Dante's inferno

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 July, 1994, 12:00am

DIRECTOR Joe Dante is a fan of Hollywood kitsch, especially those movies in which the saddest scene is the one in which the monster dies. It shows in Gremlins II: The New Batch (Pearl, 9.30pm), in which the vicious little monsters become the ill-fated good guys at the end.

Dante lets rip in Gremlins II, a no-holds barred satirical spectacle that will please fans of his original and anyone else who happens to be watching. Many of the big scenes from the first film are re-hashed (Dante is still concerned with the safe use of microwave ovens) but if anything are better.

This is a dizzying send-up of itself. The gremlins are let loose to cause their traditional mayhem in New York City. What follows is a series of visual gags, Hollywood in-jokes and gratuitous cameo appearances.

The gremlins may be nasty, but they sure know how to party, notably when they spontaneously mount a lavish musical number inspired by the Kander and Ebb classic New York, New York.

TOM Cruise is in Legend (World, 9.30pm), but Billy Barty has a bigger role, figuratively speaking. Barty, at less than 1.2m tall and more than 60 years of age, is Hollywood's leading little person. He has appeared in more than 150 films. In Legend, directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) he plays the diminutive forest-dweller named Screwball. ''It's the same story,'' said Barty of the film. ''Boy meets girl, girl meets witch, boy saves girl from witch, boy gets girl.' THERE are two surprisingly decent afternoon matinees on Pearl, so let's hope it is raining. Appointment With Death (12.10pm) is an Agatha Christie mystery with the obligatory all-star cast, including Peter Ustinov, Lauren Bacall, Carrie Fisher and John Gielgud.

In Butterflies Are Free (1.50pm) Goldie Hawn excels as an eccentric lady who falls in love with the blind boy next door. Eileen Heckart won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the boy's protective mother.

THE producers of the comedy The House Of Windsor (Pearl, 9.00pm) say the programme is updated the night before it is aired, at least in Britain, so it is as topical as possible. It is a strange series to show in Hong Kong, not because it is not very good, but because it is so British even the British might not find it amusing. It purports to go behind the scenes at Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty the Queen, perturbed by bad press, has hired a public relations man to improve her family's image.

THE World Cup rumbles towards its conclusion. Will somebody please eliminate Germany, before they win it again? Today there are two Quarter Final matches: Spain vs Italy (kick-off midnight and Holland vs Brazil (kick-off 3.30am). They are both being shown on all four terrestrial channels.

THE village of Thiksey in Ladakh is cut off by snow in winter, with temperatures dropping to a bracing minus 30 degrees. The makers of the documentary Gompa (STAR Plus, 2.30pm) had the rare privilege of living in the monastery of Gompa and were given free reign to film the lives of the Buddhist people of Thiksey, whose lives have changed little over the centuries.

THERE are still people, I among them, who believe computers were invented to make simple tasks difficult. The Big Byte (STAR Plus, 6.30pm) threatens to present computers in an easy and accessible way, relieving luddites of anything to whine about.

The Big Byte comes in 26 parts, each designed to reveal the mysteries of computers, fax machines, cellular telephones and the dizzying array of gadgetry that oozes from the windows of electronics shops these days.

LAWRENCE Cheng's yuppie comedy Never Ending Summer (Jade, 9.05pm) bears testament to contemporary Hong Kong in that it happens in Canada. This was Cheng's directorial debut; he also stars in it.

He plays a hard-working ''astronaut'', one of the unusual breed who works in Canada as long as it takes to fulfil residency requirements, leaving his family at home in Hong Kong. In Vancouver he meets Do Do Cheng, tomboy owner of a laundromat and a legend in Chinatown because of her toughness.

The jokes are as old as the empire. During the platonic stage of their relationship the couple test a mattress by jumping up and down on it. Do Do confesses: ''I have never had as much fun in bed with a man before.''