Wednesday, April 5, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for April 8-14

April 8–April 14


PSYCHO (April 8, 4:15 am): This is my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie and there are plenty of great contenders. There are few moments in cinema that better capture the combination of sex and violence than the shower scene in Psycho. Janet Leigh’s scream and her look of pure terror, the shadow-like “mother” figure, the close-up image of the knife, the music, the shower curtain coming down and the blood swirling as it goes down the drain are perfect and scares the hell out of those watching it. It was incredibly bold for Hitchcock to kill the female lead so early in the film, but it allows other aspects of the plot to play out. Anthony Perkins gives the performance of his life – and was forever typecast as Norman Bates – with Hitchcock allowing the actor to explore the multiple dimensions of the character.

SCARLET STREET (April 9, 10:00 am): Director Fritz Lang does a superb job with this 1945 film noir that has Edward G. Robinson in a role that's different from any other he played in his career. Eddie G. is Chris Cross, a bland, boring clothing company cashier who's never done anything interesting in his life. Business picks up quickly after he saves Kitty March (Joan Bennett), a beautiful femme fatale, being accosted on the street by a guy who turns out to be Johnny (Dan Duryea), her lowlife boyfriend. Completely out of character for Chris, he dispatches Johnny with his umbrella and quickly falls in love with Kitty as he's in a loveless marriage with a wife who constantly henpecks him. Because he talks of painting, Kitty and more importantly Johnny think he's a rich artist. The two work out a plan to make money from Chris' love for Kitty and his ability as a painter. The story, based on the French novel La Chienne (The Bitch), has a number of unforeseen (and excellent) plot twists as Chris' life goes from humdrum to one filled with way too much passion, deceit and tragedy.


LATE SPRING (April 9, 2:15 am): Among the many fine films director Yasujiro Ozu made in his career, two stand out: Late Spring and Tokyo Story. Setsuko Hara is Noriko, the 27-year old devoted daughter of widowed professor Shukichi Somiya (Chishu Ryu). Too devoted is the term for it. Her aunt believes she should have married long ago and sets about to arrange one for her. Her father also realizes it’s time she left the nest and goes about a great pretense that he is going to remarry in order to spur her into a decision. Despite the rather bare plot this is an intricately devised and observed look at Japanese middle-class life and filial relationships in a time of transition, i.e., Postwar Japan, where the traditional values are slowly being replaced with a new vision of society. Profoundly moving and compelling, the film grabs the audience from the beginning and keeps it enthralled though its length. Make no mistake about it – this is a masterpiece, surpassed only by the great Tokyo Story. Talk about Essentials.

BEACH PARTY (April 12, 10:00 pm): The first and by far the best of American-International’s Frankie and Annette youth musicals. Robert Cummings is a anthropologist studying the mating habits of the young. As his study progresses he makes the mistake of personally becoming involved with Annette, to the utter jealousy of Frankie. With Harvey Lembeck is good form as inept biker Eric Von Zipper, Morey Amsterdam as Cappy (the cafe owner), and Dorothy Malone as Cummings’s love-sick assistant. The film is good mindless fun and differs from its increasingly poor quality sequels in that it’s lively and is loaded with élan. Music by the only and only king of the surf guitar Dick Dale.

WE AGREE ON ... THE BEST MAN (April 9, 4:00 pm)

ED: A+. In the early ‘60s, films about politics were the rage. Audiences ate up such fare as The Manchurian CandidateAdvice and ConsentSeven Days in MayFail-Safe, and this film, which is based on the Broadway hit by Gore Vidal. Released during the presidential campaign of 1964, the film kept audiences guessing about which politicians inspired the lead characters. On one hand there’s William Russell (Henry Fonda), an older and more idealistic candidate who is going through a personal crisis as his wife threatens to divorce him. On the other hand, there’s Joe Cantrell (Cliff Robertson), a younger and far more opportunistic candidate who won’t hesitate to use smear tactics to win. And in the middle is former president Art Hockstader (Lee Tracy), who’s still up in the air over which candidate to endorse. What amazed me about the picture is its vivid and energetic rendering of the stage play and the compelling drama of its head-on clash between Russell and Cantrell when the mud is about to fly and fly hard. Credit is due to director Franklin Schaffner for his shrewd decision to emphasize the rasp of the convention as well as its participants. To say Fonda and Robertson are spectacular is an understatement. For me, it was great to see Lee Tracy once more before the cameras, back from his alcohol-imposed absence from the screen. He gives the film its extra charge – as if it needs one – and makes it even more enjoyable to watch.

DAVID: A+. While dated primarily because political party national conventions are no longer where presidential nominees are selected, 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.

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

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