SPHINX -- Hampton Mall, K-B Baronet West, K-B Cerberus, K-b Silver, NTI Arlington, NTI Dale, Riverdale Plaza, Showcase Beacon Mall, Showcase Oxon Hill, Tenley Circle.

Early in "Sphinx," a British Egyptologist, Lesley-Anne Down, and her Egyptian counterpart bemoan the stupidity and popularity of the Curse of the Pharoahs. Unfortunately, the curse applies particularly relentlessly to moviemakers.

Viewed as a blood-and-dust epic, this isn't much. It opens with the curse's being pronounced by an ancient grave robber, prior to his being quartered in an oddly bloodless fashion. (The quarters of his body go riding off fastened to horses, with no more mess than Raggedy Ann would suffer.)

The film alas skips to the present day and the perils of a female Egyptologist on the loose in sinister Egypt, where the curse, apparently uniquely among Egyptian public services, is still operating.

However, there is a whole other way of viewing this film, and that is as a fund of tourist information for the wary traveler. This is not Egyptian tourist information bureau information, its chief point being that no Egyptian is ever to be trusted, and most especially not the police or other officials, but not the ordinary citizen on the street, either, man, woman or child.

When the camera lingers on a sign in the Hilton Hotel, advising patrons to put their valuables in the safe, the moral of the film is obvious. In the next scene, our heroine carefully hides her American Express card among her underwear in a drawer, oblivious of the stranger in her hotel room following her every room.

Here are some other tips culled from the poor lady's adventures:

Do not allow sympathic interest in the plight of individuals to draw you into seeking justice. You will only get hurt, because there isn't any.

Don't believe the nouveau patriotism about pride in heritage, the good of the country, and so on.Everything is being bought and sold.

Always carry a flashlight with a long-life battery.

Keep away from crowds. Keep away from isolated spots.

Don't buy any souvenirs. If they're not fakes, they're illegal.