TCM TiVo ALERT
September 8–September 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
SAFETY LAST! (September 9, 4:15 am): There's a plot in this 1923 silent classic. Harold Lloyd goes to the big city to make good so he'll have enough money to return home and marry his girlfriend. But it's the sight gags that make this film a must see and a classic. The end that has Lloyd (who plays the lead character, also named Harold Lloyd; sometimes called The Boy) climbing a building and hanging on to a clock for dear life is one of cinema's most iconic scenes. When people think of silent-film comedic legends, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton immediately come to mind, and rightfully so. But Lloyd's talent and physical comedic expertise, highlighted in this film, show he belongs in the discussion about the all-time best.
WINTER LIGHT (September 11, 4:00 am): Probably the darkest and most intense film director Ingmar Bergman ever made. The second film in what is known as Bergman's Trilogy of Faith, Gunnar Bjornstrand plays a country priest who becomes disillusioned with God after his wife's death four years earlier. This film receives my highest recommendation. I could go on about this film and the others in Bergman's trilogy. Actually, I did just that earlier this year. To learn more about Winter Light and the two other films that make up the trilogy, click here to read that article.
ED’S BEST BETS:
RIFIFI (September 10, 10:00 am): Leave it to a master craftsman like Jules Dassin to make one of the great Heist-Gone-Wrong films. Four cronies plan the perfect crime and have everything figured out to the letter – except for each other, and this proves to be the fatal mistake. Because it was a low budget film, Dassin couldn’t afford a star like Jean Gabin, but he does quite fine with the hand he’s dealt. In his review for the French newspaper Arts, Francois Truffaut wrote: “Jules Dassin made the best ‘noir’ film I have ever see from the worst roman noir I have ever read.” The novel’s author, Auguste LeBreton co-wrote the screenplay and later wrote Bob The Gambler, another top-notch crime thriller, for Jean-Paul Melville. It seems LeBreton translated better into film than he did into print.
GABRIEL OVER THE WHITE HOUSE (September 12, 8:45 am): It’s one of the most incredible films ever made, and it comes from MGM, yet. Produced by William Randolph Hearst, it’s practically an advertisement for fascism, as party-hearty president Walter Huston is knocked for a loop in a car accident. When he comes out of his coma, he’s a changed man and uses dictatorial powers to take over, wiping out both unemployment and crime. If you haven’t seen this one yet, and the odds are great that you haven’t as this is rarely shown, by all means record and watch it. You’ll be knocked for a loop.
WE DISAGREE ON ... MAD MAX (September 13, 2:30 am)
ED: C. When I saw The Road Warrior, I was completely blown away by its acting, plot, and most of all, intensity. I literally emerged from my local theater shaking – that’s just how intense the experience was. It also filled me with a manic desire to see the prequel, Mad Max, which blew through my local theater like a stiff wind: here one day, gone the next. I finally got my wish when my wife (who had a major league crush on Mel Gibson) and I rented the film on VHS. To put it mildly, I was disappointed. Compared to the sequel, Mad Max moved at a snail’s pace, and I could hardly understand the dialogue – which, I read later, was translated from the Australian dialect to Standard English. No matter – I couldn’t understand it at any rate. Most of the movie seems to be composed of long, boring stretches of people driving over back roads, and the “revenge” part of the plot doesn’t occur until about 20 minutes from the end. I’d say one could cut about 25 minutes from it without any problem, and probably make it into a better film. All I can say here is that you can be low budget, you can emulate a Sergio Leone Western, you can have practically no plot . . . just don’t bore me.
DAVID: A-. Like Ed, and many others, I saw The Road Warrior in the theater in 1981 and was greatly impressed by the acting, the storyline and the intensity. Not only had I not seen Mad Max, its 1979 prequel, but I didn't know the film existed at the time. There are flashbacks in The Road Warrior – scenes from Mad Max – that provide some backstory for a film I wouldn't have guessed was a sequel. Admittedly, Mad Max is not as good as The Road Warrior, which I would give an A+ (or as awful as 1985's Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, a D+ at best), but the original is an outstanding film. It was made on the cheap – only Mel Gibson's clothes are real leather while the rest of the actors are wearing pleather, for example – and that is apparent at times. But it doesn't take away from the dark and compelling dystopian story about Max as a cop whose partner, wife and young son are brutally murdered by a motorcycle gang that terrorizes a community in the future when the world's gas supply is nearly depleted. Yes, the dialogue is hard to understand like many Australian films, such as The Year of Living Dangerously and Muriel’s Wedding, but Mad Max relies on intense violence and edge-of-your-seat tension with the dialogue taking a backseat. You don't need many words when Max's partner, Goose, is killed by the gang or when they do the same to Max's wife and son. And as shown in the final scenes of the movie in which Max gains his revenge, the action in this movie speaks much louder than words. It has flaws, but Mad Max is an outstanding film.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.