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Movies Of The Week

November 09, 1986|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

Sunday is not only a day of rest for the body, but one for the mind as well. You're unlikely to be very mentally engaged by the swishbuckling of Zorro, the Gay Blade (Channel 9 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.), or the shower-room romps of the teen-age madcaps in Bob Clark's Porky's (Channel 11 at 9 p.m.). Nor should we expect much, perhaps, from Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star (NBC at 9 p.m.), in which the defense lawyer who never loses (Raymond Burr) tests himself by defending a man who killed a TV talk-show host (Alan Thicke) before millions. Just trying to torture the D.A. again. . . .

Splash (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.), with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah as the man and mermaid who fall in love, provides the competition for Perry Mason.

Monday brings Unnatural Causes (NBC at 9 p.m.), a new TV movie (illustrated on the cover) about a Vietnam war veteran and a counselor (played by John Ritter and Alfre Woodard) who call attention to the effects of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange.

Monday also starts a near-weeklong mano-a-mano duel between Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. Wayne's 1961 The Comancheros (Channel 11 at 9 p.m.), was the last movie directed, at 72, by Michael ("Casablanca") Curtiz: a gun-running Western with Lee Marvin and admirable zest. Clint's Coogan's Bluff (Channel 5 at 8 p.m.) is one of his peak efforts--a 1968 Don Siegel-directed full-throttle actioner, about an Arizona lawman chasing a fugitive through the wilds of New York City. (We especially like Clint's delivery of the line "Fancy" to Betty Field.)

On Monday's down side, there's The Deep (Channel 13 at 8 p.m.), a waterlogged underwater-voodoo-chase film based on Peter Benchley's novel. It made so much money in 1977, it must deserve some mention--though for exactly what, it's difficult to remember. (Ah, yes: Jacqueline Bisset's free-style scuba-diving!)

On Tuesday there's more high-grade Wayne and Eastwood. Rio Lobo (Channel 11 at 9 p.m.) was the swan song for one of America's greatest movie makers, Howard Hawks: a lazily ingratiating, character-filled ramble in the "Rio Bravo"-"El Dorado" style. High Plains Drifter (Channel 5 at 8 p.m.) is the weirdest of the ones in which Eastwood directed himself, a macabre and nightmarishly funny revenge saga, whose locale is either the Old West or Hell--depending on your viewpoint.

Denzel Washington of "St. Elsewhere" plays the title role in The George McKenna Story (CBS Tuesday at 9 p.m.), a fact-based made-for-TV drama centering on a black principal who works in a tough Los Angeles high school.

The best movie ever adapted from a Stephen King novel--though it strangely sacrificed most of its flavor and shock--is Stanley Kubrick's mesmerizing The Shining (Channel 13 Wednesday at 8 p.m.). Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall--as ordinary people trapped in a snowbound madhouse of a hotel with a mind of its own--were cheated a little by the overly spare script. But this is one film you can watch solely for the visuals--the tracking shots alone could curdle your blood.

Friday brings two great movies. Robert Altman's MASH (Channel 5 at 8 p.m.) has been superseded in people's minds by the TV show it inspired, but it was an epochal, sea-changing, black-comedy eye-opener for its time--and ours as well. No one is better at portraying communities than Altman. This one--with Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Robert Duvall, Sally Kellerman and others as hip and unhip combat surgeons--was one of the richest.

John Ford's masterpiece, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Channel 11 Friday at 9 p.m.), is an epic of the New-Against-Old West, in microcosm. It gives us the taming of the wilderness into a garden, in a series of freezingly memorable tableaux: a mixture of weird vaudeville and tragic ballad, with John Wayne, James ("Pilgrim") Stewart, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles and Edmond O'Brien at their apogee. In a way--with its unbeatable cast and shadowy chamber quality--it's the "Casablanca" of Westerns.

Anything else would be an anticlimax, but there's a first-class Saturday entry: Carroll Ballard's 1979 The Black Stallion (Channel 5 at 6 p.m.), a wonderful children's movie about horses, desert islands and victory. The colors, caught by Caleb Deschanel's camera, are the most ravishing you could ever hope for.

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