TCM TiVo ALERT
August 15–August 22
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
THE SET-UP (August 17, 9:45 pm): The vastly underrated Robert Ryan plays Stoker Thompson, a 35-year-old washed-up boxer who is pitted against a young, promising prizefighter in what's supposed to be a set-up. Just a couple of problems: One, Stoker's manager Tiny (George Tobias) doesn't tell him it's a fix until the last round because he doesn't think his charge has a prayer. Second, when Stoker is told to take a dive, he refuses despite learning that Little Boy, a mobster, is going to lose a lot of money if he doesn't throw the bout. The film perfectly captures a blood-thirsty crowd loving the violence and brutality of the fight. While the filming of the bout is excellent, the post-fight in which Stocker has to face Little Boy's goons is even better.
THE LADY IN THE LAKE (August 22, 8:00 pm): Robert Montgomery is charming as legendary detective Philip Marlowe in this 1947 film. Montgomery, who also directed the film, is charming as Marlowe, the hard-boiled, street-smart private eye. This movie is fascinating for its gimmick of having nearly all of it filmed as if the viewer is Marlowe. The story is sometimes hard to follow, like many detective film noirs of the time, with several plot twists, but it's definitely worth watching. Montgomery brings a sense of humor to the Marlowe character that isn't as developed in other films featuring the character.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE PHENIX CITY STORY (August 17, 10:00 am): 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.
CASABLANCA (August 20, 2:00 pm): When recommending movies, I usually look for the interesting, but not so well known. Not in this case – this is a no-brainer if ever one existed. It’s one of the greatest romances ever made and turned Humphrey Bogart into a most unlikely romantic hero. It’s easy, however, to be romantic when Ingrid Bergman is the object of one’s affections. I don’t think Bergman has looked any more beautiful than in this film, and the way she was photographed only added to her beauty. We all know the story and the fact it’s a metaphor for America’s becoming involved in the war. But what has always amazed me is the number of lines from the movie that have found their way into pop culture, like “Round up the usual suspects,” “I’m shocked .... shocked to discover gambling is going on here,” and “I’m just a poor corrupt official.” Behind Bogart and Bergman is one of the greatest supporting casts ever assembled, with several European refugees, such as Marcel Dalio, in the mix. I watch this just about every time it airs. I’m hooked.
WE DISAGREE ON ... CRIME SCHOOL (August 20, 6:00 am)
ED: C+. When Warner Bros. signed the Dead End Kids after their auspicious debut in Dead End, they had no idea about how to use them. Warner’s also had the same problem with Humphrey Bogart, an excellent actor consistently misused since his breakthrough in The Petrified Forest. Their solution was to team them together in this B-programmer. It was a combination of The Mayor of Hell and the first half of The Doorway to Hell with some elements from San Quentin, and Dead End thrown in for good measure. A true Mulligan’s stew. Bogart, for once, was allowed to play the hero, and turned in a fine performance. Cy Kendall played the heavy (figuratively and literally), and later went on to play an array of heels in B movies. Gail Page was the tootsie, as the sister of Billy Halop. She turned out to be the weak link of the picture, as B productions were often used to test young actresses to see who could succeed and who would fail. The film served as the blueprint for the rest of the Dead End Kids pictures: Halop was the bright kid and always had a sister; Leo Gorcey was the bad kid, Huntz Hall was the dumb kid, Bobby Jordan and Gabe Dell the wise guys, and Bernard Punsly sat around and did nothing. The studio liked the results so much they released it as an A picture and it proved to be a hit. But even though it’s entertaining to watch, due to the antics of the Dead End Kids, it’s nothing special and is still what it started out to be – a B programmer.
DAVID: B+. While I'm not a Dead End Kids fan – and completely loathe them as the Bowery Boys – the groups first few films for Warner Bros. were entertaining tales of inner-city poverty and crime. As with many Warners films, this one lays it on a bit thick. But the boys do a decent job of acting – though they were natural-born troublemakers so it probably wasn't much of a stretch – and Humphrey Bogart is magnificent as Mark Braden, a crusading state prison official. Braden ends up running the prison reform school the boys are sent to after a near-fatal accident of a local fence. Braden is outraged at the way the boys are being treated and the level of corruption he discovers. But Braden doesn't know the half of it as the fired warden and a guard he retains were stealing from the food budget. Cy Kendall as the brutal warden is very good, and I though Gail Page was fine as Billy Halop's sister who ends up as Bogart's gal. The boys and Bogart first teamed up in Dead End in which Bogie plays a hood. He plays a good guy for a change in this film. The movie, which was a box-office success, flies by at 86 minutes, which was a bit long for films such as this. But it's a fun ride that shows the tragic results of a stupid mistake.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.