**** REMEMBER: ALL TIMES EASTERN **** and **** TCM's DAY RUNS FROM 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 a.m. ****
3:30 p.m. Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)
Dir: Michael Gordon
The problem, of course, is the print. The last time TCM broadcast this the film was unbearable. Worse, the sound was fuzzy and hard to make out. It's as if the station had run out to the local 99-Cent Store for a cheap DVD and decided to show that. My own laserdisc is rife with pops and scratches, but it's a Criterion restoration compared to what may greet you if you try to watch this. Yet try you must. Though some of the supporting actors leave much to be desired and Brian Hooker's translation of the Rostand play is mercilessly abridged, there still remains Jose Ferrer's classic, Oscar-winning impersonation of the great poet, soldier, playwright, and swordsman who livened history in the days of Richelieu. It's a magnificent performance. That the film has been allowed to disintegrate into its present state is a sorrowful commentary on Hollywood's (dis)respect for its own history.
12:00 p.m. Between Two Worlds (1944)
Dir: Edward A. Blatt
A lame version of Sutton Vane's Outward Bound, itself filmed in the '30s. This time round it gets a superior Warner Brothers mounting and adds a dollop of WWII -- though it's actually quite surprising how little of the war finds its way into the picture. The cast is terrific and, indeed, brings to the table most of the stuff worth eating. I used to be fonder of these fantasy films than I am now. This one, at least, is not one of those gentle, hopeful tales -- like, say, Here Comes Mr. Jordan or A Matter of Life and Death or even Angel on My Shoulder -- that otherwise graced the '40s. This time round we see there's very real reason to fear death and the afterlife.
10:30 p.m. A Walk in the Sun (1945)
Dir: Lewis Milestone
Among the most highly regarded WWII films when I was growing up, it drove me to read the Harry Brown novel it came from. Known for its absence of false heroics -- you can readily see it's not the standard garden-variety propaganda movie. But it still hasn't worn well. It's too poetic, too artificial, too alien to our sense of what's real -- or, at least, what's likely -- to please an audience today. I know all this, but the movie is too much a part of my life to give it up. Some passages are impressed too deeply in my memory, and the cast was always a fine one. But it's probably a safe bet only for those who already have enough familiarity with Hollywood's WWII product to appreciate how different it is. Otherwise I suspect you'll struggle to like it, feeling you owe it some sort of respect for its effort, but will be bored even before the troops land in sunny Italy. The available prints are not all that dandy either.
10:30 p.m. Saint Joan (1957)
Dir: Otto Preminger
One of the great influences in my reading and listening life was Shaw's play and Siobhan McKenna's performance of it. He wrote it not long after Joan was canonized, and he adopted a controversial approach to the subject. Instead of accepting the standard view of her judges as corrupt and bigoted and partisan, he draws a sympathetic characterization of Cauchon and even of the Duke of Warwick. They were just men who acted according to their lights, he says, just guys who happened to find themselves on the wrong side of history. However true that may have been, history still confirms that they ran a kangaroo court where Joan the Maid stood no chance of winning. What Shaw gives them is the chance to have their say -- to put their case to us, all the while showing how a young peasant girl of unquestionable genius could be destroyed by those two immense forces, the Church and the Law. At full length -- even drastically cut -- Saint Joan is one of Shaw's great theatrical arguments and almost assuredly his finest play. But by the time it was brought to the screen by Otto Preminger -- with no less a writer than Graham Greene to author the script -- the very things that gave a special something to Shaw's material were gone, cut out by filmmakers fearful that no audience would sit through the prodigious loquacity of the original. I can't say I blame them. But what's left when you take out the guts of the play? Preminger tries to fill the lacunae with a handful of interesting performances by a truly wonderful cast. But he puts an impossible load on his young star, who was the celebrated "discovery" of a nationwide search for the right girl to play the eponymous heroine. Poor Jean Seberg is a lovely girl and she tries her best, but she's simply not up to it. So not only are the guts of the play gone, but its heart as well. The actors are left like dogs circling the same hydrant, wondering which of them will piss first. Considering that the picture tanked at the box-office and was one of the disasters of Preminger's career, he might as well have stayed with Shaw's version and taken the risk. He couldn't have done worse. Some nifty Saul Bass titles, though.
2:00 a.m. Le proces de Jeanne d'Arc (1962)
Dir: Robert Bresson
Four Joan of Arc films in a row -- this and the one above, interspersed with Victor Fleming's version and the great classic by Carl Theodore Dreyer. There's even an outlandish over-the-top moment of Hedy Lamarr as Joan at the stake in The Story of Mankind, on TCM right after this . If you have only an hour to spend you can see this precis by Robert Bresson. As usual he has a cast of non-professionals and, as usual, is what is called "austere" in his rendering of the subject. This is a very un-Shavian approach. No question arises about the impartiality of Joan's judges or her treatment in prison. Despite the Bressonian bleaching of human emotion, we know how he feels about his heroine. I rather like this little film. The absence of pizzazz makes it all the more interesting.
There's plenty of high-cholestrol shit all month long, but here's my one to grow on.
10:15 p.m. Caught (1949)
Dir: Max Ophuls
The story goes that Robert Ryan's superb performance as the neurotic millionaire was modeled on Howard Hughes, who'd taken over the studio and, the moment he had control of it, lost interest and let it sink into a shit-hole from which it was never to climb out. Who knows? Hollywood is so begrimed with inside poop and roman a clef anecdotes that I've long since given up trying to parse my way through truth and nonsense. And I was born in Hollywood! No matter what you choose to believe, this movie has the distinction of having been directed by Max Ophuls himself -- and I mean himself! Theatrical wonder Barbara bel Geddes, the original Maggie the Cat in Broadway's first production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, is the innocent girl who falls within Ryan's grasp. He's so fucking psycho he would turn any woman permanently against dick. The masculine world is somewhat redeemed by James Mason as a sympathetic doctor.
I tivo-ed Cyrano de Bergerac to see whether TCM had found a better print than the one it showed last time.
It was better, though still awful. But the sound was much improved.
5 Saturday - 2:00 am - Road Games
Road Games mixes a few of my favorite things. These are Australian genre films of the late 70s and early 80s, be it Mad Max or BMX Bandits, young n hot Jamie Lee Curtis, road-set thrillers, and prime-of-his-life Stacy Keach.
12 Saturday - 2:15 am - Repo Man
God, I love REPO MAN. It’s one of the weirdest, funniest most bizarre movies ever.
19 Saturday - 2:00 am - The Boogens (1981, d. James L. Conway, w. Jim Kouf and David O'Malley from a story by Thomas C. Chapman)
Wow, that's a lot of writing credits for a glorified monster-in-the-basement movie. Kouf went on to write Secret Admirer, The Hidden, and Stakeout; he was also a producer on Con Air, which means he's eligible for knighthood.
26 Saturday - 2:00 am - Carnival Magic
One of the most inexplicable movies ever made. I've only seen this once, but I remember being stunned how thoroughly this so-called family film lived down to its reputation. I could try to explain how this heartwarming tale of a kind carnival magician and his talking monkey goes way, way wrong, but you really need to see this thing yourself.
5 Saturday - 3:45 am - The Wages of Fear
Wages of Fear is one of the greatest films you're ever likely to see. Yves Montand is amazing.
(my times are Central, I assume you'll check your local listings)
Saturday 5 11pm Fugitive from a Chain Gang--veteran faces hard labor.
Saturday 19 1pm Moby Dick--man battles fish, and it's a whopper, I think we need a bigger boat.
Sunday 20 2:45 Sleeper--Lighten up, it's slapstick Woody Allen.
Wed 23. 12:30pm Shock Corridor--Sam Fuller reporter tries to solve murder in asylum.
Thur. 31 3pm Trapeze--Burt Lancaster/Tony Curtis fall for same girl, I hope there's a net.
I decided to mostly list movies I haven't seen (or seen in a long time), so for most of them I can't speak to their quality. You've been warned. Times and dates are lifted from the TCM website, so all times are Eastern and days go from 6am to 6am. If only I had TCM....
6 Sunday 8:00 AM
A British family survives war and changing times. Cast: Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, Una O'Connor. Dir: Frank Lloyd. BW-112 mins, , CC
Not on DVD, best picture Oscar winner for 1933. Haven't seen.
7 Monday 12:00 AM
Uninvited, The (1944)
A brother and sister buy a house with a ghostly secret. Cast: Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp. Dir: Lewis Allen. BW-99 mins, TV-PG, CC
Not on DVD. Haven't seen.
20 Sunday 6:15 AM
A glamorous film star rebels against the studio, her pushy press agent and a family of hangers-on. Cast: Jean Harlow, Lee Tracy, Frank Morgan. Dir: Victor Fleming. BW-96 mins, TV-G, CC
Not on DVD. I haven't seen this, but I like the trashy qualities of Jean Harlow.
24 Thursday 10:00 PM
Mmmmm... Garbo. And Lubitsch. Saw this as a kid and remember it as being very funny.
30 Wednesday 8:00 PM
Ministry Of Fear (1944)
When hidden microfilm comes into his possession, an innocent man is drawn into espionage. Cast: Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, Dan Duryea. Dir: Fritz Lang. BW-87 mins, TV-PG
Not on DVD, directed by Fritz Lang. Haven't seen.
Bonus: Sunday the 13th from 9.30am to 3.15am. Nothing but interesting movies.
Haven't seen The Uninvited, eh?
If only you had TCM.
I thought TCM was one of the basic channels that are supplied with any pay TV -- which include far more options than just watching classic films.
If it's a matter of not wanting to spend the dough on cable or satellite service, then I agree with you. It's not worth the extra $50/mo.
I don't blame you. I'm lucky that my basic satellite package includes TCM and -- I'm delirious to say -- the NHL network. Because of FMC I came across a bob-bon from my past, The Mudlark.
IFC swandived -- (swandove ?) -- into the shit-pit when it added commercials. I suppose it was only to be expected once its GM started justifying the ads the station jammed onto movies' ending credits.