Friday, October 30, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for November 1-7

November 1–November 7


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (November 1, 8:00 pm): Peter Lorre is outstanding as Raskolnikov, an intellectual yet poor and hopelessly confused criminology student in this 1935 film loosely based on the classic Russian novel. Upset by his financial situation despite his brilliance, he convinces himself that he's a superman and therefore the laws don't apply to him. He needs money and he's going to take it. To prove to himself that he's superior to most people, Raskolnikov kills an old pawnbroker and her sister in a botched robbery. As he was a client of the pawnbroker, he is questioned by the police. Lorre is so good that even his facial expressions show his paranoia and guilt. It's a Hollywood adaption so, despite the Russian names, most of the actors are American who don't even attempt Russian accents. It's definitely a movie worth viewing largely for Lorre's performance.

DOG DAY AFTERNOON (November 5, 2:00 am): When this film came out in 1975, you would have been hard-pressed to find a better and more versatile actor in his prime than Al Pacino. This has always been one of my favorite Pacino films. I've recommended this film before because it's a must-see, and though I've seen it at least a dozen times, it always keeps my interest. It's among a handful of movies from the era that perfectly captures the violent, dirty and unique atmosphere of New York City. In this case, it's Brooklyn. In a film loosely based on a real story, Pacino and two of his buddies rob a bank though one guy gets cold feet when the heist begins and runs out of there. It turns out their timing couldn't be worse – the robbery occurs after most of the cash was picked up for the day leaving them with $1,100 and a mess on their hands. The police arrive and the two robbers are trapped inside with hostages. The interplay between Pacino and Charles Durning, who plays a police sergeant serving as a hostage negotiator, is memorable and shows the range of both actors.


JOAN OF PARIS (November 6, 9:30 pm): This is a different kind of war film, and one of the first to celebrate the Resistance in France. Joan (Michele Morgan) is a waitress who accidentally gets caught up in the pursuit of five RAF pilots, who are stranded in France, and their Free French leader, Paul Lavallier (Paul Henried) who must get them out of the country. It won’t be easy because the Gestapo, led by Herr Funk (Laird Cregar), is hot on their trail. As events build, Funk gets Joan in a compromising position: if she betrays the fliers, he’ll save Paul. But Joan betrays Funk and leads everyone to safety, all the while knowing that she will die because of her decision. It’s a film that boasts several excellent performances. Cregar is magnificent as the Gestapo chief, oozing villainy, and Morgan is wonderful as the doomed Joan. Look for Alan Ladd in a bit part as “Baby,” one of the downed pilots.

IT, THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (October 6, midnight): Though the title seemingly gives it all away, this little independent B boasts an above average script, courtesy of Jerome Bixby, and a competent cast. Director Edward L. Cahn, not noted as one of the better directors of his time, keeps the pacing sharp and the suspense continuous. A rescue mission to Mars in 1973 (!) picks up the last survivor of the previous expedition. It’s assumed that he did in his crewmates, but the real killer is a Martian who has stowed away on the ship. To live, he needs blood and he’ll go anything to get it. Though the production values are near zero – we can easily see the zipper on the back of the Martian (Ray “Crash” Corrigan), the script and the pacing more than makes up for the deficiencies. The crew must find and kill their visitor before he kills them, which is a difficult task, as he likes to play hide and seek in the airshafts of the ship. Screenwriter Dan O’Bannon lifted the film’s premise and turned it into Alien for director Ridley Scott in 1979. Forget the production values, just ride along with the crew. A good time is guaranteed.

WE DISAGREE ON ... THE CIRCUS (November 3, 3:45 am)

ED: B+. Next to The Gold Rush and City Lights, I believe this to be Chaplin’s finest film. The police are after the Little Tramp because they mistakenly believe he stole someone’s wallet. The Tramp dives under the tent and joins the circus, being funnier than any of its clowns. Although it’s not as “deep” as City LightsModern Times, or The Great Dictator, there is a fresh and innocent joy about this film that resonates with me. Also give this film props for pulling off something very difficult. Comics such as Chaplin derive their laughs from being the square peg in the round hole of society. Now here is Chaplin as a square peg in a society of square pegs, a setting that doesn’t always work for the comic or comics involved (e.g., the Marx Brothers in At the Circus). That Chaplin is able to pull this off magnificently is even more tribute to his comic genius. Of course, watch for the tightrope-walking scene, but don’t pass up the lion tamer’s bit and William Tell with a banana. The reason I gave it the grade I did was due to the poor quality of the print I saw. If Turner has restored or cleaned up the print I would give this film an easy A+ in a second.

DAVID: A+. Truth be told, we barely disagree on this film. I selected it after seeing Ed gave it a B+, and he hits many of the high points of the film in his review. Besides Modern Times, this is my favorite Charlie Chaplin silent film and nobody knew how to make silent comedies like him. Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd were fantastic, but Chaplin was the master. Chaplin made a great film under very challenging circumstances - the death of his mother, a public divorce, a fire at the studio, the IRS all over him for supposed unpaid back taxes, all which resulted in an eight-month delay. To make such a great film with all of that hanging over your head is a testament to Chaplin's talents as an actor, director, writer, producer and musician (as he did with several of his films, Chaplin wrote the score for this one). In this film, Chaplin's Tramp is funny and entertaining at the circus when he's not trying. He's awful when he tries to be good. The film is laugh-out-loud funny such as his great tightrope-walking bit, but at the same time, Chaplin, as he often did, brings humanity and sadness to the character he played so many times. In this case, he's in love with the circus' horse rider (Merna Kennedy), who is abused by her stepfather, the ringmaster. When she joins the Tramp after he leaves the circus, he brings the tightrope walker, with whom she loves, to her to get married. As the circus moves to the next town, the Tramp stays behind. It's that combination of comedy and tragedy that makes this 1928 film a timeless classic.

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

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