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Weekend Tv : 'Monte Carlo': It's Not 'casablanca'

November 08, 1986|LEE MARGULIES | Times Staff Writer

"Monte Carlo" wants very much to be "Casablanca." And it comes so close--just one letter off. It's "Casablahca."

With the emphasis on the third syllable.

CBS' two-part miniseries, which begins Sunday at 9 p.m. on Channels 2 and 8, is set during World War II in the neutral country of Monaco, which, like Casablanca in the classic 1942 film, is a veritable crossroad for the Western world, full of romance and intrigue.

Among its high-living populace are apolitical American expatriates (George Hamilton), mercenaries (Malcolm McDowell), Gestapo officers (Peter Vaughan), rich American tourists (Lauren Hutton, Lisa Eilbacher) and other assorted World War II archetypes--French freedom fighters, Jews on the run from the Nazis, Italian military men, local police, even a sympathetic bartender named Louie.

Into their midst drops Katrina Petrovna (Joan Collins), a femme fatale and renowned singer. "Beauty, wit, wisdom--it's almost too much in one woman," an admirer gushes. And he doesn't even know about her secret spying activity on behalf of the British!

Well, that's easier to believe than the part about her being a great singer--especially after you hear her breathy rendition of "The Last Time I Saw Paris" in Part 1.

Hamilton, playing a gallivanting would-be novelist with an obviously tin ear, is immediately smitten, but Collins fends him off. "Don't become intrigued by me," she warns.

"Why not?"

"Just don't."

Hamilton takes it as a challenge. Viewers ought to take it as advice.

Indeed, what amounts to mere tedium in Part 1 slips into silliness in Part 2 (airing Monday at 9 p.m.), when Collins--dressed to the teeth in her finest "Dynasty" tradition--meets with members of the French resistance, visits a prisoner-of-war camp and then is arrested for her espionage activities.

"How could you do this?" the resident Third Reich representative asks beseechingly. "The Fuehrer himself is one of your greatest admirers!"

"I wish I could say that the feeling was mutual," she shoots back.

This naturally brings out the sadist in him. "I should truly dislike disfiguring you, madame," he intones ominously.

Considering that his earlier interrogation of a downed American pilot consisted of dunking the flier in a bathtub, you get the feeling that his way of torturing Collins may be to wipe off her makeup.

From there it's just a preposterous daylight rescue and a mad dash away from the closing scene at the airport, where a plane waits with its propellers turning. As Rick might have observed in "Casablanca," the whole thing doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

Collins was co-executive producer of the production, along with her husband, Peter Holm. It was directed by Anthony Page from Peter Lefcourt's adaptation of a novel by Stephen Sheppard. Gerald W. Abrams produced.

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