'Heaven's Gate' is long and difficult but pretty

One of Hollywood's most interminable and undecipherable ego trips airs on TNT tonight.

Hot off his major success with "The Deer Hunter," director Michael Cimino was given carte blanche to bring to the screen his dream project, a dramatization of the 1890s Johnson County War between homesteaders and land barons in Wyoming. The result, "Heaven's Gate" (11 p.m.-3: 30 a.m.), was a $35 million mess that nearly destroyed a movie studio, United Artists, which ended up being bought and merged with MGM (for a fascinating account of the whole debacle, read Steven Bach's 1985 "Final Cut"). It also pretty much torpedoed Cimino's career: When was the last time you heard of him?


What of the film? Well, it's unbearably long and, at times, ludicrously hard to get a handle on (when the film was released to theaters, they even had to resort to subtitles for some scenes -- even though the actors were speaking English). But it's an awfully pretty movie that's very evocative of the period, with some fine performances, particularly from Kris Kristofferson as the sheriff caught in the middle. Isabelle Huppert, Sam Waterston, Jeff Bridges and Christopher Walken also star.

The film (and this is the director's cut, not the version released theatrically) is a first-rate oddity that you should see at least once -- provided you can stay awake for the entire 4 1/2 hours.


At a glance

"Living Single" (8 p.m.-8: 30 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- Max (Erika Alexander) defends a client who believes he's the son of God, and Synclaire sublets Kyle's apartment to a deejay. Fox.

"Diagnosis Murder" (9 p.m.-10 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- This episode, a repeat from last spring, features well-known former TV doctors Wayne Rogers of "M*A*S*H," Chad Everett of "Medical Center," Jack Klugman of "Quincy" and Bernie Kopell of "The Love Boat" guest-starring as doctors who, of course, are soon involved in a case of murder. Dick Van Dyke stars. CBS.

"413 Hope St." (9 p.m.-10 p.m., WBFF, Channel 45) -- Back from hiatus, the ratings-challenged drama returns with a story about a skinhead infiltrating the center. Fox.

"Dellaventura" (10 p.m.-11 p.m., WJZ, Channel 13) -- Think of it as hopping from the frying pan to the fire. After consistently finishing third in its Tuesday slot opposite "NYPD Blue" and "Dateline NBC," this private-eye drama now airs opposite prime time's most popular show, "ER." Danny Aiello stars as brash New Yorker Anthony Dellaventura. CBS.


Billy Wilder night (8 p.m.-3: 15 a.m., TCM) -- Three of the director's films will be shown back-to-back in the wide-screen "letterbox" format: "The Fortune Cookie" (1966) at 8 p.m. with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon; and "Irma La Douce" (1963) at 10: 30 p.m. and "The Apartment" (1960) at 1 a.m., both with Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.

"Celebrity Weddings" (8 p.m.-9 p.m., E!) -- Along with examples of just how glitzy and public such events can be, E! promises to pass along some "marriage advice" from Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick.


"Sea Tales" (9 p.m.-10 p.m., repeats 1 a.m.-2 a.m., A&E;) -- "The Halifax Explosion." A French munitions ship exploded in the harbor at Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1917, killing about 2,000 people and destroying much of the city. The cause was never clearly determined, and both human error and sabotage by German spies have been suspected.

"History Undercover" (10 p.m.-11 p.m., repeats 2 a.m.-3 a.m., History Channel) -- "Roswell: An Alien Obsession" examines the fascination with extraterrestrials and the New Mexico site where many believe they once landed.

Pub Date: 12/04/97