Tuesday, August 12, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for August 15-22

August 15–August 22


THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (August 15, 10:00 pm): One of the better government conspiracy/cover-up films that were extremely popular and usually quite good during the mid-1970s. This 1975 movie is about a CIA researcher (Robert Redford) who reads books, newspapers and magazines looking for anything out of the ordinary that could be a coded plot against the government. He works in what appears to be a small office in New York City, but it is actually a CIA operation. Redford's character, whose code name is Condor, returns from lunch one day to find all of his co-workers assassinated. The suspense picks up quickly as Condor learns to elude those trying to kill him and that he can't trust anyone, including fellow CIA agents. Condor abducts Faye Dunaway (he could have done a hell of lot worse), uses her apartment as a hideout, and of course, she comes around to believing his story. The acting is strong, the storyline is intriguing and the ending is outstanding. These films typically leave viewers skeptical, wondering if something like this could happen. I'm up in the air about it myself, but it doesn't detract from this very interesting and compelling movie.

PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (August 20, 10:00 pm): An excellent spy film noir, this 1953 movie stars Richard Widmark as Skip McCoy, a New York City pickpocket, who lifts a wallet from Candy (Jean Peters) on the subway. It turns out the wallet, which belongs to her ex-boyfriend - and unbeknownst to McCoy and Candy contains stolen top-secret government information. Candy's ex turns out to be a Communist spy. McCoy is more interested in making a big score than turning the top-secret information over to the government. Widmark is great as a pickpocket who always seems to be at least one step ahead of those who will kill for the information he has hidden. It's a solid Cold War noir with lots of suspense, action and excellent dialogue. 


TROUBLE IN PARADISE (August 16, 11:30 am): Ernst Lubitsch was best known for what was called “the Lubitsch touch,” a style of sophisticated comedy unmatched by anyone else. And this film represents Lubitsch at his best. Jewel thieves Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins fall in love in one of the most riotous scenes of one-upmanship in the movies, but now find their newly minted relationship threatened when Herbert turns on the charm to their newest victim, rich Paris widow Kay Francis. Their mastery of their characters is helped along with a witty script full of sparkling dialogue, clever plotting, great sexual gamesmanship, and brilliant visuals. Critic Dwight MacDonald described the film “as close to perfection as anything I have ever seen in the movies.” All I can say is to watch for yourselves.

DOCTOR X (August 21, 1:30 am): This early exercise in horror from Warner Brothers and director Michael Curtiz is worth watching for more than its curiosity value as a film made in the early two-strip Technicolor process. It’s an interesting exercise in Grand Guginol - and where else would Warner Brothers stage a horror film but right in the city. Lee Tracy is a wise-cracking reporter hot on the trail of the “half-moon murders.” The trail leads him to the mysterious Doctor Xavier (Lionel Atwill), the head of a medical academy located on Manhattan’s lower East Side. When Atwill moves his staff to his Long Island country estate for an elaborate reenactment of the murder, Tracy suddenly shifts from mere observer to actor when the killer threatens Atwill’s lovely daughter, Joanne (Fay Wray), with whom Tracy has fallen in love. I have often thought the comic element was introduced to keep the critics at bay, for this film has something for everyone: cannibalism, rape, dismemberment, and even necrophilia. The two-strip Technicolor process, added to the sets by Anton Groh and the makeup from Max Factor, heightens the eeriness already present, and once we hear the words “synthetic flesh,” they’ll remain with us always.

WE DISAGREE ON ... BONNIE AND CLYDE (August 15, 3:30 pm)

ED: B-..When I first saw this film back when it was released in 1967 (truth be told, we snuck into the theater to see it), I was astounded. But over the years as I became steeped in both film history and theory and also history in general, my esteem for this film has diminished. The only connection this film has to real events was that - yes, there were two people named Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and they were outlaws. However, they looked nothing like Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. To describe them as homely is generous. The real Bonnie and Clyde were also far more interesting than the duo portraying them on the screen. Let’s fact it, the film was heavily influenced by both the French New Wave and Madison Avenue and remains today as a triumph of style over substance.

DAVID: A+. 1967 was a landmark year in entertainment. Music dramatically changed with the rise of psychedelic rock albums such as The Beatles' landmark record Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as well as the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love; The Doors' self-titled debut album and Strange Days; Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow; Love's Forever Changes; Cream's Disraeli Gears, to name a few. The experimentation and groundbreaking work that came out that year was certainly not limited to music. Movie-goers noticed changes in cinema with bolder, more daring films released that year including The GraduateIn the Heat of the NightThe Born LosersIn Cold BloodBelle de JourBlowupClosely Watched Trains (the last two came out in very late 1966), and Bonnie and Clyde. Is Bonnie and Clyde heavily stylized, influenced by the French New Wave and guilty of showing a story that is lacking in facts? Definitely. But that does nothing to diminish its importance in cinema or not make it among the two or three most important films to emerge from that magical year. Warren Beatty (Clyde) and Faye Dunaway (Bonnie) anchor a very strong cast. Along with director Arthur Penn (who finally agreed to do the film after turning it down a number of times), the actors push the envelope when it comes to blending sex and violence into the storyline with incredible cinematography from Burnett Guffey (who won an Oscar for his work on the movie). The ability of all involved to move from comedy to violence with what looks like great ease is something rarely seen in film. The final iconic scene when Bonnie and Clyde know they've been ambushed and are doomed with Beatty and Dunaway staring at each other just before they are shot hundreds of times stays with the viewer long after the movie ends.

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

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