THAT guardian of Man's right to bear arms, Charlton Heston, has been expounding the virtues of the new-look El Cid (Pearl, 9.30pm). Francis Ford Coppola has been at work with his Crayolas and technicians have digitalised the sound. El Cid is a good film, but sadly even modern technology and Coppola's skill have not turned it into a great one.
Heston is the eponymous Spanish hero who becomes estranged from his fiancee (Sophia Loren) after killing her father, who has unjustly accused him of treason. She eventually realises he is an honourable man and they marry and have children, but that is by the by, because El Cid has bigger fish to fry in the form of laying siege to Valencia, last outpost of the Moorish usurpers.
Director Anthony Mann spared no expense. Eleventh-century Spain has been recreated in lavish fashion. The photography is spectacular and so are the battle scenes. Veteran stuntman Yakima Canutt was responsible for recreating the final showdown. He used the ancient walled city of Pensacola, employed 5,000 Spanish army troops as extras, a Moorish battle fleet of 35 full-size reconstructed ships and Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.
The sheer size of the production dwarfs the personalities. Even Heston, not known as a wallflower, is surrounded and overshadowed by big-budget grandeur. Historically El Cid is interesting and technically it is dazzling. But sometimes a movie, even an epic movie, can have too much of a good thing.
THERE is little left to say about World War II that has not been said by somebody this week. Tora! Tora! Tora! (World, 9.30pm) looks at events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbour from both the Japanese and American points of view, with major and minor blundering on both sides. The attack itself is frighteningly realistic, with the kind of psychological tension El Cid could have done with.
PEARL is bravely showing two new adult comedies, neither of which will set the world on fire, but both of which are contemporary. Fish Police (8.30pm) is American and continues the fish fixation that is gripping our programmers (TeleFISHion, Aqua TV and Goldfish Forecast). It is inspired by the crime writing of Raymond Chandler: ''She was a big blonde with more curves than the highway out front and just the right number of hills and valleys.'' The House Of Windsor (9.00pm) is British and goes behind the scenes at Buck House, where staff are appalled to discover the Queen has employed a former Fleet Street tabloid editor to revamp her family's image. Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating is mentioned briefly as a Fosters-guzzling stereotype who invites Her Majesty to join him to ''throw a few shrimps in the barbie''.
IN Macau, a colony bracing itself for a public holiday influx, you can see Repo Man (TDM Channel 1, 12.10am), an instant cult movie which sees brat packer Emilio Estevez as a new-wave punk who takes a job repossessing cars. Michael Nesmith, once a Monkee, was executive producer.
Pearl continues its International Attractions series with Beyond The Walls (Pearl, 1.15am), a controversial Israeli film which explores relationships among enemies. It stars Arnon Zadok and was directed by Uri Barbesh.
Choice Of Arms (World, 11.00am) is French and therefore stars Yves Montand, Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve. Its French title, for the record, is Le Choix Des Armes.
It is a compelling policier, to use the vernacular, pitting the new breed of criminal (the crazed and disrespectful Depardieu) against a retired underworld hood (the honourable Montand). Depardieu turns in a forceful performance and Montand is an explosion waiting to happen as the superficially calm big shot. But the always beautiful Catherine Deneuve suffers. Once again she is seemingly thrown in as the obligatory love interest, with little chance to show off her considerable acting talents.
Island Sons (World, 2.25am) is a pilot film for a television series that failed to make the grade and which should not be confused with the series called Island Son, which starred Richard Chamberlain. This was also shot in Hawaii and follows four brothers who are all successful businessmen. The brothers are played by Timothy Bottoms, Joseph Bottoms, Samuel Bottoms and Benjamin Bottoms, a cast list which will inspire sniggers among schoolboys young and old.