TCM TiVo ALERT
January 15–January 22
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
NOTORIOUS (January 18, 4:00 pm): The film has everything needed to be a classic. Great director (Alfred Hitchcock) - check. Incredibly talented lead actors (Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains) - check. Excellent, detailed plot full of suspense - check. One of Hitchcock's best with Grant as a U.S. agent who recruits Bergman, the daughter of a Nazi spy, to infiltrate a Nazi spy ring in Brazil, headed by Rains, a friend of her father. The problem is Grant and Bergman fall in love. Can't blame either of them. It's Hitch so it's filled with great twists and turns, lots of suspense and worth seeing over and over again.
TO SIR, WITH LOVE (January 21, 5:30 pm): A 1967 JD film with Sidney Poitier teaching at a poor predominantly white high school on the East End of London to make ends meet. Poitier has to deal with racism as well as try to reach kids who are doomed to lives of poverty, violence and misery. It's a bit unrealistic with Poitier impacting the lives of nearly every kid, teaching them about respect, and being honorable. But Poitier is wonderful and many of the kids, who are virtual unknowns, put in solid performances. The title song is a classic, sung by Lulu, who plays one of the students.
ED’S BEST BETS:
A MAN’S CASTLE (January 16, 8:00 pm): A great Pre-code romance of sorts with Spencer Tracy as an unemployed Hoovertown shanty tough guy and Loretta Young as a penniless showgirl who moves in with Tracy, becomes pregnant by Tracy, and sticks it out even when Tracy turns to crime. We know it’s Pre-code because they never marry. It’s strong stuff and worth your time.
THE PHANTOM OF CRESTWOOD (January 19, 7:30 am): I love Old Dark House mysteries and this is one of the best. Blackmailer Karen Morely invites some previous victims to a party in order to extort even more money. But things go wrong when one of them murders her. So who done it? Gangster Ricardo Cortez turns detective in order to prove to the cops that it wasn’t him.
WE DISAGREE ON ... MOBY DICK (January 19, 3:00 pm)
ED: A+. One of the most difficult things for a screenwriter, producer, and director is to take a classic novel more concerned with thought and the inner life of its characters than the action and properly translate it for the screen. Luckily, screenwriter John Huston (who also directed) had Ray Bradbury for a partner. Between the two of them, they got it right, balancing the action of the novel with the mood displayed by its leading characters. Gregory Peck, an actor I’m normally not fond of, is superb as Captain Ahab, embodying the character as well as adding a touch of dignity to his derangement. Also note Huston’s casting of the other parts, carefully capturing the spirit of the novel with men that actually look as if they‘ve been to sea. As for the important second-unit, it was in the capable hands of Freddie Francis, one of the best at this line of work. Richard Basehart is wonderful as Ishmael, and Leo Genn most effective in his scenes as Starbuck. This is a film I can see numerable times and still want to see again.
DAVID: C+. Ed is correct that turning a great novel, particularly when the two main characters struggle with internal conflicts (and one of them happens to be a whale), into a great movie is a huge challenge. It can be done, and if anyone is going to succeed I'd take my chances with John Huston as the director and Gregory Peck as the lead actor. The effort is there, but making this classic book into a classic film falls considerably short of their lofty goal. The dialogue is too stilted and wooden (no pun intended); the "whale" sometimes looks legitimate and at other times looks like Land Shark from Saturday Night Live; and while filmed in Technicolor, the color of the movie isn't sharp. It's certainly not an awful movie though it is overwrought at times. I've seen it once, not that long ago, and that was plenty for me.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.