Friday, August 28, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for September 1-7

September 1–September 7


THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER (September 5, 8:15 am): I'm a huge fan of the British kitchen sink/angry young man film genre, and there are very, very few finer than this one. Colin Smith (Tom Courtenay in his brilliant film debut) is a rebellious teenager in post-World War II England who ends up in a juvenile delinquent institution. While there, he discovers he has a talent for long-distance running. He's able to avoid the hard labor the other boys must endure because of his abilities. But the anger and resentment against a system that chews kids like him up and spits them out when they are no longer of any use is always in the back of his mind. The day of the big race against the nearby public school is an opportunity to shine leave Colin conflicted. In the end, he does what he believes to be the right thing to maintain his integrity and independence despite the consequences.

THE LION IN WINTER (September 7, 6:00 am): I've never shied away from expressing my intense dislike for Katharine Hepburn's acting. I think she had very little talent, and is the most overrated mainstream actress in the history of cinema. But I've got to give the devil her due - she is absolutely brilliant in The Lion in Winter, a 1968 film in which she stars as Eleanor of Aquitaine in the year 1183. She is imprisoned by her husband, Henry II (Peter O'Toole delivering yet another fantastic performance), as the two greatly differ over which of their sons will be next in line to the thrown of England. While not historically accurate, it's a wildly entertaining film with Hepburn and O'Toole trading biting lines with each other. One of my favorites has the two of them walking arm-in-arm smiling at their subjects while Eleanor is giving Henry grief. He says, "Give me a little peace." Without skipping a beat, Eleanor responds: "A little? Why so modest? How about eternal peace? Now, that's a thought." A great story, great costumes, great directing and a great cast that also includes Anthony Hopkins in his film debut, Timothy Dalton and Nigel Terry.


THE BANK DICK (September 4, 8:00 pm): W.C. Fields was never funnier than in this film about a no-account who is given a job as a bank guard after he unwittingly foils a robbery. His daughter’s nitwit fiancé works there and Fields soon gets him involved in using the bank’s money to finance a stock scheme that looks as if it will go bust, so they must distract the bank examiner (a wonderfully fussy Franklin Pangborn) until the money can be returned. It all results is a crazy and hilarious car chase when the bank is robbed again.

IT’S A GIFT (September 4, 9:30 pm): This 1934 Paramount production was probably W.C. Fields’ funniest film. He plays a downtrodden, henpecked grocer living in Camden, N.J., who wants desperately to own an orange grove in California, so he buys one sight unseen and moves his family out to California. It’s a beautiful melding of comedy routines and plot, with Charles Sellon as a blind grocery customer and T. Roy Barnes as a salesman who interrupts Fields’ sleep looking for Carl LaFong. It’s Fields at his delightfully cynical best.


ED: C. Elvis films are exercises in mediocrity, mainly because his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, never allowed his client to step outside what was thought to be a winning formula. As a result we never got to see Elvis in anything that wasn’t predictable and heavily telegraphed. But some are more excruciating than others. This film is a case in point. It starts out well with Elvis and Gary Lockwood as bush pilots who lose their plane because of Lockwood’s gambling debts. Trying to earn money to retrieve it they hitch it to Seattle, where the World’s Fair just happens to be. Once there, Danny tries to earn money in a poker game (Hasn’t he ever heard of Las Vegas?) while Elvis takes care of a small girl named Sue Lin (Vicky Tiu) who became separated from her Uncle Walter (Kam Tong). When cute little Sue gets sick from pigging out on junk food, Elvis takes her to the clinic, where he meets attractive nurse Diane Warren (Joan O’Brien) and, of course, is smitten. And if you can’t guess what’s going to happen next, you’ve never seen an Elvis picture. The only interesting things about this cardboard comedy is seeing Kurt Russell as a kid Elvis pays to kick him in the shins to attract the nurse’s attention, and the late, gorgeous, scorching supernova (to quote IMdB reviewer pooch-8) Yvonne Craig. Russell would later go on to play The King himself in the 1979 TV movie Elvis.

DAVID: D+. I'm a huge fan of Elvis Presley films, even many of the bad ones. Elvis had a ton of potential, but opted during a long stretch of time to stick to the "Formula," in which he played the same type of character with a minimal plot, and an over-reliance on his charisma and a pretty co-star. Some of them are absolutely charming like ClambakeSpinout and Kid Galahad. Some of them are horribly stupid with no redeeming qualities such as Harum ScarumThe Trouble With Girls, and this movie. It Happened at the World's Fair (1962) is painfully boring and way too long at 105 minutes with the World's Fair in Seattle theoretically used in an effort to entertain the audience. It fails to do that. You can tell Elvis wishes he was anywhere else but in this film. It's hard to blame him. The effort at creating a plot is embarrassingly bad. For someone like me who loves Elvis and watched this entire movie as I'm a Presley completist, there is nothing to enjoy. You'd think there would be a good song as Elvis sings 10 of them in this movie. But unfortunately there isn't a single catchy one to be found.

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

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