Gillian Armstrong's STARSTRUCK gets another scheduled preview at the Key this Friday night, but its opening date has been moved back to April 1, owing to a surge of support for THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, whose entertainment value was grossly underrated by the distributor, Universal. Evidently mistaking this gem for a hopeless antique along the lines of, say, "Strange Interlude," the studio elected to squander it as a pay-TV test attraction in the scattered areas hooked up for pay-per-view systems. It appears that the film's inspired silliness could have turned it into an ingratiating semi-classical success in any number of markets if Universal had only bothered to screen it and attract a little critical notice in advance. FRENCH-FILM REVIVALS are suddenly a growth attraction here. A free Monday-night series at Montgomery College in Rockville will be augmented starting this weekend with a free Saturday-afternoon series at the National Gallery of Art consisting of six Jean Renoir features and a free Sunday-afternoon series at the National Museum of American Art, which begins with Max Ophuls' LE PLAISIR and closes four weeks later with Renoir's A DAY IN THE COUNTRY.
Leo Braudy of Johns Hopkins will introduce and discuss three of the National Gallery showings, scheduled for 2:30 -- the silent NANA this Saturday, followed by BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING on March 19 and LE PETIT THEATRE DE JEAN RENOIR on April 9. The movies scheduled for the intervening weeks are LA CHIENNE, LA BETE HUMAINE and DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID.
The National Museum series, organized in conjunction with the exhibition "Elizabeth Nourse, 1859-1938: A Salon Career," will also include George Franju's JUDEX and Louis Malle's THIEF OF PARIS. Two old reliables, John Simmons and Sheldon Tromberg, have announced new editions of popular MOVIE TUTORIAL COURSES. Simmons begins additional sections of his FILM AND TELEVISION PRODUCTION WORKSHOPS at Media Seminars International, 1922 I Street NW, starting March 17 and 22. In addition to these six-week courses, he'll be offering a seminar on the ever-urgent subject, RAISING INVESTMENT CAPITAL FOR FILM AND TELEVISION, on March 12, from 1 to 4 at the same location. For detailed information, contact Simmons at 293-1122 or 534-8487. Tromberg plans to revive his seminars on "the nuts and bolts of feature SCREENWRITING for movies and television," Saturday mornings beginning March 26 and April 9. For information about these courses, call 244-1818 after 6:30. Missed opportunities seem to be spreading from Hollywood like molasses as spring approaches. The Motion Picture Academy's increasingly oblivious foreign-language committee cheapened the 1982 awards prematurely by overlooking two outstanding entries, THE NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STARS from Italy (merely one of the greatest films ever made in the realist radition) and TIME STANDS STILL from Hungary, in favor of extremely dubious mystery titles from such coldbeds of cinema as Nicaragua and the Soviet Union. And 20th Century-Fox may have blown upwards of $50,000 on advertising for THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER last weekend by suddenly canceling a dozen or so engagements about 24 hours before the scheduled Friday openings. Understandably, Fox sources prefer to dismiss the episode as a terrible, inexplicable misunderstanding. The exhibitors, on the other hand, ascribe it to a pettish blunder originating in the Eastern division sales office, where someone miscalculated a pressure play, trying to secure a desired but unavailable location by threatening to cancel all the bookings and then being forced to swallow the cancellation when the threat was simply shrugged off.
Coincidentally, Fox had announced that the national release of Martin Scorsese's KING OF COMEDY was being curtailed, so Washington and several other cities originally scheduled for a March 18 opening may not see this Problem Case until late April at the earliest, and perhaps not at all if the second wavelet of openings proves unsuccessful. At any rate, the "Snowy River" snafu earned Fox the instant nickname King of Comedy in local movie circles. Like many of the Hollywood craft unions, the Writers Guild of America holds an annual awards presentation of its own before the Oscars. The contenders in the four categories: DINER, MY FAVORITE YEAR and TOOTSIE as best original comedy, and only FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH and VICTOR VICTORIA as best comedy adaptation (no "Conan the Barbarian"?); E.T., AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN and SHOOT THE MOON, totally rejected in the Oscar finals, as best original drama and MISSING, SOPHIE'S CHOICE, THE VERDICT and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP as best dramatic adaptation. The winners will be announced on April 7.