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MAKING OF THE MOVIES IS A SHOW IN ITSELF

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More things I learned by going to (and reading about and watching TV specials on The Making of) the movies:

- There are so many "Making of" specials on television these days that someone should probably just start up a weekly half-hour series, featuring the "Making of" a different movie each week. "The Lion King," followed by "Baby's Day Out," followed by . . . .And when there are two movies in one week that are so good they both deserve "Making of" specials - say, the latest Pauly Shore vehicle or a sequel that doesn't go beyond "III" - the program can be expanded to an hour. But just for that one week, you understand.

- Lately, I hear the same question nearly every day: How's "The Lion King?" I don't want to tip my hand, of course, so I'm coy.

Well, the film opens in thousands of theaters across North America Friday, June 24, so the answer is on the way. But when you stop to think about it, what difference does it make? Who really cares what I think? Or what any critic thinks?

If ever there was a critic-proof movie, "The Lion King" is it.

And let's face it, even below-average Disney is better than any other animation out there. In fact, the trailer (theatrical preview) for "The Lion King" is better than any other animation out there.

- OK, by show of hands, how many of you spotted Alan Young when he came on the screen in "Beverly Hills Cop III"? He plays Uncle Dave, patterned after Walt Disney, of course.

Who's Alan Young? Don't tell me you never watched "Mr. Ed."

- Did anyone see that recent TV special on the old "Dick Van Dyke Show," which ran for five years on CBS during the '60s.

Watching Van Dyke's antics again reminded me of what a fine physical comedian he was in his youth, and how sad it was that he never found his niche in the movies.

Aside from his biggest hit, "Mary Poppins," and the little-seen "The Comic" - and maybe the satire "Cold Turkey," Van Dyke made nothing but turkeys.

Because Hollywood didn't know how to use him, he starred in a string of mediocre slapstick comedies that wasted his talent - "Fitzwilly," "Some Kind of Nut," "Lt. Robin Crusoe," "Never a Dull Moment," etc.

Van Dyke once said he was born 30 years too late - and that's probably true. He had the makings of another Keaton or Lloyd . . . or perhaps a better comparison is Van Dyke's own idol, Stan Laurel.

But by the time he came along, movies had no place for his eloquent physical comedy.

So, aren't we glad we still have rerun episodes of "The Dick Van Dyke Show"?

And when will they go to video?

- Remember that wonderful moment in "Singing in the Rain" where Donald O'Connor runs up the wall? It happens during the intricately choreographed "Make 'Em Laugh" song-and-dance number.

Well, son-of-a-gun if Jackie Chan doesn't do the same thing in "Crime Story," except that it's an intricately choreographed kung fu fight scene. Honest - he runs up a wall.

- There's a scene in the surfing documentary "The Endless Summer II" where a small plane lands on the water, shimmys from side to side, spins around, runs aground and nearly mows down some people on the beach.

It's treated as a joke, but I began to wonder just how close they really were to tragedy.

- Mia Farrow is a fine actress. And if you've seen "Widow's Peak," you know that.

Farrow spent the past 13 years working exclusively for Woody Allen, of course, and she did show off her considerable skills in his movies. She was fabulous in a wide array of very different characters in "Zelig," "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy," "Broadway Danny Rose," "The Purple Rose of Cairo" and "Radio Days," to name just a few.

But Allen's audience is fairly narrow, so general moviegoing folk may have forgotten her. That would be especially sad if all they remember of her pre-Woody films are things like "Hurricane" and "The Great Gatsby."

- "Speed" has an interesting premise, the idea that a bomb could be rigged on an L.A. city bus so that once it gets up to 50 mph, it can't slow down or the bomb goes off.

There's only one problem. You can't get a vehicle up to 50 mph in Los Angeles. And that's on the freeway! Part of this bus' route takes it on city streets!

- A friend suggested we should start a new business venture - making Roman numerals for movie marquees. You know - "II" and "III' and "IV" and "V" . . . .

Then, as movies change, you could just replace the words and leave the numbers up.

Are there really that many sequels this year?