Sure, John Ford's 1939 Western "Stagecoach" is a better film than the remake CBS is broadcasting Sunday at 9 p.m. (Channels 2 and 8). But could John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, Andy Devine and John Carradine sing?
The passengers aboard this third version (there was another remake in 1966) sure can: Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, John Schneider and Anthony Newley. With that roster, this may be the most euphonious stagecoach ever to roll across the West.
Unfortunately, they don't do any singing in the movie. All they do is act. It's not the same.
The story, about a stage carrying a diverse group of people through dangerous Apache territory in the Arizona desert, remains intriguing, and adapter James Lee Barrett has infused the script with ample doses of humor. He's also made a few adjustments to reflect contemporary attitudes, such as a sympathetic explanation of why the Indians are on the warpath.
While the film doesn't do justice to the original, neither does it do any harm. Director Ted Post moves the plot along at a brisk pace, but there's only so much he can do with what is clearly a country-music star vehicle. (Nelson is credited as one of the executive producers, and the cast includes June Carter Cash, Jesse Colter and David Allan Coe.)
If only they would have come up with one campfire scene so everyone could have broken out his guitar. . . .
Even less satisfying is "Brotherhood of Justice," the competition on ABC Sunday at 9 p.m. (Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42). The TV movie turns a spotlight on the recent phenomenon of teen-age vigilantism (see related story, Page 1), but doesn't succeed in illuminating it.
Written by Noah Jubelirer and Jeffrey Bloom, and directed by Charles Braverman, the film chronicles how a group of middle-class high school boys organize a secret club to combat drugs and vandalism on campus, and how their initial good intentions become corrupted by their growing sense of power and notoriety.
What's missing is any real understanding of the phenomenon: not so much how it could get started--there are references to Rambo and Chuck Norris--but why it would be able to continue and even grow. The Brotherhood members are portrayed as operating in a moral and legal vacuum: though one girlfriend does dismiss their actions as dumb, none of them are seen interacting with a parent, teacher or other authority figure, and the police are unable to get a lead on their identities, even though a good number of students figure it out.
The leader of the Brotherhood (played by Keanu Reeves) eventually begins to doubt the wisdom of the gang's efforts, but inasmuch as this concern weighs less heavily on him than the distress of losing his girlfriend, it hardly makes for compelling viewing.
Here are other weekend programs:
TODAY: Alan Alda's new movie, "Sweet Liberty," is due to be reviewed on both "At the Movies," 5:30 p.m. (7), and "Sneak Previews," 10:30 p.m. (28). . . .
Joan Van Ark, Dean Martin, Loni Anderson and Red Buttons are among the guests on a new ABC special, "Dom DeLuise and Friends," 9 p.m. (7)(3)(10)(42).
"Liza in London," a new musical special featuring Liza Minnelli, debuts at 10 p.m. on the HBO cable service.
SUNDAY: Ella Fitzgerald will be profiled on "Sunday Morning," 8 a.m. (2)(8). . . .
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres will be interviewed on "Face the Nation," 9:30 a.m. (2)(8). . . .
"Meet the Press" explores the issue of teacher qualifications with Secretary of Education William Bennett; Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee; Mary Futrell, president of the National Education Assn.; and Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, 9:30 a.m. (36)(39), 11:30 a.m. (4). . . .
U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), who is seeking reelection, visits "Channel 4 News Conference," 10:30 a.m. (4). . . .
"This Week With David Brinkley" is scheduled at 11 a.m. (7)(3)(10)(42). . . .
"The McLaughlin Group" debates current affairs at 11 a.m. (4) and 4:30 p.m. (50). . . .
Sanford McDonnell, chairman of McDonnell-Douglas, visits "Newsmakers" to discuss problems in the space industry and ethnics in the workplace, 3:30 p.m. (2). . . .
Monroe Richman and Harold Garvin, president and vice president, respectively, of the board of trustees of the Los Angeles Community Colleges, talk about the future of community colleges on "At Issue," 4 p.m. (2). . . .
A four-hour telethon to raise money for the fight against leukemia begins at 4 p.m. on Spanish-language KMEX Channel 34, with Julio Iglesias, Angelica Maria and Vikki Carr among the entertainers scheduled to appear. . . .
"60 Minutes" reports on an anti-apartheid boycott in South Africa, investigates a child-custody case involving charges of sexual abuse, and profiles an attorney who is suing his wife, a judge, over some of her rulings, 7 p.m. (2)(8). . . .
"The Disney Sunday Movie" features two hourlong dramas: "Fuzzbucket," about an invisible creature from another planet, 7 p.m., and "The Deacon Street Deer," about a boy who rescues a fawn, 8 p.m. (7)(3)(10)(42). . . .
"On Wings of Eagles," a five-hour miniseries based on the real-life rescue of two Americans held hostage in Iran in 1979, begins at 8 p.m. (4)(36)(39). The second installment airs Monday at 9 p.m. (The production will be reviewed in Sunday's edition of Television Times.). . . .
Job openings in the fields of data processing, bank management and sales are discussed on "Meet Your Next Employer," 10 p.m. (9). . . .
Archbishop Roger M. Mahony visits "School Beat" to talk about parochial schools, 10:30 p.m. (9).