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Movie Spotlight

June 28, 1998|Kevin Thomas

Since its 1987 release, writer-director Bruce Robinson's Withnail & I (BRAVO Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) has become a cult classic, as deliciously witty and sophisticated it is outrageously funny. Richard E. Grant's Withnail and Paul McGann's Marwood are a couple of hard-living, barely surviving young London actors who decide that what they need is to "get into the countryside and rejuvenate." Arriving at Withnail's landed uncle's country cottage, they find there's no heat, no food and no electricity. For all the laughter it generates in its confrontations between city and country folk and their ways, "Withnail and I" has a decidedly dark and subtle undertow. One hilarious incident after another may keep the semi-autobiographical film perking along, but it is at the same time a '60s joy ride about to tailspin into the sobering '70s.

There are misfires but also some funny stuff and a refreshing taste of self-mockery in Keenen Ivory Wayans' I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (KTLA Thursday at 8:30 p.m.), a 1988 satire of the early '70s blaxploitation action movies, with their natty, super-masculine heroes, flamboyant pimps and drug czars.

While easy to absorb, Diane Keaton's 1995 Unstrung Heroes (KABC Saturday at 9 p.m.) is surprisingly rich in the feelings it conveys. Steven (Nathan Watt), 12, is on the verge of discovering how difficult finding ones way through life can be and how much help he can get from an unlooked-for source, his two fiercely eccentric uncles (Michael Richards, Maury Chaykin).

One of the most indelible images in the history of the movies is the giant gorilla scaling the Empire State Building while clutching Fay Wray in his immense fist at the climax of King Kong (TCM Friday at 9 p.m.; and KCET Saturday at 9 p.m.),and to see the 1933 film today is to realize how much fun the getting there really is. King Kong is the screen's ultimate beauty-and-the-beast fable, and it endures through the power of an innocence that has all but vanished from the screen, and from our lives as well. The Kong--Wray relationship seethes with an implicit sexuality that seems free from calculation. There is no question that King Kong continues to disturb us on a level that resists articulation but invites all manner of interpretation, including the comforting notion in the depths of the Depression that the forces of a modern technological society will eventually prevail.

Wray plays an unemployed New Yorker who faints into the arms of Robert Armstrong, a maker of jungle adventure films whose work has been criticized for its lack of "love interest." In a flash, Wray is off to the East Indies, where Armstrong's expedition discovers an uncharted, mysteriously walled-off island.

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