Monday, July 13, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for July 15-22

July 15–July 22


NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (July 15, 12:30 am): 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 a 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.

KEEPER OF THE FLAME (July 22, 6:00 pm): Regular readers know how much I dislike Katharine Hepburn's acting, particularly when she drags the great Spencer Tracy down in every film the two made together. That is, except one. Keeper of the Flame has Tracy as a journalist assigned to write a story about Hepburn's husband, a beloved national patriot who just died. It turns out the husband wasn't what he seemed and Hepburn tries to protect his secret. Tracy suspects Hepburn killed her husband, which isn't entirely the case. Besides the interesting plot twists, I also enjoy the interaction between Tracy and Hepburn as it doesn't fall into their familiar trap of a battle between the sexes. There's an attraction between the two, but it's secondary to the storyline.


THE RETURN OF DOCTOR X (July 16, 3:30 pm): Humphrey Bogart in a vampire picture? As a vampire, yet? Yes, it’s true and it has to be seen to be believed. At the time, Bogart was a contract player with a big mouth about the quality of his recent films and wasn’t afraid to let Jack Warner himself know. So, to teach him a lesson that as bad as it seems, it can get worse, Warner had him cast in this ridiculous film about an executed killer brought back to life by a mad scientist and who now needs frequent transfusions of fresh blood to live. Bogart was actually not the first choice for the role. It was first offered to Bela Lugosi and even he had the good sense to turn it down. Bogart, however, being under contract, couldn’t, so he had to make the best of it. So he puts on pasty-faced white makeup and runs a white streak through his hair, giving him a bizarre appearance, indeed. He is also shown in many scenes stroking a pet rabbit (also white). The film stinks, but Bogie’s actually pretty good and got to be the star of a box office hit, as the curiosity factor and word-of-mouth alone brought in viewers who wanted to see what it was all about.

PEEPING TOM (July 23, 2:30 am): Michael Powell almost lost his career in the uproar that followed the release of this controversial film about a serial photographer who captures his victims with his camera at their moment of death. He also documents the police investigation that follows each killing, and finally, his own suicide. We later learn that the killer’s father (played by Powell) was a psychologist who used his own son as a guinea pig in experiments exploring the nature of fear. The original print was heavily edited upon its 1960 release, but later restored by none other than Martin Scorsese. Don’t miss it.

WE DISAGREE ON ... CAPTAIN BLOOD (July 18, 6:00 am)

ED. B. Captain Blood is a solid adventure with great performances from its cast, including Errol Flynn in his first swashbuckler, Olivia de Havilland as his leading lady, Lionel Atwill and Basil Rathbone as the heels, and that wonderful Warner’s stock company in support. The only fault, and that which prevents a higher grade, is the rather primitive way it’s presented. The use of title cards makes it almost seem as if it were made in the silent era or as an early talkie. This is 1935, and sound recording had been mastered. Perhaps the reason was due to it being a low-budget production; Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland were unknowns at this time. Note the difference in production values between this film and later Flynn adventures. Otherwise, it’s a great way to spend one’s time.

DAVID: A. The movie that launched the career of Errol Flynn as a swashbuckling icon is not only historically important, but is an excellent film. The cast is top-notch with Oliva de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Guy Kibbee and Lionel Atwill. Flynn is Dr. Peter Blood, condemned to a Jamaican plantation to serve out a sentence for treating an English rebel. When the Spanish invade Jamaica, the fun and the action begins. Blood leads a prison rebellion with the men stealing a Spanish ship – the Spaniards are busy looting the town – and later the French on his way to becoming a hero when England is overthrown by William of Orange. Flynn is as dashing as you'll see him on screen showing great charisma during the fight scenes, though he needed work at times with dialogue. There's no arguing that it's a low-budget film. It was so low budget that stock footage from silent films were used. However, I strongly disagree with Ed that it diminishes from the impact of the movie. The action sequences are top-notch. Flynn and de Havilland are perfect together without being over-the-top in the romance department, and of course, Rathbone is outstanding. 

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

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