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Tv Movie Review : 'Proud Men' Due On Abc

October 01, 1987|DON SHIRLEY

Charlton Heston and Peter Strauss would be ideal casting for any film called "Proud Men." But the surprise is that tonight's ABC movie (Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42 at 9) is a sterling piece of work, despite that awful title.

"Proud Men" reminds us why Heston and Strauss became stars in the first place. It is also an affecting examination of the gulf between father and son and an indirect plea for post-Vietnam reconciliation.

In its themes, it's reminiscent of another rock-solid ABC movie, "Amber Waves," and it's almost as good in its execution.

Heston plays a dying rancher; Strauss is the son who hasn't seen him in 15 years. The son deserted his unit while on R&R during the Vietnam War. He fled to Paris and became a photographer, a husband and father. But when Mom (Nan Martin) calls with the news of his father's terminal condition, Strauss flies home to pay his respects.

The two can hardly exchange a civil word. The father isn't the sort of fella who talks much, and the son regards talking to the old man as a futile endeavor. Writer Jeff Andrus has therefore removed most of the opportunities for iron-jawed emoting. Considering the actors, this is a blessing.

Instead, we read their faces--and Heston and Strauss have classic faces--as we watch father and son in action. By taming a wild bronco, Strauss proves he's no quitter. By warming up to the grandson he had never met, Heston proves he's human. Finally, when some of the townsfolk set out to show the deserter a thing or two, Heston is forced to reclaim his fatherhood.

The words that are spoken--such as when Strauss explains why he deserted--are tight and piercing. So are the performances, including that of the always remarkable Martin as the bridge between the men.

Director William Graham gives "Proud Men" stately rhythms and majestic long shots.

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