Tuesday, January 7, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for January 8-14

January 8–January 14

LIVE A LITTLE, LOVE A LITTLE (January 8, 7:45 am): An unusual but entertaining Elvis Presley film, and among his last non-concert movies. Elvis is Greg Nolan, a newspaper photographer who loses his job after being drugged and kept captive by Bernice, a quirky, sexy girl who lives at the beach. In need of employment, he finds two in the same building. He shoots photos for both a conservative firm and a girlie magazine, and tries to balance that with Bernice, who goes by different names depending on the guy. It's not a terribly deep film, but it was a step in an interesting direction for Elvis. He shows some nice range in this 1968 film. It's part of TCM's mini-Elvis film festival on January 8, his birthday. This film's best scene has Elvis singing "A Little Less Conversation," one of his best songs.

CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 (January 12, 2:00 am): This is a really good film. Cleo is a French pop singer waiting for the results of medical tests done to determine if she has cancer. As the title states, this 1962 French film starts at 5:00 pm with Cleo having to spend time until the results come back supposedly at 7:00 though the film is only 90 minutes long. During that time, she walks the streets of Paris talking with strangers and friends with the film skillfully tackling some pretty heavy subjects including mortality, inner beauty versus outer beauty, despair, maturity and acceptance - all coming from a feminine perspective. It's fascinating with beautiful cinematography and an outstanding storyline. As I mentioned these are some pretty heavy topics, but the film addresses them in a way that makes them approachable without compromise.


ANASTASIA (January 12, 8:00 pm): Ingrid Bergman stars in a film that not only won her an Oscar for Best Actress, but also ended her exile from America for her perceived moral transgressions. She has a field day as an amnesiac refugee picked by opportunistic Russian businessman Yul Brynner to impersonate the surviving daughter of Russia’s last tsar. She is so good in the role that even skeptics become convinced that she’s the real thing. Helen Hayes also sparkles as the Dowager Empress, the elderly matriarch who has lost her entire family to the Revolution. Can Bergman fool her as well? The film is an absolute tour de force for Bergman, who goes from coquettishness to bewilderment as fast as a driver can change gears in a car. The direction by Anatole Litvak is superb, and there’s honestly not a bad performance in the cast. It’s rarely shown, so it’s a Must See.

MAD LOVE (January 14, 5:00 pm): After he creeped us out so thoroughly in Fritz Lang’s M (1931), American audiences were waiting for Peter Lorre’s next big film. It took him until 1935 to reach the shores of America, and MGM had just the role for him: a reworking of the classic horror novel Les Mains d’Orlac by Maurice Renard. It had previously been filmed in 1924 with Conrad Veidt as the pianist whose hands, crushed in a train wreck were replaced by the hands of an executed murderer, with tragic results. In this version, the emphasis shifts from Orlac (Colin Clive) to the surgeon, Doctor Gogol (Lorre), who is obsessed with Orlac’s wife, Yvonne (Frances Drake). No one knows that Gogol has grafted the hands of a murderer onto Orlac; and Gogol knows that those hands will kill again, Orlac will be apprehended, and Yvonne can finally be his alone. Lorre was positively brilliant in the role, and Charles Chaplin exclaimed that Lorre was the screen’s finest actor after seeing the film. Lorre would be so identified with this role that years later he was cast in another horror film about a hand with a mind of its own: The Beast With Five Fingers

WE DISAGREE ON . . . BABY DOLL (January 13, 5:30 am)

ED: B+. When I was a teenager I remember taking out a book on movies from the library and running across a photo of Carroll Baker from this film, curled up in a crib and sucking her thumb. Reading the description of the movie described as racy, lewd, suggestive, and morally repellent by The Legion of Decency, I knew right then and there that someday I would have to find this film and watch it. Hot stuff! And directed by Elia Kazan with a screenplay by Tennessee Williams – Wow! After years of forgetting, I finally rented it in the ‘80s. I was disappointed by how tame it was, but thinking back to when it was made, I realized just why it had outraged so many. It boasts a good cast, with Karl Malden as Baker’s witless husband, who has to wait until his child reaches the age of 20 before he can deflower her. Into the mix comes swarthy Eli Wallach at his slimiest best as Malden’s business rival, and guess who he’s after? The fireworks between Malden and Wallach still retain their punch; Tennessee Williams had few peers when it came to the underbelly of Southern life.

DAVID: C-. I admit that the subject matter of Baby Doll makes me somewhat uncomfortable. But if the film was better, I'd deal with it. Carroll Baker's Baby Doll character is 19 and about to turn 20, but she acts like a little girl, sleeping in a crib sucking her thumb. She's the virgin bride of Karl Malden, an older redneck who. after two years of marriage, is about to have sex for the first time with his wife. Along comes Eli Wallach, Malden's cotton gin rival. He tries to seduce Baby Doll to have sex with her and to exact revenge against Malden, who burned down Wallach's new gin. The film is dull, poorly written (just because the screenplay is by Tennessee Williams doesn't mean it's automatically good), highly overrated and way too long at nearly two hours in length. While Baker's performance is good, the role is ridiculous. Malden is fine, but Wallach is bad. The plot was racy for its time, 1956, with a script designed to shock. Yes, it's shocking, but that seems to be the film's only goal. It's not that entertaining or interesting. I watch movies to either be entertained or interested. That's why I rate this film as only a C-.

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

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