Here's how this works: Visit the TCM schedule for the month -- the link
for July 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.
4:00 a.m. Crime and Punishment, U.S.A. (1959)
Dir: Denis Sanders
No novel has so flattened me as Crime and Punishment. And I’m surely not alone in that feeling. Dostoevski’s genius for the dramatic episode, his passionate depth of understanding of even the least of his characters, his fearless tackling of gargantuan themes – as evidenced by the title itself – scream out to filmmakers for adaptation. So it’s not surprising the story has been done on screen many times. But every effort seems doomed not to be definitive. The 1935 Josef von Sternberg movie has some of its director’s visual pizzazz, but it falls down in most other ways. The Russian version of the 1960s is doggedly faithful so far as it goes, but significantly un-faithful when it comes to the finish, where the author’s religiosity doesn’t comport with official Soviet atheism. The BBC-TV-series with John Hurt, one of my favorite actors, was a cruel disappointment in just about every particular. Much the same can be said of the honorable, but dramatically inept, TV-movie with Ben Kingsley mangling the all-important part of Porfiry. Taken all around, the 1935 French film, Crime et chatiment, is the cream of the crop. Pierre Blanchar is a bit old for Raskolnikov, but he’s fine when the chips are down. And Harry Baur’s Porfiry has rightly passed into legend. All this is by way of introduction to this shoestring-budgeted little second-stringer, made in the late ‘fifties on the streets and on cheap sets in a catch-as-catch-can way that is, for that reason alone, oddly intriguing. Of course, it’s not the novel. Far from it. But its best scenes are drawn from its pages. George Hamilton may not be the top of the acting food chain, but what his rendition of the Raskolnikov role – (all the parts have American monikers) – lacks in emotional content he makes up for in visual similarity to the book’s hero. The character is, after all, meant to be young and exceptionally handsome. Mary Murphy is a somewhat over-voluptuous Sonya-clone, and Marian Seldes, an alumnus of Playhouse 90, among other productions, is a very serviceable Dounia double. What gives the movie its bite, however, is the excellent Frank Silvera as the Porfiry counterpart. I don’t suppose any lover of the original novel can be satisfied with this or with any of the other efforts to film so wonderful a book. But this cheesy little sleeper is worth a look.
4:00 a.m. Confidential Agent (1945)
Dir: Herman Shumlin
From Dostoevski to another of my favorite writers. Graham Greene regarded this book as one of his so-called “entertainments”. While it doesn’t have the depth of, say, The Quiet American or The Heart of the Matter, it was Greene’s curse to be unable to produce a novel without some effort on his part to give it value. Here, Warner Brothers sets out the book as a sort of WWII propaganda piece, though the details of the plot don’t involve Nazis or Errol Flynn-ish heroics. Charles Boyer is the “agent” who’s sent from anti-Fascist Spain to England. Once there he’s merely the target of one revoltin’ development after another. To me the plot isn’t the centerpiece anyway. What makes it exciting is the agglomeration of discrete, memorable scenes and the film’s truly remarkable cast. Everyone is on – except, perhaps, Lauren Bacall, who’s a bit too believable as a bitchy spoiled brat. Boyer, George Coulouris, Victor Francen, George Zucco, Dan Seymour – even a mousy Wanda Hendricks – all give assured performances for theatrical director Herman Shumlin. But anyone who’s seen this knows which actors take the prize: You won’t forget Peter Lorre in what James Agee called his “ugly aria of death” or the magnificent and fearsome Katina Paxinou, who chortles bitterly to herself as she mutters what could be her epitaph, “All my life I’ve worked against clever minds . . . but in the end it’s the fools that defeat you . . .”
11:15 p.m. Oscar Wilde (1960)
Dir: Gregory Ratoff
Round the same time this was released, Peter Finch played Oscar Wilde in another English production, The Man with the Green Carnation. It was like Capote and Infamous coming out in the same year. And, as is the case with the two more recent films, you can quite profitably watch both versions. In the Finch movie James Mason plays the great barrister Sir Edward Carson, whose cross-examination of Wilde in the latter’s criminal libel suit against the Marquess of Queensbury destroyed the writer’s life and became the very model of how to discredit a witness. It helps, of course, that Carson had the facts and that Wilde had so prodigiously overrated his own ability to outwit his adversary. In this film Robert Morley is Wilde and Ralph Richardson the ferocious advocate who skewers him. Note that the movie’s director is the actor who played the pill-popping Max Fabian in All About Eve. It’s fairly conventional, but the story of Wilde’s very public fall is still compelling. What has always escaped me is how Wilde could have been so foolish as to initiate these legal proceedings at all, considering the evidence that was so easily obtained against him and the sure knowledge that the defendant would eagerly make use of it. And, of course, there was the further risk of the relatively new English law, providing criminal penalties for “the love that dare not speak its name”. Wilde was made an example of, and two years at hard labor for mousing around with boys was, to some (including the judge who sentenced him), not half example enough. Of course, the glib and facile Wilde produced De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol out of this bitter prison experience. But one can’t help wondering how much more productive he might have been without this fantastic blip on his life’s radar screen. He himself (naturally) said it best, when he commented that suffering deepens a man; it doesn’t make him better.
9:30 p.m. Park Row (1952)
Dir: Samuel Fuller
This is stashed that night among several Sam Fuller movies, all of which have interest. I’ve always had a penchant for this period piece, the rough-and-tumble story of newspaper publishing wars in the rough-and-tumble New York of the 1880s. In essence it’s a valentine from Fuller to himself, a reminder of the days he spent as a reporter. So it’s filled with yak about journalistic integrity, freedom of the press, and all sorts of self-congratulatory speechifying. But in between the tedious moments of righteous Boy-Scout indignation, there’s the makings of a good little movie about a subject that’s probably more American than apple pie. By the finish you may feel like you haven’t gotten as much as you paid for. You may suspect there was a lot more script that went unfilmed. This might be so. Fuller had his own dough in the picture, and he may have shaved off a mess of plot because he just didn’t have the money to finish it. I still like a lot of what’s left. Part of my liking is due to the presence of actress Mary Welch in an unsympathetic role. To a carrion-eater like myself she looks like a choice meal. I wondered what became of her career and was sad to learn she died young, from complications suffered in childbirth. But all this was in an unknown future. The screen lets you hold onto a vision of someone at her liveliest and best. Maybe that’s what I love most about movies.
11:15 a.m. Caged (1950)
Dir: John Cromwell
At one time Hollywood at least made a pretense of responsibility. The 1930s gave us a slew of “social documents”, rough, harsh, and often downbeat. A more sanguine group of films – exploring the heretofore taboo areas of ethnic prejudice – emerged following the war. Instead of bleak, hopeless endings, we were shown at all is not lost, that because we’re the people we’re well able to clean up society’s act. But Caged is one sort of film that is stuck in the old bitches-behind-bars mold. Instead of the sentimental sops of the downtrodden uplifted and the sinner redeemed, the good girl here is transformed by a corrupt and unfeeling prison system into a bad girl. Usually I don’t much go for this theme, unless it’s accompanied by enough nudity and sadistic eroticism to make it stick. Fortunately, the plot is scootered along by some dynamite performances. Agnes Moorhead – of all people – plays the good and decent and intelligent warden who’s unable to save her charges from the Path to Sin. Hope Emerson, a female giant, is the cruel Captain Munsey counterpart who rules with an iron hand that must be greased occasionally with graft. Even Lee Patrick turns up as the Madam seeking out new talent among her co-inmates. In the central part of the wide-eyed pregnant teenager who grows by easily comprehensible degrees into Hard-Hearted Hannah, Eleanor Parker earned an Oscar nomination. Her performance is worthy of the award – but just like the character she plays, luck wasn’t with her. In the same year her co-nominees were Bette Davis and Anne Baxter for All About Eve, Gloria Swanson for Sunset Boulevard, and the eventual winner, Judy Holiday for Born Yesterday.
2:45 a.m. Sinbad the Sailor (1947)
Dir: Richard Wallace
Everything about this movie is wrong. It looks wrong. It sounds wrong. Even the music – fairly standard Roy Webb stuff – is wrong. The actors are wrong. The script is wrong. Its sets are ouchingly sound-stage rejects. The dialogue is over-flowered with Persian camel shit. The performances are too arch. The swashbuckling is too phony. The stunts have no verve. The big scenes no bigness . . . You get the idea. I’ll repeat it anyway: Everything is wrong. Yet . . . not only do I like this nonsense, I’ve always liked it. As stupid and silly as it is – and, brother, when I say it’s wrong I ain’t crackin’ walnuts up my ass – it somehow whips up some lather in the last few reels. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is surely not the athlete his father was, and his bouncy, merry, derring-do seems out of keeping with his screen persona. (Yet he actually was a war hero before he made the film.) But he puts it together for me. Maureen O’Hara is not really required to do much, but what she’s given to do she does right fine, thank you. Anthony Quinn is one long greedy, murderous, smirk – and all the better for it. And the inimitable Walter Slezak . . . well, he finds his life-quest, after all.
All times Eastern midnight to 11:59pm
4th 11:15am THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE (1959 UK USA)
Set in 1777 New Hampshire General Burgoyne (Laurence Olivier) and his British troops moved in on some locals, seizing and hanging one of them. Kirk Douglas plays Richard Dudgeon, the condemned man's son who is now seeking revenge. Burt Lancaster plays a pastor and although fully aware of Dudgeon's situation, the pastor refuses to assist him since he's afraid Dudgeon is in love with his wife.
15th 6am THE SEA GULL (1968 UK USA)
The first of four major plays by Anton Chekhov “The Sea Gull” was written in 1895 and since then it has been adapted many times for both the movie screen and television which leads us to this 1968 version. Set in rural Russia the film details romantic and artistic conflicts among a group of diverse characters. Including leading lady Arkadina (Simone Signoret), her brooding son Konstantin (David Warner) and Nina (Vanessa Redgrave) whose romantic attentions are torn between her and Konstantin and her fascination for Arkadina's lover Trigorin (Robert Mason).
27th AN EVENING WITH DICK TRACY
This evening begins at 8pm with the 1990 version starring Warren Beatty. At 9:55pm Leonard Maltin interviews Warren Beatty while showing film clips tracing the history of the famed comic strip detective. At 10:30pm we see Morgan Conway as Dick Tracy in the 1945 version followed by DICK TRACY vs CUEBALL (1946) also with Morgan Conway. The evening concludes with DICK TRACY'S DILEMMA (1947) at 1am (28th) with Ralph Byrd in the leading role.
30th 2am LA BANDIDA (1963 Mexico)
Representing one of the last films of Mexico's Golden Age of Cinema, this film is set during the 1912 Mexican Revolution. During a lull in the revolution Roberto Herrara (Pedro Armendariz) returns home to see his wife (Maria Felix) in bed with another man. In his rage he kills the man and leaves his wife who then returns back to her life as a prostitute. Later she realizes she is still in love with Roberto and now seeks ways of winning him back..
30th 6am MAYA (19660
13-year-old Terry (Jay North) joins his father (Clint Walker) in India and notices how subdued his father is, not realizing he had a near fatal attack with a tiger. Later while Terry was taming a cheetah his father unexpectedly killed it. Angry, Terry runs away and meets up with an Indian boy who is out looking for a white elephant so as to fulfill his father's dying request. Terry decides to join in this adventure with the Indian boy.
Thurday July 5, 8 pm Eastern
Ace In The Hole (1951)
In order to get the scoop of the year and put his career back in full swing small town, super-sized ego reporter, Burt Lancaster, puts the life of a local miner in jeopardy. Slick, stinging and spot on in term of its portrait of contemporary media - and human nature.
Friday July 6, 3:45 pm Eastern
Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Bizarre, absurd plot about Communists brainwashing a former Korean War POW into becoming an assassin. Best in its examination of the moral depravity behind political spin. And a devastatingly sordid Angela Lansbury is the queen of the fable.
Thursday July 12, 6:45 am Eastern
Old Aquaintance (1943)
Small but interesting film about a couple of female writers who, though friends since childhood, don't really like each other. Bette Davis and "she was a real bitch", Miriam Hopkins.
Thursday July 19, 4:30 am Eastern
The Magnificent Andersons (1947)
We'll never know just how magnificent this severely cut Orson Welles film might have been. But this version still unwinds like a splendid excess slowly disintegrating.
Tuesday July 24, 10:15 am
Strangers On A Train (1951)
Farley Granger squirmed well did't he? Hitchcock paired him with Robert Walker in this tepid crime melodrama. The play between the two leads and Robert Burke's camerawork make this a Hitch standout.
super-sized ego reporter, Burt Lancaster, puts the life of a local miner in jeopardy
You meant Kirk Douglas.
Given the conjunction of their careers, an understandable mistake.
Always thought this film was a little (no - a lot) Hollywood for me. With Kirk trying too hard to get the emotions right while the totally predictable film just ambles along.
If it's predictable now it's only because others followed its lead -- and it's not so predictable.
As for its ambling along . . . only a David Lynch-ite could come to such a conclusion.
Saw Kurt but typed Burt. Sorry. et has a point. Its length work does against it.
et has no point.
et's head is up et's ass.
One of my favorite Angela Lansbury films. Old blue eyes is actually good in this one, too.
Play some Solitare, Raymond...
As far as I know, only the 2010 Blu Ray release will upconvert the 1.77-1 on 16x9 TVs. The older standard DVD will not upconvert the widescreen picture, but will upconvert the pan and scan version. (It's a 2 sided disc.)
1 Sunday 2am Umberto D--Italian pensioner, dog, and unmarried pregnant maid in post war Italy.
13 Friday 11pm Shock Corridor--my Samuel Fuller film of the bunch. Journalist gets admitted into the bughouse to unmask a murderer. Powerful melodrama with raw impact. Imaginative photography by Stanley Cortez.
15 Sunday 12 pm The Films of George Melies--17 shorts, Scorsese sites him as an influence on Hugo.
26 Thursday 8:30pm Jim Thorpe, All American--Burt Lancaster plays an American Indian who goes on to the Olympics and wins medals only to be stripped of them for playing baseball later. I haven't seen this in a while, and wonder if it still holds interest, probably does.
30 Monday 12 noon Mysterious Island--one of my fave Harryhausen, a giant crab is hard to beat.