TCM TiVo ALERT
September 15–September 22
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
LARCENY INC. (September 18, 10:15 am): No one played Edward G. Robinson's mobster character for laughs better than Eddie G. himself. In this 1942 film, his character, J. Chalmers "Pressure" Maxwell gets out of prison with plans to go straight. His dream of opening a dog racing track in Florida is thwarted when he's unable to get the financing because of his gangster background. But Pressure has enough money to buy a failing luggage store next to the bank that rejected his loan request. With the help of a couple of dim-witted buddies, Jug Martin (Broderick Crawford) and Weepy Davis (Edward Brophy) – great criminal flunky names! – they start digging underground to get to the bank's safe. One of the funniest scenes has them breaking a utility line and oil comes pouring out of the hole with Jug and Weepy, covered in the stuff, thinking they struck a gusher. While the luggage store is just a cover for their criminal plans, it becomes very successful. Eddie G.'s charisma and comedic skills shine in this funny and endearing movie.
METROPOLIS (September 22, 6:00 am): This 1926 silent film, directed by Fritz Lang, is one of the most important and best ever made. The storyline is as current today as it was 89 years ago, perhaps even more relevant now. This is the restored 2010 version which includes still photos and additional live film that was discovered in a museum in Argentina. Set in a dystopian society in the future, the rich live in high-rises that reach into the heavens while the workers, who supply the power through grueling physical labor, are literally underground. The repressed workers stage an uprising in scenes that feature thousands of extras. That Lang is able to capture it on film is a testament to his brilliance as a director. The film also features special effects that are as good or better than any seen until about the mid-1970s. Others have made remakes or films inspired by Metropolis, but even with the advancements in technology, including something as basic as sound so you can hear actors speak, none can touch the original. It's often on TCM giving viewers many chances to see it. Sometimes that means people skip it. But if you've never seen this movie, have viewed earlier versions without the restoration or haven't seen it in a couple of years, I urge you to see it. It is a cinematic masterpiece.
ED’S BEST BETS:
HOLD THAT GHOST (September 18 8:00 pm): This just edges Ride ‘Em Cowboy as the best and funniest film Abbott and Costello ever made. Unlike their service comedies, which were also quite funny, but have aged terribly. Hold That Ghost retains its freshness and shows the duo at their best. They play gas station attendants who have inherited the estate of the late Sidney “Moose” Matson by virtue of having been in the car with him (as hostages) when he was killed by the police. The only thing to inherit is a run-down roadhouse, which is said to be the place where he stashed his loot. Along with a group of other passengers, they are stranded at the roadhouse for the night. Of course, other gangsters are also looking for the money in the tavern, and that’s where the fun starts. Several of the duo’s classic routines are on display here, such as “the moving candle” routine, the changing room, and several verbal routines. One reason this stands head and shoulders above their others is the inclusion of Joan Davis as a foil for Costello. The two are hilarious together, especially during the “moving candle” routine and an impromptu dance on a rain-soaked floor. Ted Lewis and the Andrews Sisters are along to supply the music. Eve those who don’t normally care for their antics will like the boys in this one.
THE PHANTOM OF CRESTWOOD (Sept. 21, 1:45 pm): I love Old Dark House mysteries and this is one of the best. Blackmailer Karen Morely invites some previous victims to a party in order to extort even more money. But things go wrong when one of them murders her. So who done it? Gangster Ricardo Cortez turns detective in order to prove to the cops that it wasn’t him
WE DISAGREE ON ... JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (September 19, 1:15 pm)
ED: A. This is the perfect popcorn movie; perfect for a Saturday matinee at the movies or home with the family and a big-screen television. It stars Todd Armstrong as Jason and Nancy Kovack as Medea, but who cares? The real stars are the stop-motion animated creatures of Ray Harryhausen. From the bronze statue of Talos come to life to the Harpies badgering the blind Phineas (Patrick Troughton) to Poseidon rising from the sea to hold apart the clashing rocks to the skeleton army to the multi-headed hydra, it never lets up for action and could well by Harryhausen’s greatest film. (It took him four months alone to animate the skeleton army.) Also look for veteran actors Niall McGuiness and the beautiful Honor Blackman as Zeus and Hera. It’s Hera who aids Jason in his quest for the Golden Fleece by giving him a hand at certain times. Also look for Nigel Green as Hercules, one of Jason’s crew of Argonauts whose greed brings Talos to life. It’s in color, so the kids should like it, and, in short, it’s the perfect family movie.
DAVID: C+. It's almost like we're repeating our Tom Thumb disagreement from last week. Our definitions of "family movies" are completely different. Jason and the Argonauts could be filmed in the most beautiful color imaginable and still I'd never get anyone in my family to sit down for more than a few minutes to watch it. The same could be said for many other families. At times, it's a fun film, but it's sometimes difficult to follow. The stop-motion animation is pretty cool for its day. Like Tom Thumb, this movie shows its age. It's from 1963 and looks it. The acting is absolutely terrible and combined with a somewhat confusing plot, there are some spots where quite honestly I'm lost. On the positive side, there are some good action scenes, and while Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion work is prehistoric compared to what can be done today, I still get a kick out of it.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.