TCM TiVo ALERT
March 15–March 22
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
BLOW-UP (March 17, 12:00 am): A sexy, sophisticated film about a "Swinging London" photographer (David Hemmings), who believes he took pictures of a murder. But did he? Michelangelo Antonioni does a magnificent job directing his first English-language film, filled with great suspense and a fascinating plot. The 1966 film is a visual delight, perfectly capturing the time and location while not compromising the quality of the story. On top of that, we get a memorable cameo by the Yardbirds (the Jeff Beck/Jimmy Page version) at a club with Beck doing his best Pete Townshend impersonation smashing a guitar on stage.
THE APARTMENT (March 22, 8:00 pm): Director Billy Wilder's follow-up to the overrated Some Like It Hot, this wonderful comedy-drama stars Jack Lemmon as an opportunistic office worker who sort of sleeps his way to the top. Well, he lets his office managers use his apartment as a place to have sex with their various mistresses. Because of that, he gets promoted to the personnel department, where his supervisor, Fred MacMurray, so deliciously sleazy in this role, convinces his new assistant to let him have the apartment on an exclusive basis. MacMurray's latest mistress is the company's elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine), who Lemmon likes a lot, but doesn't say anything to her. A fabulous cast with one of Hollywood's best directors and an intelligent, funny script, and you have 1960's Oscar winner for Best Picture. It was nominated for nine others, winning four of those. Incredibly, MacMurray wasn't even nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (March 19, 7:45 am): An intelligently done piece of sci-fi, with amazing animation from Ray Harryhausen and solid acting from Paul Christian, Paula Raymond, Cecil Kellaway, and Donald Woods. It’s the first of the monster-on-the-loose spectacles and the best. It was also Harryhausen’s first solo assignment and he clearly made the most of it, making the monster seem real. Director Eugene Lourie went on to make The Giant Behemoth (airing right before this at 6:15 am) and Gorgo, which featured a man-in-the-monster-suit.
THE LONE WOLF SPY HUNT (March 19, 9:15 am): There are few things more pleasurable to watch than a well-executed B-movie. Starring Warren William as former thief turned gentleman detective Michael Lanyard, Columbia’s “Lone Wolf” series enjoyed quite a run as Lanyard, starring in nine films. Eric Blore would join the cast in the next film, The Lone Wolf Strikes, as Lanyard’s butler and Man Friday, Jamison. (After all, what’s a gentleman detective without a good sidekick?) The film is a deft mixture of screwball comedy and thrills as Lanyard battles an old enemy who is trying to frame him for the theft of plans for a secret weapon. With Ida Lupino in fine form as Lanyard’s neglected girlfriend and Rita Hayworth as a femme fatale trying to seduce the Lone Wolf into cracking the safe where the plans are stored. William is always a pleasure to watch on screen and he’s perfect as Lanyard.
WE DISAGREE ON ... THE KING OF COMEDY (March 16, 9:30 pm)
ED: B. A very dark satire from director Martin Scorsese with Robert De Niro giving one of his patented sociopathic performances. Jerry Lewis turns in a credible performance and not once does he chase after Sandra Bernhard saying “Oooo-ooo, Lady!” Johnny Carson was originally approached for the role of the TV talk show host kidnapped by De Niro, but turned it down for fear of a real-life copycat. Outside of Fassbinder, Scorsese is the most humorless of modern directors, unless one counts schadenfreude as humor.
DAVID: A. I dislike Jerry Lewis, but he is outstanding in this dark comedy. Somehow director Martin Scorsese is able to get Lewis to deliver his best performance on screen as Jerry Langford, a popular late-night talk-show host akin to Johnny Carson. The 1983 film was years ahead of its time resulting in mixed reviews upon its release. It stars Robert De Niro, Scorsese's go-to actor at the time, as Rupert Pupkin, a psychotic untalented comedian obsessed with getting on Langford's popular show, believing it would be his big break and lead to stardom. When that doesn't work, Pupkin with Masha (Sandra Bernhard in her greatest role), a Langford stalker, kidnap the host. The ransom is Pupkin gets to be the opening act on Langford's show. He does exceptionally well and closes with one of my favorite movie lines: "Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime." The ending is open to interpretation. Did Pupkin make it big or is it all in his head? It's an excellent film that captures society's obsession with celebrity. It can be uncomfortable to watch, but definitely worth seeing.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.