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MOVIES OF THE WEEK

July 24, 1988|Michael Wilmington

The last night of summer, 1962. Four ex-high school buddies, unknowingly witnessing the end of an era, cruise the streets, their various adventures and romances underscored by the frantic voice of deejay Wolfman Jack and the music of Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys. In George Lucas' ingeniously structured American Graffiti (Channel 13 Sunday at 1 p.m.), we get the romance of rock 'n' roll, and the sweet, painful humor of nostalgia. The cast evokes a special reverie all its own: Richard Dreyfuss as the brains, Paul Le Mat as the brawn, Ron Howard as the straight arrow and Charles Martin Smith as the wise guy--plus Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford, Candy Clark and a mob of others.

In Body Heat (Channel 13 Sunday at 3 p.m.), Lawrence Kasdan's superheated update of "Double Indemnity," doomed lovers William Hurt and Kathleen Turner make love, kill and double-cross, while, all around them, restaurants explode, buildings burn, and the Florida sun beats down mercilessly. It's very clever, very calculating, worked out to the last inch: a derivative show but a good one.

John Boorman's spellbinding Excalibur (Channel 13 Sunday at 6 p.m.), is a visually magnificent rendering of the Arthurian legend--with Nicol Williamson, Nigel Terry and Helen Mirren. Along with the austere Robert Bresson film, "Lancelot du Lac," this is the best of innumerable cinematic versions of this tale.

In The Deliberate Stranger (NBC at 9 p.m., both Sunday and Monday), affable hunk Mark Harmon plays serial-murderer Ted Bundy. In what almost sounds like a darker version of "The Brady Bunch," stepsister and stepbrother fall in love in the amalgamated families of Sin of Innocence (CBS Sunday at 9 p.m.).

Elia Kazan's defiant new autobiography has people recalling the blacklist years. One of Kazan's ex-friends, blacklisted director Martin Ritt--along with blacklisted writer Walter Bernstein and blacklisted actors Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi and Lloyd Gough--present their view in The Front (Channel 11 Monday at 8 p.m.), a 1976 serio-comic saga of innocence corrupted, with Woody Allen, in a rare dramatic role, as the talentless writer who fronts for his unemployable friends.

On Tuesday: Fans of seductive Morgan Fairchild and pert Phoebe Cates may pant at the opportunity to see them in, respectively, the sex-and-slash thriller, The Seduction (Channel 5 at 8 p.m.) and the nude-in-school comedy Private School (Channel 13 at 8 p.m.). Out of deference to these women, the rest of us should avert our eyes. Tom Selleck fans may be chary of Lassiter (CBS at 9 p.m.), a World War II thriller that proves Selleck was better at baby-sitting than burglary.

In Richard Brooks' Lord Jim (Channel 28 Wednesday at 9 p.m.) Joseph Conrad's great novel of cowardice and redemption--of disgraced British seaman, Tuan Jim, his exile to exotic Patusan, and the peculiar vise of tragedy that twice catches him--is adapted with lavishness and care, if diminished subtlety and texture. The cast includes Peter O'Toole as Jim and Jack Hawkins, Akim Tamiroff, Eli Wallach and James Mason (brilliant as Gentleman Brown).

Also on Wednesday: the taut, tense Taps (Channel 5 at 8 p.m.), in which Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise are part of a military school revolt against George C. Scott. Secret Admirer (Channel 13 at 8 p.m.) is one more strained farce out of teen-sex-comedy land, with C. Thomas Howell and others scampering around after an elusive love letter. The movie's admirers are probably mostly secret ones.

Frank Pierson's 1978 King of the Gypsies (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.) brings some Stephane Grappelli-tinged atmosphere--plus Eric Roberts and a fine cast--to this adaptation of Peter Maas' portrait of New York gypsy life.

Is there anyone who doesn't know the classic Jerome Robbins-Leonard Bernstein-Arthur Laurents-Stephen Sondheim musical West Side Story (Channel 13 Saturday at 8 p.m.)--a modern "Romeo and Juliet" set in the world of New York street gangs--or its now equally classic Robbins-Robert Wise 1961 screen version, which boasts, among other things, what may be the best main title credits (by Saul Bass) ever devised for a Hollywood movie? Probably not--but here's a bit of trivia you may have missed: Busby Berkeley thought "West Side Story" was the greatest movie he ever saw. Recommendation enough?

Fans of seductive Burt Reynolds can catch him in Sam Whiskey (Channel 13 Saturday at 11 p.m.), a 1969 heist Western in which nobody seems to be drinking quite enough of it. (The sequel, "Whiskey: One Man's Seduction," never made it past the drinking boards.) If Burt had a choice, we bet he'd opt for "Deliverance."

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