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MOVIES OF THE WEEK

September 25, 1988|Kevin Thomas

Planet of the Apes (Channel 5 Monday at 8 p.m.), an odyssey of much imagination and style, stars Charlton Heston as an astronaut who lands 2,000 years into the future in a country ruled by apes who speak, read and write--and who regard man as the lowest form of life. At once a parable and an adventure, it has an ending that's a stunner. This 1968 Arthur P. Jacobs production spawned four ingenious and largely effective sequels, which will screen through Friday at 8 p.m. on Channel 5.

After the Promise (CBS Monday at 9 p.m.) is a so-so 1987 TV movie, inspired by an actual incident, in which Mark Harmon stars as a Depression-era father who loses his four sons to the welfare department after his wife dies, which commences for the boys a series of harrowing experiences.

The Red-Light Sting (Channel 7 Monday at 9 p.m.) is another routine TV movie, made in 1984, in which Farrah Fawcett plays a prostitute recruited by the government to help nab a top crime figure.

Written by Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans from an atypical Stephen King novella and wonderfully well-directed by Rob Reiner, the 1986 Stand by Me (ABC Tuesday at 9 p.m.) is one of the key American films of the decade. With the greatest clarity it views a pivotal trek made by four buddies (River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell), about to enter junior high. The film is told in the form of a memoir, recalled by writer Richard Dreyfuss, as he looks back on the events of that crucial summer of 1959. (He plays Wheaton's character, 27 years later.)

Unfortunately, Mayflower Madam (CBS Tuesday at 9 p.m.), a 1987 TV movie, watered down the upper crust Sydney Biddle Barrows' fascinating and thought-provoking memoir of her experiences as the proprietor of a deluxe Manhattan call-girl service. Even so, Candice Bergen was well-cast as the unrepentant Barrows.

Despite its awkward construction, Night Shift (ABC Wednesday at 9 p.m.) is still pretty funny. Michael Keaton made a scene-stealing debut in this 1982 comedy as a new employee at the New York City morgue who finagles his very proper partner (Henry Winkler) into operating a call-girl ring. As hilarious as Keaton is, just how amusing you find Night Shift may depend on whether you can see humor in organized prostitution.

Embedded in the incessant carnage of Magnum Force (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.) is a terrifying possibility: that policemen, feeling hamstrung by the law and facing an ever-increasing onslaught of violence and corruption, will turn vigilante and take the law into their own hands. Unfortunately this first (1973) bloody sequel to "Dirty Harry" is too preoccupied in celebrating violence to keep its serious premise in focus. Clint Eastwood stars.

The old science versus religion debate that is at the heart of the tedious and contrived Agnes of God (CBS Thursday at 9 p.m.) commences as soon as a court-appointed psychiatrist (Jane Fonda), who is to determine whether Sister Agnes (Meg Tilly) is fit to stand trial for manslaughter of her baby, meets the convent's mother superior (Anne Bancroft), who proves to be as strong-willed and presumptuous as Fonda. Unfortunately, their protracted debate does not grow out of the characters of these two women. Rather, they are merely exemplifying different points of view to further the argument. Alas, Norman Jewison's direction is always tasteful but relentlessly neutral in the face of material that demands commitment.

Stylish thrillers are so rare in TV-movie land that the 1987 Long Journey Home (CBS Friday at 9 p.m.) is especially noteworthy. It stars real-life marrieds Meredith Baxter Birney and David Birney in a suspenseful situation involving a wealthy San Francisco investment banker who's about to have her missing-in-action husband declared legally dead so she can remarry when guess-who pops up out of the dark, in a genuinely jolting moment.

In these times a satiric comedy about international arms deals better be pretty funny. Unfortunately, the 1983 Deal of the Century (CBS Saturday at 9 p.m.), starring Chevy Chase as a gonzo international weapons dealer, is a full-scale disaster, working neither as satire nor comedy.

Robin Williams stars in the frenetically unfunny and charmless 1986 Club Paradise (ABC Saturday at 9 p.m.) as a disability-pensioned Chicago fireman who takes over a dilapidated Caribbean island resort.

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