Thursday, October 20, 2016

I haven't embedded a Robert Benchley short before

Of course, there are a couple of reasons I haven't done it. First is that those Robert Benchley shorts are an acquired taste. As with the Pete Smith shorts, the humor can be grating, although in a different way. When I watch a Robert Benchley short, I find he can come across as an obnoxious blowhard at times, the sort of person you want to see get his comeuppance. And that's not always funny.

Then, there's the fact that the shorts aren't in the public domain yet. I think it's only stuff from before 1923 that's guaranteed to be in the public domain, at least here in the States. That means the shorts could get taken down at any time. The last copyright change about 15 years ago was responsible for that. Cynics would say that it got changed so Disney could keep Steamboat Willie from entering the public domain. (I'd tend to side with the cynics.)

Having said that, Benchley's How to Vote is on TCM tomorrow at about 1:30 PM, following Torchy Runs For Mayor (12:30 PM, 60 min); several of the Torchy movies are on as part of a salute to Glenda Farrell. (This even though her birthday is in June.) How to Vote doesn't seem to be on Youtube, but others, such as How to Eat, are:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

It's still around, and somebody's actually thinking

I remember at the beginning of 2012 writing about the change from the Fox Movie Channel to the format where half the day was "FXM" and the other half still had the old movies without commercials. I wrote something about giving that six months before it disappeared. Well, here it is closing in on five years, and amazingly, the corporate folks haven't done much of anything, other than change the format name from the Fox Movie Channel to FXM Retro. Sure they have a ridiculous number of repeats, but that was always the case even when it was the Fox Movie Channel 24 hours a day.

And sometimes I wonder whether there's actually somebody thinking when the movies are programmed. Take today's schedule. Starting at 6:00 AM we get A Letter to Three Wives, which is certainly a classic and a good movie for them to be running.

That's followed at 7:45 AM by 23 Paces to Baker Street, with Van Johnson playing a blind playwright overhearing a kidnapping plot and trying to prove it's actually going to happen. I've got that one on my DVR and should have watched it over the weekend so I could do a full-length post here. (I've read, however, by somebody else who watched a recent FXM Retro showing that the print is panned-and-scanned. Not a surprise.)

Then at 9:30 AM there's These Thousand Hills; The Story on Page One comes up at 11:15, and finally we have Five Weeks in a Balloon at 1:15 PM.

I assume you see the commonality. Somebody must have taken a look at the movies available to FXM Retro currently and decided, "Hey! All of these have numbers in the title! Let's run them together!" They did the same thing not so long ago with movies with colors in the title.

So perhaps FXM Retro will still be around a while longer. And perhaps I'll get around to watching 23 Paces to Baker Street before the next showing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Trailblazing repeats

Well, I don't think the Trailblazing Women series is repeating movies they ran earlier in the month or last year, but I notice that some of tonight's lineup is interesting movies I've blogged about before. Tonight's schedule seems to be on minority women breaking barriers, co-hosted by Rita Moreno, although I don't recall who appears in the first selection, In This Our Life at 8:00 PM. (I recall the young black man who wants to become a lawyer, but which actress played his mother I'd have to look up.)

At 12:30 AM there's Picadilly. This is a very enjoyable silent featuring Anna May Wong, who certainly was trailblazing, as one of the first successful Asian-American actresses.

That's followed at 2:30 AM by Bright Road, featuring Dorothy Dandridge as a black schoolteacher; there's another woman who was a trailblazer. She was also the first black person to be nominated for an Oscar in the leading (not Supporting) acting categories, when she was nominated for Carmen Jones in 1954).

Finally, something that has nothing to do with trailblazing women but is worth another watch: The Case Against the 20% Federal Admissions Tax on Motion Picture Theatres, which follows Bright Road at about 3:48 AM.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The birthday salute TCM should be running

TCM spent a good portion of this morning showing several of Rita Hayworth's films, as today is the anniversary of her birth in 1918. Interestingly, today happens to be one of those days when there are multiple births of big stars of the studio era. In addition to Hayworth, there's Montgomery Clift and Jean Arthur.

Now to be fair, there are only so many days in a year so it should be unsurprising that some stars would share the same birthday. But I find when I can't think of something to do a post on and look at the people born on this day, I don't come up with three such big names. I didn't even mention the more current people; IMDb's "Most Popular" list of October 17 birthdays only has Hayworth at #7, one spot behind Eminem.

And there are some relatively well-known supporting stars too. From the world of TV there's Tom Poston; from movies there's Spring Byington. But I also note that today is the 99th birthday of the still living Marsha Hunt. Hunt started her career in Hollywood back in the mid-1930s, and had an active career playing supporting roles for the most part until the McCarthy era and the blacklist came along. For whatever reason, she fell afoul of it, and there went her movie career, more or less. I'd love to recommend her role in Kid Glove Killer, where she's the female lead opposite Van Heflin, but it doesn't seem to be on DVD. Anyhow, since she worked at MGM, it would probably be easier for TCM to round up a bunch of her movies for a birthday tribute. Maybe for her centenary next year.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Anyone up for one more piece on Andrzej Wajda

I posted about Radio Poland's retrospective piece on Polish director Andrzej Wajda, who died last Sunday aged 90. However, it turns out that when he was preparing to make Katyn, he did an interview with Radio Slovakia, and Radio Slovakia International's English Section ran that on their program on Thursday. The interview is in translation, since Wajda gave it in Polish; I have no idea what if any other languages he spoke.

Unfortunately, Radio Slovakia only has full-length programs available for downloading or listening live, not individual features within the programs. Thursday's program is available for listening live here; I don't know how long their programs are available for listening. If you want to download and listen to the whole program at your convience, you'd click on the Stiahnuť audio súbor link below the media player. That's a ~12.8 MB MP3 file running just about 27 minutes; the Wajda interview comes third after the news and a memorial to the country's recently-deceased first president. (Slovakia, you may recall, only became an independent country in 1993.)

And if you're interested in listening to them on a regular basis, they have an RSS feed for their program here and more information about other ways to listen here.

A Page of Madness

This week's Silent Sunday Nights movie is also a TCM Import, although there's going to be a real Import following: A Page of Madness, tonight at midnight.

This one is really hard to rate. The movie contains a lot of images that are a bit jarring, until we learn that we're watching a mental institution. One of the women has a husband who is working at the institution as a janitor. And the two of them have a daughter who wants to get married. It turns out that the man is working there because he's trying to get his wife out of the institution. But does she really want to leave?

It's a hard movie to follow, in part because of the subject matter; I get the impression that the director wanted audiences to feel a bit uncomfortable and confused watching. But the bigger problem is that this is a Japanese silent movie. The tradition in Japan, as I mentioned earlier this year, was to have somebody called a benshi explaining what was going on up on screen. A benshi, presumably, would be explaining things that in western silent films would have been explained by intertitles, and explaining them while the action was going on up on the screen. And indeed, A Page of Madness is lacking in intertitles. With a benshi around, it would probably be less difficult to figure out what's going on in this movie. But as is, it's a very frustrating watch.

It probably doesn't help either that the movie was considered lost for decades and was only found again in the early 1970s, and is thought to have some material missing. I don't know how much any missing material (other than that benshi) would have helped explain the plot, however. Watch and judge for yourself.

As far as I can tell, A Page of Madness hasn't received a DVD release, so you'll have to catch the TCM showing.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

RFD Greenwich Village

TCM is running the short RFD Greenwich Village as part of its TCM Underground slot, sometime between 5:15 AM and 6:00 AM. TCM lists two shorts and has both beginning at 5:15 AM, so as is often the case when they run blocks of shorts, who knows what time the short you want is going to begin?

The short is listed as an advertisement for corduroy clothing; I still haven't watched it. I remember having corduroy pants growing up, but never wore corduroy jackets, thankfully. A couple of people have put the short up on Youtube; I didn't watch all of them to see which one is the best quality:

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pierre Étaix, 1928-2016

French clown and sometimes actor Pierre Étaix has died at the age of 87. He didn't make too many feature films, and the ones he did make got held up in rights limbo for decades until a few years ago.

Of the films Étaix made, I've only seen the feature Yoyo, and the short Heureux anniversaire. Late last month as part of the monthlong TCM Spotlight on slapstick, they ran his later movie Le Grand Amour. I DVRed that but haven't gotten around to watching it yet.

I hope TCM can get one of his movies for an Imports slot to do a tribute to him.

For the Bowery Boys fans

I've mentioned several times how TCM has been running Bowery Boys movies in the Saturday just before noon time slot. Well, this week, things are a bit different. TCM is showing The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters at 10:45 AM tomorrow. But Friday night's prime time lineup is comic horror, in line with the October theme of lots of horror. So in fact we get six Bowery Boys movies with horror overtones.

Well, technically I think only four of them are the Bowery Boys. The first two, Spooks Run Wild at 4:30 AM and Ghosts on the Loose at 5:45 AM, are from before the Bowery Boys were called the Bowery Boys; I think they were still the East Side Kids at the time. Not that they were kids either by this point, but that's another story too.

Anyhow, I don't think I've seen any of these six movies, so I can't do a full-length post on any of them. I still have more stuff I've watched from the DVR that I should comment on.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Racing shorts

The programming theme on TCM tomorrow morning and afternoon is automobile racing. Somebody had the good sense to program shorts about racing, too, although none of them involve automobile racing. (To be fair, one does involve motorized bikes.)

First up, at about 7:15 AM, will be the 1935 short Crew Racing. With a date and a title like that, my first instinct was that it's a Pete Smith short, and sure enough, that turns out to be the case. Having said that, the full title according to IMDb has it as A Sports Parade Subject: Crew Racing. That makes it sound a bit more serious than a lot of the Pete Smith shorts, although I think the earlier shorts actually did cover more serious (or real-world, at least) subjects. It's just that they had Pete Smith's commentary.

Next up is Dirt Track Racing, at 12:34 PM. This one is dated 1957, which immediately made me think "RKO Sportscope". Once again, I was right. I don't think I've seen this one, which according to IMDb's information was filmed in Austria and looks at dirt bike racing over there.

Finally, at about 4:19 PM tomorrow is Grandad of Races. I could swear I blogged about this, but perhaps it's the spelling of "Grandad" throwing off my searches. This one is about a horse race in a city square in Siena, Italy, a race which apparently was a tradition. Actually, it still is being held twice every year.