The slight possibility that three convicts who vanished from Alcatraz in 1962 didn't drown in San Francisco Bay provides the basis for the taut and dynamic Escape From Alcatraz (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.), which stars Clint Eastwood as the escapees' ringleader and reunites him for the fifth time with director Don Siegel. Once again Eastwood is the archtypal strong man of few words, and he's well-served by a terse script from Richard Tuggle, who subsequently directed him in "Tightrope."
Also airing at 9 p.m. Sunday are two new TV movies: Barnum (CBS) in which Burt Lancaster plays the legendary 19th-Century showman (the great German actress Hanna Schygulla co-stars as Jenny Lind), and the fact-based The High Price of Passion (NBC), in which Richard Crenna stars as a college professor driven to murder by his infatuation with a young prostitute.
This week's "Disney Sunday Movie" (ABC at 7 p.m.) is Sunday Drive, a comedy which turns upon the mix-up of identical cars. Tony Randall and Carrie Fisher star.
Sixteen Candles (Channel 13 Monday at 8 p.m.) marked the uneven directorial debut of John Hughes, who's gone on to become the king of the teen film. It's an uneasy mix of the sympathetic and the synthetic, the raucous and the racist--in the case of the crudely drawn sex-starved Chinese exchange student the talented Gedde Watanabe is stuck playing. It also asks us to believe that an entire family would forget lovely Molly Ringwald's 16th birthday.
Love Is Never Silent, one of last year's finest TV movies, repeats on NBC Monday at 9 p.m. In this wise, tender and near-flawless film, Mare Winningham plays a young woman whose struggle for independence in the 1940s is complicated by the fact that she is the only link to the hearing world for her deaf parents (Phyllis Frelich and Ed Waterstreet, who are hard of hearing). See Show of the Week.
One of Sam Peckinpah's best, Straw Dogs, starring Dustin Hoffman, airs at 9 p.m. Monday on Channel 11.
In these times, a satiric comedy about international arms deals better be pretty funny. Unfortunately Deal of the Century (CBS Tuesday at 9 p.m.), starring Chevy Chase as a gonzo international weapons dealer, is a full-scale disaster, working neither as satire nor comedy.
Richard Franklin's Hitchcockian Road Games (Channel 5 Thursday at 8 p.m.) is a nifty Australian thriller starring Stacy Keach as a truck driver and Jamie Lee Curtis as a hitchhiker who are pursued by a killer across a vast desert waste.
Night Chase (Channel 13 Friday at 8 p.m.), a gritty, atmospheric 1970 TV movie directed by Jack Starrett, stars David Janssen as a weary man on the run and Yaphet Kotto as a cab driver he hires to drive him to Mexico on an all-night run along the California coast.
If Against All Odds (CBS Saturday at 9 p.m.), Taylor Hackford's stylish remake of the film noir classic "Out of the Past," doesn't entirely succeed, it's because its convoluted plot is still a tangle at the finish and because we are on to the central villain from the outset. Keeping it from mattering too much, however, is the sheer intensity of the love triangle created by fading football player Jeff Bridges, bookie/nightclub owner James Woods and enigmatic heiress Rachel Ward. You may remain confused but the getting there is sexy, elegant and shrewdly observed.
Selected evening cable fare: Into the Night (Movie Channel Sunday at 7, Thursday at 9); Murphy's Romance (SelecTV Sunday at 7, Cinemax Friday at 6); Lost in America (Z Sunday at 9); Mishima (SelecTV Monday at 8, Z Monday at 9); Burroughs (Bravo Monday at 8:30); The Prisoner of Shark Island (Z Tuesday at 7); Brazil (Showtime Tuesday at 8); Crossover Dreams (Z Tuesday at 9); Le Crabe Tambour (Bravo Wednesday at 8:30); Phar Lap (Bravo Friday at 8:30); Micki & Maude (HBO Saturday at 6); Dance With a Stranger (Z Saturday at 9).