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Movie Reviews : Fast-Paced ‘Defense Play’ Scores B-League Victory

“Defense Play” (at selected theaters) is a swift, intelligent B-picture that dresses up an old Nancy Drew-Hardy Boys plot with computer-age technology. Its people are no more dimensional than those in an old serial, but in fairness things happen so fast that there’s little time to get acquainted with anyone. Energetic and unpretentious, “Defense Play” has a modesty of intent and accomplishment that would make it more at home on TV than on a big screen.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the film’s large dose of technical talk. The gist of Aubrey Solomon and Steven Greenberg’s plot is that a university scientist (Terrance Cooper) has developed the D.A.R.T, a remote-controlled mini-helicopter intended for reconnaissance across enemy lines, under the supervision of an Air Force colonel (Monte Markham). The scientist is killed in his laboratory by his own invention in what everybody but the colonel’s son (David Oliver) believes to be an accident. The son and the scientist’s daughter (Susan Ursitti), who are bright kids always a couple of steps ahead of the adults, soon play detective.

Because this is not a Hitchcock thriller, there seems no reason to tip us off in the pre-credit sequence as to the identity of the culprit--especially when it would be impossible to guess who did it or why. In any event, “Defense Play” (rated PG) reveals Markham to be as capable a director as he is an actor. One wishes that the script had provided him with more opportunities for humor and irony. Only Oliver gets a chance to make much of an impression, and he does a good job of playing a straight-arrow kid without a trace of self-consciousness.


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