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MOVIES OF THE WEEK

August 16, 1987|Michael Wilmington

Did you ever get the feeling that all the movies you're watching are ones you've seen before? Oxford Blues (Channel 5 Sunday at 6 p.m.) is a remake of the 1938 "A Yank at Oxford." That film, about a brash American airman civilized by British charmers in the groves of academe, wasn't all that good, but it had Robert Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Lionel Barrymore and Maureen O'Sullivan in the leads. The remake offers Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy; this works about as well as you'd expect it to.

Director Neal Israel, who wrote about madcap, screwball police cadet scamps in "Police Academy," comes up with madcap, screwball military academy scamps in Combat High (NBC Sunday at 8 p.m.).

In Lace (ABC Sunday at 8 p.m.), a vindictive, vengeful sex goddess (Phoebe Cates) behaves horribly in glamorous settings while glamorous people look on, aghast. Malice in Wonderland (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.) has Elizabeth Taylor impersonating Louella Parsons and Jane Alexander as Hedda Hopper. Somewhat more reasonably, Change of Habit (Channel 9 Sunday at 8 p.m.) presents Elvis Presley as a doctor enamored of a winsome, leggy nun (Mary Tyler Moore.)

Before he became the king of high school, John Hughes stabbed at swashbuckling in his script for Nate and Hayes (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) In it, a friendly pirate (Tommy Lee Jones) helps a fiance free his sweetie from a nastier buccaneer. (What about a new style Hughes follow-up, called "The Pretty-in-Pink Pirate"?)

When " 'Crocodile' Dundee" became Australia's home-produced box-office champ, it dethroned The Man From Snowy River (NBC Tuesday at 9 p.m.), a vigorous "Western" about rites of manhood in a vast cattle empire. The film was directed by George Miller . . . but not George ("Road Warrior") Miller, or even his real-life twin. Instead, it's another George Miller--and to make matters more confusing, "Snowy River" star Kirk Douglas plays a dual role. You'll probably like it anyway.

John Milius' Dillinger (Channel 5 Wednesday at 8 p.m.) has Warren Oates as the celebrated bank man, and it replaces the wit and lyricism of its predecessor, "Bonnie and Clyde," with macho sentimentality and even more staggering violence. Milius' European admirers often consider this his best film; I'd opt for "Big Wednesday."

Freed at last from his convent pursuits, Elvis Presley cuts loose in Denis Sanders' documentary Elvis: That's the Way It Is (Channel 28 Wednesday at 10:10 p.m.). Not exactly at his best--this is the Elvis of the Las Vegas showroom, sash and glitter period--but far from his worst, the movie shows full-throated, hip-shaking rehearsals and performances where the rooms cook, sweat flies and blue suede shoes keep peeking through the Gucci pants.

In Bonnie and Clyde (Channel 5 Thursday at 8 p.m.), director Arthur Penn--from a script by Robert Benton and David Newman--beautifully re-creates a Depression-era Midwestern world of abandoned farms, drowsy sun-baked towns, crackling cornstalks, FDR posters, Coke machines and people with Walker Evans faces . . . and then blows it all to hell in escalating crescendoes of violence. The movie, with Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard and Gene Wilder, is an American classic: poetically bloody, madly comic, infernally beautiful.

The Swarm (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.), in which Michael Caine battles enraged insects, is better left to the exterminators. But Local Hero (CBS Thursday at 9 p.m.) is another modern classic--albeit a gentler, more wistful one, with a burr to its lyricism and cloud shadow, rocky ground and the sound of ocean waves in its music (along with Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler). Scottish writer-director Bill Forsyth gives us one of those eccentric little villages British film makers delight in: an oil-rich coastline invaded by a supposedly Scottish-descended American and his curiously dreamy tycoon boss (Burt Lancaster). Rabbits, mermaids and other sprites interfere--and the film puts you in a state of dreamily bucolic bliss.

An early film by Stephen ("My Beautiful Laundrette") Frears comes later Thursday: the 1972 Gumshoe (Channel 28 at 11:30 p.m.), with Albert Finney as a man whose film noir, Bogartish fantasies take over his life.

Friday offers Peter Falk, impressive as Abe Riles in Murder, Inc. (Channel 5 at 8 p.m.); Rancho Deluxe (Channel 13 at 8 p.m.), a contemporary Western with an original screenplay by novelist Thomas McGuane; and Henry King's rather stately version of Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (Channel 11 at 9 p.m.).

Saturday counters with Falk and the mild Bogart parody of the Neil Simon-scripted The Cheap Detective (ABC at 9 p.m.); and unusually sleepy World War II exploits in The Mountain Road (Channel 13 at 8 p.m.). More interesting is The Compleat Beatles (Channel 28 at 7:30 p.m.), a documentary on Liverpool's John, Paul, George and Ringo. Maddeningly, the film chops up most of their songs into video bits and snippets--but, as narrated by Malcolm McDowell, it presents a nostalgic evocation of great music, vanished times.

Selected evening cable fare: Sanjuro (Z Monday at 7); Loves of a Blonde (Z Wednesday at 7); Ran (Cinemax Wednesday at 10); The Firemen's Ball (A&E Thursday at 6 & 10); The Lady From Shanghai (Cinemax Thursday at 7:30); Rashomon (Bravo Thursday at 8); The Third Man (Bravo Friday at 8); Fanny and Alexander (Bravo Saturday at 10:30).

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