INSIDE MOVES -- Tenley Circle

The Hollywood holiday blitz is one of the more recent Christmas traditions. This year the celluloid studios sent us an even dozen -- the Twelve Flicks of Christmas, you might say -- but two of them arrived (as some Christmas cards do) just too late to respond to. In the neighborhood bar in "Inside Moves," with its regular clientele drawn from those who also frequent the outpatient clinic at the hospital down the road, guess who declares, "I'm the only cripple in this room":

a ) The blind man

b ) The man in the wheelchair

c ) The man without hands

d ) The formerly lame man, now a basketball star, who had neglected his handicapped friends when he found fame and fortune after they arranged for him to have a miraculous operation that mended his leg.

If you guessed d ), you are obviously familiar with maudlin movies. This one is particularly sappy, and does not move one to tears for those with bodily afflictions so much as it moves one to outrage against the emotionally afflicted who find physical disabilities sweet and ennobling.

Undoubedtly, the filmmakers thought they were being kind in showing that handicapped people have dreams, ambitions and sex drives. There are even a few amusing lines suggesting that they may have minor faults. But the general tone is that these people are treasure houses of the human spirit, having achieved saintless through suffering. More than human -- these are two sides of the same patronizing attitude.

John Savage and David Morse play the personifications of crippled body and crippled spirit, with Diana Scarwid and Amy Wright as good and bad girlfriends and Harold Russell, Bill Henderson and Bert Remsen as a chorus of disabled angels. They are all trying hard, and the combined false jolliness is truly chilling.