Monday, January 21, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for January 23-31

January 23–January 31


THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (January 29, 7:45 am): When he wanted, Frank Sinatra was an excellent actor. My favorite Sinatra films are The Manchurian CandidateSuddenly and this 1955 film. In The Man With the Golden Arm, directed by Otto Preminger, Sinatra's character, Frankie Machine, is a hardcore heroin addict who just got out of jail. Through circumstances all too familiar to addicts, he gets hooked again, largely thanks to a drug dealer who wants Frankie to return to his profession as an expert card in high-stakes illegal games. The movie is dark, authentic and gripping. This one pulls no punches leading it to not get a rating from the Motion Picture Association of America because it violates the Hays Code. For a film that is 58 years old, it holds up remarkably well.

THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH (January 29, 9:45 am): I don't find Marilyn Monroe to be sexy and have never understood her appeal. That is with one notable exception - this 1955 film in which Monroe is the ultimate sex kitten in her most entertaining performance. It's funny, charming and entertaining. Monroe, who's character is never named, plays an actress living in a New York City apartment in the sweltering heat. Her neighbor, played by Tommy Ewell (in easily his most famous role), is a book editor who spends a lot of time imagining things. He's proofing a book about how husbands get the urge to cheat seven years into their marriage, thus the title of the movie. He happens to be married seven years and his wife and son are summering in Maine to get away from the city heat. The interaction between Monroe and Ewell is excellent and definitely worth watching.


THE LADY VANISHES (January 27, 9:30 pm): It’s Hitchcock’s last triumph in England before he left for America. And it is quite a triumph at that. An elderly lady disappears while on train ride. Young Margaret Lockwood is determined to find her. It never lets up for ne minute while keeping us on the edge of our seats. Look for Paul Lukas in a great performance as the villain.

THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (January 29, 10:00 pm): No one made wittier and intelligent comedies better than Ealing Studios. This may be their best. Alec Guinness is a timid bank clerk. For the last twenty years he has accompanied shipment of gold bullion. He has a scheme to commit the perfect robbery ad enlists newfound friend Stanley Holloway to help him pull it off.  And they almost get away with it in this wonderful comedy. Look for Audrey Hepburn in a minor role at the beginning.

WE DISAGREE ON ... THE NANNY (January 23, 12 pm)

ED: B-. Following the success of Baby Jane, Bette Davis’s career was rejuvenated as a sort of “Queen of the Horror Genre.” But she was not the original choice for the movie. No, believe it or not, Greer Garson was the one originally approached by producers to take the part, but she declined, saying it wouldn’t be good for her career. So the producers turned to Bette, who was known to accept almost any part. And The Nanny is right in keeping with that career path. When we sit down to watch a movie, our first priority is to be entertained, and this film is certainly that. Produced by the folks at Hammer with a script by vaunted horror/sci-fi/thriller screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, The Nanny is a story of a 10-year old boy (William Dix) fresh out of a home for disturbed children. He was sent there for ostensibly drowning his little sister. Shortly after arriving he’s back under the microscope as his mother (Wendy Craig) suffers food poisoning and is sent to the hospital. Everyone suspects little Joey, given his track record. Only Joey says he’s not the culprit. In fact, according to him, he didn’t drown little sister. No, it’s his nanny who’s the real killer. And guess who plays the nanny? Why, Bette, of course. Joey’s Aunt Pen (Jill Bennett) arrives to take care of him and discovers the grisly truth. Is The Nanny important? No. But is it fun? . . .

DAVID: D+. To answer Ed's last question, no, this film is not fun. It's easy to dismiss The Nanny as yet another awful psycho-biddy film starring a fading Bette Davis doing all she can to somehow stay in the limelight and make a few bucks. But this film is so much worse than that. I have to laugh when I read reviews that refer to this movie as complex psychological horror analyzing it as if it was some sort of classic. What film were they watching? There is absolutely nothing entertaining or redeeming about this film. As I wrote in my critique of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? I like B-movies. Plenty of them are enjoyable in their unique way. However, like Baby Jane, this one is terrible, predictable, the dialogue is one dimensional, and William Dix, who plays Joey, a 10-year-old boy, is a better actor than Davis. Of course, Nanny is a psychopathic killer, but among the characters in the film, only Joey and his aunt are able to figure out the obvious. 

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

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