Wednesday, February 22, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for February 23-28

February 23–February 28


STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (February 25, 4:00 pm): This is one of Alfred Hitchcock's best films and that is saying a lot. Robert Walker as the crazed Bruno Anthony is hypnotically amazing. His character wants his father dead and believes he's struck a quid pro quo deal with tennis player Guy Haines (Farley Granger). Walker and Granger were solid actors, but Hitch brought out the best in them. Also, the plot of this film is unique and interesting. The two are strangers who meet on a train, talk about solving their problems, namely Walker's father and Haines' wife. Walker suggests they kill the other's problem and no one will be the wiser as they don't know each other. Haines thinks Walker is kidding until the latter kills the former's wife and wants Haines to kill Walker's father. The tension and drama are top-shelf.

THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (February 28, 8:00 pm): More than any film made after Casablanca, this 1948 classic showed Humphrey Bogart's versatility at a time when he could have played the tough guy with a heart of gold for the rest of his career. In this film, he is down on his luck and desperate enough to do anything. He meets another guy (Tim Holt) in a similar situation. They meet an old kooky prospector (Walter Huston in one of his finest roles) and the three decide to search for gold. Huston's son, John, wrote and directed this movie. Things go well, but Bogart's character becomes consumed with paranoia and convinced the others are trying to cheat him. While Holt holds his own, this is Bogart and Walter Huston's film. It's an excellent morality tale with an ironic ending. 


STAGECOACH (February 25, 10:00 am): This John Ford movie was not only a big hit with moviegoers at the time, but also marked a change in the maturing of the Western, emphasizing character development over mere bang-bang, shoot ‘em up action and bringing the Western out of the Bs and onto the top of the marquee. Oh yeah, there’s lots of action sequences in the film, but they’re nicely balanced by character with depth and about whom we actually care. Even John Wayne does a nice job here, though it took Ford lots of work to wrangle a good performance out of him. Watch for the Indian attack and keep your eye on the peerless stunt work by second unit director Yakima Canutt. In his Westerns, Ford always provided work for neighboring Navaho tribesmen, and even made sure they received union wages. They, in turn (as per his biography) named him “Natani Nez,” which means “Tall Leader.”

THEM! (February 26, 3:45 pm): Not only is this the best of the “big bug” films that came out in the 1950’s, but it also has elements of a noir mystery. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also one of the best “Red Scare” films of the period. The cast is terrific: James Whitmore, pre-Gunsmoke James Arness, veteran supporting actor Onslow Stevens, promising actress Joan Weldon, a young Fess Parker, and the great Edmund Gwenn. And look sharp for a very young Leonard Nimoy in a small role. It’s proof that when a sci-fi film is made intelligently, it’s a legitimate classic.

WE AGREE ON ... THE THIRD MAN (February 26, 9:45 pm)

ED: A+. The zither music by Anton Karas is the most unforgettable feature of the film and leads us to think the movie is optimistic in tone. Nothing could be further from the truth. This film is an ironical jape at postwar politics and a Europe recovering from an apocalypse. The most famous collaboration of director Carol Reed and writer Graham Greene, it has the outward structure of a suspense thriller with an inner core of postwar grotesque decadence. Holly Martens (Joseph Cotten) a simple writer of pulp Westerns, has come to Vienna to see his old friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles), only to be told that Lime had died in an accident. In his attempt to learn the facts of his friend’s death, Cotten finds out so much that when he finally finds Lime alive and well, he wishes he were dead. Harry Lime is the epitome of decadence: evil with sardonic wit and somewhat inscrutable. Trevor Howard, as Major Calloway, gives the movie’s most understated performance as the person who clues Martens in to the seamier side of life while repeatedly telling him to just go home and forget it. Greene sees Martens as the typical American: wide-eyed, naive and trusting and it is up to the other characters in the film to disabuse him of these notions. This is so thorough that in the end he is even robbed of the illusion that Harry’s former lover, Anna (Alida Valli), actually cares for him, although the fact that she can never remember his name should have told him something.

DAVID: A+. This is, no doubt, one of the finest film noirs ever made. I'm a huge fan of Joseph Cotten, and while his performances in many movies – Citizen KaneGaslightThe Magnificent Ambersons (last week's We Agree film), Shadow of a Doubt, and Portrait of Jennie being a few examples – are great, his best is in The Third Man. The 1949 film noir has quite the pedigree. In addition to Cotten, it stars Orson Welles, Trevor Howard and Alida Valli, is directed by Carol Reed with a screenplay by Graham Greene. The acting is outstanding as is the cinematography, particularly the use of shadows, and a brilliant plot with great pacing. Cotten is Holly Martins, a pulp fiction novelist who travels to post-World War II Vienna to take a job offered by Harry Lime (Welles), a longtime friend. But before they meet, Lime dies in what appears to be a car accident as he is walking across a street – or is he? Martins asks a lot of questions and get some disturbing answers about Lime selling diluted penicillin on the black market, which has led to a number of deaths. This film has two scenes that are among cinema's best – one is on the Wiener Riesenrad, Vienna's famous Ferris wheel, with Cotten and Welles, and the climax in the sewers of that city.

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

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