To catch a swimsuit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 March, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 March, 1995, 12:00am

FROM the first scene South Beach (Pearl, 8.30pm) wore its heart on its sleeve, or rather its breasts in a revealing swimsuit. Yancy Butler is a thief who specialises in ripping off the sort of people who deserve to be ripped off. America, particularly South Beach, presumably somewhere in Florida, is full of them - bimbos with heaps of diamonds and so on.

Even before the credits end Ms Butler is stepping from the sea onto the terrace of a house whose occupants she intends to relieve of some cash. There is a shot of her cleavage, then one of her rear end, as she explains to the butler that her yacht has been stranded and she needs help. Likely story. Certainly ma'am, step inside, I'll get you a towel and a cup of cocoa while you crack the safe. It's on the first floor, in the master bedroom.

The thing about Ms Butler is that she is a decent thief with a code of conduct: never steal anything you don't need and never steal more than you can carry in your handbag. Her sidekick, an affable rastafarian with bad makeup, wants her to get a bigger handbag.

South Beach is based on the French film Nikita, about a female assassin hired by the government to do its dirty work. Ms Butler is a bit of a rogue, not at all a government type, but when her brother is killed by some Russians with ridiculous accents - don't ask about this sub-plot, it's academic - she decides to get into bed with the men in suits.

And so everything is teed up for the first episode proper of the series, in which Ms Butler is invited by her controller to bring in a crime boss who specialises in dodgy things with luxury yachts. She is equipped for the job with her own yacht, a 20-metre Italian number of the kind much in demand in Guangdong.

YOU must have seen Funny Face (World, 9.35pm) before, but it will do you no harm to watch it again. It was made in 1957, long before breast and bum shots were de rigueur and sees a plain Jane, Audrey Hepburn, discovered in a Greenwich Village bookshop by society fashion photographer Fred Astaire. This is the film that features that famous segment of Ms Hepburn at her most Givenchy, descending some steps in a red gown.

Funny Face was the Pret-a-Porter of its day, a satire of the fashion world. It is also crucial to understanding Ms Hepburn's gamine appeal. Astaire is brilliant, but she is better still, without really seeming to try.

There is not much to be said about the story: photographer spots unknown, makes her famous, falls for her. Funny Face seems to exist only for the glorious visuals, the Gershwin music and the dancing, which was choreographed by Astaire and Eugene Loring.

As a dancer, Ms Hepburn is not half bad. She struggles in the climactic duet with Astaire in the woods, but is irresistibly impressive in the satirical Paris cafe number with a couple of mods. No-one has ever looked so good in white socks.

IN the utterly dismal Nothing But Trouble (Pearl, 9.30pm) egos clash like swords. Dan Aykroyd, who really should have known better, wrote, directed and starred. Chevy Chase and Demi Moore, two of Hollywood's more overrated properties, are a young couple from New York who find themselves trapped in a strange village ruled by an unpleasant, centenarian judge. Variety magazine called this an 'astonishingly poor effort'. Sight & Sound said it was 'an absolute failure as a comedy'.

THE theme of Nevada Smith (STAR Plus, 2.00am) is as old as the hills in which it was filmed. Cowboy sees his parents murdered by dastardly outlaws and vows to have his revenge. First he must sharpen up his shooting skills; when we first meet Steve McQueen he does not seem entirely sure which end of the gun is the business end. Nevada Smith is violent, even for 1966 when it was made, sometimes lively and sometimes boring. John Michael Hayes wrote the script based, he said, on the early life of a character in The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins. Henry Hathaway directed.