Friday, February 7, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for February 8-14

February 8–February 14


ALL THE KING'S MEN (February 8, 10:00 pm): This 1949 film is one of the 10 greatest movies of all time. Broderick Crawford is breathtaking in the role of Willie Stark, a small-time Louisiana political idealist who rises to governor by compromising his principles. You would think Crawford's larger-than-life performance as the populist and corrupt Starks would overshadow the rest of the cast, but it doesn't. John Ireland as Jack Burden, a journalist who discovers Starks and eventually does his dirty work, and Raymond Greenleaf as Judge Monte Stanton, Burden's mentor, are outstanding in this noir-like film that is as relevant today as it was 100 years before the film, based on Robert Penn Warren's 1946 Pulitzer-winning novel, made it to the silver screen. It is easily the best film ever made on the subject of politics, and as I mentioned, one of the greatest movies ever made. I've seen it a dozen times and could gladly see it a dozen more.

AUTUMN SONATA (February 13, 1:30 pm): Director Ingmar Bergman and actress Ingrid Bergman (no relation) are the two greatest talents from Sweden in cinematic history. There's a valid argument to say they are two of the greatest talents in cinematic history. This brilliant Ingmar-directed film stars Ingrid in her last theatrical film as a famous, but aging, classic concert pianist who has a distant and rocky relationship with her daughter, played by Liv Ullmann, a mainstay of Ingmar-directed films. The mother visits the daughter and the tension explodes in an incredibly gripping and compelling film. It's dialogue heavy so be ready to read subtitles. However, it is well worth it as the script is intelligent and revealing, and if you miss a line or two, don't worry as the body language of Ingrid and Ullman tells a lot of the story. This 1978 film is among Bergman's finest later-year movies.


THE LONG VOYAGE HOME (February, 8, 7:00 am): When we consider John Ford’s oeuvre, this film tends to fall into the underrated category. It’s a quietly moving story of merchant seamen returning to England on the tramp steamer Glencairn from the West Indies after stopping at Baltimore to pick up a supply of munitions just as World War 2 breaks out. Adapted by screenwriter Dudley Nichols from four short Eugene O’Neill plays, it boasts a stellar ensemble cast, headed by Thomas Mitchell, Ian Hunter, Barry Fitzgerald, Wilfred Lawson, Mildred Natwick, Ward Bond, and a surprisingly effective John Wayne playing a Swede, no less. John Qualen is memorable as Wayne’s fellow Swede and older protective friend. Look for Barry’s younger brother, Arthur Shields. Gregg Toland, who captures and sets the mood of the film, beautifully photographs the film. It’s par for the course today to praise Toland’s work, but I think this is one of his best efforts. It’s also one of Ford’s best efforts and definite one to catch.

THE GREAT MCGINTY (February 10, 8:00 pm): As I’ve said before, TCM’s time slots for great movies such as this are why TiVOs are so popular. Talented writer Preston Sturges made his directorial debut with this hilarious satire on the political system, following the fortunes of Brian Donlevy as he rises from Skid Row bum to being elected governor of the state. Aiding him in his quest is Akim Tamiroff as the political boss and Sturges regular William Demerest. It’s one of the funniest films about our political system and way around honesty ever made.

WE DISAGREE ON ...  THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR (February 10, 6:30 am) 

ED: A+. Yes, Paul Muni is a ham, but give him a good script and some theatrical make-up to hide behind and he always gives an entertaining performance. This was the first of Muni’s “Let Us Portray Famous Men” phase, and it’s by far the best, probably because it was novel. Besides Muni, this film succeeds in spite of the roadblocks Warner Brothers placed before it. This was not quite the film they wanted Muni to star in; who in their right mind, they reasoned, would want to see a film about a doctor fighting disease? Where’s the entertainment value in that? They gave in, but only reluctantly. There were to be no shots of animal experimentation, lest the SPCA complain, and no shots of suffering children, lest mothers complain. They also cut the budget, meaning no new sets could be constructed. So producer Henry Blanke merely redecorated existing sets. For example, a set previously used by Busby Berkeley for The Gold Diggers of 1935 became the amphitheater for The Academy of Science. Add the gorgeous lighting photography of Tony Gaudio to cover things up even further and we have an intelligent – and entertaining film – that set the standard for other science-themed films to come.

DAVID: C+. When it comes to subject matter, it doesn't get more bizarre than a film about French scientist Louis Pasteur and his campaign to get doctors to wash their hands and sterilize their medical instruments before operating. Well, yeah, it gets a little more bizarre when doctors dismiss these precautionary measures and you have Paul Muni star as Pasteur, who is also trying to find cures for anthrax in livestock and rabies. It's not an awful film, but it's based-on-a-true-story feel and that Pasteur is the subject of the movie leaves me scratching my head. Muni's reputation for overacting, particularly in his "historical" films, is somewhat deserving, but I give him credit for bringing passion to those roles. Even taking that into consideration, I found this movie to be boring as it drags when focused on scientific research and testing, even though it's only 87 minutes long. 

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

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