TCM TiVo ALERT
November 15–November 22
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
IN COLD BLOOD (November 18, 10:00 pm): A groundbreaking true-crime film, In Cold Blood is a solid big-screen adaption of Truman Capote's book of the same name. Like the book, the film is largely based on the true story of two hoods who kill a family of four in Kansas for money that isn't there. Told in flashbacks and exquisitely filmed in black and white, this 1967 movie, done in documentary style, is gripping and fascinating, even though we know the outcome almost immediately. It also shows that Robert Blake, who plays one of the killers, could act when given an interesting role.
SHIP OF FOOLS (November 18, 2:45 am): Incredible acting performances highlight this compelling drama about a ship with all kinds of people heading for Nazi Germany in the early 1930s. The cinematography is wonderful and whoever cast this 1965 film did a brilliant job. The interaction between Oskar Werner as the ship's dying doctor and Simone Signoret as a drug-addicted Spanish countess on her way to a German prison, is touching and tragic. They were nominated for Best Lead Actor and Actress Oscars and the movie received a Best Picture nomination. It won two Oscars (including for Best Cinematography, Black and White) and was nominated for three more. Oscars certainly aren't the be-all and end-all when it comes to quality films, but the Academy got it right with this movie. In her last film, Vivien Leigh plays an aging divorced woman trying unsuccessfully to relive her youth. Also, great work by Michael Dunn for his "Greek chorus" performance as a philosophical dwarf (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor). We know that when the ship docks in Germany that life for everyone aboard will change forever and almost certainly not for the better. The film captures that feeling of helplessness and/or ignorance that will follow the characters long after the movie fades to black.
ED’S BEST BETS:
NIGHTS OF CABIRIA (November 15, 2:00 am): Only Fellini could get away with this story about the hooker with the proverbial heart of gold, a plot so old it has mold all over it. His take on a prostitute always dreaming of a rich, wonderful life but finding nothing but heartbreak and sorrow is so well done, so original a take on the old chestnut, that it seems entirely fresh. It helps, of course, when one has a star as waifish and as engaging as Giuletta Masina. With this film she cements her role as one of the great tragicomic mimes, playing off – and yet expanding – her previous triumph as Gelsomina in La Strada. She is so powerful that we immediately feel a connection with her, a connection that grows stronger as the film progresses, and even after her last “disappointment,” one that would crush a lesser soul, we actively rejoice in her optimism to go on. It’s a film that is often overlooked in the Fellini oeuvre, but one of his most important, nevertheless.
THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (November 17, 1:15 am): One of history’s most celebrated romances was that of the poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett in 19th century England. Norma Shearer and Frederic March bring Elizabeth and Robert to light in this handsome, well-acted and most entertaining feature. Shearer, who was reluctant to take the role, brings forth the essence of the famous poet, whose illness confined her to bed and sofa for much of her young life. March is adequate as Browning, but it’s Shearer’s show and she makes the most of it. However, Charles Laughton, as her rotten father, almost steals the picture. The censors toned down the incestuous leanings of Barrett’s father, but Laughton nevertheless gets the point across and makes the role of Elizabeth’s father even more villainous. Even those who aren’t partial to poetry should enjoy this one.
WE DISAGREE ON ... McLINTOCK! (November 20, 11:30 am)
ED: A-. This Western takeoff on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is a welcome and funny departure from Wayne’s usual Westerns of the ‘60s. It also might be seen as an updating of The Quiet Man set in the West. John Wayne is cattle baron G.W. McLintock, whose wife Katherine (Maureen O’Hara) had left him a while ago with no explanation. She has returned to take their daughter, Becky (Stefanie Powers), who has just returned from school, back to the State Capitol with her. McLintock is a peaceful and respected man who has a hard enough time keeping that peace without his headstrong wife returning to irritate him. O’Hara steals the film as the headstrong Katherine. She also did her own stunts. (Yes, that’s really her sliding into the mudhole.) Look for old Wayne buddy Bruce Cabot in there somewhere, and a bit of nepotism with Wayne’s son, Patrick, in a strong supporting role. The movie never pretends to be something other than what is – a broad farce, unlike some of Wayne’s pictures, which could be described as unintentional farces. But the Ol’ Draft Dodger is in good form here, having surrounded himself with a cast of friends he’s comfortable with in a film that requires no thought whatsoever. Just watch and laugh.
DAVID: D. To be blunt, this is an awful film. I was never a fan of McLintock! and had largely forgotten it. So I watched the 1963 movie a few days ago for the first time in years on Hulu. It was worse than I recalled. It's an out-of-control ego trip for John Wayne. Batjac Productions, owned by Wayne, made the film. One of his sons, Michael, whose movie experience was limited to an associate producer credit on Batjac's The Alamo (another terrible John Wayne film) is the producer. The director is the talentless Andrew V. McLaglen, a John Ford gopher whose directing experience before McLintock! was limited to TV Westerns and two lousy Western movies made by...Batjac Productions. As Ed noted, another of Wayne's sons, Patrick, is a co-star (and surprisingly isn't terrible). The point is the Duke had no one to stop him from making such a crappy film and as you watch it that becomes obvious. He surrounded himself with inexperienced "yes people" who didn't have the nerve, experience or talent to tell Wayne that this wasn't working. It's supposed to be funny, I think, but it failed to make me laugh even once. The slapstick brawl with people falling into a mud pit was ridiculous and too staged. I'm not a fan of The Quiet Man so the reunion of Wayne and Maureen O'Hara did nothing for me. On top of that, O'Hara's character, Katherine, is unlikable. Just like in The Quiet Man, the premise that violence makes people fall in love is on full display only it's worse here. Dev Warren (Patrick Wayne) feels the need to teach Becky McLintock (Stefanie Powers) a lesson about who she should love so he goes to spank her over his knees like a five-year-old child straight out of the Duke's prehistoric thoughts of what the world was like in 1963. Before Dev can strike Becky with his hand, the Duke, who plays her dad, G.W. (short for George Washington, gag!), gives him a small metal shovel to beat her ass. It works as she falls in love with him. Dev returns the favor at the end of the movie when G.W. goes to spank Katherine. Good ol' Dev gives G.W. a metal shovel so the estranged couple can get back together properly. I'd give it an F, but the 127-minute(!) film's color is nice.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.