Monday, May 29, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for June 1-7

June 1–June 7

TO SIR, WITH LOVE (June 4, 12:00 pm): 1967 was a busy and successful year for Sidney Poitier. In addition to this film, he was also in In The Heat of the Night and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner that year. To Sir, With Love is a very good JD movie about an engineer (Poitier) who takes a teaching job at a rough school in London's East End. The kids are largely hoods and/or come from poor families and don't care about school. Eventually, Poitier's character, despite the obvious differences, wins over the kids teaching them about pride, respect and what it takes to be responsible adults. He's extraordinary in his role, and of course, the title song is a classic. Yes, it's sentimental, but it's entertaining, particularly a boxing scene between Poitier and a student.

A FAREWELL TO ARMS (June 5, 2:15 pm): Very loosely based on the Ernest Hemingway book, it's the story of Lt. Frederic Henry (Gary Cooper), an American serving as an Italian army ambulance driver, who travels all over Europe during World War I to find the nurse (Helen Hayes) he loves just in time for Armistice Day. It's Pre-Code so the sexual relationship between the two is more open than what you'd find in movies a few years later. Hayes is excellent. Cooper is Cooper. But it's Adolphe Menjou as Major Rinaldi who steals the film.


HITLER’S MADMAN (June 2, 10:30 am): This was German refugee Douglas Sirk’s first film in America, a concise and action packed story of the brutal reign of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, his assassination by Czech resistance fighters, and the brutal revenge of Hitler upon that captive nation. Based on actual events, John Carradine makes for an effective Heydrich and he is supported by an outstanding cast, including Patricia Morison, Ralph Morgan and Elizabeth Russell. Look for Ava Gardner in a small, uncredited role as Franciska Pritric. Sirk provides a sterling example that a low budget does not necessarily make for a bad film. Made for Poverty Row studio PRC, Louis Mayer screened the finished product and was so taken that he purchased it from PRC. To give the film a little extra polish he had Sirk reshoot some of the material before release. The film holds up well today and shows how imagination and honest effort can defeat the lack of budget money.

THE BLACK CAT (June 6, 8:00 pm): The first teaming of Karloff and Lugosi is a great movie directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. Karloff is devil-worshipping cult leader Hjalmar Poelzig, living in an ultramodern home built atop a battle site where he betrayed his troops. He had stolen the wife of Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Lugosi), and when she died he married her young daughter. Lugosi is traveling with a honeymooning couple, Peter and Joan Allison (David Manner and Julie Bishop), and when their hotel-bound bus crashes, Joan is injured and they seek refuge at Poelzig’s castle. There, the cat-phobic Werdegast learns the fate of his wife and daughter and ends up playing a game of chess with Poelzig for Julie’s fate. A hauntingly atmospheric movie with outstanding performances from Karloff and Lugosi. It’s one of the most stylish horror films of the ‘30s.


ED: A. This adaptation of Nelson Algren’s Chicago-set novel caused quite a stir when it was released though it seems somewhat dated today.. Where other films about the subject treated it gingerly, director Otto Preminger went straight for the jugular. Star Frank Sinatra gave one of the great performances as the title character, poker dealer Frankie Machine. He is rhythmic, and instinctive, yet always under control. As his wife Zosch, Eleanor Parker is superbly irritating and pathetically insecure. Kim Novak scores as Molly, winning us over with her compassion and common sense. Her chemistry with Sinatra is pure gold. Backing them up is a stellar supporting cast, led by Darren McGavin and including Arnold Stang, Robert Strauss, Leonid Kinskey, and the always reliable George E. Stone. It’s a film that will grab you from the start and not let go. It’s one to see.

DAVID: A. While the scenery looks like it came from a summer stock play, it's the story and the characters that make The Man With the Golden Arm an excellent film. Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) is a junkie/expert card dealer who just got out of federal prison and has kicked his drug habit. He was a hardcore heroin addict. The drug is heavily implied in this film and never mentioned, but you'd have to be clueless to not know. He learned to play the drums while in prison and has dreams of playing in a big band, but the reality is he's back in his Chicago neighborhood hanging out at the same bar with the same losers and hustlers – including his drug dealer Louie (played so well by Darren McGavin) – trying to get a few bucks before a supposed music tryout. He quickly finds himself arrested for possessing a stolen suit and has to work dealing cards for Schwiefka (Robert Strauss), his former card boss in illegal high-stakes games, to pay the cost of the suit and a fine. This is a story of desperation – almost every character is desperate for something including Frankie's wife, Zosch (Eleanor Parker), who wants to keep her husband to the point that she fakes that she still can't walk from a car accident caused when Frankie was drunk years earlier. He married her out of guilt and she knows he'll leave her the minute she can walk. Frankie eventually gets hooked again and it leads to more trouble. When he wanted to Sinatra was an excellent actor and he shows it in this film. The movie is dark, authentic and gripping. This one pulls no punches leading it to not get a rating from the Motion Picture Association of America because it violates the Hays Code. For a film from 1955, it holds up well. Also of note is the excellent jazz soundtrack.

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

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