Wednesday, June 7, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for June 8-14

June 8–June 14


ROPE (June 8, 1:00 am): While it's not Alfred Hitchcock's best film, that's a pretty high bar and would likely be the finest of many directors. The film is a testament to Hitchcock's talent with compelling performances from James Stewart and Farley Granger. It's also innovative and creative with Hitch creating the illusion of a continuous movie through the use of long takes. It's an interesting filmmaking exercise and one worth watching for its innovative style and how getting away with the "perfect crime" isn't so easy. 

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (June 13, 2:15 am): This 1957 film, directed by Billy Wilder, is one of the best suspense movies you'll ever see. The story takes many interesting twists and the acting is outstanding, particularly Charles Laughton as an ill, but still brilliant, barrister who takes the case of a man, played by Tyrone Power in his last role, charged with murder. All of the evidence points to Power's character, Leonard Vole, as the killer, but Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Laughton) can't resist defending him. Things take a turn for the worse – or maybe it doesn't – when Vole's wife, played by Marlene Dietrich, is called as a witness for the prosecution. The ending is so unexpected and executed exceptionally well by all parties involved in the film. It is a shock that's heightened by the closing credits asking moviegoers to not reveal the ending to anyone who hasn't seen it. 


FROM HELL IT CAME (June 14, 3:45 pm): An incredibly awful film about a South Sea islander put to death for supposedly fraternizing with visiting American scientists. It goes deeper than that, but as the ceremonial dagger is being plunged into his heart he swears revenge and comes back, with the help of radiation, as a Tabanga, a walking tree monster. Scientists Tod Andrews and Tina Carver dig him up, place him on an operating table and stimulate his heart. He comes back to life and begins his revenge. The tabanga is a tree with a permanent scowl on his face and walks at the pace of a snail on ether. Yet no one can outrun him. As critic Michael Weldon says, “With native dancers, girl fights, and a half-assed explanation involving an atom bomb of how all this came to be.” Bad script, bad direction, and bad acting make this one to catch. Tina Carver has the worst scream in movies. Don’t miss it.

A CANTERBURY TALE (June 14, 3:45 am): A most unusual and totally charming film about an English Tommy, a Land Girl, and an American soldier who find themselves in a small Kent town on the road to Canterbury when the Land Girl becomes the latest victim of the “Glue Man,” a mysterious stranger who pours glue in the hair of women he catches in the company of GIs. The three stay to investigate the mystery, and in the process explore the local countryside, especially its history and tales of pilgrims. The path eventually leads to Canterbury Cathedral, where each receives an unexpected “blessing”: the granting of their most fervent wish. It’s a deeply beautiful film that teaches its main characters not to lose faith or hope while it also celebrates English country life and traditions. Written and directed by the team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the film has only the most casual relationship to the famous Chaucer work, yet, there is a strong mystical quality to this movie that transcends the Christian and English pagan settings and traditions. It is a tale of humans brought together by a shared faith, love and optimism that everything will come out all right if we only give it a chance to work. This is a film one can see time and again and still remains fresh.

WE AGREE ON ... THE DEVIL-DOLL (June 14, 2:15 pm)

ED: A-. Tod Browning at his best and the stuff of which nightmares are made. Based on Abraham Merritt’s novel, Burn, Witch, Burn, wronged convict Lionel Barrymore escapes from Devil’s Island with one thing on his mind: revenge against those who framed him. Armed with fellow inmate Henry Walthall’s formula to shrink living things to the size of dolls, Barrymore sets out to destroy those that tried to destroy him. Disguised as an old woman (shades of Browning and Lon Chaney’s 1925 silent The Unholy Three) who owns a doll shop in Paris, he sends out his miniature assassins to carry out his vengeance. Aided by the use of some wonderful special effects, Browning weaves a tale marked by a wonderfully sinister mood. Unfortunately, the contrived happy ending spoils matters and accounts for my final grade. Coming as it does only a year later, it’s only natural to compare it to Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein, where Dr. Pretorius displays his tiny creations to a bewildered and disgusted Henry Frankenstein. However, it far outdoes similar films that followed, such as Dr. Cyclops (1940) and Attack of the Puppet People (1958). With a solid script from Garrett Ford, Guy Endore and Erich von Stroheim.

DAVID: A-. Because Lionel Barrymore was so wonderful as a curmudgeon in nearly every role he played, it's somewhat difficult to imagine him playing a vengeful criminal (wrongfully convicted, of course). His character in The Devil-Doll escapes Devil's Island and plots his revenge against those who framed him in this 1936 film directed by Tod Browning, who co-wrote it. Oh, and he dresses like an old woman at times – and actually pulls it off. Barrymore was such a pro that he handles himself exceptionally well in this horror classic in which he shrinks people to one-sixth their size. The special effects are impressive for a film this old. Maureen O'Sullivan is great as his daughter and Rafaela Ottiano is amazing as his partner in crime who takes evil to a new level.

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

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