TCM TiVo ALERT
February 1–February 7
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
BONNIE AND CLYDE (February 3, 4:15 am): A groundbreaking film in terms of style, content and graphic violence from 1967, which I consider to be among the two or three finest year in cinematic history. The leads – Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway – are outstanding in their roles as the famed outlaw duo oozing passion, raw sexuality, violence, charisma and charm at every turn. The supporting cast – notably Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons with Gene Wilder in a small but memorable role – are equally strong. The movie's violence goes from almost comic to intensely graphic. The final scene in which the two are shot dozens of times is outstanding, particularly the quick looks of horror Beatty and Dunaway give each other when they realize they're about to die a very brutal death. It conveys more emotion and intensity than almost anything you'll seen in film.
THE DEER HUNTER (February 6, 12:30 am): Ever since I first saw The Deer Hunter in the theater when I was 11 years old, I have been captivated by this impressive film. To this day, it remains one of my favorite movies, and is one of the three best films of the 1970s. Mike (Robert DeNiro), Steve (John Savage), and Nick (Christopher Walken) are three western Pennsylvania steelworkers who goes to fight in the Vietnam War. The movie, a shade over three hours long, takes its time showing us what life is like for the three leads, their friends and families. Their worlds are centered on working at the mills (which were closing around the time of this film's release at a staggering level, destroying the economies of towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia) and escaping reality by hunting deer. The three are gung-ho to fight in Vietnam, but quickly learn the horrors of the war. The film is shocking, hard-hitting, tragic and captivating. The actors are fantastic and the film captures the authenticity of living in a steel town and attempting to survive a war.
ED’S BEST BETS:
AU REVOIR, LES ENFANTS (February 2, 7:30 am): Louis Malle based this film on a boyhood incident he experienced while at a Catholic boarding school in wartime France. 12-year old Julien Quentin (Gaspard Manesse) is a student at an exclusive Carmelite boarding school in the Ile de France. Privileged and intellectually precocious, he keeps his classmates at a distance, until one day, three new students are admitted to the school. Julien finds a kindred spirit in one of the boys, Jean Bonnet (Raphael Fejto) and the two strike up a friendship. Curious about his friend’s ambiguous answers to questions about his background, Julien snoops through Jean’s belongings and discovers that all tree new students are Jewish refugees being hidden by the monks. A student, looking for revenge after getting expelled, informs to the Gestapo on the activities of the headmaster and the school is raided. Julien inadvertently gives the game away and the boys are taken. This is a powerfully moving film, with excellent performances all around and taut direction from Malle. It won the 1987 Oscar for Best Foreign Film and remains one to catch.
BLAZING SADDLES (February 3, 10:30 pm): Mel Brooks’ famous send-up of the Hollywood Western staring Cleavon Little as a Black sheriff (replete with Gucci saddle) sent to the town of Rock Ridge to restore law and order. Needless to say, the reception he gets from the townsfolk is less than enthusiastic. With Gene Wilder as the Waco Kid, a famed gunslinger who fell prey to the bottle, Harvey Korman as the evil Hedley Lamarr (whose name becomes a running gag), Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Shtupp in a hilarious parody of Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again, Slim Pickens as Lamarr’s dense henchman Taggart, Alex Karras as Mungo, and Brooks himself as Governor Lepetomane (named for a French entertainer who could fart out popular tunes). Nothing is sacred with Brooks and his writers (who included Richard Pryor, who was originally cast as the sheriff). The film is so frantic that it runs out of steam about three-quarters of the way through, but it’s still a solid laugh riot. Those who offend easily should skip this, as it’s mostly politically incorrect. But for the rest us, it’s still a solid laugh-getter.
WE DISAGREE ON ... THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (February 4, 10:00 pm)
ED: A++. It’s a rare occurrence when the sequel is as good as the original; rarer still when it exceeds the original. But that is exactly the case here. The Bride of Frankenstein is the best horror movie ever made and one of the best movies ever made. Director James Whale, who was very reluctant to take this project on, as he feared being typecast as a horror director, gives us a stunning mixture of horror with macabre dark comedy. He also gives us the first anti-hero in the Monster, who in this film learns to speak with the help of a lonely blind hermit. Karloff may have thought it was a mistake for the Monster to speak, but he turns in one of his finest performances. Colin Clive, who in every picture, acts as if he’s on the edge of a nervous breakdown, is back as Henry Frankenstein, with lovely Valerie Hobson as his bride. Elsa Lancaster does double duty in the prologue as Mary Shelley and later as the cobbled together female made as a companion to the Monster, giving us pause to consider exactly who is “The Bride of Frankenstein.” However, is spite of Karloff’s performance, the movie is stolen outright by the wonderfully over-the-top performance of Ernest Thesiger as the deliciously desiccated Dr. Pretorious. Whale supplies the necessary requirement of Gothic horror with a healthy helping of shots at religion, sex, and authority. Also in the cast are Una O’Connor as the hysterical maid, Minnie; E.E. Clive as the pompous burgomaster; and John Carradine as a hunter. Walter Brennan is also in there somewhere. With lots of inside jokes (check out the homunculi king), a memorable score by Franz Waxman and a great script from John L. Balderston and William Hurlbut. As films go, it doesn’t get any better than this.
DAVID: B. This is a very good film, better than the 1931 original. It's very original and clever to have Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), the author of Frankenstein, explain that the original ending in which the Monster is killed was not how she wanted the book (and the movie by extension) to conclude and then go on to tell how he survives rather than die. Boris Karloff, who played the Monster in the original as violent and destructive, is excellent in this 1935 sequel as a creature with human emotions. But over-the-top and borderline ridiculous performances by Colin Clive as Dr. Henry Frankenstein (who is also lousy in the original) and Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorius, along with the way Pretorius forces Frankenstein to work with him to create a woman for the Monster really requires the audience to suspend belief. Yes, the entire concept of making a monster out of an artificial brain and various human body parts – as well as creating miniature people and creatures – requires the audience to suspend belief. But this film takes that concept well beyond any definition of reason and doesn't stop even after it hits absurd and campy. Also, the "Bride" is in the film for about 10 minutes, played by Lanchester with the iconic shock-looked hair featuring white streaks. Giving the Monster human emotions and the ability to speak, unlike in Frankenstein, left me unsettled. Even Karloff objected to having the Monster speak calling the decision "stupid." As I mentioned at the start, this is a very good film. The hermit scene is wonderful. I'd recommend seeing it. It's very good, but I don't consider the movie to be an all-time great.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.