TCM TiVo ALERT
June 8–June 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
TWO WOMEN (June 8, 12:00 am): This is Sophia Loren's best film and put her on the map as far as being an outstanding actress and not just an incredibly beautiful woman. She plays Cesira, a Roman woman who has to flee her hometown with her 13-year-old daughter Rosetta (Eleonora Brown) during World War II with the Allies bombing the city. She goes to incredible lengths to protect her child only for the two to be raped in an abandoned church by Moroccan Allied soldiers. It's a hard-hitting film with a powerful message and brilliant acting - Loren won the Oscar for Best Actress, the first to earn that honor in a non-English speaking role.
SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER (June 14, 1:15 am): Director Francois Truffaut's second film, Shoot the Piano Player, is often overlooked by cinephiles as it's sandwiched between two of his greatest: The 400 Blows (his directorial debut) and Jules and Jim. While it's not as great as those classics, there are few films that are in the same class as that pair. But this 1960 movie is Truffaut's most underrated as it wonderfully blends satire, drama, tragedy, comedy, and a tribute to American gangster films, particularly those made by Warner Brothers, while also reminding me of early Alfred Hitchcock. The cinematography is outstanding, the storyline is filled with twists and the acting is wonderful.
ED’S BEST BETS:
BREATHLESS (June 8, 8:00 pm): There an old saw about a director never being able to top his first movie. In the case of Godard, this may well be true. Breathless has a feel, a movement, and an enthusiasm not seen again his films. Belmondo is enchanting as the impulsive thief and Jean Seberg is marvelous as his American girlfriend. This is definitely one to catch. Watch for the scene with Belmondo and the Bogart movie poster. It sums up his character neatly.
THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (June 9, 8:00 pm): Granted, there’s no such thing as the perfect film, but this one comes darned close. Alec Guinness is near perfect in his role as the fussbudget bank clerk who, along with newly acquired friend Stanley Holloway, robs the bank of a million pounds in gold bullion. And almost gets away with it, to boot. How they slip up is a thing of beauty to watch, as is the chase near the end. This is a keeper for the ages and even those who are “hard” on comedy will smile at this one.
WE DISAGREE ON ... CAGED (June 10, 8:00 pm)
ED: C-. It's not that I don’t like Caged; in fact, it’s great trashy viewing. But it’s certainly no masterpiece. It’s simply an exploitation film made during the iron rule of censorship, so there was little the producers could get away with in regard to its contents. It’s your standard Women-in-Prison movie, as young innocent Eleanor Parker goes to the slammer (she didn’t know her husband was robbing the gas station while she waited in the car) and emerges as a hardened criminal despite the efforts of Good-Gal Warden Agnes Moorehead who’s fighting both politicians and her own brutal matrons. So what else is new? There’s the usual stock cast of characters: the old timer, the wizened inmate looking forward to release, the toadies, the snitch. But the two performances to watch are those of Hope Emerson, the evil matron, and Lee Patrick, the vice queen and practicing lesbian, who describes Parker as “a cute trick.” It’s a fun flick to watch – lots of action, depravity, and most of all, scenery chewing. The 6’2” Emerson is wonder to behold, as her evil seemingly knows no bounds. Hint: dead kitten. Quite frankly, it was pretty gritty for the time, but the women’s prison really didn’t come of psychotronic age until the 70s, when it became an excuse for a good helping of T&A. Best line: Warden Moorehead telling her aide to keep Parker’s file active as she watches her walk out of prison – “She’ll be back.”
DAVID: B+. This is the mother of all women-in-prison films. Unlike nearly all the others in this unusual but often-visited film genre, Caged is well acted. Eleanor Parker was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar as the young innocent Marie Allen, Agnes Moorehead is great as warden Ruth Benton, and Hope Emerson was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as the deliciously evil matron Evelyn Harper. Almost anything bad you can imagine happens to Marie - her new husband is killed in a robbery, she ends up in prison because she is waiting in the getaway car, she's pregnant while serving her sentence, she's victimized by other inmates and Harper, she has to give up her baby for adoption, and finally becomes bitter and hardened from all of her bad experiences. The story is similar to other women-in-prison movies minus the T&A. We still get a shower scene (no nudity as this is during the Code era) and the stereotypical prison lesbian! But there's a huge difference between Caged and the women-in-prison films of the 1970s. It's not only the excellent acting, but the powerful dialogue and actual plot - it was nominated for a Best Writing Oscar - that makes this gritty, stark, realistic film stand out among others in the genre. The viewer is given reasons as to how and why the innocent Marie turns into a hardened criminal from the brutal scene in which her head is shaved to having her baby taken from her to the hopelessness of one inmate driven to suicide to the murder of Harper by one of Marie's friends who uses a fork to do the job. It's also a damning indictment of a penal system that doesn't try to rehabilitate the inmates, but largely treat them like caged animals. It can be somewhat cliché at times, but it's definitely in a class by itself.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.