Thursday, March 13, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for March 15-22

March 15–March 22


SHAMPOO (March 15, 12:00 am): Warren Beatty is one of my favorite actors and while this 1975 sex comedy is not the most compelling film he ever made, he's outstanding in it. Beatty is a Beverly Hills hairdresser who cuts the hair, and has sex with, a laundry list of beautiful women. His dream is to open his own hair salon, but his libido gets in the way. For the longest time, the film is very funny. But the ending is almost Ingmar Bergman sad with Beatty's character, George, losing everything including his dream because of his lack of discipline and business sense while still having to go on living a life that seemed so perfect earlier in the day. (The film takes place in one day.) You'd be hard-pressed to find a better supporting cast. Lee Grant (who won an Oscar for her performance) and Jack Warden (nominated for one) work exceptionally well together as a married couple with Beatty bedding Grant, and anything else that moves (including Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn), while trying to get Warden's character to provide the money for his elusive hair salon.

JESSE JAMES (March 16, 10:00 pm): Probably one of the most historically inaccurate films ever made about Jesse (Tyrone Power) and Frank (Henry Fonda) James, but a damn good Western. It's probably Powers' finest performance and Fonda is Fonda. The James boys become outlaws as they fight and exact revenge on railroad barons who have taken control of their home and others in this 1939 movie. Only Hollywood can turn Jesse and Frank James into heroes. Try to forget about that and enjoy a beautifully filmed movie that's highly entertaining with a lot of action.


HELL’S ANGELS (March 20, 2:00 am): This film is a real wonder and one to watch. Made by Howard Hughes and released in 1930, it’s the story of two fliers (Ben Lyon and James Hall) who fight over a voluptuous blonde. But what a blonde – it’s none other than Jean Harlow in her first substantial role in a film. When she asks Lyon if he would be shocked if she were to “slip into something more comfortable,” she utters one of the most famous lines in the history of movies. Unfortunately we also have to see her act, and her acting is a true train wreck. Not even with James Whale at the helm directing the dramatic scenes does she give anything that even resembles a performance. That, plus the fact that the flying sequences are still great to watch, are my main reasons for recommending this film. It’s not shown all that often; in fact, this is the first time I can remember it being shown in years, and in the late night slot at that. This film is truly deserving of an earlier showing with lots of commentary.

THE MOUSE THAT ROARED (March 22, 9:30 pm): This is a wonderful satire on both foreign policy and war. The tiny Duchy of Grand Fenwick is broke. The Duchy’s only export is its wine, and with a California winery named “Enwick” marketing a cheaper version of the wine, drastic measures must be taken. The Duchy will declare war on America, predictably lose, and reap millions in foreign aid. Unfortunately, they win the war and capture the ultimate weapon, the Q-bomb, so lethal that it could annihilate all life on Earth. I won’t spill all the details of the plot, safe to say that it sports a stellar cast, with Peter Sellers playing three roles and backed by the fine support of Jean Seberg, Leo McKern, and David Kossoff. It’s great fun just to see Sellers juggle all three roles.

WE DISAGREE ON ... THE SEVEN-UPS (March 17, 10:00 pm)

ED: C+. I like good action films and I like Roy Scheider, so why am I do down on this? Simple: it’s not a good action picture. The plot is simple: a team of four NYPD cops are tasked to trap hoods whose misdeed are punishable with prison terms of 7 years or more. And they display the usual behavior one expects in this sort of film, beating up suspects, breaking in without warrants, torturing dying gangsters and shooting first while asking questions later. And yes, they have the usual good reason to do so, for it seems that one of the cops, played by Scheider, has his secret list of Mob loan sharks snatched by one of his top informants who uses it to kidnap the crooks and hold them for ransom. When this results in the death of one of the cops, all bets are off. Sound familiar? This is nothing more than a gruesome, mechanical thriller in the mold of The French Connection, but lacking that film’s superb script and characterization.

DAVID: A. The Seven-Ups is just a hair below SerpicoThe French ConnectionDog Day AfternoonTaxi Driver, and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three when it comes to great early to mid-1970s films that capture the grit, grime, danger, disgust, excitement and anything-goes attitude of New York City in that era. Roy Scheider is great as the head of a renegade group of cops who'll stop at nothing, particularly after one of their own is killed, and go beyond the law to catch the bad guys. There isn't much in the way of dialogue with facial expressions and body language telling most of the story. The pacing of the movie is incredible as after the first 30 minutes in which the basis of the storyline is established, the action never stops. To top it off, my all-time favorite car chase is in this film. It's certainly not the most sophisticated movie ever made, but it's among the most entertaining. Also, it takes me back to my childhood watching this and several of the other films mentioned above on Channel 5 in New York City.

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

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