TCM TiVo ALERT
September 8–September 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (September 10, 10:00 pm): This is one of my favorite films. Kirk Douglas is a movie mogul who needs the help of former friends, he betrayed all of them, for his comeback film. While waiting for his call, the three former friends – an actress (Lana Turner), a screenwriter (Dick Powell) and a director (Barry Sullivan) – share their stories of getting burned by Douglas in the office of a producer (Walter Pidgeon). The 1952 film is based on actual Hollywood figures or at least composites of them. It's an enjoyable film to watch as it's smart, wickedly funny and entertaining with a wonderful cast. Gloria Grahame has a small but memorable role (that earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress) in addition to the fine job by the actors previously mentioned. Vincente Minnelli's directing brings out the best in each of the performers with a great screenplay from Charles Schnee. A bit of trivia: the five Oscars won by The Bad and the Beautiful is the most by any movie not nominated for Best Picture. The mystery is how did this film not even get nominated, particularly with the Best Picture award that year going to the overrated and overproduced The Greatest Show on Earth.
THE DIRTY DOZEN (September 11, 10:00 pm): If you're looking for a movie that includes misfits blowing up stuff and people –particularly Nazis – and filled with action, The Dirty Dozen delivers. The cast is excellent, led by Lee Marvin (who's always great in these types of war films), Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas and John Cassavetes. Yes, there's a dozen guys on this mission and yet director Robert Aldrich is able to show the personalities of each. He takes about two-and-a-half hours to do so, but it's worth it. This 1967 film greatly influenced other directors and other studios – this was a huge box-office success – to do movies with a similar violent genre. But nothing surpasses the original.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (September 10, 2:45 pm): Granted, there’s no such thing as the perfect film, but this one comes darned close. Alec Guinness is near perfect in his role as the fussbudget bank clerk who, along with newly acquired friend Stanley Holloway, robs the bank of a million pounds in gold bullion. And almost gets away with it, to boot. How they slip up is a thing of beauty to watch, as is the chase near the end. This is a keeper for the ages and even those who are “hard” on comedy will smile at this one.
THE BANK DICK (Sept. 14, 8:00 pm): W.C. Fields was never funnier than in this film about a no-account who is given a job as a bank guard after he unwittingly foils a robbery. His daughter’s nitwit fiancé works there and Fields soon gets him involved in using the bank’s money to finance a stock scheme that looks as if it will go bust, so they must distract the bank examiner (a wonderfully fussy Franklin Pangborn) until the money can be returned. It all results is a crazy and hilarious car chase when the bank is robbed again.
WE AGREE ON … YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (September 9, midnight)
ED: A+. Of the films Mel Brooks made during a highly productive period from 1974 to 1983, this might just be the best of the lot. It is a hilarious, dead-on parody of the Universal Frankenstein series of the ‘30s. Gene Wilder is perfect as the neurotic Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, trying to live down the legacy of his father and grandfather. And Wilder might have totally dominated the film if it were not for the presence of the brilliant Marty Feldman as Frankenstein’s inherited assistant, Igor, and the equally brilliant Madeline Kahn as his uptight fiancee, Elizabeth. They are aided by the solid support of Peter Boyle as The Creature, Teri Garr as Dr. Frankenstein’s lab assistant, and Cloris Leachman as the mysterious Frau Brucker, the mention of whose name causes the horses to whinny. Unlike his shotgun approach to gags in Blazing Saddles (1974): fire away and see where the jokes land, Young Frankenstein differs by its meticulous planning and execution. Wilder had more influence in this one and he prevented Brooks from going over the top several times, preferring to stick with the original plan of spoofing scenes audiences were familiar with in the original films (except for the howlingly funny short shoe bit to “Puttin' on the Ritz” with Frankenstein and The Creature). The castle and the props and lab equipment were the same as in the original Frankenstein from 1931. The crisp cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld adds to the atmosphere, making us feel as if we were watching a ‘30s Universal film. We should also applaud Kenneth Mars for his incredible imitation of Lionel Atwill’s one-armed police inspector from Son of Frankenstein and Gene Hackman, who, in a parody of the blind hermit meeting the monster from a scene from Bride of Frankenstein, pulls out the stops to add slapstick to the original ironic humor from director James Whale.
DAVID: A+. Well before Gene Wilder's passing, we decided this classic would be our "We Agree" film of the week. Sadly, it now can be viewed as a tribute to Wilder and his comedic genius. In careers that included numerous iconic films, Young Frankenstein is both my favorite Wilder film and my favorite Mel Brooks movie. The Producers is a close second. Brooks' spoof/parody films were hit – Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, in particular – or miss – such as Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. To me, this one, co-written with Wilder, who came up with the idea, is brilliant. It so perfectly pays tribute to the 1930s Universal Frankenstein movies, especially the original, but it does it with a fantastic comedy touch. And adding to its authenticity, it's in black and white. Of the many great bits in the movie is the memorable scene with Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein debuting The Creature (Peter Boyle) perform "Puttin' on the Ritz." (See it here.) The song was Wilder's idea with Brooks convinced it would flop. The supporting cast is wonderful and features Teri Garr, Marty Feldman (in his best role), Madeline Kahn and Gene Hackman. Mentioning Feldman without the "abnormal brain" scene would be a major slight. But rather than explain it, see it for yourself here. Despite playing off of films from the 1930s and released in 1974, it has aged remarkably well and remains fresh, funny and clever today.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.