Saturday, May 6, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for May 8-14

May 8–May 14


THE GRADUATE (May 12, 8:00 pm): 1967 is a landmark year in cinema. Films were more daring and adventurous such as Bonnie and ClydeIn the Heat of the NightPoint BlankBelle de JourClosely Watched Trains and The Graduate. The latter features Dustin Hoffman in his breakout role as Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate trying to figure out what to do with his life. One of his parents' friends, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), a bored and sexy suburban housewife, has something in mind for Benjamin. She carries on an affair that pushes the envelope of sexuality that was rarely seen before in an American film. It's funny, it's dramatic, it's got a great soundtrack from Simon and Garfunkel (even though it's three songs sung differently), and it challenges the conventional Hollywood movie fan. "Plastics."

THE DIRTY DOZEN (May 12, 2:00 am): If you're looking for a movie that includes misfits blowing up stuff and people – particularly Nazis – while also being entertaining and filled with action, The Dirty Dozen delivers on all fronts. The cast is excellent, led by Lee Marvin (who's always great in these types of war films), Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas and John Cassavetes. Yes, there's a dozen guys on this mission and yet director Robert Aldrich is able to show the personalities of each of them. He takes about two-and-a-half hours to do so, but it's worth it. This film greatly influenced other directors and other studios – this was a huge box-office success – to do movies with a similar violent genre. But nothing has been able to surpass the original.


DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (May 12, 10:15 am): Frederic March received the Best Actor Oscar for his turn as Dr. Jekyll, one of only two times an actor won Best Actor for a horror film. (Anthony Hopkins was the other in 1992.) The unrestrained violence of the film, combined with its sexual undertones, still pack a punch today. Miriam Hopkins co-stars as Ivy, who brings Dr. Jekyll’s repressed sexuality to the fore, later to be released in the form of Mr. Hyde. This could only be made in the Pre-Code era. The 1941 Spencer Tracy version, made when the Code was in full force, is limp by comparison. Also compare it to the 1920 John Barrymore silent version, where the pressures on Jekyll are external. Here the pressure and the evil released is internal. The beast in us all. Monsters from the Id. This is the version to watch.

THE PRODUCERS (May 12, 4:45 pm): Mel Brooks began his directorial career with a film reviled at the time by many critics, but now justly seen as one of the classics of cinema. Two Broadway producers (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) discover that they can make more money putting on a flop than financing a hit. All they have to do is raise more cash than they need for the play. But they just need to find a sure-fire flop, for they have pre-sold somewhere around 10,000% of the play, and if it’s a hit, they can’t pay off the backers. Their vehicle is a musical titled “Springtime for Hitler,” the love story of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun in song. They chose the worst director, the worst actor, and have signed the play’s author, a nutty Nazi living in Greenwich Village. I won’t say any more in case you’re one of the few that hasn’t yet seen this classic.


ED: B+. This cute little diversion meant as a vehicle for the young Marilyn Monroe, but actually starring Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable, is an example of good ensemble comedy and one of the brightest and wittiest of the Fifties. The three beautiful stars, following Bacall’s plan, pool their resources to rent a posh apartment to lure eligible, wealthy bachelors. Of course, the irony is that they end up marrying for love instead of wealth. It’s skillfully written by Nunnally Johnson and directed by the underrated Jean Negulesco, a perfect director for this sort of picture. Watch for Bacall’s scenes with William Powell – they are simply superb. (In fact, I think Powell steals the film.) For us psychotronic fans, Cameron Mitchell is one of the bachelors, and it’s always interesting to watch him in stellar productions rather than the awful Grade-Z films he made later in life. Even Monroe manages not to embarrass herself; she actually had a gift for comedy. The only sour note was Grable. It wasn’t her performance, but rather her looks. Keep in mind that she was only 36 at the time (and already being shown the door at Fox in favor of the younger Monroe), but she looks about 10 years older. I can only attribute this to the fact that she was a heavy smoker, which adds years to a person’s face, and the poodle cut she was saddled with during production also added to the older look. But if you’re looking for about 90 minutes of movie enjoyment, this is for you. (Especially for couples to watch together.)

DAVID: C+. This film has its cute moments. But it is also filled with cliches, corny even for 1953, with a silly plot, and Betty Grable in one of Hollywood's worst casting decisions. Grable, Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall are models. That's a stretch for Grable who was 36 when the film was made, but looks like she's the age of Monroe's mother. Of greater importance, Gable's acting is atrocious. Bacall is attractive in a mature-looking way yet she was only 29, less than two years older than Monroe, when the film was released. The three are tired of their jobs – one scene of the trio modeling has them sitting for most of the time and standing up every so often to show the dresses they're wearing. It's the hard knock life for them. They work a scam to net rich husbands in order to give up their careers and I guess sit in nice homes doing next to nothing. That's about 15 steps in the wrong direction for women's lib. The efforts at jokes typically fall flat and the three characters are largely shallow. The film opens on a terrible note – an eight-minute generic-sounding music prologue before we get to the opening credits. William Powell steals the film as an older, wealthy widower in love with Bacall. As he is in every film, Powell is charming here and a delight to watch. Bacall is fine and Monroe delivers a decent performance though the ongoing joke of her banging into things by not wearing glasses because it supposedly would detract from her beauty gets tired quickly.

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


  1. The orchestra prologue in Millionire is a brilliant touch. It "teaches" the audience to absorb the brand-new Cinemascope format, by slowing tracking from one end of the screen to the other. This was intendeded as the first such release - it became the second.

    1. Good point. You are correct, of course. It was felt that, like 3D, Cinemascope was such a radical idea that audiences had to be brought about slowly -- but not too slowly. It was believed to be the invention that tore audiences away from their television sets and got them back in theaters.