TCM TiVo ALERT
July 1–July 7
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (July 3, 12:45 pm): An exceptionally well-done and thoughtful sci-fi film. One day all the people and animals in a quaint English town become unconscious, wake up and two months later, all the women capable of having children are pregnant. In all, 12 very white-looking kids are born. The children are geniuses, are able to read minds and control others to do whatever they want, including murder and suicide. As time passes, a professor from the village (George Sanders) decides he's going to teach the mutant kids, who want to take over the world, to use their powers for good. While a noble idea, it's also poorly thought out as these children are serious about world dominance. Realizing he's not going to win, the professor plants a bomb to destroy the kids, and thinks of a brick wall in order for the children to not read his mind. Films like this can easily become cliche and embarrassingly bad, but this one is special. Sanders is fantastic and the kids are great. It's a very entertaining horror film.
THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE (July 4, 6:30 pm): Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas co-starred in a number of excellent films, but besides Seven Days in May, this is their best together. The Devil's Disciple is a delightfully funny story of a straight-laced preacher (Lancaster) and a colonial rebel (Douglas) during the Revolutionary War. Add Sir Laurence Olivier as British General John Burgoyne and a screenplay based on the George Bernard Shaw play and you've got an outstanding film that's a must-see for anyone who considers themselves a film fan. The chance to see Lancaster, Douglas and Olivier in a film is reason enough to see this. On top of that, it's funny, lively, filled with action and incredibly entertaining.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THIS LAND IS MINE (July 2, 7:15 am): Jean Renoir’s classic about Occupied France still packs something of a punch years later because of the performance of its star, Charles Laughton. He is terrific as the mild-mannered schoolteacher living in a constant struggle between his fears and his responsibilities. Though we’re told at the beginning that the film is set “Somewhere in Occupied Europe,” we know Renoir is talking about his homeland. With an excellent supporting cast including Maureen O’Hara as his colleague and unrequited love, George Sanders as O’Hara’s turncoat betrothed, Una O’Connor, and Walter Slezak in fine form as the Nazi heel, this film succeeds in showing us that life in a occupied country is not as easy as first imagined. Also give Renoir kudos for staying out of writer Dudley Nicholas’ way, not an easy task considering the subject matter.
ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT WOMAN (July 5, 12:00 pm): This is it – the quintessential drive-in movie made by three guys who made their fortune in the drive-in business, the Woolner Brothers. Made for $89,000, it grossed around $480,000 in its initial theatrical run. Yes, but isn’t this a bad movie? You bet it is, and that’s the fun of it. Leonard Maltin describes it perfectly when he calls it “Hilariously awful sci-fi with some of the funniest special effects of all time.” The purpose of a movie is to entertain, and with this one, we know just what we’re getting, unlike many of the big-budget borefests that scarred the cinema landscape of the ‘60s. Watch for the scene when the almost transparent giant alien (courtesy of lousy double exposure) lifts the sheriff’s car. When he throws it to the ground, it is clearly a different make and style. It’s just another reason why I love movies.
WE DISAGREE ON ... WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (July 5, 8:00 pm)
ED: C+. It’s amazing to me the number of people I know that absolutely hate this film as Liz and Dick tire of making glossy soap operas and go the slob actor route instead. The trouble with the film, after one gets over the shock of seeing Liz and Dick as two booze-soaked domestic fighters, is that it gets so repetitious that it becomes tiring to watch. Lines are repeated over and over again as Liz and Dick try to scandalize the young couple they invited over for drinks (and drinks and drinks and drinks) as it takes us what seems like an eternity to get to the punchline: that Liz and Dick never had a son after all. Liz’s opening line, “What a dump!” is lifted from the Bette Davis camp stinker, Beyond the Forest, and makes us wonder how much better this would be if it were Bette playing Martha. (Jack Warner, in negotiations with the play’s author, Edward Albee, told Albee that Davis and James Mason would star.) Albee’s wonderful satire of academic married life is turned into a turgid Freudian piece of slop, notable only for the fact that Liz looks slovenly and says such things as “son of a bitch,” phrases intended to shock us and pass the word of mouth around to generate interest in the film when it was originally released. The only reason I graded it as high as I did was because of the direction of Mike Nichols, who does a decent job. Yes, some cheese gets riper as it ages; other cheeses simply grow mold. This film is of the latter.
DAVID: D+. This is likely the most overrated film in cinematic history. Nominated for Oscars in all 13 categories in which it was eligible, it won five, including Elizabeth Taylor's second Best Actress award (as equally undeserving as her first win for Butterfield 8). Unlike Ed, I'm amazed at the number of people who love this film. Yes, people often fall all over themselves praising films in reviews on IMDB.com, but it's taken to a ridiculous level with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? An interesting twist to this film is it's the first time in the history of the "We Disagree" feature in which we both dislike the film and try to outdo each other articulating our contempt for it. It's an utter piece of garbage. Taylor fattened herself to play Martha (and never lost the weight) with Richard Burton, her real-life husband at the time of this 1966 movie, doing what he normally did at the time – drink a lot. He plays Taylor's on-screen spouse, George, a history professor at a small New England college, who aspired to be much more. The film consists of the two of them bitterly arguing about everything, which gets tiring very quickly. The two of them argue in particular about their son. As Ed wrote, it takes an eternity for them to admit they don't have a son. That seems rather ridiculous as they live in a small town, Liz is the daughter of the college's president and it would be hard to conceal such an elaborate lie. It's difficult to focus on the film, which is 132 minutes in length, as it's not compelling. It comes across as it is: a play converted into a movie without much thought about how to properly adapt it to the big screen. The two of them verbally spar in front of a young couple, played by George Segal and Sandy Dennis. Dennis won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance. Burton and Segal were nominated for Oscars, but didn't win. The young couple unsuccessfully try to leave as Dick and Liz yell at each other. The arguing and bickering is somewhat impressive as it had to be a challenge to their mouths as the two chew the scenery at an unprecedented level. Instead of just walking away from a nightmare of an evening, the young couple spends hours with Segal getting into bed with Taylor at one point. Ed believes Mike Nichols did a "decent job" directing the film. I contend he failed to keep control over Burton and Taylor, and did a poor job in his film directorial debut. Yes, the two are supposed to be verbally cruel to each other, but the film quickly gets to the point where the arguing goes over the top that it loses its effectiveness, and as Ed wrote, it just repeats itself. The film is praised for its groundbreaking profane dialogue and sexual innuendo, but the movie doesn't hold up today and comes across as more annoying than shocking.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.