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Movie Spotlight

October 25, 1998|Kevin Thomas

The problem with Casper (ABC Sunday at 7 p.m.) has always been his goodness, which so easily devolves into sappiness, and here the Friendly One is upstaged from the start by his three goofball uncles, Stinkie, Stretch and Fatso. This trio rules the roost at Maine's Whipstaff Manor, a dilapidated spread bequeathed to a shortchanged heiress (Cathy Moriarty) who wants the place de-ghosted so she and her weak-kneed assistant (Eric Idle) can root around for the buried treasure rumored within. She hires a "ghost therapist" (Bill Pullman), who arrives with his skeptical daughter (Christina Ricci) in tow.

No wonder Paul Robeson deplored how the 1935 Sanders of the River (AMC early Thursday at 1 a.m.) turned out. Produced by Alexander Korda and directed by his brother Zoltan, it's one of those epic celebrations of the glory of the British Empire as it was heading toward its last gasp. Dedicated to the "unsung saga of the everyday courage and efficiency of colonial civil servants," it stars Leslie Banks as a government commissioner in Africa, a noble-minded upholder of the white man's burden, who clearly regards the natives as children in need of his wise, firm paternal guidance. Robeson plays a heroic chief, loyal to the crown, of course, menaced by a warrior chief.

Star Wars (KTLA Friday at 7:30 p.m.) is the 1977 movie that changed the face of Hollywood. It's George Lucas' archetypal space opera, with orphaned pure-of-heart hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) rescuing the princess in the Death Star with the aid of scruffy space rover Han Solo (Harrison Ford). It has moments that suggest "The Searchers" or Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress."

Smart, funny, touching and sensual, Dirty Dancing (KCOP Friday at 7 p.m.) is the phenomenally popular 1987 musical/love story set in the Catskills in the early '60s and starring Partick Swayze as a sexy vacation resort dancer and Jennifer Grey as the bright student beguiled by him on the dance floor-and off.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (KCET Saturday at 9 p.m.)--this is the original, terrifying 1956 science-fiction classic directed by the late Don Siegel. Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter star in this chilling story, a McCarthy Era allegory in which everyone starts turning into pods.

Night of the Living Dead (KCET Saturday at 10:20 p.m.), George Romero's Z-budget 1968 horror classic about a lot of radiation-drenched zombie cannibal corpses plaguing the countryside around Pittsburgh, and their bickering, terrorized victims, pinned down in an isolated farmhouse. This is the ultimate "They're coming to get you" movie, and if you think it can't possibly scare you, you're probably wrong.

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