Sunday, September 29, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for October 1-7

October 1–October 7

CARNIVAL OF SOULS (October 4, 8:00 pm): This bizarre independent B movie is one of cinema's wonderful surprises. When I started to watch it for the first time, I wasn't expecting much. It turns out it's a quirky movie about a church organist who survives a horrific car accident - or does she? It's 78 minutes long, unless you want the director's cut (yeah, a B movie with a director's cut that is 6 minutes longer than the original release). None of the actors in this 1962 film ever made it in Hollywood, but they are fine here. The movie has an eerie storyline with a few scary scenes and an excellent ending.

THRONE OF BLOOD (October 7, 12:45 am): This is Akira Kurosawa's take on Macbeth with samurais in feudal Japan. While it sounds like a stretch, this is an outstanding film. It's one of Kurosawa's best and that's quite an accomplishment. He is among my three favorite directors along with Ingmar Bergman and Francois Truffaut. Toshiro Mifune, cast by Kurosawa in 16 films, is the Macbeth character in this movie. Kurosawa perfectly blends violence, betrayal, greed, the supernatural with a fantastic story and excellent cinematography in one of his finest and compelling films. 


A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (October 2, 6:30 am): Yet another example of a gem screened at an ungodly hour. However, for those who have not yet had the pleasure, recording this is essential. One in a series of films Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made while on a roll in the ‘40s, this otherworldly tale of a pilot who dies before his time and argues his case before a celestial court is pure magic from beginning to end. It made a star out of Kim Hunter and an even bigger star out of David Niven. Don’t miss it.

THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE (October 4, 11:15 pm): Fritz Lang’s last German masterpiece; shortly after he completed it he had to beat it fast out of Germany, even though Dr. Goebbels had offered him the position as director of all German film production, even though he was a Jew. However, even at this relatively early stage, Lang knew what Nazi promises were worth, and while he told Goebbels he’d think it over, he left that night for Paris, never to return. And with this film he had good reason to worry, for it doesn’t take much to connect the dots and figure out that the mad criminal Dr. Mabuse is in reality Der Fuehrer. After Lang left, Goebbels took one look at this picture and promptly banned it; it would not be screened in Germany until the ‘50s. It’s a wonderful movie with all the sublime Langian touches and one that screams out to be seen.

WE DISAGREE ON ... BEWARE, MY LOVELY (October 3, 3:00 pm)

ED: C- It’s two old pros versus a dreadful script, and as much as we’re rooting for Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan, the script finally wears both down to a scenery-chewing contest. Ida plays a woman running a boardinghouse who takes in Ryan, a man who may be homicidal. Sounds good, if – IF – it’s in the right hands. Unfortunately, the director of this artificial melodrama is Harry Horner, a production designer directing only his second film, and whose debut film, Red Planet Mars, was totally dreadful. Adding more fuel to the fire was the director’s frequent absences to visit his wife in the hospital. Both the characters of Lupino and Ryan are badly drawn: Ryan is so screwed up and seemingly loaded with every psychosis the writers could think up that we can’t buy into a minute of it. Is he or is he not homicidal? And Lupino’s character seems to be suffering more from a case of the lack of common sense than anything else. She can’t even get out of her own home even when she temporarily escapes from Ryan. And, for a noir, there’s no real tension here. Want to see a movie with real tension? Try Sorry, Wrong Number and skip this pallid wanna-be.

DAVID: B. Does this film go over the top as far as logic? Yes and no. Yeah, Robert Ryan's character is a dangerous psychopath who has a bad habit of killing people, blacking out and forgetting the evil deeds he does. And Ida Lupino's character seems to be the last person in the world who realizes Ryan's rugged handyman has her at the top of his list of who he next wants to kill. But it also is a compelling and tense-filled drama with outstanding performances by the two leads. Both are seasoned film veterans who are able to take an average script and convince the audience that their characters are legitimate. Ryan and Lupino rarely receive the credit they rightfully deserve for their acting talents. While this 1952 thriller isn't going to take your breath away, it's a good 77-minute distraction that sucks the viewer in as we squirm in our seats hoping Lupino finds a way to get away from Ryan's character who we fear, but also pity to a certain extent because his mental illness makes it impossible for him to control what he does. 

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

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