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February 15, 1987|Kevin Thomas

The new TV movie The Facts of Life Down Under (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.) finds "The Facts of Life" series characters caught up in adventures in Australia. Cloris Leachman, et al. star. Airing earlier on ABC's "Disney Sunday Movie" at 7 p.m. is Richard Fleischer's beloved epic film of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason.

Police Academy (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) offers one good belly laugh after another as we follow incorrigible prankster Steve Guttenberg and his mainly zany fellow cadets in their rambunctious course of training. Director Hugh Wilson and his writers gleefully persuade us that a police academy, especially one headed by absent-minded George Gaynes, is not much different from life in "Animal House's" college fraternity or "Porky's" senior high school class.

Milos Forman's film of Ken Kesey's mental asylum tragicomedy One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Channel 5 Monday at 7:30 p.m.) strains credibility at the climax--why don't the guys cut out when they get a chance?--but Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher (Oscar winners both) are memorable as the ribald, cagey inmate who dares to defy the calmly but determinedly destructive Nurse Ratchet.

Sergio Leone's classic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, starring Clint Eastwood, launches a week of Westerns Monday on Channel 13's 8 p.m. movie. Meanwhile, it's Murder Week on Channel 11 at 9 p.m., starting with Murder by Natural Causes, starring Hal Holbrook as a famous mentalist and Katharine Ross as his unfaithful wife. Other titles: Murder by Death (Tuesday), Murder on the Orient Express (Wednesday) and Murder in Texas (Thursday and Friday).

Norma Rae (Channel 5 Tuesday at 8 p.m.), that rousing yet judicious movie dealing with labor organizing in the South, brought Sally Field her first Oscar as a rural textile worker whose consciousness is raised by New York labor organizer Ron Leibman. Beau Bridges is splendid as the new man in Field's life. Directed by Martin Ritt and written by his old friends Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr., Norma Rae is an unusually satisfying and fully realized film, the kind you recall with pleasure.

In The Rose (Channel 5 Wednesday at 8 p.m.), Bette Midler is truly unforgettable as a Janis Joplin-like late '60s rock star hitting the rock bottom of her physical, emotional and creative resources. Midler's Rose craves acceptance as an artist, but what she really needs is love and stability and fails to recognize that fame demands self-control. The Rose--and Midler--are stunners, thanks to Mark Rydell's sensitive, nobly self-effacing direction.

The new TV movie Kojak: The Price of Justice (CBS Saturday at 9 p.m.) brings back Telly Savalas (who else?) as that tough New York City cop. Kate Nelligan co-stars as a mother accused of killing her two sons.

A "colorized" Maltese Falcon, disavowed by its director John Huston, airs on Channel 5 Saturday at 8 p.m. (and also on WGN Monday at 9:30 p.m., WTBS Tuesday at 7:20 p.m.).

Selected evening cable fare: Two English Girls (Bravo Sunday at 8); The Hitcher (Cinemax Monday at 8, Z Thursday at 9, Cinemax Saturday at 8 and SelecTV at 9:30); The Official Story (SelecTV Monday at 8); Heartland (Disney Channel Tuesday at 9); The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three (WGN Tuesday at 9:30); The Best of Times (Movie Channel Wednesday at 7, HBO Friday at 8, Showtime Saturday at 6); The Heart and the World (Bravo Thursday at 8); Mean Streets (SelecTV Thursday at 8); Parting Glances (Bravo Thursday at 10:30); Irreconcilable Differences (Showtime Friday at 6); Handle With Care (Lifetime Friday at 8); Trouble in Mind (Z Friday at 9); Gung Ho (Showtime Saturday at 8); The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Movie Channel Saturday at 9).

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