TCM TiVo ALERT
February 8–February 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
FURY (February 8, 4:30 am): This is director Fritz Lang's first American film, and it's one filled with suspense, revenge, mob rule, hostility, intolerance and action. Spencer Tracy established himself as one of Hollywood's best actors when Fury was released in 1936. Tracy was busy that year with a secondary but important role in San Francisco and he co-starred in Libeled Lady. In Fury, Tracy plays Joe Wilson, who is accused of a crime he didn't commit. While he sits in jail, waiting for the police investigation into the crime, the local townspeople get worked up and go to lynch him. Unable to get inside, they torched the jail with Wilson killed in the fire – or so it seems. The great plot-twist is that Joe escapes, but is presumed dead, with the people responsible for the incident facing murder charges. With the help of his brothers, Joe seeks revenge against his would-be killers. Tracy does a great job going from a hardworking, mild-mannered guy into one controlled by anger and vengeance. The film moves from a love story to suspense to a courtroom drama.
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (February 11, 8:00 pm): In this 1986 Woody Allen film, Mia Farrow is Hannah, whose husband (played by Michael Caine), falls in love with one of her sisters, a free-spirit (Barbara Hershey). Woody, as Hannah's ex-husband, steals every scene as a hypochondriac convinced he's going to die. He ends up with Hannah's other sister (Dianne Wiest). The acting is spectacular, with Caine winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and Wiest for Best Supporting Actress, and an all-star cast.
ED’S BEST BETS:
FORBIDDEN PLANET (February 8, 4:00 pm): It’s one of the best sci-fi films ever made, based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, though it seems somewhat dated today. Leslie Neilsen leads a mission to plant Altair 4 to find out the fate of an expedition that landed there 20 years ago. What they discover is that one man (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter (Anne Francis) are left of the original expedition. Pidgeon leads them on a fantastic tour of a lost civilization that populated the planet years ago. Though way ahead of Earth in technology, they were suddenly wiped out one night while on the verge of their “greatest discovery.” Then when crew members begin dying mysteriously, a search is conducted for their killer. What they ultimately discover about the monster and the planet keeps us in thrall. Don’t let the Shakespeare connection throw you off; for those sci-fi fans, it’s a must. And for those that aren’t so sure, it’s still an intelligent movie nonetheless.
THE GREAT MCGINTY (February 10, 10:30 pm): Talented screenwriter Preston Sturges made his directorial debut with this hilarious satire on the political system, following the fortunes of Brian Donlevy as he rises from Skid Row bum to being elected governor of the state. Aiding him in his quest is Akim Tamiroff as the political boss and Sturges regular William Demerest. It’s one of the funniest films about our political system ever made and has lost none of its freshness or punch over the years.
WE AGREE ON ... KEY LARGO (February 13, 12:30 am)
ED: A+. John Huston took a snoozer of a play from Maxwell Anderson and with the help of Richard Brooks, updated it and made it interesting. He then studded it with a terrific cast, including Humphrey Bogart, Eddie G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, Thomas Gomez, and Marc Lawrence, added the typical Huston touches on the directorial end, and came up with not a great movie, but an amazingly entertaining one. Bogart is a recent World War II veteran who visits a hotel on Key Largo to honor the memory of his best friend, who was killed in Italy during the war. His friend’s widow (Bacall) and her wheelchair-bound father (Barrymore) receive him warmly. Their idyllic visit is suddenly interrupted by gangster Johnny Rocco (Robinson) and his gang, who use the hotel to wait out an approaching hurricane before going on their way to a rendezvous to deliver a load of counterfeit money. Although Rocco is based on Al Capone, who retired to Florida, and Lucky Luciano, he is more of a metaphor for the fascists who Bogart and his late friend fought in Italy. Bogart has sworn never again to take up arms, but as Huston makes clear over the course of the movie, we may run from evil, but in the end we must confront it is it is to be defeated. And this is the lesson Bogart learns as he realizes that Rocco and his boys must be stopped. Bogart may be the star, but it’s Robinson’s movie. Though he played characters like Johnny Rocco many times in the past, his dedication to his craft prevented him from giving anything less than 100% to his performance. As Huston noted, “I think Key Largo is best remembered by most people for the introductory scene, with Eddie in the bathtub, cigar in mouth. He looked like a crustacean with its shell off.” Claire Trevor earned a Best Supporting Oscar for her portrayal of Robinson’s alcoholic moll, based by Brooks on Luciano’s real life moll, Gay Orlova. At the time Key Largo was made (1948) Huston was on an incredible creative run, having just finished The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Over the next five years he would go on to direct We Were Strangers (1949), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Red Badge of Courage (1951), The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), and Beat the Devil (1953). Not bad, to say the least.
DAVID: A+. This is one of the 10 greatest films, the best film noir in cinematic history, and the most incredible ensemble cast you'll find in a movie. It stars three of my favorite actors: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lionel Barrymore. Bogart is a former military man who checks into the Hotel Largo in Key Largo, Florida, in the middle of hurricane season. The real storm hits when we see gangster Johnny Rocco (Eddie G) walk down the hotel steps. Bogart had top billing, but it's Robinson who you can't stop watching. The action in this film is intense, and the acting is incredibly strong. Claire Trevor is tremendous as Rocco's boozy, neglected gangster moll, a role that won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and Lauren Bacall turns in an excellent performance as Barrymore's daughter and, of course, Bogart's love interest. Legendary director John Huston could not have done a better job, and the use of the storm to parallel what's happening to the film's characters is perfect.
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.