Saturday, May 19, 2012

TCM TiVo Alert for May 23-31

May 23–May 31


THE MORTAL STORM (May 25, 10:00 pm) – I'm amazed this hard-hitting anti-Nazi film was made in 1940 and released about 18 months before the United States got involved in World War II. An extraordinarily powerful film about what happens to a group of friends in a small Bavarian town when the Nazis take over Germany and attempt to conquer Europe. Not only is the acting great, particularly Jimmy Stewart as an anti-Nazi, and Robert Young, who become a Nazi zealot, but the story is uncompromising and tragic. It's one of Stewart's finest roles. It's still as important today as it was in 1940.

BADLANDS (May 31, 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 cross-country killing spree during 1958. The two become more detached to reality as the film progresses. The film focuses on the alienation and hopelessness felt by the two doomed young criminals. Despite their horrific actions, you can't help feel somewhat sorry for them. An excellent script and outstanding acting.


BABY FACE (May 29, 7:30 am) – Pre-Code films carry with them a certain notorious cache, but this is the apex of the mountain. Stanwyck is at her absolute best as a slum girl in Erie, Pa. whose father runs a speakeasy and features her as “entertainment” for the customers. When he dies in a still explosion, she takes the advice of a kindly old bookseller who has been instructing her in the philosophy of Nietzsche and decides to be the one this time that will exploit others. Landing in New York with her friend Chico (Theresa Harris), she literally sleeps her way to the top, ruining several lives in the process. Though it ultimately cops out in the end, there’s still enough there to make your jaw drop. Hey, they just didn’t make films like that back then . . . or did they?

CRIME DOCTOR MARATHON (May 31, beginning at 6 am) – Do you like a good mystery? Hey, who doesn’t? This marathon of seven films features the exploits of Warner Baxter as Dr. Robert Ordway, a former criminal gang leader who loses his memory in an accident while fleeing the police and reinvents himself as a criminal psychologist with the help of kindly shrink Ray Collins. There are seven movies in the marathon, all of them entertaining, in which the Crime Doctor solves case after case without so much as the company of a sidekick. In the hands of a master technician like Baxter, the series never loses its edge and always remains fresh, even after repeated viewings.

WE DISAGREE ON . . .  SERGEANT YORK (May 27, 8:00 pm)

ED: A+. Along with the later Air Force (also directed by Howard Hawks), this is the best of the morale pictures. Gary Cooper delivers a powerful performance as Alvin York, a man bedeviled by alcohol who gets his soul back one rainy night, only to be caught up in the conflagration known as World War I. Can he . . . Should he . . . abandon his newly found pacifist principles and fight? That’s the crux of the movie and Hawks delicately maneuvers it around to the dilemma America was facing in 1941 before Pearl Harbor decided the question for us. As with any Warners picture, the supporting cast is also compelling: Margaret Wycherly as York’s long-suffering mother; Walter Brennan as the pastor who becomes York’s moral compass; Joan Leslie as Alvin’s devoted sweetheart; Stanley Ridges as York’s commanding officer, who uses tact to convince York to stay in the Army; and, finally, George Tobias as York’s war-time buddy and who has one of the corniest death scenes in movie history. Also be on the lookout for such stalwarts as Howard DaSilva, June Lockhart, Tully Marshall, and Ward Bond, among others. It’s a definite “Must See.”

DAVID: C+. Over the years, Club members have joked about Gary Cooper's range as an actor. While I love his performances in a number of films (High NoonMeet John Doe and Ball of Fire, to name a few), he usually acts like a block of wood thus the clever nickname of Gary Cooperwood. Cooper won the Oscar for Best Actor for Sergeant York. The title character, Alvin York, was the most decorated American soldier during World War I. To me, the film is dull and at 134 minutes, it drags. It's a war film so you'd expect a lot of action. There is some, but not nearly enough. There are so many dead spots as we are painstakingly given way too much information on York. It never keeps my interest for more than a few minutes at a time. While considered a classic, I could never recommend someone investing the time to watch this film. 
Schedule Subject to Change (All Times Eastern)

May 23

6:00 am -- THE KENNEL MURDER CASE (WB, 1933): William Powell, Mary Astor. Society sleuth Philo Vance investigates a murder tied to a Long Island dog show. A MUST SEE! A+

7:30 am -- SAN FRANCISCO (MGM, 1936): Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, & Jeanette McDonald. A beautiful singer and a battling priest try to reform a Barbary Coast saloonkeeper in the days right before the big earthquake. B

5:45 pm -- THE V.I.P.S (MGM, 1963): Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor. Wealthy passengers fogged in at London’s Heathrow Airport struggle with a variety of personal trials. C

8:00 pm -- THE VIRGINIAN (Paramount, 1946): Joel McCrea, Brian Donlevy. Best friends soon become sworn enemies when one signs on with a rustler in this remake of the 1929 classic. C+

10:00 pm -- UNION PACIFIC (Paramount, 1939): Joel McCrea, Barbara Stanwyck. A crooked politician tries to stop the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Directed by Cecil B. DeMille. A-

May 24

7:00 am -- GAMBLING LADY (WB, 1934): Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea. Two gamblers fall in love, but one is already married to a possible murderer. B

8:15 am -- THE SPORT PARADE (RKO, 1932): Joel McCrea, William Gargan. Football teammates McCrea and Gargan follow different paths after graduation. One becomes a sports reporter while the other fails in the pro game and ends up as a pro wrestler. B

12:00 pm -- LADY OF THE LAKE (MGM, 1947): Robert Montgomery, Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan. Hard-boiled private eye Phillip Marlowe (Robert Montgomery, who makes his directing debut) is on the case again. The movie is filmed from the viewpoint of Marlowe. At times, the plot is confusing, but a solid film noir. B+

3:45 pm -- THE LADY EVE (Paramount, 1941): Wonderfully witty Preston Sturges film about a con-artist (Barbara Stanwyck) who goes to take a wealthy but naive scientist (Henry Fonda) for a bundle but ends up falling in love with him. It’s one of Sturges’ best. Charles Coburn is in fine form as Stanwyck’s con-artist father. A

8:00 pm -- DILLINGER (Monogram, 1945): Lawrence Tierney, Elisha Cook, Jr. Totally fictionalized account of the famous gangster, but Tierney is great in the role. C+

9:30 pm -- AL CAPONE (Allied Artists, 1959): Rod Steiger, Martin Balsam & Fay Spain. Steiger is Al Capone in a great drama that uses more of the fact than others. Steiger just doesn’t chew the scenery in this movie; he swallows it whole. It’s the best of the gangster bios. B+

1:15 am -- THE RISE AND FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND (Allied Artists, 1960): Ray Danton, Karen Steele. Budd Boetticher directed this above-average tale of the dancer-turned-hoodlum. Look for Warren Oates and Dyan Cannon in small roles. B-

3:00 am -- THE VALACHI PAPERS (Columbia, 1972): Charles Bronson, Lino Ventura. The story of the man who came forward to expose the inner workings of the Mafia after learning a contract was put out on him in prison. C+

May 25

8:30 am -- DODGE CITY (WB, 1941): Errol Flynn, Bruce Cabot. Soldier of fortune Flynn takes on old enemy Cabot, who runs Dodge City. B-

11:30 am -- WYOMING (MGM, 1940): Wallace Beery, Leo Carrillo, & Ann Rutherford. Beery and Carillo are outlaw pals tempted to go straight. C

1:00 am -- SAN ANTONIO (WB, 1945): Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith. A reformed rustler tracks down a band of cattle thieves and tries to reform a crooked dance-hall girl. B+

3:00 pm -- VENGENCE VALLEY (MGM, 1951): Burt Lancaster, Robert Walker. An honest rancher must block his evil brother’s plots while hiding them from their father. C+

10:00 pm -- THE MORTAL STORM (MGM, 1940): James Stewart, Frank Morgan, and Margaret Sullavan. An uncompromising look at what happens to a small college town in Germany when the Nazis come to power. A MUST SEE! A+

12:00 am -- STRANGE CARGO (MGM, 1940): From Weldon: “Atmospheric-allegorical adventure of whores and Christ-figures involved in a Devil’s Island penal-colony escape. With Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Ian Hunter, Peter Lorre (as M’sieur Pig), and Albert Dekker. Different and recommended, it was condemned by the Catholic Legion of decency.” A

May 26

9:00 am -- THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE (WB, 1953): Errol Flynn, Roger Livesay. Flynn is a Scottish lord involved in the plot to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the English throne. C+

10:45 am -- THE PHANTOM THIEF (Columbia, 1946): Chester Morris, George E. Stone. Murder strikes at a séance and Boston Blackie is called to investigate. B

1:30 pm -- ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (Republic, 1947): John Wayne, Gail Russell. Nursed back to health by a Quaker, a gunman tries to adopt her peaceful ways. B-

3:30 pm -- OPERATION PACIFIC (WB, 1951): John Wayne, Ward Bond. A dedicated submarine commander will stop at nothing to defeat the enemy. C+

5:30 pm -- RED RIVER (U.A., 1948): John Wayne, Montgomery Clift. A young cowhand (Clift) turns against his tyrannical adoptive father (Wayne) during a big cattle drive. A+

8:00 pm -- DINNER AT EIGHT (MGM, 1933): Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, & Marie Dressler. David O. Selznick produced this excellent ensemble piece about the goings-on behind the scenes during an elegant dinner party. A+

10:00 pm -- TOPPER (Hal Roach/MGM, 1937): Constance Bennett, Cary Grant, & Roland Young. The classic story about a fin-loving couple that discover that they are dead and have come back as ghosts, decide to shake up the stuffy lifestyle of their friend, Cosmo Topper (Young). A

May 27

7:00 am -- COMMAND DECISION (MGM, 1949): Clark Gable, Van Johnson. A general must face the terrible decision of sending his flyers on suicide missions over Germany in the last days of World War II. A

9:00 am -- BATAAN (MGM, 1943): Robert Taylor, Lloyd Nolan. Thirteen soldiers must hold a bridge against the advancing Japanese. A-

12:45 pm -- BREAKTHROUGH (WB, 1950): David Brian, John Agar, & Frank Lovejoy. An American infantry unit is followed from basic training to fighting in Normandy. B

2:30 pm -- THE HILL (MGM, 1965): Sean Connery, Ossie Davis. Prisoners fight to survive in a British military stockade. Great film. B+

6:15 pm -- MERRILL’S MARAUDERS (WB, 1962): Jeff Chandler, Ty Hardin. Sam Fuller directed this film about the general who led his troops against the Japanese in the jungles of Burma. B

8:00 pm -- SERGEANT YORK (WB, 1941): Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan. Rousing morale film based on the true story of Alvin York, a hell raiser who got religion and wound up winning the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War I. Ratings: See above.

10:30 pm -- TORA! TORA! TORA! (20th Century Fox, 1970): Joseph Cotten, So Yamamura. A docudrama reenactment of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, before, during, and after. C

2:45 am -- GERMANY YEAR ZERO (Tevere Film, 1948): Edmund Moeschke, Ernst Pittschau. Roberto Rossellini directed this stark look at Postwar Germany. C

May 28

11:45 pm -- WHERE EAGLES DARE (MGM, 1969): Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood. An Allied team sets out to rescue an American officer held prisoner in a mountaintop castle. C-

2:30 pm -- THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (Columbia, 1961): Gregory Peck, David Niven, & Anthony Quinn. A team of Allied saboteurs slips behind enemy lines to take out a pair of big Nazi cannon. B

8:00 pm -- THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (Columbia, 1957): Alec Guinness, William Holden. David Lean directed this epic re-telling of the story of POWS forced by the Japanese to build a strategic bridge in Burma. A++

11:00 pm -- THE GREAT ESCAPE (UA, 1963): Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner, & James Donald. An all-star cast enlivens this great docudrama about the largest P.O.W. escape ever to take place in Nazi Germany. A+

2:00 am -- KELLY’S HEROES (MGM, 1970): Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, & Telly Savalas.  American soldiers plan a bank heist behind German lines during World War 2. Based on an actual incident. B

May 29

7:30 am -- BABY FACE (WB, 1933): Barbara Stanwyck, Theresa Harris. In this, the most notorious of the Pre-Code films, a beautiful schemer sleeps her way to the top of a banking empire. A+

9;00 am -- EVER IN MY HEART (WB, 1933): Barbara Stanwyck, Otto Kruger. In this soaper set during World War I, a woman suspects her husband of being a German spy. C+

10:15 am -- LADIES THEY TALK ABOUT (WB, 1933): Barbara Stanwyck, Preston Foster, & Lyle Talbot. After taking part in a bank heist, tough cookie Stanwyck is sent to women’s prison, where she ends up as boss of her cellblock. B+

1:15 pm -- THE SECRET BRIDE (WB, 1934): Barbara Stanwyck, Warren William, & Glenda Farrell. State Attorney General (William) secretly weds governor’s daughter (Stanwyck), then learns that her father may be at the heart of a bribery/corruption case. B

8:00 pm -- CARMEN JONES (20th Century Fox, 1954): Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte. An all Black cast updating Carmen Jones to an army base. The operatic singing is dubbed, but Dandridge is a delight. Directed by Otto Preminger. A-

10:00 pm -- BRIGHT ROAD (MGM, 1953): Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte. Dandridge is unforgettable as a young elementary school teacher who sees the potential in a trouble-making student. B

11:30 pm -- THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS (Columbia, 1951): Thomas Gomez, Dorothy Dandridge. A programmer built around the famed basketball team with a little romance thrown in. C

2:30 am -- TARZAN’S PERIL (RKO, 1951): Lex Barker, Dorothy Dandridge. White gunrunners try to get Tarzan to stir up trouble between warring tribes; failing that they try to kill Tarzan. C-

May 30

6:00 am -- THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (MGM, 1934): Norma Shearer, Frederic March, & Charles Laughton. Shearer and March are poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning in this film about their romance. Charles Laughton steals the movie as Elizabeth’s villainous father. A+

1:00 pm -- NO MORE LADIES (MGM, 1935): Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery, & Charlie Ruggles. A society girl tries to reform her playboy husband by making him jealous. C+

6:30 pm -- IRVING THALBERG: PRINCE OF HOLLYWOOD (Turner, 2005): A documentary about the life and career of studio executive Irving Thalberg. A+

8:00 pm -- RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (MGM, 1962): Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea. Sam Peckinpah’s tale of two aging gunslingers who sign on to transport gold from a remote mining town. C

11:15 pm -- WELLS FARGO (Paramount, 1937): Joel McCrea, Frances Dee. McCrea, struggling to build his express shipping service, loses wife Dee in the process. B+

May 31

6:00 am – 2:45 pm -- CRIME DOCTOR MARATHON (Columbia, 1943-49): Warner Baxter stars as Dr. Robert Ordway, a criminal that suffered amnesia and later re-invented himself as a crime-fighting shrink in this series of seven highly enjoyable mysteries. Overall Rating: B-

8:00 pm -- BADLANDS (WB, 1973): Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek. Sheen and Spacek (who narrates) play the real Charles Starkweather and Caril-Ann Fugate, who went on a much-publicized killing spree through the Dakota badlands in 1958. Well acted and directed. B+

10:00 pm -- BONNIE AND CLYDE (WB, 1967): Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway. Arthur Penn directed this highly stylized biopic of the murderous duo. A-

12:00 am -- DOG DAY AFTERNOON (WB, 1975): Al Pacino, John Cazale. A man tries to rob a bank in order to pay for his lover’s sex-change operation. A

3:35 am -- INSIDE THE MAFIA (U.A., 1959): Cameron Mitchell, Robert Stauss. A mobster out to rule the underworld takes hostages at an international airport. C+

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