Sunday, March 6, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for March 8-14

March 8–March 14


THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL (March 11, 4:30 am): Leslie Howard is perfectly cast as the title character in this film about a mysterious hero who saves the lives of French nobles during the height of that country's revolution. Howard is an effete English nobleman who is so meek that even his wife doesn't suspect he is the heroic Scarlet Pimpernel. The storyline is entertaining and smart with a wry sense of humor, the film is fast paced and the acting is excellent. Howard's ability to go from the weak English aristocrat to the heroic Pimpernel is remarkable and makes this movie a fun one to watch.

SAWDUST AND TINSEL (March 13, 2:00 am): This is one of Ingmar Bergman's best early films. Sawdust and Tinsel tells an insightful story about life's regrets using those in a traveling circus at the turn of the 20th century as the subjects. It's a high-quality Bergman films so you get brilliant dialogue, excellent acting, breathtaking cinematography and an experience that stays with you. It's exceptional, but because Bergman would go on to make a number of iconic films, Sawdust and Tinsel is a largely forgotten part of the director's filmography. That's a testament as to his greatness. Airing it at 2 am isn't going to put a deserved spotlight on it. I would strongly recommend recording it. 


THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (March 12, 5:15 pm); A gripping action picture about a British-led attempt to silence a pair of big German guns threatening British navel operations on the Aegean Sea. A group of six specialists, led by Gregory Peck must overcome personal differences, harsh weather and a traitor in their midst to take out the guns and make the Aegean safe for British shipping. With great performances not only from Peck, but also David Niven, Anthony Quayle, Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas, and Stanley Baker. 

THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (March 14, 6:00 pm): Take a W.R. Burnett novel, put it in the hands of John Huston, add a great cast led by Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, and Sam Jaffe, and the result is magic: a taut, compelling thriller that, once it grips you, never lets you go. A realistic film full of great characterizations (especially Jaffe) about a plot for a elaborate jewel heist, hatched up by corrupt lawyer Calhern and executed by a band of career criminals led by Hayden. We know that eventually things will unravel, as they must, but it’s in how it’s done that has us in thrall. Look for an excellent performance from Marilyn Monroe as Calhern’s mistress.

WE DISAGREE ON ... 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (March 9, 8:30 pm)

ED: B+. It’s the film that almost put Disney 20,000 leagues under the sea financially, due to its costs at a time when Disney was already stretched to the limit with building the theme park, Disneyland, and coming off two expensive animated films. I remember seeing this on television sometime in the ‘60s, during a period when we were all submarine happy. (There was a popular sci-fi show, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, from Irwin Allen that we all tuned into each week.) 20,000 Leagues is not bad of its kind, boasting stellar acting from James Mason as Captain Nemo, Paul Lukas as Professor Arronax, Peter Lorre as the professor’s assistant, Conseil, and Kirk Douglas as harpooner Ned Land. Mason, coming off several notable performances, cut quite a figure as Nemo and Douglas was his usual intense self. The special effects were not bad for the time; the submarine glowed a cool green at night, and the battle with the giant squid was the talk of our recess periods at school for weeks. The team of director Richard Fleischer (son of animator Max Fleischer) and writer Earl Felton did an excellent job of adapting the book, retaining three of the four major episodes people remember. I confess that I’ll be seeing it for the first time since the ‘60s and wonder if it will still retain the original magic. But then that’s what cinephilia is all about.

DAVID: C. This is a film I truly wish I could love. The cast includes three of my favorite actors – Kirk Douglas, James Mason and Peter Lorre. But only Mason delivers as Captain Nemo. Douglas is downright annoying as a harpooner trying to figure out why a bunch of whaling ships are mysteriously disappearing. Captain Nemo's submarine and the giant squid are pretty cool, particularly for 1954, when the movie was released. But it's way too long at 127 minutes. The action scenes have a lot of action, but the rest of the film is dull. Also, despite being a dark film, it's still "Disney-fied," meaning a nice look, but the dialogue and attempted comedic efforts aren't impressive. It's a film for kids of that era, despite the content. Perhaps I'm a bit too critical of the finished product as it's not meant for a guy in his late 40s. But I love classic films and the leads so it should appeal to me.

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

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