Sunday, May 21, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for May 23-31

May 23–May 31


FURY (May 23, 9:15 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 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. 

MARTY (May 31, 8:00 pm): This is on TCM regularly, but if you haven't seen it, it's definitely worth catching. If it's been a while, you should watch it again. Ernest Borgnine steps out of his typical tough-guy character and does a fine job playing Marty, a lonely butcher who doesn't ever think he'll ever get married. He meets Clara (Betsy Blair), a plain-looking teacher and they fall in love despite Marty's friends and mother telling him he can do better. It's a sweet film. Borgnine's supporting cast, except for Esther Minciotti who plays his mother, isn't exceptional. But that's fine as Marty is clearly the film's main character and Borgnine is up to the task. Interestingly, his Oscar-winning performance didn't lead to him playing this type of character again.


TARANTULA (May 25, 8:00 pm): William Alland produced and Jack Arnold directed this way-better-than-average story about a humongous spider on the loose in the Arizona desert. Seems mad scientist Leo G. Carroll’s experimental growth formula works a little too well and with the wrong subjects. It’s one of the best giant-insect-on-the-loose films and boasts fast pacing, wonderful special effects, and a rare good performance by John Agar as a country doctor. Mara Corday supplies the required eye candy and damsel in distress as Carroll’s grad assistant. Also look for a brief glimpse of Clint Eastwood as the jet squadron leader.

TORA! TORA! TORA! (May 28, 10:30 pm): An excellent reenactment of the Battle of Pearl Harbor, from the planning stages to the attack itself. Equal time is given to both the Japanese side, who is planning the attack, and other American side, who is trying to figure out what the Japanese government’s next move is. The movie is marked by compelling performances from its actors, especially So Yamamura, as Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, planner of the Japanese attack and leader of the naval squadron sent to carryout the mission; Martin Balsam as Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of Pearl Harbor and the American fall guy for the aftermath; E.G. Marshall as Lt. Col. Rufus S. Bratton; and Tatsuya Mihashi as Comdr. Minoru Genda. It’s a wonderfully involved and riveting look at the battle that drew us into World War 2.

WE AGREE ON ... TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (May 30, 9:45 am)

ED: A+. We all know the story about Howard Hawks telling Ernest Hemingway that he could take the author’s worst novel and make a good movie out of it. He chose To Have and Have Not and made a masterpiece by throwing out most of the story and focusing on one character, charter boat captain Harry Morgan, rather than following Hemingway in dividing the story between two disconnected characters. (Michael Curtiz would later adapt the novel faithfully in the noir masterpiece The Breaking Point in 1950 with John Garfield and Patricia Neal. In 1958 Don Siegel made an even closer adaptation to the novel, The Gun Runners, starring Audie Murphy.) But why throw out most of the novel? Because the book was a story of a man’s moral defeat, an element that has no place in the universe of Howard Hawks. If anything, the movie is closer to Casablanca: disillusioned American expatriate rediscovers his ideals aiding a European freedom fighter in his struggle. The film is best remembered as the first teaming of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and marked Bacall’s debut. Has any newcomer so dominated a film like Bacall dominates To Have and Have Not? For the first – and only – time in a Bogart movie, the woman shares in the best lines. And she makes them unforgettable. She goes head to head with Bogart in trading witty sarcastic remarks. Think of her as an Ilsa Lund with attitude. It’s one of my favorite movies, a film I can watch anytime.

DAVID: A+. Humphrey Bogart is a tough American expatriate who begrudgingly helps a French resistance leader and his beautiful wife during World War II in an exotic country with the backdrop of a bar and a pal playing the piano. Sound familiar? While there are similarities to CasablancaTo Have and Have Not is a unique and excellent film that stands on its own. In a lot of ways it's as good as the legendary Casablanca. First, Bogey is outstanding as Harry Morgan and Lauren Bacall is breathtaking as Marie "Slim" Browning in her film debut. Director Howard Hawks' wife Nancy Keith noticed Bacall on a magazine cover and pointed her out to her husband, who cast her. For someone with minimal acting experience, the 19-year-old is able to match Bogart, who was 45 at the time, line for line. She's sexy, sultry, charming and funny. The romance between the two characters is kept to a minimal amount in the film, but when they are together they sizzle. That probably has a lot to do with the off-screen chemistry between the two stars. Bacall delivers the classic line: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow" with a smooth seduction that few could pull off. Morgan calls Browning "Slim" even though she doesn't like it and she calls Morgan "Steve" even though it's not his name. But they were the nicknames Hawks and Keith had for each other. Until recently, I hadn't seen the film in a few years. I watched it twice and it only gets better with each viewing. At first, the "rummy" character Eddie, played by Walter Brennan, was a little annoying. However, watching it a second time, his performance is wonderful and pivotal to the success of the film.

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

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