Friday, May 6, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for May 8-14

May 8–May 14


THE MALTESE FALCON (May 10, 10:15 pm): This is arguably the best film noir ever made. It's John Houston's directorial debut and what a splendid job he did. Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade is cooler than any character played by James Dean or Steve McQueen or, well, anybody. With a stellar supporting cast, it's filled with suspense and action. There's a time or two you may find yourself wondering what is going on, but all the pieces perfectly fall into place at the end. 

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (May 12, 12:00 pm): Readers know I'm not a Katharine Hepburn fan and I don't think very much of most of Cary Grant's comedies. However, The Philadelphia Story is an exception to both. Hepburn and Grant give wonderful performances, as does the legendary James Stewart, in an excellent screwball comedy. The year 1940 had Grant playing Rosalind Russell's ex-husband and winning her back in His Girl Friday as well as Hep's ex in this film with the same outcome. It's fast-moving, funny and well-acted. Hepburn had a lot riding on the success of this film and if it failed, her movie career was likely over. She made this movie shortly after she had been labeled "box office poison" by the Independent Theatre Owners of America because of a string of flops. She did more than redeem herself in this film though it's the only comedy she ever made that I like.


THE BAT WHISPERS (May 9, 6:30 am): A wonderful archaic “old dark house” mystery about the search for a mysterious killed known as The Bat. Of note for its amazing visuals, especially its use of miniature sets. Director Roland West’s sound remake of his silent classic, The Bat (1926). Starring Chester Morris and the delightful Una Merkel.

FLYING DOWN TO RIO (May 10, 8:00 am): Show this to someone who hasn’t seen it and see if they believe that the stars are anyone else than Fred or Ginger. Actually the stars are Gene Raymond and Dolores Del Rio, but who cares about them? Although Fred and Ginger are only supporting players, once they come on the screen they dominate it, especially when they get together to do “The Carioca.” It was their first pairing and established them as RKO’s future musical superstars. Note the scene of the biplanes in some of the numbers. RKO is still experiencing King Kong hangover. Watch this not only for the dancing, but the amazing chemistry between Fred and Ginger. 


ED: A+. Based on a true story, this urban action film came to define those that came after it by means of its direction, script and, especially, editing. Gene Hackman is “Popeye” Doyle, a maverick NYPD detective investigating the attempted smuggling of heroin into New York City. Director William Friedkin does a superb job of placing us in the middle of the lighted and menace of the rundown, wintry city, with a tense raid on a Brooklyn bar and lots of shots of elevated trains, wet streets and looming tenements, giving us a masterpiece of documentary-style filming. But the high point of the film is the incredible car chase, where Popeye commandeers a passenger car to chase a suspect fleeing on a elevated train. Editor Gerald Greenberg received the Oscar for his work in putting the chase together. Hackman, who won the Best Actor Oscar, will forever be associated with this, his most famous role. 

DAVID: A+. This is the first film of the 1970s to truly capture the gritty, grimy, disgusting life of cops and crooks in New York City. Other excellent films would follow such as Serpico and The Seven-Ups (both in 1973), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), and Taxi Driver (1976). While the others are great, this is the best. The French Connection (1971), based on two actual NYC cops, stars Gene Hackman as Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle and Roy Scheider as his partner, Buddy "Cloudy" Russo. The two detectives discover that a wealthy French drug dealer (played by Fernando Rey) smuggled into New York City a large shipment of pure heroin and is looking to make a big sale. The cat-and-mouse game between the two sides on the streets of New York City, primarily Brooklyn. is captivating. While some of it seems implausible, it looks so authentic. The chase scene that has Popeye in a car pursuing the French drug kingpin's hitman in an elevated train is as good as it gets, and gets your heart racing. An incredible film, The French Connection was the first R-rated movie to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture. It picked up four others including Best Actor for Hackman.

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

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