Friday, October 21, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for October 23-31

October 23–October 31


LOGAN'S RUN (October 26, 4:15 pm): I'm a huge fan of early and mid-1970s futuristic dystopian films such as this, Soylent GreenOmega Man and Rollerball. In Logan's Run, it's the year 2274 and some sort of apocalypse has occurred leaving people to live in a domed society with everything they do is handled by a super-computer. That leaves them a lot of time for wine, women (or men, though futuristic sex is a little strange) and song. There is one catch to this society: once you get to be 30, you go through a ritualistic death in a place called "Carousel." The plot is compelling, and while some of the special effects look straight out of 1976, they're effective and enjoyable. The acting is solid with Peter Ustinov exceptional as an old man living outside the dome. It's a fun science-fiction film with a lot of action and women in very mini miniskirts. 

THE BEST MAN (October 26, 12:45 am): While dated primarily because political party national conventions are no longer where presidential nominees are selected despite what the “Never Trump” movement attempted, this 1964 film is among the finest ever made about politics. Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson play the two leading presidential nominees of a political party (while never specified, it's likely the Democrats as Fonda's character is very similar to Adlai Stevenson and you can see Bobby Kennedy, Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson in others). The backroom deals, exploiting opponents' weaknesses and not-so-hidden secrets, and political trading are expertly portrayed by a fine cast – with Lee Tracy as the Truman-like former president stealing nearly every scene he's in – along with an excellent screenplay from Gore Vidal, who also wrote the play of which the film is based.


THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (October 24, 4:45 pm): This was Hammer Studios’ first attempt at the reimaging of the classic Universal horror films of the ‘30s. And to an audience that was starved for good horror films, it was a box office hit. Much of the credit for the success of the film must go to Peter Cushing for his portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein. Cushing hits all the right notes, brilliantly conveying the underlying decadence beneath the aristocratic façade. Though it’s not as good as James Whale’s 1931 original, Cushing should be commended for playing Frankenstein as a cad rather than an idealist, as Colin Clive portrayed him. Christopher Lee, as the Monster, has a thankless role, with little to do but act scary. However, he does manage to get the point across, looking murderous rather than just plain silly. The success of the film begat a series of Frankenstein films with Cushing as the center of attention, a sort of “Adventures of Frankenstein.” And, with the success of Frankenstein, a remake of Dracula was just around the corner.

THREE ON A MATCH (October 27, 9:45 am): The Pre-Code era was noted for producing some pretty strong films, and this entry was among the strongest. Ann Dvorak, Joan Blondell, and Bette Davis are three childhood friends who have a reunion at a restaurant and vow to stay in touch. They then light their cigarettes on one match, hence the title. The famous superstition predicts bad things for those who do so, and each suffers her share of the bad life. However, the one who falls the furthest gives the movie both its twist and its reputation as among the most lurid of the Pre-Code films. Humphrey Bogart is on hand as well as (what else?) a gangster. He turns in a good performance, as does Warren William, playing a good guy for once. For those new to Pre-Code films, this is one to watch.

WE DISAGREE ON ... THE TINGLER (October 30, noon)

ED: A-. From schlockmeister William Castle comes what may truly be his masterpiece. Vincent Price stars as Dr. Warren Chapin, who has been studying the effects of fear upon the human body. Performing an autopsy on a man who died in the electric chair he discovers that the man’s spine was crushed by an unseen force. Eventually, he discovers that the tingle one feels up the spine when frightened is an actual creature that comes into being during such moments. It dissipates when the victim screams, so what the Doc needs is someone who can’t scream. Long story short, he finds such a victim, he captures the “tingler” and puts it in a case, where it will be used for all sorts of antics. Eventually it gets loose in a crowded theater and Price, capping one of his wonderfully campy performances, tells the audience – and us out there in the dark as well – to scream and scream long and loud. In order to give those in the theater their money’s worth, Castle wired some of the seats with joy buzzers that give off a mild electric shock. He called this gizmo “Percepto,” and the audiences ate it up. The Tingler is a wonderful film that shows what can happen when one applies a little imagination. It’s certainly different from the run-of-the-mill horror of the time, and Castle always tried to outdo himself with each new film. Not all of them worked as well as this one, which is the reason for my grade. An “A-” for effort and imagination, which films of the late ‘50s to mid ’60s were in woefully short supply.

DAVID. C-. It had been a few years since I've seen this William Castle film so I watched it again a few days ago online on Daily Motion. Honestly, it was a lot worse than I remembered. The story has no consistency, the acting is absolutely atrocious and "The Tingler" creature makes even the most B of movie monsters look great in comparison. The film is only 82 minutes in length yet the action doesn't get going until about 50 minutes in, and the special effects are straight out of a bad Scooby-Doo cartoon except for red blood coming out of the sink of a black-and-white movie. At one time, Vincent Price was a good actor. This wasn't that time. However, he is clearly the best of the bunch, which should tell you all you need to know about this film. The worst is easily Philip Coolidge, who plays meek silent-movie-theater owner Oliver Higgins, who is more interested in getting a beer and avoiding his deaf and mute wife than anything else. Even when Dr. Warren Chapin (Price), a pathologist studying what happens to a person just before he dies, learns that "Ollie" is a killer, Higgins follows every order the doctor gives him rather than knock him out and run away. Also, the silent-movie theater business is portrayed as a daily grind without much profit, but Ollie's wife puts huge stacks of cash inside a safe in their living room that Ollie "steals" even though he shares it with his spouse. As for The Tingler creature, it probably cost about $5 to make and another 25 cents for the string to make it move. Looking a lot like a giant slug, but less scary, it stays still and sort of crawls around during the last 30 minutes of the film. The film gets cheesier as it goes on with horrible voice overdubs by Price telling those watching a silent film in Coolidge's dark theater to stay quiet – exactly the opposite of how to fight The Tingler – and then later to scream. As Ed wrote, Castle loved gimmicks. He had some seats in some major theaters in some larger cities wired so there would be a small electric jolt to some patrons at the right time to get them to scream. Without that, there's no reason to scream about anything in this film except if you paid to see it. And what of drive-ins and the smaller markets? They got nothing. And without the in-theater gimmick, those people as well as those watching it on television are left with a film that has a disjointed storyline that stops making sense with about a half-hour to go. So why a C- rather than a lower grade? The idea, though not the implementation, is pretty clever, it can be unintentionally funny at times and at least it's not very long.

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

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