Here's how this works: Visit the TCM schedule for the month -- the link
for April -- is here. Pick five films that you want to recommend. Please
include the title of the film, the day and time that it's on, and why you
are championing it. The idea isn't that these are the best films of the month,
just the five you want to recommend. Feel free to choose standards or the
more obscure. And remember, if you have to decide between two films,
try to choose the one that is not available on Netflix
*** REMEMBER: ALL TIMES EASTERN *** and *** TCM's DAY RUNS FROM 6:00 a.m. TO 6:00 a.m. ***
10:15 a.m. THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY
Dir: Arthur Hiller
The cast is good, the direction serviceable, and the black-and-white production solid '60s, with good-sized studio tits and music. What makes this film, of course, is Paddy Chayefski's outrageous screenplay. It starts in comedy, sprinkles in some romance, a touch of worldly Jewish wisdom, then shoots out into the sort of soapbox spaceland that Joseph Mankiewicz explored in People Will Talk. The story ostensibly concerns an admiral's aide, who's real job is to hustle the best booze and broads and trimmin's for his boss in wartime London. One of the girls he comes across is a delectable Julie Andrews, who fights the good fight by sacrificing her family to Stop Fascism and recoils in rage at those bloody yanks who don't take the war seriously enough. It's rife with talk and more talk, whether its characters play cards, play at love-making, have nervous breakdowns or find their asses in the first wave on Omaha Beach. But the talk is so nifty -- and the actors so delightful -- that it's tough not to like.
12:00 p.m. TARZAN AND HIS MATE
Let's cut the shit, shall we? Boys are more likely to go for this than girls -- unless, of course, the girls get off on stock footage of African beasties. This is a follow-up to Tarzan the Ape Man, the first of the Johnny Weissmuller series. It's the second one -- and far and away the best of them. When this starts we see that Jane has become completely acclimated to jungle life, sleeping in her tree house on thoft furths, awakening with the smile of a gal who's definitely had a pleasant evening. Filmed before the Hays Office became the Breen Office -- that is, while there was still a glimmer of freedom in expressing the -- shall we say? -- "natural" bent of the human species, we get the benefit of a Jane who scampers around in a lot less clothes than she was obliged to wear as the series progressed. Since this particular Jane is the ravishing young Maureen O'Sullivan, one can easily understand why Tarzan emits that feral rain forest yodel we associate him with. The (in)famous underwater nude swimming scene is restored, but it was a stunt double, not O'Sullivan, who actually did it. Not to worry. She herself exhibits plenty of midriff and teases the living shit out of you while sitting astride an elephant with only the barest schmatta between you and the Holy Land. In fact, cut a single thong on her outfit and all of us would get arrested. The plot has something to do with . . . to do with . . . Come to think of it, I really can't remember what its plot has to do with.
12:30 a.m. AMERICA, AMERICA
Dir: Elia Kazan
My father immigrated to America while it still had that near religious mystique, that iconic blessedness as a paradise on earth where a man could make his life in a New Land, free of the oppressions and prejudices and caste systems that weighed him down in the "old country". It took us a while, but we Americans have changed that image and, I suspect, changed it once and for all. America is now looked upon in much the same way Joyce referred to his native Ireland, as a sow that devours its own farrow. Elia Kazan made this movie about his uncle, who Did What He Had To Do to make it to our shores. And even though we know from Kazan's intro that the hero will ultimately succeed in his quest, we wonder over the course of this very long film whether, in fact, he'll make it or, once he does make it, whether the sacrifices will have been worth it to him. The hero is transformed before our eyes from a naif to a self-loathing cynic -- yet, for all that, he retains his core idealism, his central impulsion to get the passage to New York. What he expects to find here seems to vanish from his mind. His focus is on the getting here -- and the plot takes a roundabout course in bringing him to his goal. Stathis Giallelis plays the driven young man with quiet firmness. Kazan uses his face and repressed emotions, rather than any surficial acting resource, to depict his sense of purpose. Other members of the cast speak with an odd assortment of accents, as if they'd just gotten off the boat from Queens. But don't let that bother you. If you can withstand some tedium in the telling, this story has its own pay-off -- a pay-off that affects me infinitely more than similar sequences in the bloated and overrated The Godfather II.
5:00 p.m. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT
Dir: Norman Jewison
I once saw this movie at a theater that accidentally reversed a couple of its reels. No one in the audience seemed to notice (I had already seen the film before). Hence, even though the story purports to be something of a "mystery", that's really not the source of its appeal -- and it had enough appeal or, in any event, enough topicality, to win it a best-picture Oscar. What makes this watchable is the acting and the "situation". In case you don't already know that situation, Sidney Poitier is a Philadelphia homicide detective visiting relatives in the south -- I mean the South, the still segregated South, the separate-but-equal South, the let's-loose-the-dogs-on-these-uppity-nigras South. While waiting for a train back home to the north, he's picked up as a suspect in a murder-robbery. Without fussing over the details, the basic premise has him making use of his considerable investigative expertise to unravel what the local hick police force is too inept to solve. Rod Steiger's good-ol'-boy gum-chewing sheriff won an Academy Award, and some nifty actors -- like Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Beah Richards, Larry Gates, and Scott Wilson -- pop out of the weeds to give the illusion that the movie really has something to say. I still have an affection for this -- especially for its emblematic moment, where Steiger demonstrates that he sees right down into the pit of Poitier's arrogant sense of self-assurance. "Y'know, Virgil, I don't think you can let an opportunity like that go by . . ."
2:45 p.m. REMBRANDT
Dir: Alexander Korda
The first time I saw this I was saddened that I'd already seen a TV production of it with Richard Johnson in the title role. I was so accustomed to the modern version, to its more contemporary rhythms, its cadences, that I missed what Korda and Charles Laughton and Gertrude Lawrence and Elsa Lanchester and -- in a wonderful moment -- Roger Livesey had to give me. But years have passed. I can't find the televised production and am left only with this. Believe me, I don't feel short-changed. On another thread I comment that Laughton's career in the 1930s is an astonishing and prodigious treasure chest of fabulous performances. His work includes being Oscar-ed for Henry VIII, playing Dr. Moreau, Ruggles the valet, Inspector Javert, Captain Bligh, the emperor Nero, Father Barrett, Ginger Ted the beachcomber, Quasimodo, and the stammering Claudius (in the production that was never completed). Yet none of these is finer than his Rembrandt. He's a complete man in this one, a whole personality, who must move you and charm and interest you without the monomaniacal tinges that assist him in creating other characters. In a sense I'm wrong. He is something of a monomaniac -- he's an artist. But even though he's an artist, an artist who loses everything, he's still a man with his two feet on the ground, a living testament to the wisdom he imparts to the young artists who listen at his feet: "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity under the sun. Wherefore I perceive that each man should rejoiceth in his work . . . for that is his portion . . ." It's a superb performance.
5:00 p.m. THE BIG COUNTRY
Dir: William Wyler
What used to be called a "blockbuster" because of a heavyweight cast and big dollars in the production. It comes from a day when westerns were a very different game than they are now. It pre-dates Peckinpah and Leone. It doesn't pay much deference to Mann or Boetticher. Or John Ford. Or anyone else, for that matter. Essentially it's overblown soap-opera, masquerading as horse-opera. Yes, there are plenty of horses, plenty of hard-looking, chaps-wearing, gun-toting, moustachio-ed and bearded cowpokes. Likewise there are plenty of wide-open spaces. But the very theme of this movie is anti-violence. And we gotta wait a lo-o-o-ong time before the shooting starts. For a western that's the kiss of death. Fortunately, the asset column balances the books. The wimmin -- a blonde baby-doll Carroll Baker and a raven-haired Jean Simmons -- are so molestable that a guy's gotta shift in his seat while he watches them. The other actors are Bigger Than Life, too. It was for this film that Burl Ives won his Oscar, though he played Big Daddy in the same year this was released. But I think what pleases me most is Jerome Moross' great musical score, putting us in the right mood as soon as Saul bass' credits begin.
I unzipped my fly a coupla days too soon. Hopefully I incorporated the changes properly.
April 2 - 2:00 am - Secret Ceremony
"It’s time to speak of Unspoken THINGS!" Elizabeth Taylor and Mia Farrow look freaky as hell in this.
April 9 - 2:15 am - Galaxy of Terror
If you consider yourself a sci-fi horror fan or cult movie aficionado and haven’t seen Galaxy of Terror then you need to do yourself a favor and watch this Roger Corman produced piece of awesomely gory, brutal trash called GALAXY OF TERROR.
April 16 - 3:15 am - The Little Girl Who Live Down The Lane
THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE is a quietly suspenseful film that never reaches any huge dramatic or horrific heights, but is a strongly written film (by Laird Koenig, based on his novel) with some very, very strong performances. It’s twisted, but it’s definitely not exploitation.
April 23 - 2:00 am - Strange Behavior
About an evil scientist turning a small town's youth population into homicidal maniacs. Bizarre, very much trying to do different things and over-reaches, showing the seams… either on the talent (at the time) or the low budget and has a certain charm to it. I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, something you’d say about an ugly girl your friends set you up on a blind date with, but I mean it in a good way. Strange Behavior doesn't fully work, but it has an earnestness about it that you can’t help but smile as they attempt to pull of a flick that’s out of their reach.
April 28 - 2:30 pm - On The Beach
Wow, what a fucked up, depressing-ass movie this is. Who would have thought there would be such a gut-punch of a movie made in this era? Maybe I’m just showing my naivite, but I do not associate the ‘50s with crazy downer movies, let alone post-apocalyptic ones.
Saturday 2 April
They're having a run of Tom Courtenay movies on this day. One I haven't seen:
Cast: Tom Courtenay, Romy Schneider, Alan Badel. Dir: Dick Clement.
Friday 8 April
An eleven-minute commercial. But look at the year, the location, and the subject matter! Crazy, man, crazy.
Thursday 14 April
I've only read about the famous Broadway stars Lunt and Fontanne. Here's my chance to see them in action.
Cast: Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Roland Young. Dir: Sidney Franklin.
Friday 15 April
What better to take your mind off Tax Day than a pre-Code comedy-drama with William Powell as a rake? Maltin calls it a "sharp, well-played marital tale." I also like the currently-little-known Ann Harding, but she is perhaps an acquired "vintage" taste.
Cast: Ann Harding, William Powell, Henry Stephenson. Dir: John Cromwell.
As usual, I've tried to choose titles NOT ON DVD (or available only as "TCM exclusives"). All but one of these aren't on vhs, either. Since one of my picks is a short, I'm giving myself permission to mention a sixth title...
Thursday 14 April
Also not on dvd, and a must-see for fans of Dashiell Hammett, film noir, Veronica Lake, Kurosawa's Yojimbo and its spaghetti-western children, or the Coen brothers' Miller's Crossing.
8th--Friday night/Saturday morning 8th--Green Slime--Cheesy as hell, but I am a SF fan, and it's Italian or half Italian, at any rate this little mutant has a pretty nice space babe of Luciana Paluzzi in it too.
10th Sunday 6am--Lassie Come Home--young Liz Taylor & Roddy McDowall, great scenery, I plan on taping it this time.
21st Thur. 6:30p--Requiem For a Heavyweight--classic boxing picture. Good cast.
24 Sunday 11am--Barabbas--more Anthony Quinn based on Biblical text, but it's also an adventure film of sorts. Barabbas is a thief/murder, and when the people are asked who they want to set free: Jesus or Barabbas they pick Barabbas. His life turns to crap though after he gets freed.
30th Saturday--6pm--Never Cry Wolf. A biologist is sent to Alaska to study wolves. Nice scenery, good soundtrack by Mark Isham.
A lot of good movies this month compared to last month, at least to my taste.