For Your Eyes Only (ABC Sunday at 8 p.m.) turns out to be one of the best of the James Bond adventures, fast and classy and crammed with a stunt man's manual of the most preposterous and dazzling trickery. The frail but serviceable plot, mainly there to keep the astonishing stunt pieces from crashing into each other, has something to do with raising a sunken British spy ship from its watery tomb off Albania, and a parallel revenge plot on the part of Bondswoman Carole Bouquet for the death of her father. Roger Moore has never been more at ease as 007--and he actually turns down a giddy 18-year-old figure skater (Lynn-Holly Johnson) on the theory she is too young. (This must be a first.) Airing opposite on CBS Sunday at 8 p.m. is the first installment of the miniseries Robert Kennedy and His Times, starring Brad Davis as Kennedy (illustrated on cover; see Show of the Week).
Irwin Allen's "When Time Ran Out" turns up on the tube as Earth's Final Fury (NBC Monday at 8 p.m.), but it would take more than a name change to liven up this surprisingly subdued variation on "The Towering Inferno." Instead of trapping people in a burning skyscraper, Allen has them trying to flee from a posh island resort that's in the path of a rampaging volcano. Caught up in a soap-opera plot are stalwart oil wildcatter Paul Newman, much-married hotel magnate William Holden and Jacqueline Bisset, Holden's PR lady, who turns down her boss' proposal of marriage to rekindle the flames with Newman. But as the NBC press handout puts it, "The amorous entanglement is suddenly diminished when the trio is faced with peril." When that lava starts to roll, you better believe it! Veronica Hamel, Ernest Borgnine, James Franciscus, Burgess Meredith, Edward Albert and Alex Karras are among others menaced.
Our awareness that World War II was the last "simple" war, with good and evil so clearly defined, adds to the solid pleasure of Eye of the Needle (Channel 5 Tuesday at 8 p.m.), Stanley Mann's adaptation of Ken Follett's novel directed by Richard Marquand. It even has a pure 1940s score by Miklos Rozsa, crashing in exactly the way movie scores did at that time. Best of all, there are two sterling performances, by Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan, and a raft of staunch supporting players. Sutherland is Der Nadel (The Needle), a spectacularly resourceful and heartless Nazi spy, set deep in Britain for years. His assignment is now to discover where the Allied invasion force will land. When he finally crosses paths with Nelligan and her crippled husband (Christopher Cazenove) on a remote island on the northernmost part of Scotland, the suspense--and the passion--just build and build.
Alan Alda's The Four Seasons (CBS Wednesday at 9 p.m.) means well in its humorously wry and affectionate study of what happens to three couples, all old friends, in the course of one year, but is overly explicit and doggedly glib. The mantle of The Decent Man has dropped on the admirable Alda and threatens to smother him. We're left feeling that all these people have shared over the years are snappy one-liners and mountains of food. Anyway, the couples are Alda himself and Carol Burnett, Len Cariou and Sandy Dennis, and Jack Weston and Rita Moreno. Amid all these banal truth-speakers there is, however, a seventh person, played by Bess Armstrong, who's on the button when she calls them all demanding and unforgiving.
Starcrossed (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.), a new TV movie, sounds mighty like the current theatrical release, "Starman"--only here it's the woman, rather than the man, who's the extraterrestrial. Belinda Bauer is fleeing from a pair of relentless killers when she turns to James Spader for protection, and after that, it's love on the run.
The impact of the Vietnam War on American lives is the great theme of Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (airing in two parts, Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. on Channel 13). Cimino and his writers do it justice, centering on several young men (Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage and the late John Cazale) from a bleak Pennsylvania steel town. What lingers in the memory about this remarkable film is not so much the brutal experiences the friends experience in Vietnam but how ethnic working-class people struggle to square away their love for their country with its role in Southeast Asia. The Deer Hunter ends ambiguously, over a funeral breakfast, with the survivors finding themselves singing "God Bless America."
Quest for Fire (Channel 5 Saturday at 8 p.m.) is an incredible feat of the imagination, an envisioning of what life may have been like 80,000 years ago. It's one of those films that simply cannot afford so much as a single false note that would send it crashing into Raquel Welch-"One Million Years B.C." camp. But director Jean-Jacques Annaud never trips up, and the result is so convincing, so effective in transporting us to a distant time and place, that we finally don't care how accurate Annaud really is (although the research credits for the film are impressive). In this superb epic adventure, Everett McGill, Ron Perlman and Nameer El-Kadi are fellow tribesmen who must get fire for their tribe or watch them die in sodden misery. Most memorably, the sweet, mud-painted, elegantly zebra-striped Rae Dawn Chong is a member of the most highly evolved of the film's tribes.
Also notable this week: The Longest Day (in two parts, Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. on Channel 5), the lively Howard Hawks cult film Hatari! (Channel 13 Saturday at 6 p.m.) and the fine 1947 Nicholas Nickleby (Channel 28 Saturday at 10 p.m.).
On the pay/cable services: A Little Romance (Cinemax Sunday at 6 p.m.), The Milky Way (Z Monday at 7 p.m.), The Bridge on the River Kwai (at 8 p.m. on Showtime and on HBO, Monday and Wednesday, respectively), Unman, Wittering and Zigo (Z Monday at 9 p.m.), The Executioner's Song (Movie Channel Wednesday at 10 p.m.), Educating Rita (Cinemax Friday at 8 p.m.), Yentl (Showtime Friday at 8 p.m., Z at 9 p.m.; Z Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Cinemax at 8 p.m.), My Bodyguard (Cinemax Saturday at 6:30 p.m.) and The Westerner (Movie Channel Saturday at 7 p.m.).
Opinions in this column are based on the original-release version of the films. Checks for the logs are based on Leonard Maltin's "TV Movies" book and other sources. Pay TV movies without checks have not been reviewed by The Times.