Saturday, May 21, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for May 23-31

May 23–May 31


BLACULA (May 26, 3:45 am): Only American International Pictures could successfully make a Blaxploitation horror film, and the small studio did it twice - the original from 1972 and the sequel Scream Blacula Scream a year later. William Marshall is an African prince Mamuwalde in the year 1780 visiting Count Dracula to convince him to help stop the slave trade. Instead, Dracula laughs at him and bites him on the neck turning him into a vampire. Mamuwalde is given the clever name "Blacula" by the Count, sealed in a coffin and locked in a room with his wife, who subsequently dies, for all eternity. That is until a couple of interior decorators buy everything at Count Dracula's castle, including Blacula's coffin, and brings all of it to then-modern-day Los Angeles. Blacula is released from his coffin, and roams the streets of L.A. at night, terrorizing some and falling in love with a woman who looks just like his wife – primarily because the same actress plays both roles. It's a lot of fun with very little blood. 

BREAKING AWAY (May 31, 9:30 pm): This is an excellent coming-of-age film about a group of four directionless high school graduates from working-class families in Bloomington, Indiana, the home of Indiana University. The college kids look down on the townies, who they call "cutters" because their fathers and/or grandfathers used to work as stonecutters in a quarry. Of the four, the lead is Dave (Dennis Christopher), a talented cyclist enamored with Italian races to the point he speaks with an Italian accent. He falls in love with a female college student using the accent and claims to attend the university. His life falls apart when a professional Italian cycling team comes to Bloomington to participate in a race. He tries to bond with them, but when they see how good he is, they treat him poorly and one puts a tire pump in his bicycle wheel causing him to crash. He then tells the girl (Robyn Douglass) the truth and she slaps him. The film's climax is The Little 500, an annual four-man bicycle race with the boys believing Dave can ride the entire race and win. He nearly does it, but gets hurt with the other three each have to get on the bike. The film is spectacular and the ending will have you cheering. The supporting cast is solid with great performances from Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earle Haley as Dave's three friends, and Barbara Barrie and Paul Dooley as Dave's parents. 


THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (May 26, 8:00 pm): A totally enjoyable romp with Vincent Price as Dr. Anton Phibes, a madman who is hunting down and killing a team of doctors he believes killed his beloved wife. Phibes disposes of his victims in a spectacular variety of gruesome ways, all of which are based on the 10 biblical curses inflicted on the Egyptians in Exodus. Virginia North is excellent as Phibes’ assistant, Vulnavia,and Joseph Cotten is the Dr. Vesalius, the chief surgeon of the mishandled operation. Directed with campy style by Robert Fuest, a former art director, the movie is a hoot from beginning to end as Price never lets up.

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (May 27, 8:30 am): A most vivid telling of Richard Conner’s classic story about a megalomanic big-game hunter named Count Zaroff who hunts people on his remote island. As Zaroff Leslie Banks gives a great over-the-top creepy, almost campy, performance. Joel McCrea and Fay Wray are selected to be his latest prey, but what Zaroff doesn’t take into account is that McCrea’s characters is a big-game hunter himself. With Robert Armstrong in an effective performance as Wray’s weak, alcoholic brother. A must for those who haven’t yet seen it, it’s one of the classics of the horror genre. Remade several times without success.

WE AGREE ON ... THE 400 BLOWS (May 31, 11:30 pm)

ED: A+. Francois Truffaut’s landmark film is one of the most intense and moving movies ever made about the life of a young adolescent and how he drifts into delinquency. Truffaut reaches back into his own childhood and, through the character of Antoine Doinel, brings the viewer into his private world: a resourceful boy typecast by adults as a troublemaker and a victim of a self-absorbed mother and stepfather who take no interest in him or his world, ministering only to their particular needs of the moment. When he is arrested for petty theft (the starkest scene in the movie is the image of the young Doinel in the paddy wagon, riding through the streets of Paris at night and looking out through the bars), his parents discuss him as a lost cause with the police and leave him to the mercy of the social services, which place him in a reform school/youth camp, from which he runs away at the end. Watch for Jeanne Moreau in a cameo as a woman walking her dog on a Paris street. 

DAVID: A+. Francois Truffaut's first feature length film from 1959 is a masterpiece. I enjoy it so much that I watched it again earlier this week, and it's as fresh as the first time I saw it. As Ed wrote, it's an intense look at Antoine Doinel (expertly played by Jean-Pierre Léaud, who would portray the same character in three more feature-length films and a short), a mischievous and clever 12-year-old Parisian. He isn't a bad kid. But his defiance of authority and lack of supervision by his mother – who attempts to manipulate him when the boy sees her kissing another man – and stepfather gets him labeled a delinquent. That leads to him cutting school, running away and eventually stealing a typewriter from his father's office resulting in his arrest when he returns it after failing to sell it. That is the turning point in the film with his stepfather – we don't find out he's not Antoine's biological father until then – allowing his stepson to be prosecuted by the police and eventually sent to a camp for juvenile delinquents. It is there that we experience the true horror of an intelligent boy who made mistakes paying a very serious penalty. Most of the key players in the film are children, which can be very risky as they have limited or no acting experience. But Truffaut was already a brilliant director – on his way to being the greatest in the history of cinema – and he is able to get fantastic performances from the boys. Also, the cinematography is stunning with the gritty streets of Paris being Antoine's main supporting actor. The final scene is liberating and beautiful with Antoine successfully escaping from the camp and making it to the ocean, which he had dreamed of visiting. Don't be fooled by the title. It's a literal translation of a term the French use which means to raise hell.

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

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