Walter Hill's compelling Southern Comfort (Channel 9 Sunday at 6 p.m.) finds nine Louisiana National Guardsmen stumbling foolishly into a lethal confrontation with Cajuns in their treacherous bayou country. It's a tense stunner, inviting fear and fright rather than empathy, so nasty are most of the guardsmen (two of whom are played by Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe).
Moonlighting, a new romantic comedy series starring Cybill Shepherd as a famous model and newcomer Bruce Willis as a private eye, debuts as a two-hour movie on ABC Sunday at 9 p.m. Also airing at 9, on NBC, is Secret Weapons, another new TV movie in which Linda Hamilton stars as a young Russian woman trained by the KGB's Sally Kellerman and James Franciscus to seduce and blackmail American officials and industrialists.
Until it overreaches in its final minutes, Clint Eastwood's The Gauntlet (ABC Monday at 9 p.m.) succeeds in making the fantastic credible. Eastwood is a rootless, seedy Phoenix cop with an overfondness for Jack Daniels who's been ordered to go to Las Vegas to extradite terrified hooker Sondra Locke to be a trial witness but The Mob doesn't want her to make it. This 1977 film is high-style, non-stop action all the way.
In the new TV movie Romance on the Orient Express (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) Cheryl Ladd (on the cover) stars as a magazine editor who meets an old beau while traveling to Paris.
Airing at 8 p.m. Tuesday are a pair of exceptional films, Julia (Channel 5), starring Jane Fonda as Lillian Hellman and Vanessa Redgrave in the title role, and Midnight Cowboy (Channel 13) with Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. Michael Ontkean and Jo-Beth Williams star in Kids Don't Tell (CBS Tuesday at 9 p.m.), a new TV-movie about the sexual abuse of children.
In Arthur Hiller's sketchy, uneven Author! Author! (CBS Wednesday at 9 p.m.) Al Pacino is a successful playwright besieged by an extravagantly conscienceless and dippy wife (Tuesday Weld, who goes as far as imaginable in making this uncaring woman likable), a nervous Hollywood star (Dyan Cannon) making her stage debut in his shaky play, and a raft of children from various marriages. Playwright Israel Horovitz draws his characters well but their story feels as if it had been written the night before on the inside of a matchbook cover.
Hell Town (NBC Wednesday at 9 p.m.) is a new TV movie starring Robert Blake as an ex-con turned ghetto priest. Airing earlier at 8 p.m. on Channel 5 is Herbert Ross' The Turning Point, with Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft, one of the most entertaining films of recent years.
Something happened in Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's reworking of the hilarious French farce "A Pain the A--," with Lino Ventura and the late Jacques Brel, as Buddy, Buddy (ABC Thursday at 8 p.m.), with professional assassin Walter Matthau driven nuts when calamitous, suicidal loser Jack Lemmon checks into the hotel room next to Matthau's. While it's always a pleasure to watch Matthau and Lemmon play off each other under Wilder's direction, this 1981 film isn't all that funny. Mildly amusing is more like it.
Stand by Your Man, the so-so 1981 TV movie biography of country-and-Western singer Tammy Wynette, returns Friday on Channel 5 at 8 p.m. while at the same hour John Huston's underrated The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, which stars Paul Newman as the frontier hanging judge and has an imaginative revisionist script by John Milius, airs on Channel 13.
On Saturday the fine Vietnam War film Coming Home, with Jane Fonda, Jon Voight and Bruce Dern, airs at 6 p.m. on Channel 13 while the classic Metro musical On the Town returns at 9 p.m. on Channel 28.
Some selected evening fare on the pay/cable services: Rear Window (Z Sunday at 7, Thursday at 9), Lifeboat (WGN Sunday at 9:30), Monterey Pop (Z Monday at 9, Thursday at 7), Videodrome (ON-TV Monday at 9:30, Movie Channel Thursday at 10), Experience Preferred but Not Essential (SelecTV Tuesday at 7), Day for Night (Movie Channel Tuesday at 10), Agatha (Cinemax Wednesday at 10), The Hireling (WTBS Wednesday at 10:30), Easy Rider (Cinemax Thursday at 8), and Rain (the Joan Crawford version) (A&E; Saturday at 7).
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.