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SOME BIG NAMES ARE TURNING UP IN MADE-FOR-VIDEO MOVIES

SHARE SOME BIG NAMES ARE TURNING UP IN MADE-FOR-VIDEO MOVIES

Bob Dylan. Treat Williams. Jim Varney. Martin Sheen. Adam Ant. Michael Dudikoff. Timothy Dalton. Anthony Edwards. Eric Roberts. Carrie Fisher. Dean Stockwell. Lorenzo Lamas.

They all have something in common this month. Their movies have bypassed national theatrical play and gone straight to video. A few turned up theatrically somewhere, in New York, Los Angeles or at a film festival, but most moviegoers and VCR owners will not have heard of them by the time they make their debuts on cassette. For all practical purposes, they're made-for-video movies.Dylan's "Hearts of Fire," a 1987 musical drama that was briefly shown at British theaters and originally planned for a 1988 American video release, will be released April 25 through Warner Home Video. Dylan plays a reclusive rock star, involved in a triangle with Fiona Flanagan and Rupert Everett. It was the last movie directed by the late Richard Marquand, who made "Return of the Jedi" and "Jagged Edge." The score includes songs by Dylan, John Fogerty and Neil Young.

Williams is cast as a crusading Associated Press photographer during the civil-rights struggles of 1957 in "Heart of Dixie," which has just been released by Orion Home Video. Ally Sheedy and Virginia Madsen play sorority sisters at Alabama's Randolph University, and Phoebe Cates is the college rebel. Variety called the 1989 film "a silly, relentlessly high-camp drama," and USA Today's Tom Gliatti could find kind words only for Jenny Robertson's supporting performance as a sorority girl obsessed with getting pinned. But Roger Ebert thought the movie was accurate about its period and recommended it on his syndicated television show.

There's a timely reason for the release of "The Rousters," a comedy set in a carnival and starring Varney as a descendant of Wyatt Earp. Disney released Varney's latest "Ernest" comedy, "Ernest Goes to Jail," to hundreds of theaters Friday, and Varney fans can be counted on to pay to see him in anything. Also in the cast are Mimi Rogers, Chad Everett and Hoyt Axton.

Sheen appears in two new cassette releases, "Beyond the Stars" and "Beverly Hills Brats." Roberts plays the son of an Italian wine grower in "Blood Red," which also features Dennis Hopper as a ruthless industrialist in Northern California's wine country in 1895. Fisher and Stockwell co-star in "Time Guardian," a time-travel story that starts in 24th century Australia, and Ant turns up in "Trust Me," a black comedy about a gallery owner who murders artists in order to increase the price of their paintings (it's due April 18).

Also among the new releases are three sequels to theatrical films: "Zapped Again," a high-school comedy with cameo appearances by Karen Black and Linda Blair (April 26); "Stepfather 2," with Terry O'Quinn repeating his role as a homicidal family man (it's available now); and Sandy Wilson's "American Boyfriends," a follow-up to her autobiographical teen comedy, "My American Cousin," with Margaret Langrick and John Wildman continuing their roles from Wilson's 1987 prize-winner. It makes its debut Wednesday.

There's usually a good reason movies planned for theatrical release end up on video: They're not very good and the public has already rejected them. "Hearts of Fire" and "American Boyfriends" received universally poor reviews. The Los Angeles Times' Michael Wilmington called "Stepfather 2" "the sort of sequel that shouldn't have been made . . . it makes nonsense of its predecessor by existing at all."

A vulgar, unfunny mock documentary about a non-existent studio, "That's Adequate," will be released April 12. The list of actors wasted in cameo roles includes Bruce Willis, Susan Dey, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Vaughn and Peter Riegert. The popular star of the "American Ninja" series, Michael Dudikoff, plays an Amazon jungle guide in "River of Death," an adaptation of Alistair MacLean's adventure novel that Variety calls "an impoverished quota quickie."

Still, some of these pictures just never had a chance. They slipped through distribution cracks, got trapped in rights disputes or were dumped by companies that never had any faith in their commercial potential.

Also in the stores now are the Lorenzo Lamas vehicle, "Snake Eater," a Canadian thriller that Variety praised for its "tongue-in-cheek quality" (a sequel has already been filmed), and "Casablanca Express," a World War II thriller starring Jason (son of Sean) Connery that Variety called "a rousing, old-fashioned adventure pic."

"Hawks," an offbeat comedy that Paramount Home Video will release April 19, stars Anthony ("Top Gun") Edwards as a terminally ill, suicidal football player confined to a wheelchair. The new James Bond, Timothy Dalton, plays an English lawyer who is also dying and proposes that they spend their last days escaping the hospital in a stolen ambulance, visiting a disco and restaurant in their pajamas, and taking off for an Amsterdam brothel.

VIDEO QUESTION

Q: Every time I buy a VCR tape, the sound seems to go fuzzy on me. What should I do?

A: That's not much to go on, but since you imply that the tape behaves normally at first, I suspect your VCR is gradually harming it. The soundtrack recorded by conventional mono VCRs is contained on the extreme top edge of the tape. It occupies a very narrow band and can be easily damaged if threading assemblies are out of alignment. Have the unit examined. - Andy Wickstrom (Knight-Ridder)