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MOVIES OF THE WEEK

July 03, 1988|Kevin Thomas

House Calls (Channel 13 Sunday at 6 p.m.) is a quite enjoyable kind of live-action cartoon for grown-ups: farcical, mildly risque and quick-stepping in its broader-than-life way. As a widowed doctor, Walter Matthau is a joy to watch as he rages like a dyspeptic moose. Glenda Jackson is a woman of fierce independence and strong opinions with whom he collides.

Posse (Channel 13 Sunday at 8 p.m.) is a handsome, entertaining 1975 Western with a post-Watergate sensibility, produced and directed by Kirk Douglas. Douglas stars as a formidable Texas marshal running for the U.S. Senate but pursuing Bruce Dern, an elusive, cagey train robber who reveals Douglas for the unabashed political opportunist that he is.

Crash Course (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.), a TV movie set in a summer school driver education course that first aired in January, stars Harvey Korman.

Bates Motel (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) is yet another "Psycho" sequel, a 1987 TV movie in which Bud Cort stars as a misfit who re-enters society as manager of the notorious motel, which he has inherited from Norman Bates himself.

The 1981 Raggedy Man (Channel 7 Monday at 9 p.m.), which never quite jells, stars Sissy Spacek as a capable single mother, raising two boys and working as a telephone operator in a small Texas town during World War II. This tender slice of life isn't reconciled with its melodramatic, out-of-left-field finish. Even so, it's well worth a watch as a beautifully felt, well-acted period piece.

There's no denying the excitement and tension of Alan Parker's Midnight Express (Channel 5 Tuesday at 8 p.m.), but there's also no getting around the fact that this hugely successful 1978 film inspired by a young American's ordeal in a Turkish prison is highly exploitative and gratuitously xenophobic. Brad Davis plays a likable university student who tried to smuggle hashish out of Turkey but instead wound up with a 30-year sentence in a hellhole depicted with maximum vividness.

Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (Channel 11 Tuesday at 8 p.m.) zeroes in on one of those invisible individuals among us who are ticking time bombs. Robert De Niro is superb as a deeply disturbed ex-Marine who takes a job as a Manhattan cabbie and becomes progressively, silently enraged at all he witnesses. Written by Paul Schrader, this 1976 production is a major, richly stylized work flawed by a blood bath climax that tends to exploit what it ostensibly is protesting and by an overly enigmatic coda.

It's said that the late Christopher Isherwood, whose "Berlin Stories" was the ultimate source for Cabaret (Channel 5 Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.), was disappointed with the 1972 film because his alter-ego, played by Michael York, was depicted as bisexual instead of gay. But just about everyone else was thrilled with this Bob Fosse-directed landmark musical, which was such an improvement over the stage version and which featured Liza Minnelli's wanton, delectable Sally Bowles and Joel Grey's Oscar-winning decadent Berlin nightclub emcee.

The Hearst and Davies Affair (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.) is a blah 1985 TV movie version of one of the most intense and poignant love stories of the 20th Century, the 37-year-long romance of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (Robert Mitchum) and actress Marion Davies (Virginia Madsen).

Neil Simon's 1976 Murder by Death (Channel 11 Thursday at 8 p.m.) is an enjoyable, all-star spoof of the great detectives of fiction, who are invited by Truman Capote to his suitably grand and gloomy mansion.

You don't salute the 1980 Private Benjamin (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.), you court-martial it. Goldie Hawn plays a rich, dumb girl who joins the Army, where she sends shivers of rage through her superiors, played by Eileen Brennan and Robert Webber.

The seven thudding hours of the 1985 Kane & Abel start repeating on CBS Friday at 8 p.m.; it traces a big mogul rivalry to the death between an American blueblood (Sam Neill) and a Polish immigrant (Peter Strauss). Based on the Jeffrey Archer best seller, the three-part miniseries continues Saturday at 9 p.m.

Jean-Jacques Annaud's remarkable 1981 vision of prehistory unfolds in Quest for Fire (Channel 5 Saturday at 8 p.m.). This is one of those films that could be demolished by a single false note, yet it would seem that every iota of film magic has been used to free our imagination, to let it soar with the film to reveal what life may have been like 80,000 years ago. Rae Dawn Chong and Everett McGill star.

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