of '30s screwball comedy classics have been dropped into a Republic serial that's been staged on a DeMillean scale.
Attempting to compete with Raiders on Sunday are two new TV movies, Under the Influence (CBS at 9 p.m.), a drama about the impact of alcoholism on the family and starring Andy Griffith, and Intimate Encounters (NBC at 9 p.m.), in which Donna Mills and James Brolin play a couple whose ideal marriage starts to unravel when the wife's romantic fantasies lead to actual sexual encounters with strangers.
Airing earlier Sunday, at 6 p.m. on Channel 5, is another new TV movie, The Canterville Ghost, an adaptation of an Oscar Wilde story about an American family who inherits an English castle only to discover it's haunted by their ancestor (Sir John Gielgud). This film also screens again Saturday: at 6 p.m. on WOR, and 8 p.m. on Channel 5.
The Bounty (Channel 13 Monday at 8 p.m.) suffers structurally from having been planned as two separate films that ended up compressed into one, but it nevertheless emerges as a robust, pictorially glorious adventure under Roger Donaldson's direction and is especially memorable for Anthony Hopkins' intense and hard-pressed rather than all-out evil Captain Bligh. (You can compare Hopkins' Bligh to Charles Laughton's--and Mel Gibson's Fletcher Christian to Clark Gable's when the 1935 MGM Mutiny on the Bounty screens Friday on Channel 11 at 8:30 p.m.)
Adam: His Song Continues (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) finds Daniel J. Travanti and JoBeth Williams reprising their roles as the real-life John and Reve Walsh in this new TV movie about the Walshes ongoing efforts to create an awareness of the problem of missing children.
Peter Ustinov plays Agatha Christie's formidable Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot for the fifth time in the new TV movie Murder in Three Acts (CBS Tuesday at 9 p.m.), which co-stars Tony Curtis as a retired actor living in Acapulco and pursuing a girl (Emma Samms) in an attempt to recapture his youth.
The rest of the week's prime-time movies are all oldies. There's a flurry of Michael Crichton science-fiction fantasy thrillers on Channel 5 at 8 p.m., highlighted by the ingenious and diverting Coma (Tuesday), starring Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold, and Westworld (Thursday), starring Richard Benjamin and Yul Brynner.
The 1950 King Solomon's Mines (Channel 13 Friday at 8 p.m.), so fondly remembered by so many adolescents, stars the screen's classic great white hunter Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr as the Victorian lady he unstarches in the African wilderness.
The Only Game in Town (Channel 9 Saturday at 10 p.m.) suffers from the improbability of Elizabeth Taylor's overly zaftig Vegas show girl but her relationship with gambler Warren Beatty is affecting, thanks to Frank Gilroy's script and George Stevens' direction.
Channel 28 has a powerful late-show entry (Saturday at 11:30 p.m.) with Elio Petri's Oscar-winning Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, starring Gian Maria Volonte as a police chief who may get away with murder.