TCM TiVo ALERT
June 15–June 22
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
KEY LARGO (June 21, 6:00 pm): This is, hands down, one of the 10 greatest films, and the best film noir in cinematic history. It stars three of my favorite actors: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lionel Barrymore. Bogart is a former military man who checks into the Hotel Largo in Key Largo, Florida, in the middle of hurricane season. The real storm hits when we see gangster Johnny Rocco (Eddie G.) walk down the hotel steps. Bogart had top billing, but it's Robinson who you can't stop watching. The action in this film is intense, the acting is incredibly strong (with Claire Trevor winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as Rocco's neglected gangster moll), legendary director John Huston could not have done a better job, and the use of the storm to parallel what's happening to the film's characters is ideal. Needless to say, this is one of those films you can watch over and over again and enjoy it more with each viewing.
BLOW-UP (June 21, 12:00 am): A sophisticated movie about a "Swinging London" photographer (David Hemmings), who believes he took pictures of a murder. The plot of this 1966 film is intriguing, fascinating and original. It was very popular in the United States as a counter-culture film, and probably because there's plenty of nudity and drug use. It's a visually stunning film with great suspense that leaves us unsure of what did he actually see. The film also includes a memorable cameo by the Yardbirds (with Jeff Beck on guitar and Jimmy Page on bass) at a club visited by the photographer. Some say the success of this movie led to the end of Hollywood's Hays Code. I don't know about that as the Code was on its way out. But Blow-Up certainly pushes conventional boundaries in a smart and sexy way.
ED’S BEST BETS:
NEVER TAKE SWEETS FROM A STRANGER (June 16, 2:15 am): This was a truly ahead-of-its time film that, because of its taboo subject matter was mostly shunned upon its original release. This is a thought-provoking film whose subject is handled intelligently and sensitively by Hammer, the studio that gave us Gothic horrors. The theme of the film is pedophilia, which was not only a taboo subject back then, but also an unknown one to many. Because pedophilia is more often heard about and discussed today, the film isn’t quite as frightening as it was back in 1960, but still we must applaud Hammer for taking on the subject. It’s also a lesson in sexual politics due to the fact that the victims were working class and the perpetrator a member of the town’s most powerful family. I’ve seen this on videocassette long ago, but this is the first time I have ever seen it on television, so kudos to TCM also for showing this neglected film.
A NOUS LA LIBERTE (June 18, 9:45 pm): Director Rene Clair was noted for his razor-sharp satirical observations of life. And this is one of his best: Two prisoners, Emile and Louis, attempt a prison break. Louis makes it, while Emile doesn’t. In no time Louis has fashioned himself into a rich industrialist. The secret to his success is that he runs his business along the same principles as the prison from which he escaped. His workers are regimented; uniformed with numbers on their backs, they robotically work the same sort of assembly line Louis did in prison, watched over by guards. When Emile is finally released, he s steered into a low-level job at Louis’ plant. He and Louis come face to face, and meeting and reminiscing with Emile makes Louis realize that he has merely exchanged one prison for another, though at much better money. This is Clair’s masterpiece. The Cahiers crowd attacked him for being “artifice-bound and not serious enough.” We have only to compare Clair’s work to such as Godard to see who the real artist is.
WE DISAGREE ON ... LIFE WITH FATHER (June 15, 1:30 pm)
ED: A+. I always love watching William Powell at work, and nowhere is he better than playing the befuddled had of the household in this gentle, wonderful comedy. Powell labors through the film under a misapprehension: that he is in control of his household. He isn’t; it’s actually his beloved wife, Vinnie (Irene Dunne in a great performance), who is actually running things, but smart enough to let him think that he’s in charge. Powell and Dunne match up perfectly in this charming comedy about life in turn-of-the-century New York City and the sort of film we no longer make, though we are certainly not richer of it.
DAVID: C+. I absolutely adore William Powell. No matter the role, he was charming, witty and entertaining. That's why I'm so disappointed with Life With Father. While Powell gave his typical wonderful performance, there's nothing he or the talented Irene Dunne can do to breathe life into this film. Their performances are fine, but the plot, based on the actual life of a stockbroker, is a real snoozer. The main storyline is finding a way to get Powell's character, Clarence Day Sr., baptized. Among the subplots is Day believes he controls his house when he doesn't, and the wooing of a teenage Elizabeth Taylor by Day's oldest son. It's a comedy with few laughs. It's too sweet and sentimental for me.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.