Thursday, January 7, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for January 8-14

January 8–January 14


ELVIS: THAT'S THE WAY IT IS (January 8, 4:15 pm): This is an excellent documentary/concert chronically Elvis Presley's four-day stint at the International Hotel in Las Vegas from August 10 to 13, 1970, and the rehearsals leading up to the shows. The rehearsals as well as the behind-the-scenes clips are outstanding and add so much to the concert footage. The quality of the film is remarkable, especially when you consider it was released only three months after the concerts. Among the highlights are rehearsals and then performances of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me." The film captures Elvis during the middle of his "comeback" period from 1968 to 1972, which was the King at his finest and most creative.

BONNIE AND CLYDE (January 11, 10:30 pm): A groundbreaking film in terms of style, content and graphic violence from 1967, which I consider to be among the two or three finest year in cinematic history. The leads – Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway – are outstanding in their roles as the famed outlaw duo oozing passion, raw sexuality, violence, charisma and charm at every turn. The supporting cast – notably Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons with Gene Wilder in a small but memorable role – are equally strong. The movie's violence goes from almost comic to intensely graphic. The final scene in which the two are shot dozens of times is outstanding, particularly the quick looks of horror Beatty and Dunaway give each other when they realize they're about to die a very brutal death. It conveys more emotion and intensity than almost anything you'll seen in film.


THE PHENIX CITY STORY (January 9, 6:15 pm): A wonderful docudrama about “the wickedest city in America” and how it came to be cleaned up. TCM shows the full version, which includes a prologue with noted correspondent Clete Roberts interviewing citizens of Phenix City after the National Guard stepped in to restore order. If crime movies are your thing, this is one to see. And if crime movies aren’t exactly your thing, this well-made and well-acted movie is still worth your time.
SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (January 11, 2:45 am): This film is rightly said to be writer/director Preston Sturges’s masterpiece. John L. Sullivan is a noted director of light musical fare such as Ants in Your Plants of 1939 and Hey, Hey in the Hayloft. However, he wants to make an Important Film, and he has one in mind, namely O Brother, Where Art Thou, a leaden novel concerned with the struggle between Capital and Labor. The studio execs pooh-pooh it, noting that he grew up rich and never suffered. So, Sullivan sets out to see how the other half lives, and ends up with far more than he bargained for when everybody assumes he died. It’s both hilarious and touching with many insights from Sturges into the human ego versus the human condition. It’s best to record it to be seen again later – and you will definitely want to see it again.

WE AGREE ON ... DOUBLE INDEMNITY (January 13, 8:00 pm)

ED: A+Film noir is one of my favorite movie genres, and in the realm of noir, there is no better example than this film. Adapted from the noir pulp novel by James M. Cain about an ordinary guy caught in a web of corruption and murder looking for great sex and easy money. Superbly adapted by director Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, it boasts three memorable performances from leads Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, and Fred MacMurray. Fred MacMurray? The genial guy who starred on My Three Sons? Yeah, and it’s that very geniality that makes him so right for the role of an ordinary Joe taken in by a sultry blonde (in yet another role George Raft turned down). Stanwyck is . . . well, Stanwyck in another pristine performance. Wilder brought out an amazing side of Stanwyck as a femme fatale. But it’s Eddie G. who steals the film as Barton Keyes, MacMurray’s boss at the insurance firm; a man who has an uncanny sense when it comes to insurance fraud. His scenes with MacMurray are pure gold, MacMurray laboring under the knowledge that, sooner or later, Keyes will catch on to him. Cain’s novels are dominated by the role of fate, but lest we snicker thinking that he’s just a pulp novelist, consider that he was a huge influence on French novelist and Nobel Prize winner, Albert Camus, who transposed the fatalism into an existential motif. Camus, in turn, influenced Claude Chabrol. For those new to noir, this is the perfect film for an introduction.

DAVID: A+. When I first saw this film, which was years after watching Fred MacMurray on the My Three Sons television show, I waited for Barbara Stanwyck to admit she was just using MacMurray to help kill her husband, collect the insurance and then dump him. That doesn't happen until nearly the end of the movie, and at that point, she is really hot for MacMurray's character, Walter Neff. Before seeing this, I knew MacMurray only as mild-mannered Steven Douglas from the TV show, and not the cold-blooded bastard he plays in films such as Double Indemnity and The Apartment. Once I got past that, I came to recognize Double Indemnity as one of the finest film noirs ever made. MacMurray is perfect here and Stanwyck is a deliciously evil manipulative femme fatale. It's arguably her best role ever, and there's no argument that it's MacMurray's best. As Ed points out, it is the legendary Edward G. Robinson who steals the film as Barton Keyes, a claims adjuster and ace insurance company investigator. All three of the main actors in this 1944 film were reluctant to play the parts. For Eddie G., he knew his days as the leading man were coming to a close so he wanted to be careful about what supporting roles he'd accept. That his character plays the hero and that he'd draw the same salary as MacMurray and Stanwyck for less work were keys to him taking the part. And Eddie G. delivers a brilliant performance. Billy Wilder does an extraordinary job directing this dark film as well as co-writing the screenplay with Raymond Chandler. The viewer knows the film isn't going to end well because it's told in a flashback with Neff dictating his confession to Keyes. There's also the pesky Hays Code that wouldn't let the couple get away with murder. However, that doesn't detract from the tension and suspense of the film. It's an exceptional movie that I've seen several times and never tire of it.

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