TCM TiVo ALERT
May 15–May 22
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (May 15, 6:00 pm): Robert Mitchum is at his terrifying best in this 1955 film, the only movie Charles Laughton directed. Mitchum is Rev. Harry Powell, a psychopath who kills women and steals their money, believing he's doing God's work. He is completely convincing as not only a cold-blooded murderer, but also a preacher who quotes Scripture with ease to make his point. He has love tattooed on the knuckles of his right hand and hate on the knuckles of his left hand. When he gives the explanation for the tattoos it sends chills down my spine every time. Most of the film has Powell pitted against a young boy, who doesn't trust him, and with good reason. Powell is after money stolen and hidden by the boy's father, who was executed for killing two people in the robbery. Powell seduces and marries the boy's mother and later kills her as he searches for the cash. The film was a failure when it was released, which resulted in Laughton never directing again. But over the years, it has come to be appreciated for what it is: a brilliant, menacing, dark film noir
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (May 15, 9:15 pm): Like me, Woody Allen loves Ingmar Bergman films. Unlike me, he gets to make films that steal, um, borrow from Bergman. You have to give Allen credit, he does great adaptations. For example, this film is very similar in structure to Bergman's excellent Fanny and Alexander. In this 1986 film, Mia Farrow is Hannah, whose husband (played by Michael Caine), falls in love with one of her sisters, a free-spirit (Barbara Hershey). Woody, as Hannah's ex-husband, steals every scene as a hypochondriac convinced he's going to die. He ends up with Hannah's other sister (Dianne Wiest). The acting is spectacular, with Caine winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and Wiest for Best Supporting Actress, and an all-star cast.
ED’S BEST BETS:
84 CHARING CROSS ROAD (May 19, 10:00 pm): A lovely, little movie from Brooksfilms about the friendship of writer Helene Hanff and the owner of a used book shop in London and how it unfolded over the years. Anne Bancroft is superb as Hanff and Anthony Hopkins likewise as Frank Dole, the owner of the bookshop. The story is based on Hanff’s 1970 autobiographical book of the same name and brings to life the 20-year correspondence between Hanff and Dole. As the film unfolds we see their relation grow from one of strict formality into a warm friendship, which makes the ending a very touching one. This is the sort of film that is not usually made these days. There are no murders, car crashes, aliens, cool special effects, or sex scenes: Just plain good dialogue and acting. Also look for Judi Dench in a lovely turn as Hopkins’ wife.
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (May 19, 1:45 am): This was Hammer studios’ first attempt at the reimaging of the classic Universal horror films of the ‘30s. And to an audience that was starved of good horror films, it was a box office hit. Much of the credit for the success of the film must go to Peter Cushing for his portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein. Cushing hits all the right notes, brilliantly conveying the underlying decadence beneath the aristocratic façade. Christopher Lee, as the Monster, has a thankless role, with little to do but act scary. However, he does manage to get the point across, looking murderous rather than just plain silly. The success of the film begat a series of Frankenstein films with Cushing in the center of the action. And, with the success of Frankenstein, a remake of Dracula was just around the corner.
WE DISAGREE ON ... FATSO (May 19, 8:00 pm)
ED: A-. The late Anne Bancroft directed this funny tale about a large man (Dom DeLuise) and his struggle to lose weight. We’re lucky she helmed this film and not her husband, Mel Brooks. Otherwise, we might be treated to Blazing Fatso. Bancroft also co-stars as DeLuise’s shrewish sister who is always nagging him about his weight, and who blows a gasket whenever she catches him going off his diet. Ron Carey is great as his younger brother, who is only too eager to help his sister control their brother’s eating. DeLuise, for his part, gives a memorable portrayal of a man struggling with problems of weight, self-esteem, and shyness is courting a young woman (Candice Azzara) who opens an antique shop in his neighborhood. Also of note is the scene with the support group DeLuise joins, the Chubby Checkers. Bancroft has managed to combine a comedy about America’s obsession with food with a heartwarming story of growing up Italian-American in the Bronx and giving us the moral that we should learn to accept ourselves as we are. It’s a beautiful motion picture.
DAVID: C-. I saw this movie in the theater in 1980, and didn't care for it. I was 13 at the time so I saw it again a few years ago to give it a second chance. I should have trusted my first instincts. It wasn't any better the second time. There's a reason Dom DeLuise was always in supporting roles in films. As a second banana, he had the ability to deliver a few funny lines in a limited capacity. As the center of the film, he didn't have the talent to keep an audience interested in his character. If it wasn't for Mel Brooks, husband of Anne Bancroft, who directed and wrote this film, and Burt Reynolds, DeLuise's cinematic career would have been minimal. This film is supposed to be a comedy, but it's rather depressing and not in a way that makes the viewer say, "Oh, it was worth it." In between all the self-loathing and depression is a lesson about accepting yourself for who you are and what you look like. I just wish the point was made with a better script, a better director and definitely a better cast. Think of it as the poor man's Marty, and I'm not much of a fan of that movie.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.