Monday, May 28, 2012

TCM TiVo Alert for June 1-7

June 1–June 7 


THE CITADEL (June 4, 6 a.m.) - Robert Donat (an under-appreciated actor) stars in a moving film about an idealistic doctor who begins his medical career treating Welsh miners with tuberculosis. He becomes disenchanted and moves to London with his wife, played by the wonderful Rosalind Russell, to be a doctor to the rich. The film is a damning indictment on physicians who get into medicine for the money. Most of the doctors who treat the wealthy are portrayed as social climbers and largely incompetent. It can be a bit cliched at times, but the acting is solid and the story is touching.

THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (June 6, 11:45 a.m.) - This Pre-Code film features Boris Karloff as the evil Fu Manchu with the ultra-hot and exotic-looking Myrna Loy as his daughter, who is constantly degraded by her father. Once you can get past the negative portrayals of Chinese people (plenty who are played by whites), you're treated to what is the best of the many Fu Manchu movies. The acting is strong, the plot is fun and funny at times. I think it's purposely played for laughs during most of those moments, but I'm not certain. There's so many entertaining parts including the "torture of the bell" and an electric death ray as Fu Manchu tries to get Genghis Khan's sword and mask so he can eliminate the white race - and it's all packed into 68 minutes of entertainment.


A FACE IN THE CROWD (June 1, 11:45 am) – It was TCM that rescued this classic from the underserved obscurity to which it fell during the 70s and 80s. It was the film debut of a country comedian named Andy Griffith, whose stage persona (and later television persona) was that of a good-natured country boy. In this film, however, his character is a 180-degree turn from that persona. Here he is a megalomaniac, ruthless character who becomes an overnight star due to his accidental discovery in a Pickett, Arkansas, jail. The more popular he becomes the more his rottenness comes to the surface. He’s a master at using people, then later discarding them when it’s convenient. But this film is more than the mere rise and fall of a heel. It is a testament to the unbridled power television can create, as Griffith’s character, “Lonesome” Rhodes, comes within a hair of being named to a Cabinet post. It is an abject lesson for media-crazed America and is still fresh today. By the way, besides co-star Patricia Neal, look for Walter Matthau, Tony Franciosa, and Lee Remick, all making their film debuts.

ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (June 6, 2:15 pm) – It wasn’t only Pre-code dramas and comedies that were racy; the horror film was also taken to new heights (or lows, depending on your viewpoint) during this period. This film is the classic example. It was the first film version – and the best – of H.G. Wells’s novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau. Moreau is operating to transform animals into humanoids and the shipwrecked Richard Arlen gives him the idea to mate Arlen with his panther woman and take the evolutionary process a step further. In those days, horror films didn’t require reels and reels of gory make-up and computer-generated special effects. They got their chills by using a few well-placed lines of dialogue and suggestive scenes to fire the imagination of the audience. The film was so effective in doing so that people left the theater in a daze according to one newspaper account. England also banned the movie until 1958. Such is the power of suggestion.


ED: A.  This film is a Must of all lovers of classic movies. It contains the greatest performance by an actress I consider to be the best America ever produced – Joanne Woodward. She plays a woman suffering from three different personalities, and does so in such an effortless style that the viewer may begin to forget that it’s only a movie and to think Joanne may actually suffer from this in real life. In addition there is enough psycho mumbo-jumbo (especially in the scene where Eve’s shrink, Lee J. Cobb is a bravura performance, explains Eve’s condition to perplexed hubby David Wayne) to keep the viewer’s attention when Joanne is off the screen. Look for later TV stalwarts Vince Edwards and Nancy Kulp in small parts.

DAVID: C+. The film is only 91 minutes, but it seems a lot longer. The story is slow to develop and when it does, it simply doesn't interest me. Joanne Woodward is good and won the Best Actress Oscar (against very weak opposition) for playing Eve, a quiet woman who has headaches and then develops a second personality. A third personality comes out later. There's a few plot twists, but not enough to keep the viewer's attention. It comes across as being somewhat contrived and is dull. The movie pales in comparison to Shock Corridor and The Snake Pit.

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