James Bridges’ 1973 The Paper Chase (KCAL Sunday at 8 p.m.), an inside look at Harvard law-diploma chasers, is intelligent, influential and highly regarded, and the spawner of a quality TV series. Despite its Oscar-winning tour de force from patrician professor John Houseman, however, I’ve never cared either for the movie or whether any of these guys get degrees. In fact, I hope they don’t. Temperament, I guess.
More to my taste is 1980’s Used Cars (KCOP Sunday at 8 p.m.), a rowdy, rambunctious, crash-chase comedy about outrageously venal used-car dealers in an all-out across-the-street war. Kurt Russell is the primo slickster, Jack Warden plays good and evil twins, and director Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,”) keeps the pedal to the metal.
In 1974, MGM brought together stars and clips from its golden era of musicals--Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and a raft of others--into an anthology film called That’s Entertainment (KTLA Monday at 7:30 p.m.), directed by the Tin Woodman’s son, Jack Haley Jr. A hit, it spawned a 1976 sequel, That’s Entertainment 2 (same time, Tuesday), directed by Kelly, who co-hosts with Astaire. But nobody took the obvious next step: putting all or some of these people into another new musical, directed by, say, Stanley Donen or Vincente Minnelli. There was time back then; they could have done it. What a waste.
From Russia, With Love (ABC Monday at 9 p.m.), the 1963 Terence Young-directed James Bond thriller that pitted imperturbable young Sean Connery against classy villains Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya, was the series’ second film. It established the sleek, tongue-in-chic, brutally impeccable tone that then became de rigueur . It remains the personal favorite of Richard Maibaum, the man who’s scripted or co-scripted most of the Bonds.
Yentl (KTLA Thursday at 7:30 p.m.)--a period musical derived by writer-director-star Barbra Streisand from the Isaac Bashevis Singer story about a rabbi’s daughter masquerading as a boy--got short shrift from 1983 critics. (The joke name for it was “Tootsie on the Roof.”) In retrospect, it looks (and sounds) much better. The Michel Legrand score seethes with sentiment, and Streisand is in fine, full voice and heart. Maybe we were wrong.
On the other hand, we were right about Sean Cunningham’s 1980 Friday the 13th (KTTV Thursday at 8 p.m.). It was a gruesome, empty-headed, inane summer-camp shocker full of ridiculous carnage and stereotypic teens wiggling, writhing and getting massacred by . . . hockey-masked Jason? Or his dippy mother, Betsy Palmer? It doesn’t matter. Nobody could possibly enjoy “Halloween” rip-off, opportunistic gorefests like this. Nobody could possibly want to see another one. Or another and another and another and another. . . .
And we were right also about Friday the 13th, Part 2 (KTTV Friday at 8 p.m.), Steve Miner’s gruesome, empty-headed 1981 summer-camp-shocker sequel. Nobody could possibly . . . oh, what’s the use?