1950, B&W, 104 minutes, MCA Home Video, $19.95.
Adapted from a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Mary Chase, this wonderfully daft tale of a pixilated bachelor, Elwood P. Dowd, and his invisible white rabbit brought Jimmy Stewart an Oscar nomination but not so much as a mention for the six-foot hare that proved so very convincing in the title role. Harvey, 6-foot-3 actually, comes into Elwood's life one night when the protagonist is helping a drinking buddy into a cab. "I heard a voice say, 'Good evening, Mr. Dowd.' I turned, and there was this big white rabbit leaning against a lamppost. Well, I thought nothing of that. Because when you've lived in a town as along as I've lived in this one, you get used to the fact that everybody knows your name." Stewart, most amiable as the kindhearted, middle-aged tippler, is cast opposite Josephine Hull, an Oscar winner for her performance as his dithery sister Veta Louise, who is persuaded to institutionalize her brother when his fixation becomes an embarrassment to the family. Mr. Smith goes to Bellevue and proves the psychiatrists are crazy in this rich, old-fashioned fantasy directed by Henry Koster and adapted by Chase and Oscar Brodney. Roger Rabbit is hare today and gone tomorrow in comparison with the enduring charms of "Harvey." Rita Kempley
TANGO & CASH
R, 1989, 104 minutes, Warner, $92.95.
Why don't these guys start dating and leave the rest of us alone? Kurt Russell in drag, a slickery shower scene, come-hither repartee -- all the suppressed homosexuality of the buddy movie genre surfaces in Sylvester Stallone's latest sadomasochistic man thing. "Tango & Cash" is more like "My Beautiful Laundrette" in the closet than it is a bad rip-off of "Lethal Weapon." Stallone is Tango, a dandified vice cop who enjoys a crosstown rivalry with Russell's reckless detective, Cash. Framed by an international crime lord, Perret (Jack Palance), the buddies are convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in a minimum-security prison. But they are waylaid by Perret's henchmen and taken instead to the Big House. The first thing they do is strip buck naked and scamper off to the shower -- the last place most of us would head in a maximum-security corrections facility. When Cash bends over to pick up the soap, Tango fears for his honor. "Don't flatter yourself, Peewee," snorts Cash, his long blond hair a provocative halo of water droplets. "Minnie Mouse," Tango flings back. The banter, the way they tease and fuss, recalls a couple of courting bowling pins. Later the heroes are tortured by the rest of the prison population, then tastefully lacerated and draped in chains, hung from the ceiling and repeatedly electrified. How can they possibly get out of this one, you might well ask. Andrei Konchalovsky, who comes from the Soviet tractor school of action comedy, directs this grade school boys' escapade from a screenplay by Randy Feldman of "Man to Man" and "The Manly Touch." Man, oh man. Rita Kempley
R, 1989, 96 minutes, closed captioned, RCA Columbia, $89.95.
"Heart Condition," the terminally contrived comedy starring Bob Hoskins and Denzel Washington, is another entry in the burgeoning Who Thinks Up These Things Department. Its main characters -- a vice cop named Moony (Hoskins) and a slick attorney named Stone (Washington) -- are archrivals, vying for the affections of a tender-souled call girl named Crystal (Chloe Webb). There's an added twist, though. On the same night that Moony suffers a heart attack, Stone is killed in a car accident and, the world being an extremely small place, it's Stone's heart that the doctors use to save Moony's life. The other ripple in this impossible premise is that in both subtle and obvious ways, the two men are exact opposites. Stone is black, dresses in only the freshest threads, knows his restaurants and in all things is the coolest of breezes. Moony is white, rarely shaves, bathes even less frequently and wears what look to be J.C. Penney suits, which he dribbles generously with the grease from his burgers. Written and directed by James D. Parriott, the film is caught somewhere between seriousness and cheesy exploitation. Apart from the actors, who outclass their material but at least provide some marginal pleasure, its features are punishingly standard. But Webb finds something authentic, something almost poetic, in even the most banal confection. And Washington slips his comic lines across with a winning suavity. The interplay between him and Hoskins too is never less than nifty. These are skillful, magnetic actors, and they complement each other neatly. Hal Hinson
THE LITTLE THIEF
R, 1989, in French with subtitles, 108 minutes, HBO Home Video, $89.99.
Charlotte Gainsbourg, the young star of Claude Miller's "The Little Thief," has a fascinating opacity. There's something blunted about her face, something squelched, but it's exactly this blankness that draws you in. Set in 1950, "The Little Thief" is the story of a slovenly, amoral girl who steals compulsively, without conscience or the slightest hint of remorse, and it's beautifully observed but enervated and, ultimately, doesn't amount to much. Gainsbourg herself is a captivating presence and she's perfect for her character, but in a sense, what she contributes exists almost completely outside the context of the movie. She plays Janine, a 16-year-old who pouts through her long days at school then runs off, slips into high heels and begins a sticky-fingered tour of local boutiques. Initially she seems dull-witted, but when she hikes up her skirt in a lingerie shop to slip a piece of expensive underwear over her garter belt, the planning and technique in her thievery are evident. Janine is a wild child of sorts, seemingly incapable of acting out of anything other than expedient self-interest. The picture -- co-authored by Francois Truffaut and directed by Miller, his longtime assistant director -- seems to take place under three feet of slightly muddy water. It's possible that working in Truffaut's shadow was inhibiting for Miller. The film shows signs of being a sort of unofficial homage, and it has Truffaut's sensitivity but little of his rigor or tough-mindedness. Like Gainsbourg's face, it seems filled with meaning that just won't come clear. Hal Hinson