TCM TiVo ALERT
June 8–June 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (June 11, 5:00 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 (who is such a movie fan) 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).
THE KILLER IS LOOSE (June 9, 9:15 am): This 1956 film noir has Joseph Cotten (one of my favorite actors) as a police lieutenant who is the target of an escaped convict (played by Wendell Corey). Three years before his escape, Leon "Foggy" Poole, Corey's character, a bank teller, botches an inside-job robbery. His wife is killed when police figure out the crime and raid his house. Foggy plots revenge against Cotten, who led the raid. The movie is only 73 minutes in length, and is very fast-paced with a lot of tension as Foggy's revenge is to kill Cotten's wife - a typical mid-1950s housewife. Sort of like an eye for an eye except with spouses. While Cotten is outstanding, it's Corey who steals the movie as a guy who's been meek and ridiculed his entire life. He is a model prisoner, but all the while, he's been thinking about avenging his wife's death.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE TRAIN (June 9, 5:30 pm): The plot is simple – a German colonel has stolen the art masterpieces of France and is shipping them to Nazi Germany. It is up to the French Resistance to stop him. What follows is a masterpiece of war cinema. Burt Lancaster heads the Resistance cell whose mission it is to stop the train. Burt is skeptical at first, wondering if it’s worth the cost in human life to stop a trainload of mere paintings. But as the film progresses, stopping that train becomes an obsession, especially as he finds himself in a human game of chess, pitted against the German colonel in the person of Paul Schofield. Lancaster ‘s obsession to stop the train is equaled by that of Schofield, who will try to get the train through to Germany come Hell or high water. The supporting cast is wonderful, containing many regulars from French cinema as Michael Simon as train engineer Papa Boule (who nearly steals the film), Albert Remy (The 400 Blows) as Lancaster’s right-hand man, Wolfgang Preiss (who reminds me of a German Lloyd Nolan), and the great Jeanne Moreau, who has a small, but important, part as an innkeeper who saves Lancaster from arrest and later gives him shelter. It’s a picture you won’t soon forget, with many memorable scenes and lines.
FINGERS AT THE WINDOW (June 13, 6:30 pm): Lew Ayres and Laraine Day took a break from the Dr. Kildare series to star in this enjoyable comedy/thriller. An axe murderer is stalking the streets of Chicago and the police don’t have any leads. Ayres is an out of work actor who happens to see Day running from a man carrying an axe. He saves her and captures the would-be killer, but realizes there will be further attempts on her life. He tries to figure out why she’s been targeted, but she hasn’t a clue, either. Turns out that Basil Rathbone is the villain behind it all, and that’s all I’m going to say. Charles Lederer directed the film, and his light touch adds a little relief to the suspense and allows the audience to breathe. If you love suspenseful crime thrillers, you can’t miss with this one.
WE DISAGREE ON ... THE SHANGHAI GESTURE (June 11, 10:30 a.m.)
DAVID: B+. I've watched this film based on Ed's past recommendations. Ed is a lover of bad movies and calls this one a "laff riot." Starring Victor Mature, who both Ed and I agree was an awful actor, and an outrageous plot about a casino with Gene Tierney (who was also "actor challenged") as the young innocent looking for a good time, I figured this would be awful. I was pleasantly surprised that the movie is quite good, and not a film that is so bad, it's good. Sure, there are some ridiculous moments and this isn't Casablanca, but Mature and Tierney are good and Ona Munson is absolutely delicious as the scheming Mother Gin Sling, who runs the casino. Director Josef von Sternberg does a great job of framing the actors, particularly capturing Tierney's beauty, in a film that oozes sex.
ED: D. Von Sternberg always had a penchant for the overblown, and if the Shanghai Gesture means giving the middle finger to the audience, then this film is right on target. Poppy (Gene Tierney) is out for a night's fun in Shanghai when she stumbles into the Art Deco emporium of Mother Gin Sling (originally “Mother Godamm” in the play). Mother, played so over the top by Ona Munson (yet another Chinese with blue eyes) is in a role Anna May Wong would have done in the ‘30s (and a whole lot better at that). The highlight (?) is when Mother makes her entrance. Von Sternberg clearly wants it to be show stopping, but it’s more reminiscent of when the curtain went up on King Kong in New York. Mother sports a dress that looks as if Bob Mackie made it on a three-day drunk, a hairdo that would make Cher jealous, and hats that look like something out of a broken-down carnival. Poppy, meanwhile, has fallen under the spell of one Doctor Omar (Victor Mature). If you want a real belly laugh, check out Mature in this role as he leads Poppy into an ever-spiraling addiction to gambling and drugs. Mature tries to look devious and smarmy in the role, but all he does is give the impression that he's constipated. When Sir Guy (Walter Huston) makes his appearance and the crap hits the Fan-Tan, it's precious for all bad movie fans, especially when his relationship to Mother and that of Mother to Poppy is revealed. Not to give anything away, but let’s just say Mother's not the mothering type, if you know what I mean. Don’t miss it.