TCM TiVo ALERT
July 23–July 31
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
BADLANDS (July 24, 8:00 pm): Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek show their incredible talents in this 1973 film, loosely based on a serial killer and his girlfriend on a 1958 cross-country killing spree. The two become more detached to reality and violent as the movie progresses. The film focuses on the alienation and hopelessness felt by the two doomed young criminals. Despite their horrific actions, you feel somewhat sorry for them. An excellent script, a remarkable job by Terrence Malick in his directorial debut, and outstanding acting from Sheen and Spacek, who would go on to be major stars. It's an exceptional film that shouldn't be missed.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (July 28, 2:00 am): To be nostalgic for a moment, this movie was often on Channel 5 (WNYW) in New York City when I was growing up. My father and I would often watch this excellent film together when it aired. It's a smart thriller about four men who hijack a NYC subway car for ransom money. Walter Matthau was a wonderful actor, and this is among his best as a cynical transit authority police lieutenant who deals directly with the criminals. While it's a great drama, there are a lot of comedic moments and the final scene is one of the most memorable in movie history. This film came out in 1974, and is right up there with the excellent NYC-based gritty crime dramas of the era, including The French Connection (1971), Serpico (1973) and The Seven-Ups (1973).
ED’S BEST BETS:
GODZILLA (July 23, 6:00 am): This is not your father’s Godzilla, with Raymond Burr inserted for American audiences. No, this the original, inspired by a tragic accident that took place when America exploded the first H-Bomb in the Marshall Islands, which used to belong to Japan until World War II. A nearby fishing boat, thought to be out of range of the fallout, got caught and the crew died horribly. That was eight months before this film went into production. Godzilla is a metaphor not only for The Bomb, but for America. In other words, Godzilla R Us. Forget about the American version of the film, which at times didn’t appear to make sense amid all the cuts. This version makes perfect sense and its meaning is clear. It’s also a very frightening and serious film, in contrast to the ever increasing silliness of its sequels (except for the first, Gigantis the Fire Monster). It’s a picture that deserves to be seen.
CAT PEOPLE (July 30, 5:00 pm): Producer Val Lewton’s first horror hit, this tale of a strange, shy woman (Simone Simon) and her fear of an ancient curse within her and the man (Kent Smith) who falls in love with her depends more on shadows and suggestion than actual visual horror. Lawton creates an eerie atmosphere of mood and style that draws us in, and once it has us, builds relentlessly until the finale. Tom Conway and Jane Randolph give wonderful supporting performances. Watch for the swimming pool scene. Lewton’s first film and the harbinger of more wonderful horror to come.
WE DISAGREE ON ... A BUCKET OF BLOOD (July 23, 4:00 pm)
ED: C. A Bucket of Blood is a watchable, enjoyable little B-horror flick. It’s the typical Roger Corman formula for his horror-comedies: Walter Paisley (Dick Miller), a dorky character, works as a busboy at a beatnik café. He envies the more talented customers, such as the poets and artists, but he just doesn’t fit in with the cool scene. Trying to impress the café’s hostess, Carla (Barboura Morris), with whom he’s in love, he decides to create a sculpture, but his clumsiness results in the death of the landlady’s cat. Seeking to hide the evidence, he covers the dead cat in clay. The next day he shows her the sculpture. It’s a hit and patrons demand more of the same, so Walter has to keep upping the ante. But despite a great performance from Dick Miller, the film never rises above the usual level of Corman’s quickies (filmed in five days at a cost of $50,000). The humor is obvious, and the tongue-in-cheek attitude ultimately brings the film down. There’s something to be said for playing a bad film seriously. Like I said, it is watchable and enjoyable, but nothing worth going out of you way about.
DAVID: B+. I've put myself in an awkward position – defending Roger Corman. I was outraged when he was given an honorary Oscar in 2010 alongside Lauren Bacall. The "King of the Bs" made a career by being a lazy filmmaker who let others do most of the work. In the process, he helped launch the behind-the-camera careers of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and James Cameron, among others. However, I must admit A Bucket of Blood – the name is another one of Corman's gimmicks; give a film an outrageous name to bring in the audience – is among his two best movies along with Little Shop of Horrors (hmm, another outrageous name). In "The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film," Michael Weldon calls A Bucket of Blood "an all-time classic," as well as "a wonderful beatnik horror comedy shot in five days." I suppose there aren't many other movies in the quickly-made beatnik horror comedy genre, but this is enjoyable and charming even for those not looking for films in that category. Dick Miller, who went on to appear in many of Corman's films, plays Walter Paisley, a coffeehouse busboy loser who dreams of being in with the in-crowd. In a ridiculously-quirky twist, Paisley accidentally kills his landlady's cat and covers it in clay making what the beatniks consider to be an amazing piece of art. He ups the ante when he kills people, first by accident and then intentionally. The story is funny and the beatnik "Daddy-O" dialogue is equally amusing. It's funny and suspenseful, and is nicely paced, wrapping everything up in 66 minutes.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.