New films from the U.S., The Netherlands, Britain and Mexico
THE LAST STARFIGHTER
Nice idea: a video game that is designed not merely as an amusement for idle teenage reflexes but as aptitude test and recruiting device for Star- fighters. These warriors are needed to defend a space frontier, maintained by the Star League, an interplanetary alliance threatened by the dread, yucky Ko-Dan.
Nice performance: Robert Preston as a sort of intergalactic Music Man who markets the games here below and lures earthlings skyward to battle for righteousness. After almost a half-century, Preston's energy and infectious pleasure in performance remain delightful.
Curious lapse: once young Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) reluctantly leaves his dismal trailer park and his pert girlfriend (Catherine Mary Stewart) and arrives on Rylos, staging area for the paltry battle to come, he is either too polite or too dense to mention its uncanny resemblance to the mechanical landscapes scattered about the Star Wars galaxy. Of course he can't hear the score (marked-down John Williams) and is perhaps too caught up in the action to notice how much everyone and everything he meets resembles software, hardware and ideas people have all had just about enough of. Inexpressively written by Jonathan Betuel and languidly directed by Nick Castle Jr., The Last Starfighter offers the audience little more than the pleasure of naming its previous movie bases as it touches them. Let's see: TRON... E.T. ...Close Encounters... And so to sleep. By Richard Schickel
THE 4TH MAN
Sometimes menacing, often bleakly comic, always alarmingly precognitive, the visions of Writer Gerard Reve (Jeroen Krabbé) have their cinematic possibilities. The trouble is his movie is mostly banal, the stuff of arrested adolescence. It contains obsessively recurring images: woman as spider, devouring her mate once she has lured him to sexual consummation; woman as elusive Madonna, offering salvation to wayward boys if only they can catch her attention; campy sacrilege committed on Catholic iconography gloomy reflections on the artist's unhappy lot in a staid bourgeois society, with particular reference to Holland, where the audience is uneconomically small and the language is not exactly a popular international currency.
All of this decorates, like so many ostrich feathers, Gerard Soeteman's perverse script of a homosexual who grudgingly accepts a wealthy woman's favors in the hope that she will introduce him to her other lover, a lovely, coarse lad who seems to offer the possibility of degradation along with the joy of sex. The question is, will one or the other of them meet with murder (or just incredibly bad luck) after conjoining with her? The answer is, who cares?, especially as she is played with a placid lack of threat by Renée Sontendijk.