TCM TiVo ALERT
August 1–August 7
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (August 1, 12:20 pm): This 1948 film, more than any Humphrey Bogart made after Casablanca, showed his versatility at a time when he could have played the tough guy with a heart of gold for the rest of his career. In this film, he is down on his luck and desperate enough to do anything. He meets another guy (Tim Holt) in a similar situation. They meet an old kooky prospector (played wonderfully by Walter Hutson) and the three decide to search for gold. Things go well, but Bogart's character becomes consumed with paranoia convinced the others are trying to cheat him. It's an excellent morality film with an ironic ending. Oh, and it's got that iconic though often misquoted line: "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges."
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (August 7, 10:00 pm): I have to admit that the first time I saw this film, I thought there's no way the smokin' hot Barbara Stanwyck character is doing anything more than using Fred MacMurray's insurance salesman character for her own purposes. But she's actually into the dad from My Three Sons. Once I was able to suspend my disbelief of that, there are only positive things to say about this classic 1944 film noir. The acting is excellent, particularly Stanwyck, and as he often did when given secondary roles, Edward G. Robinson steals every scene he's in playing the skeptical claims adjuster who investigates the legitimacy of the claim with a double indemnity clause. It's one of Billy Wilder's best and that's quite the compliment considering how many outstanding movies he directed.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE BIG SLEEP (August 1, 8:00 pm): Howard Hawks and Humphrey Bogart made for a great partnership. Add Lauren Bacall to the mix and it only gets better. Made from Raymond Chandler’s first novel, the plot is so convoluted that even Chandler didn’t know who committed one murder. But this film is so entertaining that we don’t care – we just go along for the ride. And what a ride, with sterling performances by Martha Vickers as Bacall’s wild little sister, John Ridgely as the sinister Eddie Mars, and Elisha Cook, Jr. as – what else – the fall guy. Many actors have played Philip Marlowe, but none as well as Bogart.
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (August 3, 12:00 am): This classic from Ealing Studios is mostly known for the fact Alec Guiness plays eight different roles – all members of the D’Ascoyne family – in this hilarious tale of revenge. Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) is an Englishman born into poverty, but who has a distant connection to royalty on his mother’s side. The problem is that eight members of the D’Ascoyne family stand between him and what he feels is his rightful inheritance. Louis solves this problem by systematically bumping off each member. Joan Greenwood adds to the fun as the greedy Sibella, and Valerie Hobson is wonderful as Edith D’Ascoyne. It’s one of the most intelligent black comedies ever made and if you haven’t yet seen it . . . well, let’s just say that if there ever such a thing as a real “Must See,” this is it.
WE DISAGREE ON ... SOYLENT GREEN (August 5, 3:00 pm)
ED: B. I like science fiction movies in general, and while I liked Soylent Green, I can’t go higher than a B. The pluses are a solid story and an unforgettable performance by Edward G. Robinson in his last film. On the other hand, there are the minuses. First and foremost is Charlton Heston. If Soylent Green were made from wood, Chuck would have gone under 10 minutes into the movie. Bricks show more emotion. Not that Chuck gets much support. Chuck Connors makes Heston look like De Niro and Leigh Taylor-Young has mastered the craft of Not Acting. Also, the direction is lacking. Richard Fleischer would never be my choice to direct such a film. He’s more comfortable with the likes of Mandingo, Amityville 3-D, and Red Sonja. And yet another reason for my grade is that the screenplay is on the verge of ridiculous. I agree – most sci-fi scripts are ridiculous: gigantic ants, monsters from the sea, etc., but it’s the logic contained within the script that makes it passable. Soylent Green has a great idea for a plot – it doesn’t get any better than an overpopulated Earth in the future with a food shortage – but the screenplay fails to follow through. Point of basic logic: if the world was that bad in the future, would we see that kind of boom in the population? And this is New York; shouldn’t there be more Asians and Hispanics in the mix. Check out Blade Runner by comparison. One last point: If, at the end, we’re going to raise people for food, what are we going to feed them? It’s an entertaining movie with a terrific performance by Eddie G., but it’s not the stuff of greatness.
DAVID: A+. I'm not going to debate the talents of Charlton Heston. He's certainly wooden in a number of pictures, but he was the master of the epic – Ben-Hur, El Cid and The Ten Commandments – and even better in what I call his "Post-Apocalyptic Trilogy" – Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, and Soylent Green. In the latter film, Heston plays tough New York City Police Detective Robert Thorn in the year 2022. Something awful has happened that has resulted in almost no fresh food or water (only the very wealthy and/or politically-connected are able to obtain some). There are serious problems with the death of most animals and plant-life, overpopulation, poverty, pollution and people surviving on wafers provided by the Soylent Corp., which comes out with a new "high-energy plankton" called Soylent Green. It's supposed to be better than Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow, though they all look like plastic.(Regarding Ed's questions about overpopulation, one explanation is with everyone poor, out of work and nothing to do, there is one thing you can do for free to pass the time: unprotected sex. And since we don't know what happened to cause famine, it could have been particularly fatal to certain races.) As a cop, Thorn has some perks, primarily a tiny apartment that he shares with Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson), an elderly scholar who remembers what life was like before the environmental disasters (likely caused by mankind). Thorn is investigating the murder of a high-level Soylent executive (Joseph Cotten in a far too small role). Thorn immediately suspects a conspiracy is the cause of the murder. While at the murder scene, an expensive apartment complex, Heston lifts fresh food, including a small steak and some fruit. One of the most joyous moments in the film has Thorn and Roth eating the food with the latter talking about the old days. Eddie G.'s performance, sadly his last, is one of his finest. It's beautifully tragic, and even though I've seen the film a dozen times, the scene in which Eddie G. goes to a place called "Home," a government-assisted suicide facility that looks like Madison Square Garden, always brings tears to my eyes. Heston is outstanding as the tough cop who defies orders from his superiors and fends off attempts to kill him by Soylent assassins in his pursuit of solving the murder. Most of the last 30 minutes of the film contains no dialogue. It goes from Eddie G.'s suicide scene (Heston says he knew his co-star was dying in real life and the reactions he has to the death were also real) to Thorn following Roth's body and others onto a truck heading to a Soylent factory, where the detective finds out how Green is made, to the chase scene that ends up in a church/homeless shelter where an injured and possibly dying Thorn screams, "Soylent Green is people! We gotta stop them somehow!" It's a magnificent film that you can watch over and over again without it losing any of its impact.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.