Monday, September 7, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for September 8-14

September 8–September 14


BEING THERE (September 8, 3:15 pm): Peter Sellers was known for his versatility as an actor. He often played more than one character in films and was often outrageously funny. But there was also a sensitive side to Sellers. That's on display in Being There, one of his last films and his finest role. He is a simple-minded gardener who learns everything from watching TV. One circumstance leads to another and Chance (Sellers) ends up being an adviser to the president of the United States. Whatever he says is interpreted to be brilliant advice. It is clever, funny, heartwarming and beautiful. Melvyn Douglas as a wealthy businessman and adviser to the president is outstanding, and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Sellers was nominated for Best Actor, losing to Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer). During his acceptance speech, Hoffman said he couldn't believe he beat Sellers; neither can I.

GASLIGHT (September 13, 8:00 pm): As a huge fan of Joseph Cotten and Ingrid Bergman, it's great to see that when the two teamed together in this 1944 film that the result was spectacular. (Unfortunately, the chemistry between the two wasn't nearly as good when they worked together in Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn five years later.) Gaslight has fantastic pacing, starting slowly planting the seeds of Bergman's potential insanity and building to a mad frenzy with Cotten's Scotland Yard inspector saving the day and Bergman gaining revenge. While Charles Boyer has never been a favorite of mine, he is excellent in this role as Bergman's scheming husband who is slowly driving her crazy. Also deserving of praise is Angela Lansbury in her film debut as the couple's maid. Lansbury has the hots for Boyer and nothing but disdain for Bergman. A well-acted, well-directed film that is one I always enjoy viewing  no matter how many times I see it.


WENT THE DAY WELL? (September 11, 2:00 am): Loosely based on a magazine story by Graham Greene called “The Lieutenant Died,” this is one of the ultimate “What if . . .?” films. Made in 1942, and told in flashback, it deals with a German invasion of a rural British community and how surprised townsfolk were to find German infiltrators suddenly in their midst. It turns out that German paratroopers have landed to prepare the way for a full invasion. What separates this from the usual run of predictable propaganda “morale” films is the sly humor with which the story is told. The townsfolk now must become as resourceful as possible, looking for ways to subvert the enemy and get word to the military authorities. Despite the sly humor, the film is frankly brutal, depicting the violence of the Germans and of the resistance of the townsfolk fighting them. It’s a wonderfully unusual film made at a time when the plot was considered a real possibility.

EYES WITHOUT A FACE (September 13, 4:15 am): One of the most disquieting horror films of the 1950s and a film many consider a classic of the genre. Pierre Brasseur is a famous surgeon and researcher who kidnaps young women in an attempt to graft their faces onto that of his daughter (Edith Scob), whose face was disfigured in a car accident. Those I know who have seen it will forever remember the surgery sequence. Modern horror films may be far more grotesque and graphic, but this film will really unnerve you because of the quality with which it was made. It’s definitely not for the squeamish.

WE DISAGREE ON ... TOM THUMB (September 8, 10:00 am)

ED: A. This is a charming film for children, starring Russ Tamblyn as the diminutive title character who is taken in by a kindly couple (Bernard Miles and Jessie Matthews), but later exploited by the villainous Terry-Thomas and his henchman, played by Peter Sellers. Of course, as this is a fairy tale, all ends well in the end. It’s a example of George Pal at his best, with dazzling special effects for the time, an amazing and acrobatic performance by Tamblyn and songs by Sonny Burke and the great Peggy Lee. Thomas and Sellers are as menacing as they are funny, and Alan Young makes for a most unusual but effective romantic lead. This is a wonderful family movie, perfect for kids as it’s in color and has lots of special effects. But even adults who have not seen this before should enjoy as it harkens back to a time where movies of this kind did not have to have a cynical undercurrent or think the subject matter to death, thereby killing the fantasy.

DAVID: C+. This is a cute movie, but one that very much shows its age. Some, including Ed, call it a "wonderful family movie." I can guarantee that if I took my daughters – who are now 21 and 18 (the oldest loves movies, the younger one too but not as much) – to see this in the theaters or if we watched it on TV even when they were little, they wouldn't last 15 minutes. Perhaps it was fun for the whole family when it came out in 1958, but that was 57 years ago. We think that what we enjoyed as children is what our kids enjoy, but more often than not it isn't reality. Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers are amusing villains as both were incredibly talented and funny, and Russ Tamblyn has a certain charm in the title role. The special effects are pretty good for what they're supposed to be. But the songs aren't memorable or good, the movie doesn't move at a good pace, and, of course, the plot couldn't be more predictable.

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

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