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May 24, 1987|Kevin Thomas

The "Disney Sunday Movie," Down the Long Hills (ABC Sunday at 7 p.m.), tells of a desperate search in the wilderness for two children and a stallion. Bruce Boxleitner and Jack Elam star in this family drama, based on Louis L'Amour's novel. Down the Long Hills will be followed at 9 p.m. on ABC by the new TV movie Celebration Family in which Stephanie Zimbalist and James Read play a couple who provide a home for an array of unwanted children.

In another new TV movie, Baby Girl Scott (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.), John Lithgow and Mary Beth Hurt are parents confronted with determining the fate of their premature and severely damaged infant daughter.

Airing Sunday at 9 p.m. on NBC is a new Perry Mason TV movie, The Case of the Sinister Spirit. Joining Raymond Burr as Mason and Barbara Hale as Della Street is guest star Robert Stack, who plays a publisher accused of murdering a popular mystery writer (Matthew Faison).

Bonnie Bedelia stars in the new TV movie When the Time Comes (ABC Monday at 9 p.m.) as a terminally ill woman who asks her husband (Terry O'Quinn) and then her childhood friend (Brad Davis) to help her end her life.

Norman Jewison's 1971 film of the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical Fiddler on the Roof (Channel 5 Tuesday at 7 p.m.) may well be his best work, a glorious entertainment that takes us right into the turn-of-the-century Ukrainian village of Sholem Aleichem's "Tevye and His Daughters" and sweeps us into a world that is changing, threatened by such modern ideas as women choosing their own mates as well as by mounting czarist oppression. The film's chief asset is the warm and virile Israeli star Topol, as Tevye, the milkman who carries on one-sided conversations with God.

In the new TV movie Cracked Up (ABC Tuesday at 9 p.m.) James Wilder plays a high school track star whose addiction to crack cocaine threatens to destroy his relationship with his widowed clergyman father (Ed Asner) and his best friend (Raphael Sbarge).

Cliff Robertson stars as automobile pioneer Henry Ford in Ford: The Man and the Machine (Channel 13 Tuesday at 8 p.m.; repeats Friday at 8 p.m.). This two-part drama concludes next week at the same times.

Shaft (Channel 5 Thursday at 8 p.m.) stars Richard Roundtree as a black private eye hired to find the kidnaped daughter of a Harlem gangster. This lively and violent entertainment gave impetus to a cycle of "blaxploitation" pictures in the early '70s, few of which were as good as this film.

Mariette Hartley stars in the outstanding 1984 TV movie Silence of the Heart (scheduled for Thursday at 9:30 p.m. on Channel 2, subject to change due to the NBA playoffs). She plays a mother who must be a pillar of strength for her family when her teen-age son (Chad Lowe) commits suicide.

Beat the Devil (Channel 13 Saturday at 8 p.m.) may well be the first cult film, a kind of crazed send-up of "The Maltese Falcon" by its director John Huston, aided by Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Jennifer Jones (in a blonde wig), Gina Lollobrigida and Robert Morley. It was one of the first films to be described as "so bad it's good."

The Outlaw Josey Wales (CBS Saturday at 9 p.m.) remains one of the best and most ambitious films Clint Eastwood has ever directed--and one of the last truly successful Westerns. Inescapably bloody and violent, this handsome 1976 film develops into a full-scale frontier saga of much impact. Eastwood stars as a farmer living along the Kansas-Missouri border who turns avenging outlaw when his family is massacred by a band of Northern guerrillas during the Civil War.

Among the many fine offerings on cable this week is Krzysztof Zanussi's A Year of the Quiet Sun (Bravo Sunday at 8 p.m.), a beautiful and heartbreaking love story set in Poland in the grim aftermath of World War II and believed to be the first Polish-American co-production. The extraordinary Maja Komorowska, who has made 10 films with Zanussi, plays a Polish woman who falls in love with an American soldier (Scott Wilson, in one of his finest performances) despite a formidable language barrier.

Another fine film set against World War II is Swiss director Markus Imhoof's harrowing, uncompromising The Boat Is Full (Bravo Monday at 9 p.m.), which demolishes the widespread assumption that if refugees from Hitler's Germany were lucky enough to reach the border of neutral Switzerland, they were home free. What actually happened was that by the summer of 1942 the Swiss government declared "the boat is full," having accepted 8,300, most of whom were only passing through to other countries, primarily the United States. Nevertheless, immigrations policies were established that were so stringent as to all but close the Swiss border--especially to Jews. No longer could a Jew request sanctuary as a political refugee. The Boat Is Full is the story of six Germans, five Jews and a German army deserter, struggling to survive and remain in Switzerland under these harsh conditions.

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