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Rescuing Those Shy Parents; Box-Office Bombs Arrive; Titanic Views From the Depths

Times Staff Writer

The idea of teaching their children about sex “strikes terror in the hearts of parents,” says writer Peter Mayle. “It embarrasses them. It doesn’t embarrass the kids, just the adults. It’s amazing.

“They want sex education for their kids--most of them do at least--but they don’t particularly want to do it themselves. They need help. That’s where we come in.”

Mayle has written the script for a new videocassette, “Where Did I Come From?” (New World, $24.95), a 27-minute animated version of his 12-year-old book of the same title. It’s the facts of life for children between 6 and 10, explaining the basics from conception through birth.

The cassette presents the information in the cutesy, sugar-coated approach commonplace in cartoons. But that approach, Mayle insists, is necessary: “You can’t give kids the hard-core facts in a cold, hard way. You have to dress the whole thing up a bit and make it entertaining.”

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The big problem for animators was presenting information without making it “too sexy.” We had to get across the facts about intercourse without stepping over the line,” he says. “We didn’t want to be stupid or misleading or offensive either.”

A man and woman making love in bed are discreetly covered by a blanket. “No purpose would have been served by being more explicit than that,” Mayle says. “The commentary makes it clear what’s happening. I don’t think kids would be edified by an animated picture of sexual coupling.”

Mayle’s intention was to create a program that would answer basic questions about the facts of life and generate others. “After watching the tape, the kids will probably want to know a few more things,” Mayle says. “They can put it in a personal vein, like pointing out that this is what happens between their own parents and this is how they were conceived. We hope parents watch it with their kids. It’s an ice-breaker. It can get parents and kids talking about a subject that’s tough for parents to talk about.”

Adults may even learn something from this cassette too. It can be a quick refresher course with information on such things as multiple births and the developmental stages of the fetus.

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“You’d be surprised at what parents don’t know about the facts of life,” Mayle pointed out. “When we were making this cassette, we kept that in mind.”

NEW AND COMING MOVIES: Prince’s “Under the Cherry Moon” was not, as Warner Bros. had hoped, another “Purple Rain.” It was a bomb in theaters. To recoup some of the losses as quickly as possible, it’s no surprise that this early July release will be available during the holiday season. Warner Home Video is releasing it Nov. 5.

“Purple Rain” was a blockbuster cassette, partly due to its accessible price, $29.95. But not too many fans will be buying “Under the Cherry Moon.” At $79.95, it will be aimed at rental audiences. Industry speculation about the home video potential of “Cherry Moon” is mixed. Some predict that many Prince fans who didn’t see the movie will want to see it on cassette. Others, forecasting a lukewarm reception for “Cherry Moon,” insist Prince has peaked and his audience has dwindled.

“Labyrinth,” the elaborate fantasy starring David Bowie that was a box-office disappointment, will be out on Embassy in January. “Legend,” the Tom Cruise movie that also did poor business in theaters, will be available on Nov. 6. But since Cruise has become such a big star in “Top Gun,” his legion of new fans just might make “Legend” a big rental hit.

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One of the last movies to debut on cassette for the holiday season will be “Short Circuit,” an adventure starring Steve Guttenberg, Ally Sheedy and a versatile robot. It will be available on CBS-Fox on Nov. 27.

Out this week: “Out of Africa,” which won the best-picture Oscar last spring, and Vestron’s “Salvador.”

Next week: “Gung Ho,” “Young Sherlock Holmes,” “Crossroads"--featuring Ralph (“The Karate Kid”) Macchio--and “Spring Symphony,” a drama starring Natassja Kinski. The following week will be the big one of the month for videocassette debuts: “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “F/X,” “Wildcats,” “Turtle Dairy,” “Runaway Train” and “American Anthem.”

MAJOR NON-MOVIE TITLES: When that robot was rummaging around the wreckage of the Titanic in the North Atlantic Ocean, taking 60 hours’ worth of pictures, many were wondering what was going to happen to all that footage. Vestron has finally answered that question. It’s releasing the highlights of those 60 hours on a one-hour videocassette, “The Titanic,” in mid-December at a price, $29.95, geared to sales rather than rentals. This could be the biggest non-movie title since “Jane Fonda’s New Workout” premiered a year ago. By putting out “The Titantic” at the tail-end of the holiday shopping season, Vestron may lose some business. Obviously, the company couldn’t get it ready any sooner.

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CBS-Fox will be releasing Barbra Streisand TV specials, “My Name is Barbra” (1965) and “Color Me Barbra” (1966) on Oct. 2 at $29.95 each. These are generally regarded as two of the finest variety specials in TV history.

That spectacular Moscow recital by pianist Vladimir Horowitz will be available on videocassette next month on MGM/UA at $39.95. Originally telecast on April 20, it marked his return to Moscow after 61 years of self-imposed exile. CHARTS (Complied by Billboard magazine)

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, RENTALS

1--"Murphy’s Romance” RCA/Columbia).

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2--"Iron Eagle,” (CBS-Fox).

3--"The Jewel of the Nile,” (CBS-Fox).

4--"Back to the Future” (MCA).

5--"Spies Like Us” (Warner).

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6--"Jagged Edge” (RCA/Columbia).

7--"The Hitcher” (HBO/Cannon).

8--"Clue” (Paramount).

9--"Enemy Mine” (CBS-Fox).

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10--"White Nights” (RCA/Columbia).

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, SALES

1--"Jane Fonda’s New Workout” (Karl-Lorimar).

2--"The Sound of Music” (CBS-Fox).

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3--"Alien” (CBS-Fox).

4--"Alice in Wonderland” (Disney).

5--"Back to the Future” (MCA).

6--"Kathy Smith’s Body Basics” (JCI).

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7--"Casablanca” (CBS-Fox).

8--"Jane Fonda’s Workout” (Karl-Lorimar).

9--"Pinocchio” (Disney).

10--"Iron Eagle” (CBS-Fox).

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