Red alert for Swayze

DIRECTOR John Milius makes no bones about his silly politics in Red Dawn (Pearl, 9.30pm). The Soviets are a nasty bunch of marauding thugs who need any excuse to invade the American heartland, where for centuries people have been very happy thank you eating apple pie, following the World Series and bothering no one.

In Red Dawn the Commies land in the quiet town of Calument, Colorado. High school students, many of them still hung over from last night's crack party, look out of their window and see paratroopers dropping in on their football field.

The invaders are in fact a mixed bunch - Russians, Cubans and Nicaraguans. But that is not really important. They are all foreigners and deserve to get their butts kicked.

A group of students (led by Patrick Swayze and including Charlie Sheen and Lea Thompson) escape to the hills, where they form themselves into a guerilla group called the Wolverines and start a campaign of underground warfare against the enemy.

The premise, despite its naivety, is not all bad. Why then did Milius spoil Red Dawn with posturing and violence? Jennifer Grey also stars. She later teamed up with Swayze in the teen film Dirty Dancing.

THE Vietnam war drama Casualties Of War (World, 9.30pm) was based on a real incident detailed in a New Yorker article, subsequently published as a book.

The film focuses on one patrol, led by the psychotic Sean Penn, and its inhumane treatment of an innocent Vietnamese girl (a convincing performance from Thuy Thu Le).

Michael J. Fox plays The Voice Of Reason. He is the 'cherry' of the patrol, only in Vietnam for three weeks when battle-hardened Penn pulls him out of a caved-in Vietcong tunnel and saves his life.

Casualties Of War was directed by Brian DePalma, a film-maker whose career has careened from great success to spectacular disaster. He was responsible for 90s' Mother Of All Bombs, Bonfire Of The Vanities, which starred Bruce Willis, Tom Hanks and Melanie Griffith. THE best thing about Guilty By Suspicion (Pearl, 1.05am) is its star, Robert De Niro, who turns in a one-man show as a Hollywood director who cannot comprehend the severity of the Communist witch-hunt of the 50s.

His performance is so good it helps you overlook the fact that parts of the movie are as bland as cardboard. But parts of it - the majority - are fascinating. The culminating inquiry scenes are especially memorable.

Annette Bening plays De Niro's sympathetic ex-wife and Patricia Wettig is way over the top as an actress friend who has trouble holding her drink.

THE raccoon and the beaver are the subject of Man's Heritage (Pearl, 8.30pm). One, apparently, is an opportunist and the other an industrious home-maker. You learn something every day.

In Cats And Dogs (World, 8.30pm), for instance, you learn how stupid people can be about their pets. More money is spent on cat and dog food in an average year than on baby food. People hand-knit sweaters for their pooches, they leave them legacies and glorify them in songs.

The programme also focuses on the differences between cats and dogs, apart from the obvious difference that one is a cat and the other is not. One animal trainer puts it better: 'When you call a dog, it comes to you. When you call a cat, it takes a message and gets back to you later.' HUMAN behaviour is stranger and more irrational, as Anything For A Laugh (World, 7.30pm) proves. This is one of those juvenile programmes everybody detests but watches. Joe Public is the butt of various hidden-camera japes (in the tradition of Candid Camera). The rest you can guess.