Thursday, March 14, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for March 15-22

March 15–March 22


STROMBOLI (March 15, 8:00 pm): Robert Rossellini directed, produced and co-wrote this excellent 1950 film about a Lithuanian woman (the great Ingrid Bergman) who marries an Italian fisherman/prisoner of war to start a new life on his home island of Stromboli. The people of this middle-of-nowhere island don't take kindly to strangers. Bergman is outstanding in this Neorealism classic - most of the others in the movie are regular people who live on the island. There isn't a lot of dialogue yet Bergman and the natives accurately reflect a life of isolation, boredom, desperation and determination. As an aside, an affair between Rossellini and Bergman (both married to someone else at the time) during the making of this film led to a child out of wedlock. They would eventually marry, but the scandal resulted in the actress essentially blacklisted from Hollywood for about five years. 

THE GRADUATE (March 16, 2:15 am): 1967 is a landmark year in cinema. Films that year 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."


STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR (March 19, 8:45 am): This is a terrific and fast moving noir about a rising reporter Mike Ward (John McGuire) whose testimony at the trial of a cab driver (Elisha Cook, Jr.) accused of killing a café owner results in his conviction and death sentence. He argues with his noisy neighbor, which results in a surreal dream that he has murdered the neighbor. When he awakes, he finds that the neighbor is dead; killed in the same manner as the café owner, and now Mike is arrested as the prime suspect. He tells his fiancée Jane (Margaret Tallichet) that he remembers seeing a man who ran from him on the night he argued with the neighbor, and now Jane searches for that man in order to clear Mike. Will she find him? Is it Peter Lorre? There’s only one way to find out: tune in.

FORBIDDEN PLANET (March 20, 11:30 pm): It’s one of the best sci-fi films ever made, based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, though it seems somewhat dated today. Leslie Nielsen leads a mission to planet Altair 4 to find out the fate of an expedition that landed there 20 years ago. What they discover is that one man (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter (Anne Francis) are left of the original expedition. Pidgeon leads them on a fantastic tour of a lost civilization that populated the planet years ago. Though way ahead of Earth in technology, they were suddenly wiped out one night while on the verge of their “greatest discovery.” Then when crewmembers begin dying mysteriously, a search is conducted for their killer. What they ultimately discover about a monster and the planet keeps us in thrall. Don’t let the Shakespeare connection throw you off; for those sci-fi fans, it’s a must. And for those that aren’t so sure, it’s still an intelligent movie nonetheless.

WE DISAGREE ON ... THE QUIET MAN (March 17, 9:30 pm)

ED: A+. If ever a film could be said to be a paean poem, it is The Quiet Man, for it is John Ford’s loving tribute to Ireland, the home of his parents. (He was born in Maine.) John Wayne is somehow just right for the role of Sean Thornton, a boxer who comes to the village where he was born in Ireland to find peace, claim his homestead, and find a wife. He’s haunted by the past, having quit the ring after accidentally killing his last opponent. He catches the eye of Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), but her brother, Squire “Red” Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), the richest farmer in the area, has it in for Thornton. Sean’s homestead separates Danaher’s spread from that of the Widow Sarah Tillane (Mildred Natwick) and Danaher had his eye on it before Sean’s arrival. Now Danaher contrives to keep Sean and Mary Kate separate, and when they do marry, he does everything in his power to demean Thornton. He’s clearly scrapping for a fight, but Sean won’t fight because of the bad memories. But he must fight if he is to look manly in the eyes of his wife, and the village. It is Thornton’s dilemma that drives the film, and when he finally confronts his bullying brother-in-law, it’s a scene for the ages. O’Hara is clearly the star of the film. Her Mary Kate easily outshines both Wayne and McLaglen, no easy task since the film revolves around the enmity between them. Barry Fitzgerald also shines as Michaleen Flynn, the local matchmaker and cart driver who can’t seem to tell anyone a thing without getting a mug of stout from them first. It’s a wonderful film with the longest fight scene in history. This is what is meant by the term “film classic.”

DAVID: C-. During the past few weeks, I've recommended two John Wayne films - Red River and Stagecoach - with the caveat that I'm not a fan of the actor. Well, here's the payoff. The Quiet Man is one of the most overrated films in cinematic history. I'd add that it's Wayne's worst roles, but that wouldn't be correct. Wayne is far worse as Rooster Cogburn in the self-titled film and True Grit, and though I haven't seen it, his portrayal of Genghis Khan in The Conqueror is legendary among bad-film buffs. But back to The Quiet Man. In this film, Wayne plays Sean Thornton, an Irish boxer who killed a man - surprisingly not with his overacting - with his fists in the ring. He's back in Ireland to forget about his past and live on his family's farm. While he's at it, he grabs a woman to be his wife. The lucky lady is Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara). She's fiery, but Wayne can tame her or can he? Danaher's jackass of a brother (Victor McLaglen), who is a major property owner in town, tries to get in his way. Director John Ford attempts to inject humor into this film as the town conspires to make sure Thornton claims Danaher as his property against the will of her brother. One charming scene has Thornton dragging Danaher across a field full of animal dung. This was Ford's tribute to his native country. Apparently he's not a big fan of Ireland. The main storyline is Thornton doesn't want to fight because he killed a man, Danaher's brother is itching for a scrape with him and the townsfolk want to see violence. Thornton won't fight so everyone considers him the coward of the county (with apologies to Kenny Rogers). His wife won't, um, be intimate with him until he gets a dowry from her brother. She apparently believes she is property with a certain financial value. Score one for women's lib! Fighting seems to be the only way people in this film solve their differences. To make it more ridiculous, the two start to like each other as they exchange exaggerated punches. Mary Kate feels closer to her husband and her brother as the fight goes on and on and on. If I'm looking for a long entertaining fight scene I'll watch They Live. Much is made about The Quiet Man's romantic storyline. Love equally violence in this film. The scenery is beautiful, but the same can be said of a National Geographic documentary of the Irish countryside. And it's not like this is a quick watch. The film drags on for two hours and nine minutes.

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

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