Monday, September 28, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for October 1-7

October 1–October 7


SCARLET STREET (October 4, 4:15 am): Director Fritz Lang does a superb job with this 1945 film noir that has Edward G. Robinson give a brilliant performance in a role that's different from any other he had in his career. Eddie G. is Chris Cross, a bland, boring clothing company cashier who's never done anything interesting in his life. Business picks up quickly after he saves Kitty March (Joan Bennett), a beautiful femme fatale, being accosted on the street by a guy who turns out to be Johnny (Dan Duryea), her low-life boyfriend. Completely out of character for Chris, he dispatches Johnny with his umbrella and quickly falls in love with Kitty as he's in a loveless marriage with a wife who constantly hen-pecks him. Because he talks of painting, Kitty and more importantly Johnny thinks he's a rich artist. The two work out a plan to make money from Chris' love for Kitty and his ability as a painter. The story, based on the French novel La Chienne (The Bitch), has a number of unforeseen (and excellent) plot twists as Chris' life goes from humdrum to one filled with way too much passion, deceit and tragedy. It's one of Eddie G.'s best and most unique roles.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS (October 5, 1:00 am): It's always challenging to adapt a classic book into a movie, and this 1939 film uses less than half of Emily Bronte's 34 chapters (eliminating the second generation of characters) from her book. But it's still a stunning film directed by one of the true masters, William Wyler. Laurence Olivier gives an unforgettable performance as Heathcliff, showing a wide range of emotions in a complicated role. Heathcliff is bitter, vengeful, conflicted and passionately in love. I doubt anyone else could do justice to the role. Merle Oberon as Cathy is also wonderful as are many members of the cast including David Niven, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Hugh Williams.  


A FACE IN THE CROWD (October 1, 10:00 am): Budd Schulberg wrote and Elia Kazan directed this prescient look at celebrity and media-made pundits in the story of Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith), a drifter discovered in jail by the hostess (Patricia Neal) of a morning radio show in Pickett, Arkansas. Through the sheer force of his “down home” personality, he eventually makes his way to New York, where he becomes not only an entertainment superstar, but a respected wielder of opinion; powerful enough to make a nondescript senator into a formidable presidential candidate. Rhodes, however, is rotten to the core, and as his fame and power increase, the monster within him begins to break out. It’s up to Neal, as a letter-day Frankenstein, to destroy the monster she created before he destroys us, and she does it in a quite unique way. Neal, of course, is superb as usual, and Griffith gave the best performance of his career, playing against type and should have gotten the Oscar. But he wasn’t even nominated, in due to the less than stellar box office of the movie and the liberal backlash against director Kazan for supposedly “naming names” before Congress. (In reality he didn’t name anyone that wasn’t already named again and again.) What eventually brought critics around to giving this film another look was Francois Truffaut, who championed the film as a modern-day classic and a warning.

CITIZEN KANE (October 7, 10:30 pm): Disappointed that I recommended this? Seen it before? I truly hope so. Well, it’s always worth watching again (and again, for that matter). It’s been written about and praised into the ground, but still retains its magic. It’s the story of modern America through the eyes of a truly flawed man; a man responsible for shaping public opinion through his media empire who found everything but love. This is the feature film debut of such great actors as Agnes Moorehead, Everett Sloane, Ruth Warrick, and the renowned Joseph Cotten, as well as the starring and directing debut of Orson Welles. It was both an artistic triumph and a curse to Welles. If you haven’t seen it, now’s the time to check it out.


ED: B-. This was the first, and best, of the sequels to Planet of the Apes and one that Charlton Heston only agreed to do if his character was killed off early. In a sense they granted his wish by having his character disappear after the early scenes and only reappear at the end to die. They filled in the middle by casting James Franciscus as an astronaut sent to find Heston, and who also dies at the end. As with the vast majority of sequels, it’s not as good as the original; at times it seems as if the original is being played over again, this time with Franciscus. However, it has plenty to recommend it as an entertaining film. The idea of mutants surviving an earlier a-bomb blast and living in an underground civilization in the ruins of New York City has plenty to recommend it to psychotronic fans. The writing, by Paul Dehn and Mort Abrahams, is excellent, with a great downbeat ending we might not have expected. That’s all on the plus side. On the minus side is the cheapness of the sequel, which caused the ape make-up to look less effective than in the original, and the needless replay of the events of the first film, this time with Franciscus instead of Heston. Because of this, only the last 15 minutes is devoted to the search to stop the bomb the Mutants worship, when it should obviously be the focal point of the film from near the beginning. And while the quick pace of the film is a plus, there are times where some points are sacrificed to the pace, which gives it an uneven quality at times. For sci-fi fans and fans of the series, this film will meet their standards, but others may find it all a bit awkward.

DAVID: A-. First, a disclaimer: I'm a huge fan of the original Planet of the Apes five movies, particularly the first one, which is among the most enjoyable films I've ever seen and has the greatest ending I've seen. So I come with a bias. Could Beneath, the first sequel, have been better? Sure. The budget was cut in half, and per his contract, Charlton Heston's role is kept to a minimum. However, it is the story that carries this film, and makes it so enjoyable and so dark. The apes decide it's time to go into the Forbidden Zone. It's called that for a reason. The Lawgiver, who in Apes history wrote the Sacred Scrolls, warned them to stay away. There are mutant survivors of a post-apocalyptic nuclear war who live underground in what once New York City. The atomic bombs used to destroy society has scarred the mutants, but has also given them incredible psychic powers. They wear masks to look like normal people. They reveal themselves in the presence of their god, what Heston's character Taylor calls a "doomsday bomb." Kudos for whoever thought of having the bomb in St. Patrick's Cathedral. The bomb is capable of destroying the world, and as Taylor is about to die, he "pushes the button" that sets off the bomb and blows up Earth. The best part of the original Planet of the Apes franchise is the endings are extraordinary. They're dark, unique and often shocking, particularly the first time you see them. As the film ends, a deep-voiced narrator (Paul Frees, who did many voices including Boris Badenov) says, "In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe lies a medium-sized star. And one of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet is now dead." But don't worry, there are three more sequels. The only one that matches this one is Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which is even more dark. In Beneath, James Franciscus is fine as Brent, the astronaut who is sent to "rescue" Taylor and his now-dead crew. As he was in the original film, Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius is amazing. While his role is small, Heston is still the best.

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

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