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Sydney Pollack’s Absence of Malice (ABC Sunday...

Sydney Pollack’s Absence of Malice (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.) offers an astringent look at the state of journalistic practices today. Written by former newsman Kurt Luedtke, it creates an absolutely authentic newsroom atmosphere only to depict an ambitious reporter (played as persuasively as possible by Sally Field) as being so naive as to defy credibility. Field has been duped by unscrupulous federal investigator Bob Balaban to name an innocent Paul Newman (excellent in his dry ice-cold rage) at the center of a murder investigation in the disappearance of a Miami labor leader. Absence of Malice is an absorbing film in spite of itself; there are so many instances of journalistic irresponsibility these days there’s no excuse for this film not doing a better, less contrived job of devising examples.

Also airing Sunday at 9 p.m. is a repeat of the rather standard 1982 TV movie Memories Never Die (CBS) in which Lindsay Wagner returns home after six years in a mental institution only to find herself plunged into an atmosphere riddled with suspicions and hostility.

Sunday at 7 p.m. on ABC brings the animated fantasy-adventure The Flight of Dragons.

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Robert M. Young’s The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (Channel 50 Sunday at 10 p.m., Channel 28 Friday at 9 p.m.) is a compelling Western which vividly dramatizes the fate of an innocent Mexican (a riveting Edward James Olmos), a victim of prejudice at its most virulent. The story is derived from an incident that occurred in Texas in 1901.

David Lynch’s brilliantly operatic The Elephant Man (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) is an extraordinary exploration of the question, “Who is the monster, who are the monstrous?” In 1884, a physician (Anthony Hopkins) rescued from a sideshow a young man named John Merrick (John Hurt) who was afflicted with a hideously deforming disease. He discovered within the grotesque exterior a sensitive, intelligent human being. Merrick’s impact upon all those around him--and upon us--presents a tremendous challenge, leaving us to realize that most of us are the monstrous unless or until we are confronted squarely by one of nature’s true casualties.

Also airing Monday at 9 p.m. (on Channel 7) is The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, a better-than-average Western starring Sarah Miles (in an intense and credible portrayal) as a runaway frontier wife who falls in love with the leader (Burt Reynolds) of a gang of robbers.

The one and only original Psycho airs Monday at 8 p.m. on Channel 5.

Midweek movie fare runs pretty thin. Rod Steiger is unforgettable in the title role of Al Capone (Channel 11 Tuesday at 9 p.m.), and Gregory Peck can be seen in both Henry King’s Twelve O’Clock High (Channel 5 Thursday at 8 p.m.), a World War II film that is one of Peck’s best, and Fred Zinnemann’s Behold the Pale Horse (Channel 13 Thursday at 8 p.m.), a post-Spanish Civil War story that was not a popular success but remains a favorite of its director.

Fish Hawk, a dull 1980 Canadian family film, airs Friday on CBS at 9 p.m. Will Sampson stars as an Osage Indian outcast who befriends a boy (Charlie Fields).

A better bet is Larry Cohen’s cult film The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (Channel 11 Friday at 9 p.m.), that trashy curio filled with florid melodrama, campy casting and tacky impersonations. Yet it is also an imaginative illumination into the sexually tormented psyche of the former FBI chief, played by the late Broderick Crawford as a rigid Boy Scout, who underneath it all, is a gangster manque .

Faye Dunaway is a terrific Joan Crawford, but Mommie Dearest (CBS Saturday at 8:30 p.m.) plays like a limp parody of a bad Crawford movie. When Dunaway’s Crawford, who’s a seething volcano of emotions, finally erupts, the effect is laughable rather than terrifying or pathetic, so trite and pallid is the picture. At best the picture is campy, and at worst, merely plodding.

Airing Saturday at 9 p.m. on ABC is a repeat of the 1984 TV movie Amazons, a low-grade comic-book tale about a secret organization of women trying to take control of the government. Jack Scalia and Tamara Dobson star.

Selected evening cable fare: Cal (Bravo Sunday at 8); The Milky Way (Bravo Monday at 8); The Border (Movie Channel Monday at 9, Thursday at 7); Maria Candelaria (Galavision Tuesday at 7); Vengeance Is Mine (Bravo Tuesday at 8); Wanda (Lifetime Tuesday at 8); Tristana (Bravo Wednesday at 8); Once in Paris (Lifetime Wednesday at 8); The Fourth Man (Bravo Wednesday at 9:30); The Last Detail (WTBS Thursday at 7:25)


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