TCM TiVo ALERT
September 15 – September 22
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
OUT OF THE FOG (September 19, 1:45 pm): They Made Me a Criminal (1939) brought the great John Garfield to the attention of movie fans. Two years later, Out of the Fog proved that with the proper script, Garfield was among the elite actors of his era - an era that included Humphrey Bogart, Joseph Cotten, Cary Grant, James Stewart and Orson Welles. In this film, Garfield plays Harold Goff, a sadistic gangster who demands protection money from fishermen at a Brooklyn pier. He is incredibly cruel yet also charming as he falls for the daughter, played by Ida Lupino, of one of the fishermen he is terrorizing. It's one of Warner Brothers' best gritty film noirs. There is nothing likable about Goff, but you won't be able to stop watching until you see how he gets it in the end.
JULES AND JIM (September 21, 3:15 pm): This is an absolute masterpiece by Francois Truffaut, the best of the French New Wave directors. The story takes place over a period of about 25 years before, during and after World War I. The film is about the close and complex relationship between Jules (played by Oskar Werner), Jim (played by Henri Serre) and Catherine (played by the legendary Jeanne Moreau). A great storyline with unforgettable acting and cinematography. The storyline is detailed so it's difficult to explain it here, but it is easy to follow when watching the movie. No review can properly describe this great film. It's like reading a beautiful poem and understanding everything the writer meant to convey. I remember being completely awestruck watching this movie for the first time. It's one I go back to from time to time and it never leaves me disappointed.
ED’S BEST BETS:
PATHS OF GLORY (September 21, 9:15 pm): If any film can be truly said to be essential, this is one of them. It’s an unwavering look at the absurdity of war and the chain of command after the failure of a suicidal charge against an inconsequential position during World War I. Those responsible for the attack deny responsibility and instead choose three men at random to be court-martialed for cowardice. They are defended by their regiment’s commander, Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas), himself a trained lawyer, who has come to believe in the utter absurdity of the war. No matter how many times one sees it or how long between screening, it still packs quite a punch and Doulgas’s performance remains just as fresh today as it did at the time of filming.
THE THING (FROM ANOTHER WORLD) (September 22, 4:30 pm): It’s the scientists (led by Robert Cornthwaite) versus the military (led by Kenneth Tobey) in this sci-fi classic about the discovery of a flying saucer and its occupant near the North Pole. The occupant is alive and represents a wealth of knowledge from an advanced society. One problem: he lives on blood and regards humans as only necessary for his subsistence. Also, he’s busy breeding more of him. Written by Charles Lederer, produced by Howard Hawks, and directed by Christian Nyby (though many film historians assert that it was Hawks who actually directed the movie and giving Nyby, his film editor by trade, a director’s credit), it combines horror and thrills with dark comedy, utilizing its setting well to give the film a claustrophobic feeling. If you’ve seen it before, watch it again. And if you haven’t – this is one film you can’t afford to miss. Also of note is composer Dimitri Tiomkin’s haunting score, achieved with a Theremin.
WE DISAGREE ON ... WRITTEN ON THE WIND (September 19, 2:00 am)
ED: A-. On the surface, this film seems like another glossy soaper, but we have to look behind the facade. The director is none other than Douglas Sirk, here at the height of his creative powers. The film is excessive in every way: lush, over-the-top, garish lighting and scenery, and a soundtrack that tends to be too loud and intrusive. However, consider what lurks beneath the surface of this film. Written on the Wind is told in flashback and we see Robert Stack meeting a very violent death near the beginning. This method raises it from ordinary soap opera into something different. By showing Stack killed in such a way, we realize that whatever happiness Stack's character finds is both temporary and illusionary. Look for the use of deep focus throughout the film; when working with colors, it can be used to emphasize certain features. In this case Sirk used it to enhance the harshness of the settings, conveying to the audience that despite the lush trappings, all is not well when one peeks behind the curtain. The performances are outstanding. Sirk, working with Rock Hudson on eight pictures total, took him from a good-looking poster boy and made him into something of an actor. And Hudson got it, for he accepted what is clearly the minor part to Stack. Lauren Bacall was one of Hollywood's busiest and hottest actresses at the time, though she cut back on her schedule to care for ailing husband Humphrey Bogart, whose cancer was terminal. We'd never know just how sick Bogart was when we watch Bacall deliver a performance for the ages in this film (and later in the next year's Designing Woman). Dorothy Malone, however, almost steals the flick as Stack's hot-blooded sister. Look for the sequence where Sirk intercuts her highly-sexualized dance with her father's fatal tumble down the stairs. Fans of Sirk know that sexual satisfaction plays a big role in the undercurrent of his movies, and his reliance on dime-book Freud sometimes becomes a bit silly, as in the scene where Stack's doctor (Edward Platt) tells him her may be sterile (in a drugstore luncheonette, no less), and we see Stack on the way home passing by the phallic-symbol oil wells, all pouring out their treasure. It all adds up to an entertaining time for the audience and is a solid representation of the director that influenced such as Truffaut. (Watch Jules and Jim) Highly recommended, even if soaps are not your cup of tea.
DAVID: C-. This is an over-the-top, borderline silly soap-opera film about a brother and sister (played by Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone), who are heirs to a successful Texas oil company. Both are hard drinkers who jump from bed to bed, somehow unhappy that they are attractive, rich and have easy lives. I am a huge fan of Lauren Bacall. She wasn't getting too many offers for movies when Written on the Wind was made in 1956, which explains why she's in it. She plays a secretary who for some unknown reason ends up marrying Kyle Hadley (Stack). She comes across bored in this movie. Her character, Lucy Moore Hadley, is attracted to Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson), a talented geologist and Kyle's best friend. Mitch is interested in Lucy when he's not too busy dragging a constantly-drunk Kyle out of the local bar or repeatedly rejecting the advances of Marylee Hadley (Malone). Some scenes are ridiculous, such as Kyle going into a rage when Lucy tells him she's pregnant. Kyle has a low sperm count and incorrectly believes Mitch is the father. You can't make this stuff up. This film is predictable, repetitive and not that interesting. Also, there's no reason to care about any of the main characters, who seem to have it all, but are miserable. Who can possibly relate to any of them?