By Ed Garea
STAR OF THE MONTH
We continue with Janet Leigh, the Star of the Month for October. While most of the programming scheduled for the two remaining days of her reign is mediocre, there are three classics definitely worth watching.
October 22: The pick of the night airs at 2:15 in the morning. It’s John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980), one of the better horror films on the ‘80s, and one certainly worth a view.
October 23: The fun spills over into the next morning at 6:00 am with Leigh in one film she would have liked to have forgotten, the abysmal Night of the Lepus (1972). She and Stuart Whitman are married scientists seeking a serum to control rabbit breeding. Instead they have created a formula that causes the rabbits to grow to gigantic proportions. Imagine - hordes of pet bunnies on the loose, accompanied by the occasional stuntman in a bunny suit to inflict damage of unsuspecting humans. Yes, it’s an all-time laff riot and demands to be seen in all its “glory.”
October 29: Two great classics with Leigh are airing tonight. At 8:00 pm, it’s Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), and at 10:00 pm, it’s Orson Welles’s overlooked classic, Touch of Evil (1958).
FRIDAY NIGHT SPOTLIGHT: AFRICA
Each Friday night this month, except Halloween, TCM will run films about Africa or shot in Africa.
October 17: There are three excellent films scheduled, beginning at 8:00 pm with MGM’s remake of King Solomon’s Mines (1950), starring Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger. The incredible Trader Horn (1931) follows at 10:00 pm, where Great White hunters Harry Carey and Duncan Renaldo travel deep into the jungle to trade wares with the locals and find themselves captured by a bloodthirsty tribe ruled by White Goddess Edwina Booth. You have to see it to believe it, but it’s great fun if not taken seriously.
Airing at 12:15 am is Mountains of the Moon (1990), an intelligent look at the competition between British explorers Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke to find the source of the Nile River.
October 24: A night of heralded films begins at 8:00 pm, with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in Danish writer Isak Dinesen’s autobiographical tale, Out of Africa (1985). Following at 10:45 is Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist (1988), another film based on a true-life story. This time it’s the story of naturalist Dian Fossey and her ultimately fatal struggle to save the gorillas of Rwanda from poachers.
At 1:00 am, it’s The English Patient (1996), a strange tale of a badly burned man who remembers a tragic wartime romance. It won Juliette Binoche an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in one of Oscar’s biggest upsets. The overwhelming favorite going in was Lauren Bacall for her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces.
And, wrapping up at the wee hour of 4:00 am is the classic sequel, Tarzan and His Mate (1934).
OUT OF THE ORDINARY
October 18: One can always make room for a classic, even if one has seen it umpteen times, and if the classic is John Ford’s The Searchers (1956). John Wayne is amazing in his portrayal of an Indian-hating Civil War veteran searching for his niece, kidnapped by Comanches many years ago. Anyone who thinks the big glom couldn’t act should check this one out at 10:00 pm and eat crow.
October 19: An excellent double feature from Spain comes our way with El Sur (1983) at 2:45 am, followed by The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) at 4:30. The former is a moving story of a young girl living in an isolated northern Spanish town. She is in awe of her father, and gradually comes to realize that he has a great secret and the realization that this secret is the center of his life while she is only a facet of that life. What this great secret is becomes her mission to find out.
The Spirit of the Beehive is an acclaimed film about two innocent young girls who see Frankenstein at a special showing in their village. The power of the film causes them to embark upon a mission to find the monster. It is a wonderful evocation of village life and the imagination of childhood that will keep viewers mesmerized throughout. It’s one to catch.
October 25: A very strange and interesting film is on the agenda at the late hour of 2:30 am. It is called Ciao! Manhattan, an avant-garde film from 1972 directed by John Palmer and David Weisman and starring the late, tragic, counterculture idol, Edie Sedgwick. It could be called a semi-autobiographical tale, as it follows the life and career of young Susan Superstar (Sedgwick) through her time as one of Andy Warhol’s Superstars. Using actual audio recordings of Sedgwick's account of her time in Warhol’s Factory in New York City, and coupled with clips from the original unfinished script started in 1967, the film captures the deterioration of Edie Sedgwick, aka Susan Superstar. It is not only a requiem to Edie Sedgwick, Warhol’s first superstar, but also to the New York Underground scene, which blossomed on the ‘60s and died from its own excesses.
THE B-HIVE: A TRIBUTE TO EDGAR G. ULMER
On October 21, TCM is devoting an entire night to the films of director Edgar G. Ulmer. Ulmer, known as the director who did the most with the least, was the Auteur of Poverty Row. Not that he particularly wanted to work there, he was blackballed by the Hollywood studios in the mid-‘30s as a consequence of his affair with Shirley Alexander, wife of producer Max Alexander of Universal, a nephew of Universal’s president, Carl Laemmle. Shirley divorced Alexander to marry Ulmer and remained his wife until his death in 1972. Ulmer worked everywhere in the low-budget world, from films in Yiddish to fly-by-night production companies. He hooked up with PRC in the ‘40s, the largest studio he would work for, and created several minor masterpieces while there. Anyway we put it, Ulmer was an interesting character, and his films are always interesting to watch.
The night begins at 8:00 pm with the PRC drama Her Sister’s Secret (1946), a weeper about a woman who becomes pregnant by her soldier lover, who takes a powder. She gives the child to her sister only to have the lover return intent on having a family.
At 9:30, it’s a wonderful documentary about Ulmer’s films and influence, Edgar G. Ulmer -- The Man Off-Screen (2005). At 10:45 pm, it’s Carnegie Hall (1947), a story of a young piano prodigy and his stage mother. Following at 1:15 am is Murder Is My Beat (1955), a nice little quickie from Allied Artists about detectives’ search for the killer of a businessman.
Detour (1945), widely regarded as Ulmer’s masterpiece, airs afterward at 2:45 am. Then, it’s The Amazing Transparent Man (1960), which may just by Ulmer’s worst film: a story of a gangster who can become invisible. The less said, the better.
October 16: As part of the Special Theme - Ghost Stories, TCM is airing the superior horror-comedy, The Ghost Breakers (1940), with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, at 8:00 pm. The other interesting films of the night are two spook comedies from The Bowery Boys, beginning at 2:15 am: Ghost Chasers(1951), and Spook Busters (1946).
October 18: Tune in at 2:30 am for director John Carpenter’s updating of Howard Hawks’s Rio Bravo in an urban setting - Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).
October 23: An excellent double-bill of ghost stories beginning at 8:00 pm with The Innocents (1961), based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, and at 10:00 pm, Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey in the superior ghost story, The Uninvited (1944).
October 26: It’s Lon Chaney’s silent horror-comedy, The Monster (1925), at 12:45 am, followed by Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic thriller, Diabolique(1955), at 2:15 am.
October 28: It’s an entire day of horror films. The best of the bunch begins with Bela Lugosi in Columbia’s The Return of the Vampire (1944). At 8 pm, it’s Ealing’s classic anthology Dead of Night (1945), and at 12:15 am the anthology Kwaidan (1965) from Japan.
October 30: Films worth catching include the unintentional comedy I Was a Communist For The F.B.I. (1951) at 3:45 pm, The House on Haunted Hill(1958) at 8:00 pm, and The Haunting (1963) at 1:00 am.
October 31: A good day for horror films. Try Carnival of Souls (1962) at 4:45 pm, Repulsion (1965) at 6:15 pm, the original Night of the Living Dead(1968) at 8:00 pm, and Curse of the Demon (1958) at 10:00 pm.
Finally, at 5:00 am, it’s one of the most exotic and disturbing films from France, Eyes Without a Face (1959). Directed by Georges Franju, it’s the story of a surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) who kidnaps young women and grafts their faces onto that of his disfigured daughter (Edith Scob). It’s a “can’t miss” if you’ve never seen it and a “must see again” if you have.