Tuesday, May 7, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for May 8-14

May 8–May 14


THE INFORMER (May 10, 6:00 am): This 1935 film, directed by John Ford, is about as good as it gets when it comes to a hard-hitting drama with an intelligent plot about a simple man. Victor McLaglen is Gypo Nolan, the simple man in question, who is kicked out of the Irish Republican Army during its 1922 War of Independence for not killing an English Black-and-Tan as retribution for that man's murder of an IRA member. Desperate for money, he sells out a friend (played by Wallace Ford), who is wanted as a fugitive, for 20 pounds. Gypo proceeds to spend nearly all of the money buying liquor and food and showing off. After passing the blame for the incident, that leads to the death of Ford's character, onto someone else, Gypo finally admits what he did and realizes how wrong he was to do it. The film - with Oscar wins for McLaglen and John Ford - is a fascinating morality story that is dark, tragic and raw. 

DOG DAY AFTERNOON (May 13, 12:30 am): There are certain 1970s crime-dramas that really capture the gritty, almost completely disgusting, lives of cops, pimps, two-bit hoods and drug dealers in New York City during that decade. They include SerpicoThe French Connection, The Taking of Pelham 123The Seven-Ups and Dog Day Afternoon. Based on a botched 1972 robbery at a Brooklyn Bank, Dog Day Afternoon (1975) is about two would-be robbers (brilliantly played by Al Pacino and John Cazale) who are far from professionals. The entire robbery is botched seconds after it starts when a third guy gets cold feet and runs out of the bank. Also, the heist is after the bank's daily monetary pickup so there's only a little more than $1,000. The interplay between Sonny (Pacino) and the police detective sergeant (seasoned pro Charles Durning), who is the hostage negotiator, is memorable. The scene where Sonny screams "Attica! Attica!" is so good that it's worth watching the movie just for that. 


SERGEANT YORK (May 10, 5:30 pm): Howard Hawks directs Gary Cooper to the Oscar in the ultimate morale film based on the true story of the World War 1 hero. In fact, in order to sign over the rights for the film to Warners, York stipulated that only Gary Cooper could play him. Cooper captures the struggles of York perfectly and is backed by a marvelous cast, including Walter Brennan (who almost walks away with the picture), Joan Leslie, George Tobias, Margaret Wycherly, and Stanley Ridges. That film still resounds with audiences today is a testament to the director, cast, and writers, one of whom was John Huston.

THE 400 BLOWS (May 13, 2:45 am): Francois Truffaut’s autobiographical film about a young man (Jean-Pierre Leaud), left entirely to his own devices at home by his neglectful parents, who turns to a life of petty crime. The film becomes a tribute to the resilience and spirit of the young man is spite of his clueless parents and equally clueless teachers, all of who are too eager to absolve themselves of him rather than deal with his problems. Much as been said and written about this remarkable film, which was Truffaut’s directorial debut. Don’t let its art house reputation deter you from this most interesting film.

WE DISAGREE ON . . . THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T (May 11, 3:35 am)

ED: A+. This is one of the great fantasy films made before the Total Age of CGI, it had to be powered by imagination alone. Fortunately, it was written by one of the greats in the realm of children's books: Dr. Seuss. The film is the ultimate nightmare for every kid that's had to take piano lessons. It's superbly filmed and the performance of Hans Conried as Dr. Terwilliker, the crazed and wonderfully mean-spirited piano teacher, is classic. I recommend this for every parent, everyone who has a child taking music lessons, and, in fact, anyone that missed seeing the film as a child. It is a film that both children and their parents can enjoy. Pass the popcorn.

DAVID: C. I like the unusual and off-beat, but this strange film failed to entertain me. Bart Collins (Tommy Rettig) is a boy who hates playing the piano and even more so, hates his dictatorial piano teacher, Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conried), the Dr. T in the movie's title. Most of the film is Bart's nightmare-dream in which the piano instructor is an actual dictator who is forcing 500 boys to play the piano at the same time, thus the 5,000 fingers in the title. There's plenty of songs, not one of them memorable, in this 1953 film. While the bizarre story has a certain charm, it's not enough to make this an enjoyable movie. It's only 92 minutes long, but I found myself losing interest before one-third of it had played and it never got to the point where my interest returned. Conried does a nice job, and certainly chews a lot of scenery, but Rettig is not good.

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

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