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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Evan Wil­liams

MY daily strug­gle with the Times cross­word has taught me that when­ever the word alien ap­pears in a clue one can con­fi­dently sub­sti­tute the let­ters ET. Steven Spiel­berg’s in­ter­plan­e­tary trav­eller is not only a world­wide box-of­fice phe­nom­e­non but an em­bed­ded fig­ure in pop­u­lar cul­ture, still pulling au­di­ences af­ter 30 years. We may no longer re­mem­ber Henry Thomas, who played the lit­tle boy, or even Melissa Mathi­son, who wrote the screen­play, but no one can for­get that lov­able, rub­ber-nosed crit­ter dis­cov­ered and pro­tected by a bunch of lo­cal kids. One of the most pop­u­lar films of all time, ET: The Ex­traTer­res­trial (Sun­day, 7pm, 7Mate, NSW only) was in many ways Spiel­berg’s mas­ter­piece, trans­pos­ing what was es­sen­tially a reli­gious myth into a fa­mil­iar subur­ban mi­lieu and in­vest­ing the whole with mag­i­cal ex­hil­a­ra­tion.

Clive Cus­sler is in the front rank of Amer­i­can ad­ven­ture writ­ers, in the best tradition of H. Rider Hag­gard and Alis­tair MacLean, with a large dash of James Bond. It’s not long since I got through Trea­sure, all 700 pages of it, and couldn’t put it down. It’s sur­pris­ing that only two of Cus­sler’s books have been filmed and only one of those ( Sa­hara) by a Hol­ly­wood stu­dio — though one rea­son may be that their plots are all much the same. Like James Cameron, the cre­ator of Ti­tanic, Cus­sler is an un­der­wa­ter ex­plorer. He founded an or­gan­i­sa­tion called the Na­tional Un­der­wa­ter and Marine Agency that claims credit for dis­cov­er­ing some no­table wrecks, in­clud­ing that of the so-called ghost ship Mary Ce­leste and the Carpathia, the ship that first came to the aid of the Ti­tanic’s sur­vivors and was sunk it­self by a Ger­man U-boat in 1918. Raise the Ti­tanic! (Sun­day, 3.50pm, 7Two), based on an early Cus­sler yarn, was a box-of­fice flop in 1980 but still of­fers plenty of fun and spec­ta­cle. Richard Jor­dan stars as Dirk Pitt, the un­der­wa­ter ad­ven­turer (and Cus­sler’s al­ter ego) who is as­signed to re­cover a cargo of pre­cious metal in the Ti­tanic’s hold. For grand es­capist non­sense it’s hard to beat.

If you’re feel­ing strong, the one to see is No Coun­try for Old Men (Satur­day, 9.3pm, SBS One), Joel and Ethan Coen’s hor­rific thriller about a hit man (Javier Bar­dem) on the trail of an in­no­cent who has stum­bled on the bloody af­ter­math of a drug deal while hunt­ing near the Mex­i­can bor­der and made off with the pro­ceeds. Cor­mac McCarthy’s novel seems to have been per­fectly at­tuned to the tal­ents and ob­ses­sions of the Coens, who have made one of their dark­est and strangest films. Bar­dem, who went on to star in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, is un­for­get­table as the sin­is­ter and im­pla­ca­ble killer.

Best on show

(MA15+) ★★★★✩ Satur­day, 9.30pm, SBS One

(G) ★★★★✩ Sun­day, 7pm, 7Mate (NSW only)

(PG) ★★★✩✩ Sun­day, 3.50pm, 7Two

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