[WORD ILLEGIBLE] every Nazi war criminal tried at [WORD ILLEGIBLE] says ABC News Correspondent Tim O'Brien. "100 more escaped and possibly 200 are now living in this country, some of them, he [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] "recruited, protected and even destroyed by the United States government."

[WORD ILLEGIBLE] its case is never close to air-tight does not prevent the ABC News Closeup, "Escape from Justice: Nazi War Criminals in America," from being a powerful hour, though perhaps not for the reasons producer Richard Gerdeau expected. The documentary will be seen, contrary to previously published listings, tomorrow night at 7 on Channel 7.

(Channel 7 had intended to delay the ABC broadcast one week but later changed its mind -- and sensibly so.)

O'Brien and fellow correspondent Michael Connor track down a number of these suspected Nazis, including a Romanian-born Michigan bishop now being investigated by the U.S. government for allegedly helping to operate a human slaughterhouse in Bucharest. Something called Project Paperclip, through which the federal government reportedly recruited 900 German scientists -- some possibly Nazi war criminals -- is also discussed.

And a connection is suggested between the government's friendly attitude toward one former Nazi and intervention on his behalf by Richard Nixon.

But much of the reporting has to be hedged with phrases like "may have been" and "it's not clear why" and "alleged" and "suspected." The claim that there are 200 Nazis running about the country begins to sound like Joe McCarthy's fantasy of 500 commies in the State Department.

Also -- as happens not infrequently in TV news -- we are left with the impression that some parties virtually admit guilt be declining to be interviewed by TV newsmen. The bishop largely avoids the media and refused to be interviewed for this broadcast," O'Brien says. Officials of a chemical company "refused to be interviewed" and former immigration service commissioners "declined an ABC News request for an interview."

One Paterson, N.J., man agreed to be interviewed and looks, on the air, as innocent as possible of alleged ties to Nazi war crimes. "I don'T think I killed a chicken in my life," he says. Also interviewed is famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, whose exploits inspired the hero played by Laurence Olivier in the thriller "The Boys from Brazil."

But what finally makes all of this unnerving and sad is a new realization, partly though use of "graphic historical film" of death camps we may all have seen before, of the incredible perversity and pervasiveness of the evil visited by men upon themselves less than four short decades ago.

When a Jewish dentist who has tried to help in the search for Nazis here begins to weep over the fact that 77 people in his family were Nazi victims -- that he has "no uncles, no aunts, no counsins" now -- he provides unquestionable justification for bringing all this up again.

ABC News is extremely sensitive to criticism that it behaves show-bizzily.

This Closeup is a solid, serious piece of work, but why, oh why, must it begin with a boogie-beat theme that sounds like prelude to "Starsky and Hutch"? One expects a disco-mentary rather than a news program.

Essentially the music is candy, which means viewers are being considered babies.

'Visons'

"Visons," the highly praised and chronically undersupported public TV drama series, returns at 9 tonight on Channel 26 with two bright one-acts, "Shoes" and "String."

"Shoes," written, believe it or not, by a writer named Ted Shine, is a tense confrontation between generations and their values -- two veteran waiters and three young busboys arguing in a restaurant's locker room, where two large words on a sign near the door blare "Now" and "Later."

For the busboys, "now" is everything and they try to cure their restless dissatisfaction through quick fixes of material goods -- specifically, in one case, an $85 pair of shoes. The elders, the two waiters, caution patience and forbearance.

But an ominous variable is inserted into this stalemate: the fact that one of the boys is in possession of a gun.

Performances by Bill Cobbs and Bill Walker as the older men and primarily, Cokey Ford as the volatile Ronald, give this brief, taut vignette forceful and electric credibility.

But the second short play, "String," by Alice Childress, is really the better of the two. A serio-comic adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's story "A Piece of String," the play has subtly allegorical comments to make not only about the black experience but about diverse ways blacks have responded to what is never called "the white experience."

The setting is a black neighborhood's block-association picnic in the park, where talk of meat pies soon degenerates into alarm over a missing wallet and accusations against poor Joe (Stymie Beard, heartbreakingly effective), an eccentric, lonely miser whose only crime on this sunny afternoon was to have bent over and picked up a piece of string.

Childress has a sensitive, compassionate ear for the dialogue of everyday people, and her character portraits are neat and economical. These are people who come roaring to life in a matter of moments.

Both plays were directed by Oz Scott, who is fluent if not eloquent in the language of tape television -- an overly posed staginess haunts but doesn't really hurt either play. The tireless Barbara Schultz, guardian of the "Visions" trust, produced them.

Unlike the generously endowed and heavily promoted "Masterpiece Theater" on PBS, "Visions" is a series that always lives up to its title. 'The Franken Project'

NBC appears clearly not to know what it has in "The Franken Project," a two-hour movie to be seen tomorrow night at 9 on Channel 4. But then, the picture is hard to categorize -- a sweetly goofy update on the Frankenstein story that turns, three-quarters of the way through, into a murder-mystery romance.

Dr. Franken, played by the impeccably seedy Robert Vaughn, is an overzealous surgeon who does transplants at the drop of a whatever. "Let me have that heart," he barks during one operation, which includes graphic surgery footage seen on a TV monitor.

A "John Doe" murder victim is taken home to Franken's basement operating room in a chic Manhattan townhouse and there gets a new pair of eyes -- formerly belonging to a young man murdered by Franken's insane associate in love with an attractive young woman played by the super-duper Terri Garr.

The story is never really played for scares except in the first hour, during which all who though the really frightening parts of "The Exorcist" were those set in the hospital will be on the edges of their sofas. Directors Marvin J. Chomsky and Jeff Lieberman very cleverly turn high-tech medical gear into modern-day counterparts of the fabulous old zizzo machines so often put through paces by mad scientists at Univeral Studios in the '30s.

They also indulge in such comic-gothic touches as having thunder clap during almost every exterior shot of the doctor's townhouse. Writer Lee Thomas sends the unexpectedly awakened human patchwork created by the doc off on a lurching tour of New York, in a segment both amusing and moving. It's all very engagingly insane.

And Robert Perault, as the John Doe patient who dies to live again, proves something of a find indeed, though he does keep wandering away. He anr Garr share a loonily improbably lovemaking scene while his face is covered with shaving cream. Just for the gall it took to dream that one up, the producers (Robert' Berger and Herbert Brodkin) and all those who stitched this new Frankenstein together deserve two hips if not an outright hooray.