Wednesday, November 13, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for November 15-22

November 15-November 22


THE BIG HEAT (November 17, 10:15 am): When it comes to film noir about cops and gangsters, this 1953 classic is among the absolute best. Glenn Ford is a homicide detective with scruples, unlike anyone else on the police department in this movie. Masterfully directed by the legendary Fritz Lang, this film pulls no punches - literally. While investigating the death of a cop, who we learn soon enough was crooked, Ford's character, Sgt. David Bannion, is urged by those up the chain in command to call it a suicide and leave it alone. Of course he doesn't. But the consequences are dire, including the murder of his wife, who is blown up "Youngstown Tune-Up" style. But that's nothing compared to Lee Marvin's Vince Stone character throwing hot coffee in the face of his girlfriend, played by Gloria Grahame, disfiguring her in one of the most shocking scenes in cinematic history. 

GREGORY'S GIRL (November 18, 8:00 pm): This is an adorable coming-of-age movie about Gregory Underwood (John Gordon Sinclair), a Scottish high school student who plays (poorly) on his school's soccer team. He falls for the new girl, Dorothy (Dee Hepburn), who is not only hot, but an excellent soccer player. Gregory does everything he can to get her attention, often failing to the point of making a fool of himself. He asks her out, and she accepts even though she's not interested. She sends another girl in her place with Gregory getting passed from her to another girl and finally to Susan (Clare Grogan, lead singer of Altered Images, a Scottish New Wave pop band), who is interested in Gregory. The 1981 film is funny, clever and very sweet. It's a wonderful movie about first loves and crushes, and leaves viewers with big smiles on their faces.


THE ELEPHANT MAN (November 18, 10:00 pm): A wonderful, heart-tugging film from David Lynch and Mel Brooks, of all people, about John Merrick (John Hurt), a man so grossly misshapen by disease that he was forced to live as a sideshow freak until rescued by renowned London doctor Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins), who convinced London hospital to take Merrick in as a resident patient while Treves studied the disease and its possible causes. While Hopkins is his usual superlative self, it is John Hurt who drives this film, with his sensitive portrayal of Merrick that brings more than a touch of humanity and compassion for an ill-treated man that earned him a nomination for an Oscar. Hurt’s performance will remind viewers of Karloff’s portrayal of Frankenstein’s Monster in its depth and subtlety. For those that cry easily, have two boxes of Kleenex on hand.

THE TRAIN (November 20, 3:45 am): Burt Lancaster and Paul Schofield are at their very best in this John Frankenheimer film about a Nazi colonel trying to ship the paintings of France to Germany and the Resistance leader determined to stop him at all costs. Also staring Michael Simon, Albert Remy, Wolfgang Preiss, Charles Millot, Jacques Marin, and Jeanne Moreau in a small but pivotal role. There is never a dull moment to catch your breath in this action classic.

WE DISAGREE ON ... LILI (November 17, 4:00 am)

ED: A. I wouldn’t exactly describe Lili as a musical; for me, it’s more on the side of a romantic adult fairy tale, with a strong emphasis on the word “adult.” Believe it not, the film was inspired by a 1950 story by Paul Gallico entitled, “The Man Who Hated People,” about an anti-social puppeteer who had his own television show.  Gallico, in turn, was inspired by the television puppet show Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Set in Postwar France, it’s the story of Lili Daurier (Leslie Caron in a beautifully spun and heart rendering performance); a 16-year old orphan who arrives at a small French village, only to discover the family friend she is looking for has died. With no friends or family, she begs a local merchant for a job. He takes her desperation as opportunity and tries to rape her. She is saved in the nick of time by Marc (Jean-Pierre Aumont) a magician in a traveling carnival. She falls in love with Marc, but he is married to his glamorous assistant (Zsa Zsa Gabor in a restrained performance). She joins the carnival, but fails in her job as a waitress in the carnival café.  Now lonely and depressed, she attempts to kill herself, but is saved once more – this time by the lame puppeteer Paul (Mel Ferrer in a brilliant performance as a disabled war veteran who had aspersions of becoming a dancer). He speaks to her through his four puppets: the kindly, helpful Carrot Top, the self-absorbed Marguerite, the wily thief Reynaldo the Fox and cowardly giant Golo, who only wants to be loved. Paul is filled with resentment about his situation, but takes pity on Lili. She, in turn, is so charmed by the puppets that she forgets his presence and comes to view the puppets as real people. The film focuses on their relationship as Lili’s interaction with the puppets brings in throngs of paying customers and makes her the star of the carnival. Through the “love” of the puppets, Lili begins to blossom from waif into a beautiful young woman, and Paul begins to realize his own love for her while she continues her infatuation with Marc. The film climaxes in a fantastic dream ballet, where Lili begins to sort out her feelings. The film was nominated for six Oscars, with a typical Hollywood turn. “Hi Lili, Hi Lo,” for which the film is best known today, was not nominated for Best Song, but composer Bronislau Kaper won for Best Score. But what really amazes me is how they got away with this thinly veiled Freudian story in ‘50s Hollywood.

DAVID: C-. Unlike Gregory's Girl, there's nothing adorable about this "coming of age" movie. It's actually rather creepy. Lili (Leslie Caron) is a 16-year-old orphan from the sticks who is rescued by a carnival magician from a rape attempt by a shopkeeper. She falls in love with "Marcus the Magician," who happens to be about twice her age, oh, and he's also married to his assistant, Rosalie (Zsa Zsa Gabor). As she considers killing herself, Lili is saved by puppets. Yes, she is saved by puppets. She talks to the puppets as if they are real which begs the question: is Lili an incredibly immature 16-year-old or is she mentally challenged? The puppets are controlled by Paul (Mel Ferrer), who used to be a great dancer but is lame after a war injury. He is now working the puppets to make a buck. Like Marcus, he's also a lot older than Lili, and in love with the underage girl, but too shy to tell her. It's either that or he's concerned about being charged with statutory. He also gives her a nice slap across the face for still loving Marc after it's revealed Rosalie is his wife. Meanwhile, the Lili-puppet "act" – I use quotation marks because the audience is let to believe Lili thinks the puppets are real – draws crowds to the carnival. After realizing that she needs to wake up from her childlike dream, she decides to leave the carnival. But Lili apparently still lives in a dream world. As she's walking away, she imagines she's dancing with Paul's puppets, only they are life-size and they all turn into their puppeteer. Lili then runs back to Paul and he passionately kisses the 16-year-old girl with the puppets applauding. When you look at it that way, it's not a charming film. It's only 81 minutes long so it's not like viewers are wasting a lot of time on the movie. But there are plenty of better things to do with your time than watch this.

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

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