Freeze Frames. A weekly update of film releases

THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS -- Prattling about ``the progress of science'' and ``the good of mankind,'' a 19th-century anatomist deals with murderers to obtain cadavers for research, and his misplaced morality brings him low. Ronald Harwood wrote the picture from a screenplay by Dylan Thomas, based on actual events, and the superb cinematographer Freddie Francis directed it. But the movie's cautionary intentions are swamped by trite dialogue, sagging performances, and bursts of thudding melodr ama. (Rated R) JOSHUA THEN AND NOW -- His life in a muddle, a middle-aged writer paces the floor and reminisces, trying to figure out how things came to such a pass. The screenplay huffs and puffs in its eagerness to be nervy and funny, and director Ted Kotcheff eggs it on. But the story is so crudely calculated that nothing gets off the ground, including the performances. (Rated R)

MAXIE -- The ghost of a hard-drinking 1920s movie actress possesses the body of a proper '80s woman, and wreaks predictable havoc. In all, a cut-rate rehash of ``All of Me,'' sorely missing Steve Martin's talent. Directed in a flatly comic style by Paul Aaron. (Rated PG)

QUEEN KELLY -- Erich Von Stroheim's last great epic was shut down in early 1929 after about half the shooting was completed, due partly to the advent of ``talkies'' and partly to anxiety over the director's legendary excessiveness. This reconstructed version uses still photos and printed material to fill in the missing parts of the story, which is indeed excessive, beginning in the palace of a mad monarch and ending an African brothel. Neither the filmmaker nor the star, Gloria Swanson , shows up to best advantage; but fans of both will enjoy this over- sized relic of the late silent-movie period. (Not rated)

THE STUFF -- The villain is a sort of crawling yogurt that wants to conquer the world via our refrigerators. Written and directed with wry humor and occasional gore by Larry Cohen, who takes potshots at everything from the nuclear family to the consumer society, and all within the tacky, comic-strip style that's his trademark. (Rated R)

SWEET DREAMS -- Jessica Lange plays the late country singer Patsy Cline in this well-made but downbeat ``biopic,'' which focuses on her career and her turbulent relationship with her second husband. Directed with a sharp eye and a steady hand by Karel Reisz. (Rated R)

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