Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cinéma Inhabituel for Jan 23-31

A Guide to the Rare and Unusual on TCM 

By Ed Garea

January 23

2:30 am Week-End Marriage (WB, 1932) - Director: Thornton Freeland. Cast: Loretta Young, Norman Foster, Aline MacMahon, George Brent, and Grant Mitchell. 66 min.

This is an interesting, though not great by any means, Pre-code drama about a husband (Foster) that loses his job and a wife (Young) who risks her marriage to work and provide for the family. Not all that wonderful, but Young is always an interesting actress to watch, as is the underrated Aline MacMahon. 

January 25

8:15 am Night Flight (MGM, 1933) - Director: Clarence Brown. Cast: John Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore, Robert Montgomery, and Myrna Loy. 91 min.

Check out this cast. John Barrymore is the hard-driving owner of a freight airline. It is urgent that a life-saving serum make it to Rio de Janeiro from Santiago, Chile, by morning. To make matters worse, the weather is really lousy and the flight must take place that night if the serum is to reach the doctors in time. Montgomery is a pilot as is Gable with Hayes as his wife. William Gargan is the pilot who must deliver the serum to Rio from the company’s hub in Buenos Aires.

It’s all based on a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince) and his experiences as a pilot in South America. When the rights granted from the author expired in 1942 the film was consigned to the vault, not seeing the light of day until 2011 when TCM and Warner Home Video gave it a second life, much to the delight of film fans everywhere. It’s more than a bit creaky to watch today, but given the cast and story it’s a definite must see.

2:30 am The House of Seven Corpses (International Amusements, 1974) - Director: Paul Harrison. Cast: John Ireland, Faith Domergue, and John Carradine. 90 min.

The only point worth noting in this Grade-Z production is that it was Domergue’s last appearance in a film. Carradine is the creepy caretaker of a supposedly haunted house where director John Ireland is shooting his latest picture starring Domergue. During the course of events she accidentally conjures up a real ghoul and the fun starts. By the way, the house was formerly the Governor’s Mansion in Utah. The director is noted as the writer of the H.R. Pufnstuf Saturday morning children’s series. He also directed a few episodes of The Untouchables and The Ann Sothern Show in the ‘50s.

January 26

6:00 am You Can’t Get Away With Murder (WB, 1939) - Director: Lewis Seiler. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Gale Page, Billy Halop, Harvey Stephens, and John Litel. 78 min.

Someone at Warners had the bright idea to develop former Dead End Kid Billy Halop into a starring actor. This film quickly disabused them of that notion. Halop plays a young tough who gets mixed up with hardened gangster Bogart. Accompanying Bogie on a robbery, Halop steals the gun of his sister’s fiancé, Bogie kills the robbery victim with it, they’re caught, and Bogie and Halop are sent to Sing Sing while the fiancé is sentenced to the chair. The rest of the film is concerned with Bogie trying to scare Halop into not revealing the truth. It’s not one of Bogie’s more stellar performances, but compared to Halop’s, it’s Oscar worthy. If you like Bogie, this one’s for you. If you like bad movies, this one’s for you. If you’re a Halop fan, there is no hope for you.

January 29

8:00 pm The Italian Job (Paramount, 1969) - Director: Peter Collinson. Cast: Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Benny Hill, Raf Vallone, Rossano Brazzi, and Margaret Blye. 101 min. 

This isn’t the Donald Sutherland-Mark Wahlberg remake, but the original, and worth watching for the imaginative casting. It’s a caper about attempting to steal a gold shipment in Torino by creating a traffic jam. One of his associates is Hill as Professor Peach, a letch obsessed with fat women, not unlike his television show. Coward, in his last film, plays a crime boss running his empire from his prison cell and renders Caine further assistance in his quest. Is this a serious drama? Are you kidding? It’s a wacky farce, an irreverent goofing on the crime capers that so obsessed ‘60s filmmakers, but worth a view because of the cast. Trivia note: Cilla Black was originally offered the role of Lorna, Caine’s girlfriend. The fact that TCM is running this in primetime should be enough to entice viewers.

4:15 am The Hoodlum (Eagle-Lion, 1951) - Director: Max Nosseck. Cast: Lawrence Tierney, Allene Roberts, Marjorie Riordan, and Edward Tierney. 63 min.

Tierney was a B-movie star who enjoyed a brief window of fame when he starred in the King Brothers Monogram feature, Dillinger (1945). He went on to give memorable performances in two famed film noirs: The Devil Thumbs a Ride, and Robert Wise’s Born to Kill, both 1947 and co-starring Claire Trevor. The fact that his off-screen life closely mirrored his on-screen persona added greatly to his reputation, although not to his pocketbook.

Over the years, Tierney came to be regarded as a cult figure, revered by fans of psychotronic movies. He was interviewed in-depth in Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Video, and was featured by Norman Mailer in 1987’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance, and by John Sayles in his 1991 City of Hope.  But the cult image was cemented when Quentin Tarantino cast him as crime boss Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs (1992). His tough guy image was such that even when he appeared as Elaine’s father in a 1991 episode of Seinfeld, he played the role like a tough guy, even though he played a noted author.

The Hoodlum isn’t one of Tierney’s better productions. He had worn out his welcome at RKO, where he was a contract player, and was now freelancing at other studios. But the only ones willing to take a chance on him were low-budget outfits. This film is a rather routine programmer concerning the life and career of a criminal who ruins the life of everyone that he meets. Getting their money’s worth, the studio features Tierney in almost every scene and even hired his brother, Edward, (actor Scott Brady is another brother) to play with him.

There’s something in this movie for almost everyone: film noir buffs, crime drama buffs, Lawrence Tierney buffs, and bad movie buffs.

January 30

5:00 pm First Comes Courage (Columbia, 1943) - Director: Dorothy Arzner. Cast: Merle Oberon, Brian Aherne, Carl Esmond, Isobel Elsom, and Fritz Leiber. 86 min.

Although little more than a routine programmer from Columbia set in wartime Norway, this film is worth watching because it’s the last directorial effort from Arzner. Nicole Larsen (Oberon) is a Norwegian lass caught between German major Paul Dichter (Esmond), who wants to marry her, and British commando Captain Lowell (Aherne), who loves her. But she’s playing the major for useful information for the Norwegian Resistance. She must also free the captain from his Nazi captors. The sets are somewhat ridiculous, but watch it for Oberon’s performance and the slant Arzner gives the film.

For other Cinema Inhabituel films, click here.

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