With Cape Fear (NBC Sunday at 9...

With Cape Fear (NBC Sunday at 9 p.m.), Martin Scorsese tried to show us he could do the big violent suspense-thriller as well as anyone else, but his formidable skills served only to underline the meretriciousness of the production, which had been done far better on a more modest scale by J. Lee Thompson in 1962 (in a film with the same title). Robert De Niro stars as a crazed ex-con sworn to get revenge on Nick Nolte, the lawyer who sent him up for 14 years.

Martin Campbell’s notable 1991 suspense-thriller Defenseless (KCAL Sunday at 10 p.m.) is a satisfying genre film, set in Los Angeles and enlivened by a splendid cast headed by Barbara Hershey as an attorney suspected of murder--and stalked by a killer.

Born in East L.A. (KTLA Monday at 8 p.m.) is Cheech Marin’s exuberant but underappreciated 1987 comedy in which Marin casts himself as a third-generation Mexican-American mistakenly deported to Tijuana as an illegal alien.

The 1991 House Party 2 (KTTV Monday at 8 p.m.) is more ambitious than the 1990 original but misses the mark in comparison with its predecessor, which was mostly an unpretentious teen-sex musical comedy that introduced rappers Kid ‘N’ Play (Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin). It seems compelled to dredge up and inflate old formulas, centering on another house party, or “pajama jam,” held in the college dining hall were Kid works.


La Bamba (KCOP Thursday at 8 p.m.), Luis Valdez’s 1987 biography of ‘50s rock ‘n’ roller Ritchie Valens, is as infectious as its music, an irresistible saga of how a teen-age Mexican-American (Lou Diamond Phillips) made it from a migrant farm worker background to three hit records by the age of 17.

Like its intrepid hero, a fearless flyboy (Bill Campbell), The Rocketeer (ABC Saturday at 8 p.m.) simply wears you down. This 1991 film is so dogged and so relentlessly earnest in its one-dimensional state that no option but partial surrender seems possible. Set in 1938 Los Angeles, this tale of how a youth with a dream turns himself into a man who can fly and fight evil at the same time bears a coincidental resemblance to other updated cliffhangers like “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” But this movie plays everything far too straight.

So much is wrong about the 1991 Hudson Hawk (KCOP Saturday at 8 p.m.), the movie in which Bruce Willis played the role of the world’s greatest cat burglar just released from Sing-Sing, that it is really difficult to know where to begin. For a start, there are too many villains, too much is over the top--and there’s not a smidgen of wit in the script.