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MOVIES OF THE WEEK

July 31, 1988|Michael Wilmington

We've all seen "Fatal Attraction," so we know what director Adrian Lyne thinks of bad girls these days (Shoot 'em! Stab 'em! Drown 'em!). But, back in 1980, guided by producer David Puttnam on his first movie, Lyne was more tolerant. Foxes (Channel 5 Sunday at 6 p.m.) shows four hip, loose L.A. teens, including the young Jodie Foster, and their dismally hedonistic adventures in a cityscape aswirl with smoky lights, rock 'n' roll and joyless sex. An interesting movie, with a lively camera style; also shallow and strained.

In The Heavenly Kid (Channel 13 Sunday at 6 p.m.), a sort of Heavenly Fonzie tries to cool out an earthbound nerd--with dry-ice cliches that would have looked corny in a tent-show "Carousel."

A later Puttnam effort--and a more triumphant one--was The Killing Fields (NBC Sunday at 8 p.m.), a beautifully mounted re-creation of the last days of the Cambodian war and the bond between reporter Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston), and his interpreter Dith Pran (Haing Ngor), who was left behind when the Americans fled. Directed by Roland Joffe and written by Bruce Robinson, it's a potent, quitely passionate portrayal of the hell of warfare and the treasure of friendship.

The Great Escape (Channel 13 Sunday at 8 p.m., concluding at the same time Monday) is another true-life war drama: a mass escape from a World War II POW camp--followed by a dreadful roundup and aftermath. John Sturges' rousing film has a great cast (Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence), music by Elmer Bernstein, script by James Clavell and W. R. Burnett. As the enigmatic motorcyclist, McQueen gave probably his all-time top-chop performance.

In 1966, The Wild Angels (Channel 5 Monday at 8 p.m.), Roger Corman's saga of hot choppers, wild passions and wasted lives--inspired by the Venice Hell's Angels, who appear in the film (with Peter Fonda and Bruce Dern)--was regarded as amoral and disgraceful exploitation. But, along with the cycle cycle, it helped foster an American New Wave of sorts: "Easy Rider," "The Last Picture Show," Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, New World Pictures, etc., etc. Ah, hindsight!

To the gently pulsing beat of "Peggy Sue" and "That'll Be the Day," The Buddy Holly Story (Channel 13 Tuesday at 8 p.m.) pays tribute to the crown prince of Southern rockabilly, one of rock's most influential musicians and composers. In it, Holly lives again, largely through an uncommonly brilliant lead performance by Gary Busey.

William Friedkin's 1985 To Live and Die in L.A. (Channel 5 Wednesday at 8 p.m.) tries to recapture the spirit of his 1971 cop classic, "The French Connection." It's another true-life police drama, set among L.A. counterfeiters, with another high-speed car chase--wrong way on a freeway--to challenge its famous predecessor: Popeye's furious under-the-El charge. It's grim, bleak, harrowing--very underrated.

A movie that deserved a kinder reception in 1985 is Ivan Passer's Creator (Channel 5 Thursday at 8 p.m. and again Saturday at 6 p.m.), a gentle tale about life, death and the love that surpasses both, with Peter O'Toole, Mariel Hemingway and Virginia Madsen. It has its sappy moments--but, at the time, it has a rare, decent-hearted, idealistic romance.

A movie that deserved everything it got was Moment by Moment (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.) in which those gifted comic artists Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner persuaded themselves to fashion a "serious" romance with Lily in the grips of Malibu malaise and John Travolta as a beachside sex object named Strip. "Strip! Strip!" Lily keeps plaintively calling. (Ay! Ay!)

Arthur Penn's 1971 Little Big Man (Channel 11 Saturday at 2 p.m.)--with Dustin Hoffman and Chief Dan George--is a great, picaresque Western adapted by Calder Willingham from Thomas Berger's novel about the lone survivor of the little Big Horn massacre: a savage, heart-tearing tale of life among the Indians (or "the human beings") and life among the whites, and of a majestic civilization and its slaughter and slow decay.

10 (Channel 13 Saturday at 4 p.m.), a modern comedy classic, offers writer-director Blake Edwards and stars Dudley Moore and Julie Andrews on sexual fantasy vs. sexual reality past the dangerous age of 40 as well as a Bo Derek primer on the various background uses of Ravel's "Bolero."

The 1979 Dracula (Channel 13 Saturday at 10 p.m.) is John Badham's plush, competent but cold retelling of Bram Stoker's Transylvanian chomper--via the 1931 Tod Browning-Bela Lugosi film and the Edward Gorey-designed Broadway play--with Frank Langella as the toothsome matinee vampire of your dreams.

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