short takes

* Zorro, the Gay Blade is reasonably entertaining for the first half hour, buoyed by George Hamilton's outlandish accent and some clever gags. Then the title character arrives on the scene, and the satire sinks into clumsy parody and petty homosexual-baiting. Such movies are pernicious: How many children will wander into this PG-rated comedy and be assaulted by its smarmy stereotypes and limp-wrist humor? These minuses are not outweighed by the lavish directorial style of director Peter Medak, or the upbeat ending wherein our hero saves the day. It's good to see Hamilton sticking to the territory he mastered in the surprisingly funny "Love at First Bite." But his newest parody falls far below his previously high standard.

* At a time of crisis in the British film industry, with severe financial limitations and attendant problems, an English drama has been chosen to open the 1981 New York Film Festival on Sept. 25 at Lincoln Center. Chariots of Fire, directed by Hugh Hudson and produced by David Putnam, tells the factually based story of two English runners in the 1924 Olympics. Later, on Oct. 11, the festival will close with "Man of Iron," by Polish director Andrzej Wajda, a drama about recent Polish history including documentary footage of labor unrest. Other highly regarded filmmakers to be represented on the program include Louis Malle, Bertrand Blier, and Istvan Scabo. Other festival selections are to be announced shortly.

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