Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TCM TiVo Alert for November 23-30

November 23 – November 30


STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (November 23, 10:00 am): Honestly, you can't go wrong with any of the Alfred Hitchcock-directed films being shown on November 23, but this is among my favorites. The premise is simple, but the plot, acting and directing of the movie makes it a classic. Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) wants his father dead. While on a train, he meets a stranger - tennis player Guy Haines (Farley Granger) with a similar dilemma. Haines wants to get rid of his wife so he can marry another woman. Anthony comes up with the idea that these two "strangers on a train" will do each other's dirty work and no one will suspect them. Haines brushes it aside, but when the psychotic Anthony kills Haines' wife, he expects his "co-conspirator" to respond in (not so) kind. The interaction between Walker and Granger, two highly underrated actors, in this film is outstanding. Hitch did a fantastic job - which he so often did - building tension and drama, and making a hell of a good movie. 

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (November 26, 12:00 am): How do you take a 400-page classic book and turn it into a great film? I don't know, but I imagine those working on the 1946 film adaption of Great Expectations, led by the skilled direction of David Lean, who co-wrote the screenplay, worked very hard to accomplish that goal. And what's more incredible is Lean - known for lengthy but excellent movies like Lawrence of ArabiaDoctor Zhivago and The Bridge on the River Kwai - did it in under two hours. The film is blessed with an outstanding cast, including John Mills, Alec Guinness, Martita Hunt, Jean Simmons and Valerie Hobson, and the screenplay is an excellent adaption of Charles Dickens' wonderful book. It's a delightful, entertaining film about a young orphan, Pip, who is taken to London at the expense of a mysterious benefactor who believes him to be a man with "great expectations." It's one of those movies that you enjoy watching from the beginning and leaves you with a smile of enjoyment and satisfaction when it's over. 


BRIGHTON ROCK (November 27, 6:00 pm): From the Boulting Brothers comes this excellent adaptation (by Terence Rattigan) of Graham Greene’s novel about a gang of lowlife hoods in Brighton, England and their teenaged leader, Pinkie Brown. It’s a sequel of sorts to Greene’s novel, This Gun for Sale (published in the U.S as This Gun for Hire and made into a film in 1941 starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake). It’s also the breakthrough role for young Richard Attenborough as Pinkie. It was the most popular film in England when released in 1947, but didn’t do that much business here under the title Young Scarface. It also scored an incredible 100% on the Rotten Tomatoes website, if you’re looking for any further reason to watch. Oh, by the way, it has one of the best – and most cynical – endings of any film.

TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI (November 30, 11:15 pm): Translated as Do Not Touch the Loot, this is a wonderful film by Jacques Becker starring the great Jean Gabin (Max) and Rene Dary (Riton) as two old gangsters that have squirreled away 50-million francs in gold bars, enough to support them in retirement. Unfortunately, Riton’s girl friend has not only grown tired of him, she now has a new squeeze, the boss of a rival gang, to whom she spills the beans. The gang kidnaps Riton and Max learns that in order to get him back, he’s going to have to part with the gold bars. It’s a film that never lets up once it gets going, and takes the audience along for a wonderful ride through the prism of Max’s point of view, as he is bound by loyalty to save his partner. Worth seeing again and again.

WE DISAGREE ON . . . LORD OF THE FLIES (November 27, 8:00 am):

ED: A+. One of the hardest things for a filmmaker is to translate a classic novel to the screen. There are those who say it can’t be done, and perhaps in a sense they are right, for the imagination of the reader has already run the film, assembled the cast and designed themise en scene. Then there is the problem of the author. With some it’s difficult enough, but others, such as Henry James, concentrate so much on the inner life of their characters that a filmic representation is all but impossible. The only things that can be given are the bare bones of the story with the rest to be hopefully filled in by a screenwriter. Sometimes, as with The Heiress, it gets by. But with The Bostonians, it becomes a borefest. William Golding is also another tough nut to crack because his narrative is too well woven and laid out for a director to attempt an interpretation. But Peter Brooks does a nice job of capturing the essence of Golding’s novel by casting non-professional actors as the children marooned on the island. This, plus the use of grainy, black and white film, gives the film a Godard-like type of feeling, for instead of attempting an interpretation of the material, Brooks let’s the children themselves interpret the material simply by acting out their dilemma on the island. Reading the novel, it’s almost as if Golding had a movie version in mind while writing. Brooks is astute enough to realize that and let the children interpret it themselves, giving it both a sense of reality and surrealism, especially during the scenes where the two factions meet. Could he have done better with a solid script and professional actors? Watch the 1990 color version and you’ll get the answer: He couldn’t.

DAVID: C+. As I mentioned with Great Expectations, adapting a classic book to the silver screen isn’t easy. How many times have you read a book, loved it and then gone to see how it was mangled as a film? This 1963 film of William Golding's book about English school kids on a deserted island and its reflection on the dark side of humanity is fine, but certainly not outstanding. There are many scenes that just end as if someone editing the film decided to take scissors to the film. There's a risk in using amateur actors, particularly children, in movies. The leads are pretty good, but the supporting cast is terrible. They don't seem to know the few lines they have, and their delivery is awful. Also, problems with the sound on the movie locations forced the voices to be dubbed thus making portions of the film's audio out of sync with the video. The film is only 92 minutes long yet there are some scenes that come across as simply wasting time. While it's too late to change it, this is a movie that really should have been in color and not black-and-white. 

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

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