TCM TiVo ALERT
April 8–April 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
CROSSFIRE (April 10, 7:15 am): TCM is honoring Robert Ryan on April 10, showing some of his finest films. Crossfire may be the best of them all. This 1947 film noir that deals with anti-Semitism is considered the first B movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. The film stars the great Robert Mitchum with Robert Young outstanding as a police detective. But it is Ryan's powerful portrayal of a white supremacist/anti-Semite GI who kills a Jewish guy he and his buddies meet at a bar who steals the movie.
THE SET-UP (April 10, 2:45 pm): Two years after Crossfire, Robert Ryan is Stoker Thompson, a 35-year-old washed-up boxer who is pitted against a young, promising prizefighter in what's supposed to be a set-up. Just a couple of problems: One, Stoker's manager Tiny (George Tobias) doesn't tell him it's a fix until the last round because he doesn't think his charge has a prayer. Second, when Stoker is told to take a dive, he refuses despite learning that Little Boy, a mobster, is going to lose a lot of money if he doesn't throw the bout. The film perfectly captures a blood-thirsty crowd loving the violence and brutality of the fight. While the filming of the bout is excellent, the post-fight in which Stocker has to face Little Boy's goons is even better.
ED’S BEST BETS:
LAWYER MAN (April 8, 6:00 am): A wonderful Pre-code film with William Powell as a smooth-talking lawyer corrupted by his success. Joan Blondell matches Powell scene for scene as his loyal and lovesick secretary. Must viewing for fans of Pre-Code films.
THREE STRANGERS (April 9, 2:20 am): Another one to record, but, again, it’s well worth it. Any film with Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre is worth seeing. This one is much more so because of the addition of Geraldine Fitzgerald, and the plot: three strangers team up to purchase a sweepstakes ticket. Although it is the winning ticket, good fortune is not to be had; rather, they are undone by greed, paranoia, and plain bad luck. The weird screenplay by John Huston and Howard Koch guarantees fascinating viewing.
WE DISAGREE ON ... THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH (April 12, 4:30 pm)
ED: A. This is a wonderful animated film based on the best-selling and much loved book by Norman Juster, and brought to life by Chuck Jones and Abe Levitow. Milo (voiced by Butch Patrick from The Munsters) is a bored young man. One day he revives a large gift-wrapped box. A “phantom tollbooth” springs from the box, and as Milo enters it, he becomes an animated cartoon. Inside this animated world Milo finds a dog named Tock and is helped by the Whether Man and his sister, the Which. He comes to two kingdoms: Dictionopolis, ruled by King Azaz, where words are valued over all else; and Digitopolis, ruled by the Mathemagician, where numbers are more valuable than words. In order to unite these two kingdoms, Milo must go through the Mountains of Ignorance to rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason. It’s told with the verve and imagination we have come to expect from Chuck Jones, and he never let’s us down. Not only is this a wonderful movie for children, it also appeals to the child in all of us.
DAVID: C-. The appeal of this film is completely lost on me. I understand the nostalgia for Looney Tunes cartoons with Chuck Jones directing and Mel Blanc doing some of the voices. The movie bored me several times to the point I stopped paying attention, hoping Bugs Bunny would show up. There isn't anything fun in this film. The special effects on the non-animated parts are atrocious. Like the book, the movie has some clever names, but it's not enough to save it from being dumped on my bad movie scrapheap. The moralizing is as heavy as a wheelbarrow full of bricks and not at all subtle (a pencil firing the word "truth" to defeat villains, for example), the music is forgettable, and Butch Patrick is awful and terribly miscast.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.