See-through thriller

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 August, 1995, 12:00am

EVERYTHING that happens in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (Pearl, 9.30pm) you can see coming as surely as if it were a herd of stampeding wildebeest. This does not make it a bad film, as this kind of film goes, but it could have been a better one.

It would have been more credible, for instance, if the story had been original. Hollywood has become adept at taking old socks and turning them into something striking. It tries the same here and nearly, but not quite, pulls it off.

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle was one of a number of early 90s 'there's a loony in my house but I don't yet know it' films. Michael Keaton was the mad lodger in Pacific Heights and Jennifer Jason Leigh was Bridget Fonda's flatmate from the psychiatric couch in Single White Female. This time Rebecca De Mornay (a fine performance) is the mortal enemy who, true identity unknown, is living in a young couple's home and caring for their baby.

The couple (Annabella Sciorra and Matt McCoy) are so insufferably American you can't help but feel they might just deserve everything they get. McCoy may be the most politically correct husband in recent cinema history.

On top of this they are terminally stupid, which is frustrating for the audience because everything that happens is so obvious. If we can see it coming - and if the simpleton of an odd-job man (Ernie Hudson) can see it coming - why on earth can't they? Predictable it may be, but The Hand That Rocks The Cradle does just about manage to hold our interest. Director Curtis Hanson builds the tension well enough, but be warned about the well over-the-top finale.

Your other choice of film is The Blue Max (World, 9.35pm), which is largely silly, although addicts of flying movies swear by it. It's the story of dogfighting during World War I, told from the German viewpoint.

There are some hilarious and unnecessary bedroom scenes in which Ursula Andress' bath towel seems to have become conveniently adhesive.

SUCH is the public relations job done on the Amazon these past years that I feel I know it like the back of my hand.

There is more publicity for the world's most popular rainforest, make that endangered rainforest, in this evening's Man's Heritage (Pearl, 8.30pm), which is sub-titled Creatures Of The Amazon.

Much of the filming was done in the north of Brazil, where the rivers Negro and Amazon meet. Two thousand years ago Indians hunted here, along the edges of a remote creek which they believed was inhabited by an ancient spirit that protected them.

They were, of course, wrong. The Indians died out, although the remarkable wildlife they once hunted still exists, if tentatively. This area of the Amazon is home to manatees, giant otters and the potentially dangerous jaguar (the animal, not the motor car).

HIGHLIGHTS of films on Cable Movie Channel: The Brink's Job (7.00pm). Entertaining, sometimes comic account of the 1950 Boston heist, pulled off by Peter Falk and a motley crew. The job is a success, the FBI is dumbfounded, but the only problem is the robbers must not spend a penny of the loot until the statute of limitations runs out.

Can they last that long? Excellent period and location flavour.

The Story Of Qui Ju (9.00pm). This continues Cable Movie Channel's splendid season of Zhang Yimou films.

Gong Li is a determined farm woman who demands an explanation and simple apology when her husband is beaten up by the obstinate chief of her village.

Not a popular film with the authorities, examining as it does China's infamous bureaucracy and the way rules and regulations often have little to do with the needs of people.

The Story Of Qui Ju is a simple but mesmerising tale, told with less flamboyance than Zhang is known for.

It won the Golden Lion award for best film and Gong Li won the award for best actress at the 1992 Venice Film Festival.