Friday, October 27, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for November 1-7

November 1–November 7


CHINA SYNDROME (November 3, 8:00 pm): This 1979 anti-nuclear film is anchored by excellent writing and a cast of terrific actors, most notably Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas, who also produced it. A television news crew goes into a nuclear power plant by chance during an emergency shutdown. We later find out that the plant is about to go into meltdown mode. We get corporate greed, government corruption and how the demand for energy results in people compromising their integrity. By coincidence, the film was released 12 days before the infamous Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown, giving credence to the message of the China Syndrome during the height of the "no-nukes" period. 

DODSWORTH (November 5, 8:00 am): Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston) is a rich automobile manufacturer who loves his job, but is convinced to retire early by his wife Fran (Ruth Chatterton), a vain woman who is fearful of growing old. She wants to see the world, particularly Europe, lead an exciting life. Sam is a regular guy who wants to please his wife. Fran quickly grows bored of Sam and spends most of her time with other men. She eventually dumps him for a European noble, leaving Sam to mope around Italy, where he sees a divorcee (Mary Astor), who he first met while traveling on the Queen Mary to Europe. The two fall in love, but Fran wants to reconcile. I won't ruin the ending. Everything works exceptionally well in this film. The acting is top-notch (besides the three leads, David Niven is great in a smaller role in one of his earliest films, and Maria Ouspenskaya as a baroness is a scene-stealer), the story is first-rate, and with William Wyler as the director, the movie is filmed and paced perfectly.


DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (Nov. 7, 6:00 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 OLD MAID (Nov. 7, 2:15 pm): Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins are at it again in this lush and glossy soap opera from Warner Brothers. Bette and Miriam are cousins Charlotte and Delia during the Civil War, and both are head over heels for Clem (George Brent). But it’s Bette whom Clem gets preggers. He enlists in the Union Army and is conveniently killed on the battlefield. Years later, Bette is running a home of war orphans, including her love child by Clem, who she keeps secret until she plans to marry Joe Ralston (Jerome Cowan), and confesses all to Delia, who married Joe’s brother, Jim (James Stephenson) on the rebound. Bad move. We’ll stop here, but suffice to say the suds really begin to flow as the movie progresses. Directed by Edmund Goulding, who had a flair for this type of film, The Old Maid is Grade-A entertainment, thanks to the efforts of Davis and Hopkins, who absolutely loathed each other in real life.


ED: A. The problem with episodic films is one of consistency. While one segment may be wonderful, another may be barely watchable. No problem with that in this film from director Vittorio De Sica. Of course, it helps to have Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in every episode and writers like Cesare Zavattini who know how to craft a story. Loren plays three very different women in three different Italian cities (Naples, Milan and Rome) and Mastroianni as the man in their lives. The last segment, with Loren as a high-class hooker in Rome is famous for the striptease she performs. (Almost every time a still from the film is featured it is of Loren stripping.) The performances are high quality. Loren is not only one of the world’s most beautiful women, but also one of the most talented, which comes through in each vignette. And Mastroianni shows a flair for comedy he never had a chance to demonstrate while being directed by Fellini. For those familiar with the film, you know what I’m talking about, and for those who have never caught this marvelous comedy, you are in for a treat,

DAVID: A. Legendary Italian neorealist director Vittorio De Sica built his well-deserved reputation on films such as The Bicycle ThiefUmberto D., and Two Women. That's what makes Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow even more impressive as De Sica does a superb job with a completely different film genre: a sex comedy. And this is a very funny sex comedy. If you're going to make a sex comedy in 1963, you couldn't do any better than to cast Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. But De Sica doesn't forget his roots and what made him a great director. Each of the three vignettes in the film focuses on social classes and the struggles of those in those groups to survive. Of the three segments, the final one with Loren as a prostitute and Mastroianni as a regular customer is the best. The chemistry between the two actors and the ability of the director to capture and showcase that chemistry in a way that is fun and entertaining to watch is a testament to the talents and skills of the trio. The first and third segments could have been made into quality full-length motion pictures. Instead, we are treated to three shorter films, which are all excellent and very sexy, particularly the final one with Loren's iconic strip tease.

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

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