Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cinéma Inhabituel for January 8-14

A Guide to the Rare and Unusual on TCM

By Ed Garea

Before we delve into the offerings, I’d like to pose a question: How many of you, in your cable subscribing lives, remember IFC? Yes, yes, I know. It’s still on the dial, but how many of you remember when it first began and watched what it offered. 

When it first launched, IFC showed some really great and rare independent films and foreign films. It was the place for a film fans to go. But nothing good lasts forever in the dog-eat-dog world of cable - the overriding philosophy is to separate the consumer from as many of his dollars as you can while returning the least in programming. And it eventually claimed IFC, as the channel was bought by AMC Network, a branch of the Dolan Cablevision empire. Result: a dumbing-down of the programming, eliminating many of the cutting-edge independent and foreign films and replacing them with movies already shown over and over on other channels. As if that weren’t enough, add the inclusion of retired TV series such as Malcolm in the Middle, and a whole mess of commercials stuck in to every program. In other words it mimicked what happened to AMC. IFC should change its initials to ACS, A Crying Shame.

January 11

2:00 am The Psychopath (Amicus/Paramount, 1966) - Director: Freddie Francis. Starring: Patrick Wymark, Margaret Johnston, Judy Huxtable, and John Standing. 83 min.

For all you fans of Criminal Minds out there, here’s a film for you. While it’s not nearly as gruesome as the television show, it is almost as weird. And it’s a good shocker.

Inspector Holloway (Wymark) in investigating a series of grisly murders (one committed with a blowtorch) in which a doll resembling each victim is left at the scene. Holloway discovers the common thread between the men: they were all on an Allied commission that convicted German World War II industrialist Von Sturm of using slave labor in his factories. As he delves further, he finds that the dolls belong to Mrs. Von Sturm, whose home is overcrowded by her doll collection. Mark, her pale, neurotic son, is the number one suspect. But Louise Saville (Huxtable), the daughter of one of the victims, does a little snooping of her own and discovers the horrible truth.

January 12

9:00 am The Prime Minister (WB, 1942) - Director: Thorold Dickinson. Starring: John Gielgud, Diana Wynyard, Owen Nares, and Fay Compton. 115 min.

John Gielgud gives an interesting performance as Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in this rarely seem look at the life and works of one of the prime movers of the Victorian Era. Expertly acted and Gielgud’s performance is more than equal of that of George Arliss, but the film’s constrained budget allows no room for anything better.

January 13

2:00 am Jour De Fete (Cady Films, 1949) - Director: Jacques Tati. Starring: Jacques Tati, Guy Decomble, Paul Frankeur, and Santa Relli. 79 min.

It’s the first feature film directed by and starring the venerable Jacques Tati and it features much of the droll comedy, sight gags and relaxed pacing that marked his later films. It is an expanded version of an 18-minute short Tati made in 1947, L’Ecole des factures (School for Postmen).

Tati is a postman in a small town whose ambition exceeds his resources and his abilities. A traveling carnival comes to the town and Tati attends the cinema within it. Here he sees a newsreel on new, modernized methods of postal delivery. He then tries to implement these methods with the resulting comical consequences. The movie was originally filmed in Thomson-color, a process extinct before prints of the film could be released; thus it was first seen in black and white. In the late 80’s a color copy was made and later restored by Tati’s daughter Sophie.

January 14

2:00 pm The Boogie Man Will Get You (Columbia, 1942) - Director: Lew Landers. Starring: Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Maxie Rosenbloom, Larry Parks, and Jeff Donnell. 66 min.

Now let’s make room for a bad movie. It’s one that’s enjoyable, only a little over an hour long, and employs the talents of both Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre.

Winnie Layden (Jeff Donnell) buys a dilapidated colonial tavern, hoping to turn it into a country inn. The owner, Professor Nathaniel Billings (Karloff), agrees to sell it proved he can keep his laboratory in the basement. Karloff’s experiments involve grabbing traveling peddlers and trying to turn them into supermen using huge quantities of electricity. Lorre is the town’s sheriff/doctor, banker/justice of the peace. He holds the mortgage on the property and despite the protests of Winnie’s ex, Bill (Parks), puts through the sale. The rest you can follow. Keep in mind that it’s a take on Arsenic and Old Lace.

For other Cinema Inhabituel films, click here.

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