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MOVIES OF THE WEEK

June 28, 1987|KEVIN THOMAS

Prime time this week is clogged with reruns of mainly routine TV movies. The B.R.A.T. Patrol (ABC Sunday at 7 p.m.) is a comedy-adventure that takes its title from a group of Marine base "brats" who try to warn authorities about a plot to steal top-secret military hardware. Brian Keith guest stars as the base commander.

Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil (NBC Sunday at 8 p.m.) tells the tale of two brothers (John Shea, Bill Nighy) and the differing courses they take during Nazi Germany; it's notable mainly for Tony Randall's nightclub entertainer, reminiscent of Joel Grey's emcee in "Cabaret."

The Lady From Yesterday (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.) finds Tina Chen in the title role as a young Vietnamese woman who turns up with her 10-year-old son to disrupt the life of Wayne Rogers, her long-ago lover, and his wife Bonnie Bedelia.

Much better than The Lady From Yesterday is the 1983 TV movie Love Is Forever (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.), based on a true story about an Australian journalist's 1978 rescue attempt of the Laotian woman he loved. Michael Landon and Moira Chen star.

Even though the late Sam Peckinpah disowned Major Dundee (Channel 13 Monday at 8 p.m.), which was taken out of his hands and recut, there's enough left to perceive the outlines of a great, complex Western. Charlton Heston, in one of his best portrayals, stars as a tough commander who must lead a cavalry mission across the Mexican border in pursuit of Indians; many of his troops, however, are Confederate prisoners concerned only with escape.

Andrew Bergman's So Fine (CBS Tuesday at 9 p.m.) is a rowdy, uproarious screwball comedy that's actually an original and not yet another recycling of a '30s classic. Ryan O'Neal is a nice, tweedy English professor unwillingly caught up in the problems of his father (Jack Warden, never better), a struggling garment manufacturer. Mariangela Melato makes her American film debut as gangster Richard Kiel's gorgeous, sex-starved Italian wife.

William Friedkin's 1986 TV movie/series pilot C.A.T. Squad (NBC Tuesday at 9 p.m.) proves to be a pale carbon of "Miami Vice"--and its star Joseph Cortese is no Don Johnson. As the leader of the Counter Assault Tactical Squad, a special government force formed to combat terrorism, Cortese is intense, tough and dedicated, but he lacks the charisma and vulnerability Johnson uses to make his Sonny Crockett sympathetic.

There's much to admire in The Master Gunfighter (Channel 13 Friday at 8 p.m.), Tom (Billy Jack) Laughlin's handsome, imaginative though occasionally confusing adaptation of Hideo Gosha's "Goyokin," one of the the finest Japanese films of the '60s and one of the very few samurai movies to attack the feudal code. Laughlin has transposed "Goyokin's" plot virtually intact from 1831 Japan, a time when the country's military dictatorship was corrupt and crumbling, to 1836 California, a time when the Spanish land grant families were beginning to lose out to American settlers.

Laughlin's film tells of a master gunfighter (played by Laughlin himself) who feels compelled to leave his Spanish wife's family's vast ranch after his brother-in-law (Ron O'Neal), desperate for funds to pay exorbitant taxes, has led a slaughter of an entire village of Indian fishermen who had retrieved a fortune in gold from a ship that had sunk on its way to the old Spanish capital of Monterey. With these elements "The Master Gunfighter" takes a tragic view of history in which the Indian is crushed by the Spaniard who is in turn conquered by the American.

In his sleek and scary Wolfen (ABC Friday at 9 p.m.), director Michael Wadleigh keeps us mystified right up to a jolting finish. Albert Finney stars as a veteran Manhattan cop trying to solve a series of perplexing killings, which are so swiftly brutal nobody can figure out how they were done. The film's bravura special effects are so firmly held in check by a carefully established premise, succinct characterizations and much wry wit that Wolfen is able to evolve into an allegory on the perils of man's violence against nature.

Space, the ambitious and exciting five-part, 12-hour epic based on the James Michener novel about the development of the U.S. space program, returns in a four-part, nine-hour condensation starting Saturday at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Although slick and evasive, Getting Straight (Channel 9 Saturday at 8 p.m.) has been directed with great skill by Richard Rush and boasts quite persuasive performances by Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen. Gould is a Vietnam veteran, a seedy, idealistic graduate student who gets caught up in late '60s campus unrest and Bergen is his girl friend. Released in 1970, Getting Straight plays like a well-made Hollywood social comedy, and it evades confronting directly the issues causing all the turmoil it portrays--namely Vietnam.

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