It started when Mickey Rourke used much of a Cannes press conference to blast producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Rourke, who stars in the Goldwyn Co. film "A Prayer for the Dying," charged that Goldwyn had butchered the thriller, which also stars Bob Hoskins and Alan Bates and centers on a gunman in the Irish Republican Army. And now, the film's director has gone public with his own dissatisfaction -- and his desire to have his name taken off the credits before the movie is released in two weeks.

Director Mike Hodges says he's "appalled" by Goldwyn's edited version of the film and by the new musical score that the company is using. He contends that the editing changes ruin the film's pace and the music drowns out the subtleties in the dialogue and sound effects. He asked Goldwyn to drop his name from the credits, and when the producer refused, Hodges started talking to the press. So far, Goldwyn's only response has been a simple statement: "The Samuel Goldwyn Co. is very proud of 'A Prayer for the Dying.' The final verdict will be that of the general public ..."

The Summer Sequels

Rambo is finally about to swing back into action. After numerous delays, rewrites and changes in location, "Rambo: First Blood Part III" begins shooting on Monday in Israel; after 12 1/2 weeks there, it'll move to Thailand for some final scenes. The picture is budgeted at $45 million, of which $16 million will go to star Sylvester Stallone. For those who can't wait until next Memorial Day to find out who Rambo wipes out this time, the villains are Commies in Afghanistan who've kidnaped and tortured Rambo's buddy Col. Troutman, played by Richard Crenna. In the movie, Rambo has help from horseback-riding Afghan tribesmen; in making the movie, Stallone will have the help of Australian director Russell Mulcahy, who made his name directing rock videos but has had less success with his latest feature films, "Highlander" and "Razorback."

"Rambo III" is not the only sequel about to get underway. "Short Circuit II" will begin filming shortly in Toronto with the same robot that starred in "Short Circuit" but a new cast of humans, including Michael McKean and Cindi Gibb ... And without waiting to see how "House II" does (it opens today), producer Sean S. Cunningham is going ahead with plans for "House III," which may be in production as early as this fall. The "House" films are linked not by any continuing characters but by the use of haunted houses as central settings.

Doing Without The Times

Conventional wisdom says you've gotta advertise new films in The New York Times if you want them to play well in Manhattan, but Columbia Pictures ignored that wisdom last week when it opened "The Big Easy" in New York. The sexy suspense thriller, which begins its nationwide engagement today, opened in 16 New York theaters last week -- and while those theaters' owners were angry at Columbia for its decision not to advertise in The Times (the studio did place a full-page ad in the Daily News), it turns out that the Dennis Quaid-Ellen Barkin film did quite well. It averaged more than $10,000 a screen in the New York area -- and in Manhattan, where The Times is supposed to hold the most pull with moviegoing audiences, it made almost $20,000 per theater ...

Film Clips

The Red Cross is not pleased with scenes in "The Living Daylights" that show the bad guys using the Red Cross logo on satchels used to smuggle opium and a helicopter involved in a kidnaping. "Strict regulations" forbid such use of the organization's emblem, says the Red Cross ... The Hollywood Reporter says Pee-wee Herman's new three-picture deal with Paramount is the most lucrative given to a "kid" since Shirley Temple. Pee-wee himself may be a little infantile -- but that money's going into the bank account of his creator and portrayer, Paul Rubens, who's 35 ... And though Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni was left partially paralyzed by a recent illness and finds it difficult to write and speak, he's planning to start work soon on "Two Telegrams," an erotic drama starring Kelly McGillis. The 75-year-old Antonioni plans to shoot the movie in Italy and Toronto beginning in October.