Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 masterpiece North by Northwest...
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 masterpiece North by Northwest (Channel 13 Sunday at2:30 p.m.) is probably the greatest chase thriller of all time. The elements of tension, romance, travelogue, comedy and violence are in near-perfect balance. As the New York ad man plunged into a treacherous world where every icon of security becomes a symbol of menace, Cary Grant supplies elegance and wit. Scenarist Ernest Lehman supplies knowing irony and Hitchcock the faultless rhythm and chilling lucidity which were his hallmarks.
For the rest of Sunday, there’s a decent Hitchcock pastiche, Curtis Hanson’s The Bedroom Window (Channel 13 at 6 p.m.). Blake Edwards’ 1983 Curse of the Pink Panther (Channel 5 at 3 p.m.) is a sub-par Clouseau post-mortem--though it has one terrific slapstick sequence at an outdoor restaurant. Colin Higgins’ shiny-bright Nine to Five (Channel 5 at 6 p.m.) is a jocular feminist comedy about macho bosses and resourceful secretaries: the nonpareil trio of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton.
Gene Wilder’s The Woman in Red (Channel 13 Sunday at 8 p.m.) is a sexy remake of Yves Robert’s infidelity farce, “Pardon Mon Affaire,” with Kelly Le Brock a stunning temptress and Stevie Wonder a sterling main-title balladeer.
In Starting Over (ABC Sunday at 9 p.m.), director Alan Pakula and scenarist James L. Brooks gave Burt Reynolds one of his best roles: a New York writer coping confusedly with feminism, new sexual mores and his own divorce. It’s a smart, good-hearted comedy with unforced glints of satire.
Though nominally an American film, The Name of the Rose (Channel 11 Monday at 7:30 p.m.), based on Umberto Eco’s eschatological mystery about serial murders in a medieval monastery, never caught on here. But in Europe, it was the box-office and critical sensation of 1986 in many countries. Perhaps the French director and co-scenarist (Jean-Jacques Annaud and Gerard Brach), and Scotch leading man (Sean Connery) were more tuned to the continent; more likely, American audiences weren’t ready for this defiantly literary a movie. Give it another try. It’s a visual feast; Connery’s wry monk is perhaps his most appealing hero.
In the 1978 disaster movie, Avalanche (Channel 11 Tuesday at 8 p.m.), an avalanche of cliches descends upon ruthless tycoon Rock Hudson, wife Mia Farrow and numerous helpless bystanders. In the 1985 Carl Reiner vacation comedy Summer Rental (Channel 13 Tuesday at 8 p.m.), John Candy descends upon Florida, Rip Torn and Richard Crenna, reducing them to sandy rubble.
“Carpe diem!,” Robin Williams yells in “Dead Poets Society.” It means Seize the Day (Channel 28 Wednesday at 9 p.m.), also the title of Saul Bellow’s great 1956 short novel about the death of the heart and the fairly good 1986 “American Playhouse” movie Fielder Cook directed from it--with the often incandescent Williams as desperate Tommy Wilhelm.
Only the gullible think 1958’s The Blob (Channel 13 Saturday at 2 p.m.) is a horror gem; it’s a glob of a film with a gooey premise that gained some cachet only because the young Steve McQueen starred in it and the young Burt Bacharach wrote the title song.
Howard Hawks’ classy Man’s Favorite Sport? (Channel 5 Saturday at 3 p.m.) is considered a classic by Hawks’ extreme admirers; the uninitiated see an amiable Rock Hudson comedy about an inept fisherman casting for trout and Paula Prentiss. Hawks himself said it was originally very funny, but ruined by injudicious cutting. (Well, this is the age of restoration. Why not find the missing footage?)
Elvis on Tour (Channel 9 Saturday at 6 p.m.)--with a more tired 1972 King and less imaginative filming--is not nearly as good as “Elvis: That’s the Way It Is,” made two years earlier.
Though the 1924 version of The Thief of Baghdad (Channel 50 Saturday at 9 p.m.) has been eclipsed in most people’s minds by Alexander Korda’s 1940 remake, it’s just as much a classic. Star Douglas Fairbanks Sr. is irrepressibly dashing and buoyant as the thief, perhaps his greatest role. William Cameron Menzies’ sets are a kitsch dream of exoticism; director Raoul Walsh ties it up with gusto and roaring high spirits.
Though little seen today, Maria Candelaria (Channel 28 Saturday at 10 p.m.) is to the Mexican cinema what “Rashomon” was to the Japanese: that country’s first great international film success, 1943 Grand Prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival and a stellar introduction for lead actor Pedro Armendariz, cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa and director Emilio Fernandez. (Now remembered mostly as a Peckinpah villain, Fernandez was then Mexico’s preeminent film maker.) An impassioned portrayal of a beautiful outcast, it retains dreamlike romantic power, social bite and, thanks to Figueroa, haunting pictorialism.
The ratings checks on movies in the TV log are provided by the Tribune TV Log listings service.