TCM TiVo ALERT
May 1–May 7
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (May 1, 6:15 pm): An excellent JD movie with Glenn Ford as a teacher trying to put high school kids on the right track. Sidney Poitier and Ford work exceptionally well with Poitier as a defiant and intelligent student who Ford sees promise in and tries to help. Vic Morrow plays the worst of the worst kids to near perfection. The scene in which Morrow’s character cruelly destroys a teacher's most-beloved items, his record collection, in class as the teacher tries to reach the kids, is an incredibly haunting piece of cinema. And the soundtrack is great, particularly the opening credits with “Rock Around the Clock.” While many think of the film as the first with a rock-and-roll song in it, it is so much more than that.
LOGAN'S RUN (May 6, 2:15 pm): I'm a huge fan of early and mid-1970s futuristic dystopian films such as this, Soylent Green, Omega 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.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE (May 1, 11:15 pm): The films of Max Ophuls are noted for their subtlety, and this film is a prime example. Taking a simple premise, that of a French woman whose series of white lies does her in, Ophuls raises it to the level of high tragedy. Although it opened in the U.S. to mild praise, the film is viewed today as one of the greatest gems of movie history, and perhaps the acme of Ophuls’ career. Of course, a good cast helps, and Ophuls has a terrific one with Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio De Sica as his leads. Ophuls is in his element here, painstakingly designing mies-en-scenes that frame and define his characters, and combining that with close-ups that allow us some psychological insight into the characters. The plot is beautifully staged, opening and closing on the consideration of the eponymous piece of jewelry that passes from owner to owner until returning to Darrieux. This is a film of charm and beauty with a marvelous subtext of the pain that goes hand in hand with vanity and which no amount of lies can cover or explain.
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (May 4, 3:15 am): The late Ray Harryhausen’s great f/x epic about a dinosaur thawed out on the Arctic and now on the loose in New York City. It boasts an intelligent script, credible performances, and one helluva great monster. My only complaint is that it’s too short, but it was just what the doctor ordered for the Warner’s box office at the time. I can watch it again and again . . . wait a minute – I have.
WE AGREE ON ... MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (May 2, 11:30 pm)
ED: A+. A big, sweeping ocean adventure done only as MGM could do it. Loosely adapted from the Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall books, the story of the H.M.S. Bounty has stirring adventure, a tyrannical captain, seamen pushed to the point of mutiny, and Clark Gable. It also has a theme popular with audiences: the revolt against a tyrant. However, producer Irving Thalberg avoids the mistake made in many other such adventures of pitting a strong hero against relatively ineffectual villains. Captain Bligh, as portrayed by Charles Laughton, is not just an excellent sailor, capable of astounding feats of seamanship, but he is also a capable tyrant, courageously facing down the mutineers. He is also corrupt and terrifyingly sanctimonious; the strongest figure on the ship. Clark Gable is in his element as Fletcher Christian, the leader of the mutineers. His rawboned defiance is a match for Bligh’s villainy. As Byam, the officer who returns with Bligh to England to face trial, Franchot Tone gives an engaging performance, though in the courtroom scene it seems that he’s campaigning for an Oscar. Director Frank Lloyd also gives room to the supporting cast and their stories, making the film a much more compelling human drama than a mere Us versus Them confrontation. The supporting cast includes such familiar names as Herbert Mundin, Donald Crisp, Ian Wolfe, Dudley Digges, Francis Lister, and Spring Byington, as well as Movita and Mamo Clark as the Tahitians. It’s one to catch, even if you’ve already seen it innumerable times.
DAVID: A+. An incredibly strong cast – led by Charles Laughton, who is masterful as the vicious Captain Bligh, and Clark Gable as the cunning Fletcher Christian – combined with a spare-no-expense set and some of the sharpest cinematography I've seen in a black-and-white film make Mutiny on the Bounty a timeless classic. Laughton's Bligh is completely ruthless and unforgiving, which we see almost immediately when he insists a sailor's flogging punishment be carried out even though the man is dead. The tension builds over time with Bligh showing no mercy to anyone. Things finally explode in a full-blown mutiny by many of those aboard the Bounty when the ship's beloved doctor (played by Dudley Digges) dies because Bligh pushes him too far and the captain cuts the water rations. This isn't a swashbuckler film, but one with a fascinating and approachable storyline. What adds to the film is Bligh is not only vicious but he's a brilliant seaman who somehow manages to not only survive being placed on a small boat with about 50 loyalists set to drift to a sure death, but returns to Tahiti in an attempt to exact revenge on Christian. I can't say enough about Gable's acting skills in this movie as he's been accused at times of being one dimensional. The scenery is also wonderful and there are several minor subplots that about a dozen or so of the shipmates stories to tell. The film captured the Oscar for Best Picture and was the last film to do that without winning any other golden statues. One of the problems was Laughton, Gable and Franchot Tone were all nominated in the Best Oscar category and essentially canceled each other out. Because of that, the Academy the following year created the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.