Wednesday, December 6, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for December 8-14

December 8–December 14


MY FAVORITE YEAR (December 11, 10:30 pm): What makes this such an enjoyable film is the wonderfully charming screenplay written by Dennis Palumbo, and Peter O'Toole as Allen Swann, based on Errol Flynn. O'Toole gives one of the funniest and entertaining over-the-top performances I've ever seen. The lines are great, but it's O'Toole's delivery that make them memorable. He was nominated for a Best Leading Actor Oscar for this film, his seventh nomination and seventh loss. He would later be nominated and lose a record eight times. The film is based on real people who worked on Your Show of Shows, and is funny and sweet without overdoing it.

BEN-HUR (December 14, 6:00 am): It's nearly four hours long, but it's one of cinema's most spectacular epics. Charlton Heston is masterful as Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince who ends up getting in a lot of trouble when reunited with an old friend, who happens to be a Roman tribune with a real mean streak. The incredible chariot race is reason enough to watch Ben-Hur. It's one of the most exciting scenes you'll ever seen in film. Add to that, Ben-Hur's time as a galley slave on a Roman boat and the preparation he does to exact revenge and you have a classic film in every way possible. 


HITLER’S CHILDREN (December 8, 5:00 pm): There’s junk, and there’s junk, but this one is great junk. Bonita Granville is Anna, a German girl born in America. Tim Holt is Karl. He’s in love with Anna, but he’s also in the Hitler Youth. Guess what comes first? Anna, for her part, just doesn’t get the whole Nazi thing. Given a chance to be a good little Nazi and study at the University of Berlin, Anna denounces the system and the Fuehrer instead. It’s one thing to denounce the system, but the Fuehrer? You can guess what happens to Anna from here, but I will tell you there’s a great scene where she’s publicly flogged at a concentration camp. No surprise here, but this film was RKO’s biggest moneymaker for 1943.

HORSE FEATHERS (December 11, 2:30 pm): It doesn’t get much better, or funnier than this, unless one counts Duck Soup. The only thing in the film funnier than Chico and Harpo passing themselves off as football players is Groucho as the president of the university. Add the drop-dead gorgeous Thelma Todd as the “college widow,” and we have a near perfect comedy. There are many great scenes in the picture: Groucho’s installment as college president, the Marxs in the speakeasy, where Groucho mistakenly recruits Chico and Harpo as “student-athletes,” the classroom scene, Groucho and Todd in the boat on the lake, and, of course, the football game. The only glitch in the film is that Zeppo has practically nothing to do but show up to remind us that there are four Marx Brothers. Just tune in and be prepared to laugh.

WE AGREE ON ... DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (December 12, 2:30 am)

ED: A-. MGM takes the familiar story and gives it the high gloss, big-star treatment, making it into more of a psychological thriller than a downright horror film. And with the Code fully in force, the story is missing its overtly sexual undertone, replaced with a straitlaced Freudian sense of morality. But in doing so the studio took away the cutting social and psychological implications that so distinguished the 1931 version. But what saves the film and makes it so watchable are the performances, especially those of Tracy and Bergman. One of the drawbacks of the 1931 version was the out-and-out transformation of Jekyll into a hideous monster. How could we expect Ivy to even become involved with such a creature? Tracy accomplishes the transformation with little make-up, relying instead on facial nuances, making the line between good and evil all the thinner. Ingrid Bergman turned in one of her best performances as Ivy. Originally cast as Jekyll’s fiancee, Beatrix, she was tired of playing the “good girl” roles and begged director Victor Fleming to let her play Ivy. The result was that Bergman showed herself to be an actress of great range and she more than held up her end playing against Tracy. Though it’s not quite the shocker the 1931 version was, Tracy and Bergman make this version one to catch.

DAVID: A-. I originally picked this film for a "We Disagree" argument with the intention of giving it a B-. This was based on my viewing of the film about two years ago. I came away largely unimpressed with the film, though I like it better than the 1931 version. I recalled the glitz and gloss – and money – of an MGM production and the somewhat silly notion that people wouldn't recognize Dr. Henry Jekyll (Spencer Tracy) as the sadistic Mr. Hyde. After all, the only difference between the two is Hyde has wild hair, bad teeth and a slightly different colored skin complexion. Also, most reviews of the film, past and present, are largely lukewarm to the movie. Then I watched it again the other night and my opinion changed. I admit I was wrong. I still don't buy that people couldn't tell the difference between Jekyll and Hyde. But once I got passed that flaw, I saw a film that featured incredible performances particularly by Tracy and Ingrid Bergman as Ivy, Hyde's abused girlfriend. The film clocks in at about two hours, but seems to fly by. Its sexual situations were restricted by the Hays Code, but we still get the picture. And while the violence is largely implied, it's done exceptionally well. I'm glad I revisited this film rather than rely on my memory as it's quite good despite not being a favorite of critics.

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

1 comment:

  1. I believe that this version is far more psychologically oriented and insidious than the earlier March 1931 treatment. It also contains a far ahead of its time bold and daring depiction of a kind of modern-day co-dependent relationship as Ivy is living with Hyde willingly even though she is the victim of domestic abuse. I'd link to my review, but I should like to ask permission before doing so.