Tomorrow is September 1, which means a new month and new programming features on TCM. One of these is Alfred Hitchcock running much of the day on each of the five Sundays in September. This includes several of the silents, which I'm not certain have aired on TCM before. It's also going to include the one film from Hitchcock's American career that I don't think has ever been on TCM before, Lifeboat. (Lifeboat, in fact, is getting two airings; one on a Sunday and one as a TCM Essential.) But, before that, the month is kicking off tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM with Hitchcock's 1930 British flim Murder!
The movie opens up with the titular murder. Or, at least, just after the murder. Diana Baring (played by Norah Baring) is an actress who is at the scene, and that, combined with circumstantial evidence, is enough to put her in a very sticky situation when it comes time for the trial. Sir John Menier (Herbert Marshall) is the foreman of the jury, and he's not quite comfortable with the idea of convicting Baring on circumstantial evidence, especially in a case that carries the death penalty. However, in a jury-room scene in which Hitchcock experiments with sound by having the other jurors repeating "What do you think of that, Sir John?", Sir John gets worn down, eventually voting to convict. Poor Diana
But, in that old movie trope, somebody who's had a part in convicting a defendant just isn't so sure of the defendant's guilt, and tries to solve the case himself! Now, in real life, there's no good reason why somebody trained as an actor like Sir John ought to be able to find the real murderer, and certainly not in the fashin he does. More likely to do it would be a journalist like the one Rex Harrison played in the recently-mentioned Storm in a Teacup. But if it weren't for Sir John, we wouldn't have a story. Needless to say, Sir John solves the case, just before the planned execution (oh, there's another trope; the just-in-time rescue). It should be pointed out that unlike a lot of Hitchcock's later work, Murder! is a mystery, and not a suspense thriller. In later movies such as Saboteur, we know pretty darn early who the bad guy is; here, we don't find out until close to the end.
This is a very early Hitchcock sound film, so he, like all directors, was working out the difficulties of filming a talking picture. For the most part, that's not where any problems this movie has lie. In fact, the aforementioned scene in the jury room, and one that has Sir John's thoughts audible while he was silent to anybody in the scene are inventive for 1930, if incredibly pedestrian today. (Actually, the jury room scene could easily be seen as a timeless message about bullying. Some things never seem to change.) If the movie has problems, it's in the script. The murderer's motivation is silly, since it had to be changed from the original story and play on which the movie is based. And the murderer's confession seems a little too convenient.
Murder! is available on DVD, in several releases.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Tomorrow is September 1, which means a new month and new programming features on TCM. One of these is Alfred Hitchcock running much of the day on each of the five Sundays in September. This includes several of the silents, which I'm not certain have aired on TCM before. It's also going to include the one film from Hitchcock's American career that I don't think has ever been on TCM before, Lifeboat. (Lifeboat, in fact, is getting two airings; one on a Sunday and one as a TCM Essential.) But, before that, the month is kicking off tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM with Hitchcock's 1930 British flim Murder!
Friday, August 30, 2013
TCM's annual Summer Under the Stars concludes tomorrow with a day of movies starring Rex Harrison. You've probably seen the Word of Mouth piece in which Andrew Lloyd Webber gushes about My Fair Lady, but I'd rather mention a movie from much earlier in Harrison's career: Storm in a Teacup, which is airing at 7:45 AM tomorrow.
Harrison plays Frank Burdon, a reporter from England who's going up to Scotland to work for a newspaper there and write some stories about the Scottish political situation. On the ferry to the small, isolated Scottish town of Baikie, he has a chance meeting with Victoria Gow (Vivien Leigh). As you can guess from such a chance meeting, the two characters are going to have a more significant interaction later in the film; since it's a meeting between a man and a woman, you wouldn't be far off if you guess that there's also going to be romance involved, with some complications along the way. Some of those problems come about because Victoria is the daughter of the local Provost (roughly equivalent to a Mayor, played by Cecil Parker).
Frank gets a story almost as soon as he steps off the ferry. Popular resident Mrs. Hegarty (Sara Allgood, a veteran character actress on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1930s) has had her dog caught by animal control. Unfortunately, Hegarty isn't able to pay the license fee for her dog. And since this isn't the first time it's happened, the Provost is insistent that Hegarty be punished. The really bad thing is that the punishment involves confiscation of her dog, with the dog eventually to be put down. Frank has a great human interest story to write about.
Needless to say, this makes things difficult for Frank, Victoria, and the Provost. Frank hadn't intended to do aything particularly antagonistic toward the Provost, but he's got a good story, and there isn't any way he's going to let a good story get away. Once Frank discovers that Victoria is the Provost's daughter, and she discovers that he's the reporter writing scandalous things about her father, it understandably puts a crimp in their relationship. And as for the Provost, he has ideas of higher office; the Scottish National Party wants to run him for a seat in the House of Commons in an upcoming by-election. But siding against Hegarty and her beloved dog is a sure-fire electoral loser. He should have tried stealing candy from babies instead.
Storm in a Teacup has the feel of something Frank Capra might have directed, if he'd emigrated to the UK instead of the US. There's a good mix of comedy and drama, with a plot that very obviously places our sympathies with the little guy. Ah, but what a story! The romance between Frank and Victoria may be a bit predictable, but the dog story is the dominant and more interesting story. Even if you know it's got to have a happy ending, the way there is still well worth the watch. It doesn't hurt that all of the actors -- both human and canine -- turn in appealing performances. Storm in a Teacup is a winner on all levels.
Storm in a Teacup has received a DVD release, but I don't think it's currently in print.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Martin Ritt is generally known for his work as a director, and of course that reputation is well deserved. Maximilian Schell, on the other hand, is known for his work as an actor, and that reputation is well deserved, too. However, the two switched roles for the movie The End of the Game. It's airing tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 PM on the Fox Movie Channel, with a couple more airings in September.
The movie starts with an expository scene set about 30 years in the past, in Istanbul just after the end of World War II. Hans Baerlach (Ritt) and Richard Gastmann (Robert Shaw) are two young Swiss men who are involved with a young lady. Gstmann lures the woman onto a bridge, where she either falls accidentally, or is pushed by him. Baerlach is convinced it's the latter, since he knows he saw it with his own eyes. However, he can't prove it, and for Gastmann, that's the point Gastmann returns to Switzerland and becomes a prominent businessman; Baerlach returns and becomes a police detective.
Fast forward 30 years. Baerlach has wanted to get Gastmann all this time, but has never been able to pin anything on him. Meanwhile, he's also developed some sort of illness that's probably a terminal case of stomach cancer, but the actual ailment is never actually named. A policeman gets killed in his private car not far from Gastmann's estate, and Baerlach is convinced that Gastmann is responsible. Obviously there has to be an investigation, and Baerlach is given younger detective Walter Tschanz (Jon Voight) as a partner to determine who the actual murderer is.
At this point the movie starts to get murky, and that's a shame since the movie is only about a third of the way through if that much. Tschanz visits the dead policeman's girlfriend, and Irishwoman named Crawley (Jacqueline Bisset) who seems to have gotten around. Tschanz proceeds to sleep with the woman he's supposed to be interviewing, even though this certainly must violate all sorts of police protocol. Baerlach gets the impression that Gastmann is still trying to torment him, which is of course true. Gastmann even arranges for another murder at the airport that Baerlach and Tschanz won't be able to solve. Meanwhile, the two detectives spar over their view of who killed the policeman.
All of this ought to lead to a really good movie, but instead what we get is just a mediocre mishmash. The plot has a lot to do with this; there often doesn't seem to get from point A to point B to point C, and the ending is even more wrong. Bisset isn't given much to do but is OK at it; Shaw and Voight are given more to do and are about as good as Bisset. Ritt, though, actually acquits himself quite well as an actor, portraying an extremely sympathetic character who knows fully well that he's dying, and dammit, he wants to solve this one last case and deal with his lifelong adversary. The film should be technically better, too, but then perhaps it only needs a restoration: FMC ran a pan-and-scan print the last time they showed the movie. The End of the Game was filmed on location in Switzerland, and ought to look lovely. But there's so much mist, and he panning-and-scanning makes everything look grainy.
There are two high points though. In addition to Ritt are two other men who aren't generally known as actors. One is Friedrich Dürrenmatt, who wrote the novel on which the movie is based. (He also wrote the play that was turned into the movie The Visit.) He plays "The Author". Even though it's a throwaway scene full of elliptical dialogue, it's nice to see the man show up on screen. The other is virtuoso violinist Pinchas Zuckerman, who is credited as "The Violinist". I think he only gets a couple of background scenes playing the violin, and not one line of dialogue. Another person it's nice to see doing his thing.
Amazon lists The End of the Game as having received a DVD release in Europe, but not in North America.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 2:52 PM
A week and a half ago, I mentioned the short Hot News Margie, which had aired the previous weekend. It's on the schedule again today, at about 1:50 PM, just after Fly Away Baby (which begins at 12:45 PM). Hot News Margie is actually an appropriate short to air here, being about a female reporter. It seems to me that increasingly TCM is repeating shorts multiple times over a short period. I've noticed it with quite a few of the "making of" featurettes, as I mentioned recently regarding one called Filmmaking on the Riviera.
At any rate, Hot News Margie is airing between two of the Torchy Blane movies, since TCM is honoring Glenda Farrell today in Summer Under the Stars. However, they're showing all seven of Farrell's Torchy movies back to back, starting at 12:45 PM with Fly Away Baby and continuing until Smart Blonde airs at 8:00 PM. None of them are on DVD, as far as I know, so it's good that they get another aiirng. But I don't think I could watch all seven in one go.
Somewhat more surprising is that TCM says The Mystery of the Wax Museum, which is airing at 9:15 PM, is not available to purchase from the TCM shop. I could have sworn it was available on DVD, and in fact it seems to be an extra on the DVD of 1953's House of Wax; I guess that DVD must be out of print.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 7:42 AM
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
There are a lot of movies out there that have some substantial flaws, but are still quite interesting. One of them that showed up recently on the Fox Movie Channel is The Day the Fish Came Out. As with a lot of FMC's programming, it's been getting multiple airings while it's in the rotation. Another airing comes up tomorrow morning at 11:15 AM, with a further two airings in September.
The movie starts off with a bit of exposition about how last year, an unexploded atomic bomb washed up on the short of a Spanish town, and how this led to people from all over the world came to visit, making the town famous. Then we get the opening titles, which look reminiscent of what you'd see in a James Bond movie. (In fact, the titles were designed by Maurice Binder, who did the titles for several of the Bond films.) This is no coincidence: our film is part thriller, and part spoof of the whole James Bond thing -- there were a lot of spy spoofs in addition to the serious movies back in the 1960s. But our story isn't really about that Spanish town. Instead, it's a film set in the near-future: the movie was released in 1967 but set in 1972, and will be about the Greek islands, if you couldn't figure that our from all the Greek names in the opening credits. A married tourist couple is looking for a place that doesn't have much tourism, and the primitive computer suggests the island of Kamos.
Meanwhile, a British fighter plane is doing exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, when it experiences technical problems. This forces the pilot (Colin Blakely) and navigator (Tom Courtenay) to ditch the plane. That's bade enough, but the plane also had three nuclear weapons on it: two traditional bombs, and a new device code-named Q. They know the circus that's going to happen if news of the plane going down and their bombs being discovered becomes public. But, they have a slight problem: while they're able to swim to the island, it's only in their underwear. How are they going to explain to the authorities without causing an international incident how they wound up on this island? And how are they going to get control of the nuclear devices if they're having to remain more or less in hiding?
Unbeknownst to them, the British military command back in London is already on the case. They want to get to Kamos to retrieve the weapns, but without arousing any suspicion. The scheme they come up with is wanting to buy land on a Greek island to build a tourist resort. Only it's going to be a very gay-friendly tourist resort, because the all-male special ops forces who show up on the island with the real motive of looking for those nukes are wearing bizarre outfits that look as though they've just finished marching in a 1970s vintage Gay Pride parade. (Some of the IMDb commenters suggest these outfits are supposed to be futuristic, but the other non-Greeks in the movie don't wear such bizarre outfits.) You'd think that if they wanted to keep from attracting attention to themselves, they'd be a little less flamboyant or something. Sam Wanamaker plays Elias, the head of the special ops.
But, there are a lot of complications. First is that a goatherd and his wife have found Q. It's in a heavy lead box, the lead obviously as shielding from the radiation. They think there must be something valuable in the box, but damded if they know what that something is, and they can't get it open. Second is the locals' willingness to help the "developers" (since of course the locals never have any idea of the real reason for Elias and his men's visit) obtain land for the hotel and make it profitable. They start to build a road to where the British are working, and along the way uncover an ancient statue. This brings the island a notoriety that the British don't want, including archaeologist's assistant Electra (a young Candice Bergen) and a whole lot of tourists. Meanwhile, the two pilots are still trying to stay out of the way, not realizing that the "developers" are actually on the island looking for them.
It's all an interesting premise. And, for the most part, it works reasonably well. But there are some serious problems. Right from the start there's a plot hole in that I can't think of any realistic circumstance that would have had the two pilots making it to the island in just their undies. If they ejected from their plane, you'd think they'd still have their flight suits on. There's also a plot hole of how the island can cater to all the tourists that suddenly come once the ancient statue is discovered. There was no tourist infrastructure on the island before all of this; where do all the tourists stay? The bigger problem is that the movie often can't decide what sort of film it wants to be. There are elements of a thriller here, mixed in with elements of fairly broad comedy: it's not just comic relief as in the James Bond movies. And there's a romance between Electra and one of Elias' men (Ian Ogilvy) thrown in for good measure. The movie also has an ending that's rather abrupt and leaves some continuity questions unanswered.
Overall, though, I'd say that The Day the Fish Came Out overcomes all those flaws. On top of that, it's a movie that deserves to be seen once, if only because it's one of those films that needs to be seen to be believed. As far as I'm aware, it's not available at all on DVD, so you'll have to catch the FMC showings. Unfortunately, those showings are (or at least the previous one was) panned-and-scanned.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Joyzelle Joyner trying to seduce Elissa Landi in The Sign of the Cross (1932)
Today marks the birth anniversary of Joyzelle Joyner. Joyner wasn't particularly successful as an actress, with many roles as a dancer and her career in Hollywood winding down by 1935, with an uncredited appearance in Dante's Inferno. But she appeared in two of my favorite pre-Code films, so she deserves a mention.
First is 1930's Just Imagine. In this one, Joyzelle plays a dual role as Loo Loo the Martian queen, and her evil twin Boo Boo. It's a movie I love, because it's so bizarre, but I can see a lot of people not liking it. It only seems to be available on Youtube, which is presumably not an authorized copy. It really deserves a DVD release.
Two years later, Joyzelle appeared in a scene in The Sign of the Cross, in which she dances and tries to lure Elissa Landi away from Landi's virtuous Christianity. What a dance! It has obvious lesbian overtones, and might be more remembered for its shock value if it weren't for the other even more shocking things in the movie, especially Claudette Colbert bathing in that goats' milk bath. (The fact that Elissa Landi doesn't get star billing, even though her character is the female lead, doesn't help either.) This one is on DVD, both as a stand-alone and as part of a box set with some other Cecil B. DeMille movies of the 1930s.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 7:38 AM
Monday, August 26, 2013
One of the Jeanne Crain movies that TCM ran in Summer Under the Stars today that wasn't a premiere is The Fastest Gun Alive. This one she made at MGM, so if you missed it this morning, it's still avilable to purchase on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive. I would have blogged about it earlier, but there were other movies to blog about yesterday, as well as the passing of Julie Harris. (Heck, I kind of wanted to comment about It Happened One Night being included in Essentials Jr. too.)
The movie starts off with a gunfight involving Arizona gang leader Vinnie Harold (Broderick Crawford). He thinks he's the fastest gun alive, and he's not going to take any nonsense from anybody else who claims that they are faster. Well, in this particular town there's somebody else who gets involved in a gunfight with Vinnie, and loses. Cut to the town of Cross Creek. News travels fast, and word of this particular gunfight has reached Cross Creek, with everybody talking about the gunfight. For whatever reason, this really bothers George (Glenn Ford). He's the owner of the town's dry-goods store, and he refuses to carry a gun or drink, which of course brings other people in town to question his manhood.
It turns out there's a good reason George doesn't pack heat. In a past life, he was the fastest gun alive. It made him famous, but also made him an object for other people who wanted to challenge him, reminiscent of Gregory Peck in The Gunsfighter. In fact, George is in Cross Creek with a different name because he's trying to put his past behind him, at the behest of his wife Dora (Jeanne Crain). But with everybody needling George, and with people making up nonsense about fastest guns alive, George finally snaps. He walks into the bar, orders a drink, and shows off how he is, in fact, the real fastest gun out there.
This presents a problem. As I said earlier, news travels fast, so word of George's latest exploits are bound to get out to other towns. In fact, at least one of the town's citizens wrote a letter to somebody back east talking about the exploits. However, it's a Sunday morning, and the mail hasn't gone out, what with Cross Creek being in the middle of nowhere. Although it's George's intent to leave Cross Creek and try to set up a new life with another new identity, the townsfolk like him and are willing to "forget" anything ever happened, and, like a sitcom with no continuity, never again make mention that anything happened.
But, there's a complication. Vinnie has robbed a bank, and he and his gang have made it to Cross Creek on their escape. Although most of the town's citizens are in church, the bartender is being waylaid by Vinnie, and one young boy walks into the bar, which is not the start of a bad joke. Well, maybe it is; the kid accidentally lets slip about George's exploits, and Vinnie wants to know who this guy is who claims to be faster on the draw than he is. And if the townsfolk won't reveal who among them that is, Vinnie is willing to burn the whole town down.
I've stated several times that westerns aren't my favorite genre, but The Fastest Gun Alive isn't a bad movie. Glenn Ford is good enough as the morally conflicted man, while Broderick Crawford brings the same bluster he had in All the King's Men and Born Yesterday to the Old West. The story is good, although it feels a bit slow at times. One scene pads the running time by having Russ Tamblyn, at a town party, do a dance involving shovels among other props. Tamblyn is a good dancer, but the whole dance scene seems incongruous with the rest of the movie. There's also some exposition involving George having daddy issues that I didn't think it was particularly necessary to drive the plot along. The story actually has a logical ending, except that it doesn't seem like something that would have happened in real life. All in all, The Fastest Gun Alive provides a solid 90 minutes of entertainment.
TCM has a short on the schedule early this evening called Constance Bennett's Daily Beauty Ritual, although IMDb says the title is Daily Beauty Rituals. Either way, it's airing a little after 7:50 PM, just after Dangerous Crossing (one of several TCM premieres for Jeanne Crain's day in Summer Under the Stars, although I've recommended a couple of them, including Dangerous Crossing when they showed up over on the Fox Movie Channel) which starts at 6:30 PM.
The short starts with Constance Bennett being waking up in bed, although of course it's a bed in a studio. No way are they getting those massive Technicolor cameras into a private home. The rest of the short is Bennett telling us about her daily routine of applying make-up to make herself look beautiful, because dammit, every woman should look beautiful. Well, of course, Bennett doesn't use the word "dammit"; the folks enforcing the Production Code wouldn't have let her. But that's about all the short is on the face of it.
And yet, watching this brief one-reeler, there's so much defying logic. First, how much make-up was Bennett wearing in the opening scene when she wakes up? Since this is ostensibly a short about her daily ritual, she probably shouldn't have any make-up on, and yet she does. And how much of that make-up is "regular" make-up -- by that I mean the sort of make-up that women watching this short in a theater back in 1937 would have used -- and how much of it is studio make-up necessary for going on camera? A short about the Hollywood make-up artists and their work, using somebody like Bennett as a subject, would have been an interesting historical document? And does she really go through this morning routine? If she's going to be making a movie, shouldn't she go in to the studio without any make-up, so that the make-up appropriate for her role can be applied at the studio? (Unelss of course you're Tootsie, and claim you need to apply your own makeup because you have an allergy to the regular stuff.)
Finally, who had the idea to make this one in the first place, and what was the rationale for making it? Ultimately, the whole short comes across as a curiosity, but also a bit of a head-scratcher. But at least it's a nice one to have left behind.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
TCM has been honoring Clark Gable today as part of its annual Star of the Month programming. Several of the movies they've shown have co-starred Joan Crawford: the two of them, being contract players at MGM in the 1930s, were repeatedly paired by the studio bosses. In fact, the two made eight pictures together, and the last of those eight, Strange Cargo, is airing at midnight.
Joan Crawford plays Julie, a brassy woman who shows up on an island where there is a prison colony. On the ship to the island, she's met Verne (Clark Gable), who is actually a prisoner being transported to the island. He tries to escape; she turns him in. Some relationship. Anyhow, Julie is presumably a woman of ill repute, and the authorities don't want her around. The only person who can help her is Monsieur Pig (Peter Lorre), who just oozes dirty creep from every pore of his body. Things aren't looking good for Julie.
But the movie is just as much about Verne, and we see him in the prison camp, along with a whole bunch of other prisoners who live in what are more or less barracks as opposed to cells. It's an island; who the hell is going to escape anyway? Sure enough, however, some of the prisoners are going to try to escape. They're led by Moll (Albert Dekker), who's in for murder. Moll takes along his young companion Dufond (John Arledge); serial killer Hessler (Paul Lukas); and Cambreau (Ian Hunter), who seems to have an influence on those around him. But more on that later. Moll and Verne hate each other, but Verne is able to blackmail his way into a spot in the escape, as an uneasy, impermanent truce forms among the various convicts.
Along the way, Verne gets attacked by Moll, is given a map of the escape route to the boat that's supposed to be waiting for them by Cambreau, finds Julie, who is now a kept woman, and then makes it to the boat. There's one catch: there's not enough water on the boat for them to last the whole journey. And if any of them drink the salt water, it's going to kill them. Still, Cambreau begins to work his influence on the various prisoners one by one, an influence which is almost Jesus-like. The movie's title, Strange Cargo, is certainly appropriate. There's a lot odd going on here.
Some of what goes on in the movie is predictable: Julie winds up falling in love with Verne, for example. Some of it is less predictable. Moll's relationship to Dufond, for example, is probably a homosexual relationship, although of course thanks to the Production Code this is only hinted at. But it's the obvious reason for why Moll would want the otherwise incompetent Dufond along on the escape. It also seems kind of difficult to believe that Cambreau could have the sort of influence on the various prisoners that he does. But then, I think Strange Cargo is supposed to be more of a morality play than a work based on realism.
As for the acting, it's uniformly good. The writing I find a bit uneven: at times it feels like the movie is going on a bit too slowly; at other times it feels as though, with all these prisoners, there's too much going on. But that's a minor flaw in what is otherwise a very interesting and worthy movie.
Strange Cargo has been released to DVD as part of a Joan Crawfod box set. I'm not certain whether it's available as a stand-alone DVD, however.
Julie Harris, Ethel Waters, and Brandon de Wilde in Member of the Wedding (1952)
The death was announced yesterday of actress Julie Harris. She was 87. Harris was apparently rather more prominent on Broadway, where she won five Tony awards. But she took the role she did on stage in Member of the Wedding and brought it to the screen, earning an Oscar nomination in the process.
Now, I have to admit that Member of the Wedding is a movie I seriously dislike. And a lot of that has to do with the character Julie Harris plays. First of all, I have a bit of trouble with the idea of 26-year-old Julie Harris playing a 12-year-old girl. If it were a 26-year-old man playing a 12-year-old boy, I think a lot of people would find it seriously creepy. Second, the character is just impossibly unlikeable. She's supposed to be the protagonist and a source of sympathy, but I can imagine people losing their temper and saying to the girl, "Shut your [insert long, long string of expletives here] mouth already!" Or, as I wrote in the original post, I was rooting for Ethel Waters' maid character to smack Julie Harris' character into the next county. But to be fair to Harris, a lot of the dislikability would come down to the lines she has to deliver, or the direction she's being given, which implies that Harris actually gave a very good performance.
Harris certainly gave a good performance in The Haunting, which is a film I also vastly prefer to Member of the Wedding. (Granted, that's not hard.) Harris also does a good job in East of Eden, although that's a movie I'm somewhat indifferent to, largely because I'm not the biggest fan of James Dean.
I don't know if TCM has any sort of tribute planned yet. I haven't watched TCM to see if a "TCM Remembers" spot has shows up. As for a tribute preëmpting previously scheduled programming, I can't imagine that happening for at least another week -- they have to get through Summer Under the Stars first; Sundays in September are dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock, and Monday being Labor Day is the annual salute to the Telluride Film Festival. Then there's which ever day of the week is dedicated to the Star of the Month (Kim Novak, but I haven't checked which day it will be) and the Friday Night Spotlight. TCM should be able to get the rights to enough of her movies to do a tribute, though.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Having commented on a lot of today's Charles Coburn features that are running on TCM today, and not having seen most of the ones I haven't commented on, I'd like to make mention of a couple more shorts.
First, at 1:38 AM, just after A Royal Scandal (starts at midnight), TCM is showing Okay For Sound. Warner Bros. released this in 1946 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Vitaphone sound process. The Jazz Singer was not the first talking picture. In fact, it only was released a year after the Vitaphone process was first released. The first Vitaphone feature was Don Juan, which wasn't a talkie, but only had a synchronized score. However, the premier of Don Juan in 1926 was also accompanied by a program of Vitaphone shorts, which included some instrumental music; some singing; and one of Will Hays, the guy who didn't really enforce the weaker production code, talking about the benifits of movies. I mentioned much of this back in 2009 when TCM ran Don Juan back in March 2009.
There's also Babes in the Goods at 5:39 AM, following The Power and the Prize (which comes on at 4:00 AM). This is a two-reeler starring Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly. I don't think I've ever done a post on the two of them together, and this isn't the short to do it on, since I don't think I've seen this one. The were a comedy team in the early 1930s at Hal Roach studios, at least until Todd's tragic death in 1935. The comedies are zany, to say the least, with little real plot development serving as a bacdrop for broad physical comedy. This one has the two getting stuck in a department store overnight and having to deal with a drunk man. Thelma Todd also made quite a few shorts with Charley Chase before joining up with Patsy Kelly in 1933.
Friday, August 23, 2013
I've commented a lot that that there are many movies for which you can find DVD copies available on Amazon, but not from the TCM shop. I think the Fox MOD movies are one such class of movie that you can't seem get from the TCM shop, but the bigger set of only-at-Amazon movies are those that did get a DVD release at some point in the past, but for which that release is no longer in print. A third category would be imports: movies that got a DVD release in Europe, but not in North America. Two of the movies coming up on TCM in the next day or so fall into this limbo.
First is Suddenly, Last Summer, at 10:00 PM tonight. It was released to DVD all the way back in 2000, so the DVD seems to be out of print. Amazon is listing an instant video purchase option as well, but living in the middle of nowhere I dso't have the bandwidth to do streaming video, so I wouldn't know about the quality of this option.
Second is Vivacious Lady, airing at 6:00 AM tomorrow to kick off a day of movies with Charles Coburn. There's a Rregion 2 DVD (Europe) available, although I think even that is out of print. I'm rather more surprised that this one isn't on DVD in North America, since it was made at RKO, which would make it a prime candidate for release by the Warner Archive. Also, with both Ginger Rogers and James Stewart in the cast, it would be perfect for one of those four-movie sets that you see TCM pushing in between movies.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
A search of the blog suggests that I have never done a full-length post on Life With Father before. It's airing tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM on TCM, so now is a good time to write that post.
The "Father" in the title is Clarence Day, Sr., played by William Powell. He's a banker in Manhattan in the 1880s living in one of those fine brownstones of the day with his wife Vinnie (Irene Dunne) and their four children. Eldest of these is Clarence, Jr., played by Jimmy Lydon. In real life, Clarence Jr. would grow up to write the book Life With Father and two others about his experiences growing up; those books were turned into a very popular Broadway play and then into this movie. Father rules the house with an iron fist. Or, at least he thinks he runs the house with an iron fist; in fact, Vinnie knows more about what's going on and continually maneuvers things skillfully to get her way, while having her husband think he's getting his way. However they're doing it, their marriage seems to be working. Or, if it wasn't working, Clarence Jr. wasn't about to let on that it was a failing marriage.
That's the basic synopsis of the household, but there are a couple of subplots running throughout the movie. One of these involves Mary (Elizabeth Taylor), who comes to the house for a visit. She's the travelling companion of Vinnie's cousin Cora (Zasu Pitts) She and Clarence Jr. are just getting to that age where they start thinking about sex, or whatever their late Victorian minds conceived of sex and romance as being. So they play songs on the piano and sing to each other and do other innocent first love things.
However, when the topic switches to religion, it turns out that Clarence Jr. and Mary belong to different Protestant denominations. Worse, the conversation reveals that Clarence Sr. has never been baptized at all! So another story in the movie involves Vinnie and her minister, Rev. Lloyd (Edmund Gwenn) trying to get Clarence Sr. to agree to be baptized. It's another of those things that seems quaint in 2013, but 125 years ago, it would have been a big deal.
Third is the desire of Clarence Jr. and younger brother John (Martin Milner; yes that Martin Milner), who are trying to make a litle money: Clarence to buy a suit and John to buy supplies for his junior science experiments. They sell patent medicine, which of course is a quack, but at least they could only go house to house instead of sending out millions of emails claiming to be able to enlarge certain body parts. Not that putting the subplot that way would have made it past the Production Code, of course. Anyhow, the patent medicine makes Vinnie ill, tying together this subplot with the baptism subplot.
Life With Father is one of those movies that's great for the whole family, at least if the family is OK watching old movies. If you want action, you're not going to get it from this one. William Powell and Irene Dunne are both excellent in their late Victorian parent roles, with the various subplots being charming in their old-fashionedness The movie also feels much more natural than the aritificial musical numbers of another period piece like Meet Me In St. Louis. The bad news is that every time I've seen it on TV, it's a print that's sorely in need of restoration. The color was terrible and the focus not crisp enough. I don't know if there's a better print that TCM will be airing, or what prints have made it to any of the DVD releases. (Well, the older DVD releases would all have bad prints; I don't know about the DVD available from the TCM shop.)
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
TCM's star for Summer Under the Stars on Thursday, August 22, is Maggie Smith, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which will be airing tomorrow evening at 9:45 PM. Starting the day off, however, is The V.I.Ps, at 6:00 AM. I blogged about this one back in November 2010. Back when I blogged about it, I failed to mention the movie's DVD status, which is that it's gotten a release, but doesn't seem to be in print any longer. At least, it's one of those movies that you can get on DVD at Amazon, but not from the TCM Shop.
The V.I.P.s is one of those movies that causes problems with the IMDb's search function. In looking for it on IMDb this morning, I made the mistake of not including the initials. The result was a whole bunch of movies and TV episodes about VIPs, but where the title didn't have the periods. IMDb's fuzzy logic, or fuzzy illogic, didn't think to include VIPs with periods as near matches. Enter the periods, and immediately get the 1963 movie as the top match. Ever since IMDb ent to its new search algorithm some time back, I've been having more problems if I can't remember the exact title of a movie.
Following The V.I.Ps, at about 8:00 AM, is a short called Filmmaking on the Riviera, which has run a couple of times in the recent past. The last time it was on, I came in during the middle. It's one of those "making-of" featurettes, and as a featurette it didn't seem to be particularly notable. However, the movie it's about, Joy House, sounds much more interesing. It's one I don't think I'd ever even heard of before I saw the featurette. It's on DVD, but it's not on the TCM schedule for any time soon. TCM could have run it when they did a day of Alain Delon movies back in May, but it wasn't one of the selections. In fact, I've got the TCM monthly schedules going back to mid-2007, and a search of them didn't yield any hits.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 7:35 AM
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The death has been announced of writer Elmore Leonard, who died this morning from complications of a stroke. He was 87.
Leonard was a novelist first and foremost, although he did do some Hollywood screenplays in the 1970s and 1980s. The real reason for blooging about his death on a movie blog, however, isn't because of the screenplays he wrote. It's because quite a few of his novels and stories were turned into well-known movies by other screenwriters. Perhaps the most classic of these is 1957's 3:10 to Yuma, based on a short story of the same name Leonard had written four years earlier. Another his short stories, "The Captors", was turned into the movie The Tall T, which just aired on TCM last night as part of Randolph Scott's day in Summer Under the Stars. Other Leonard works turned into films include Hombre and, more recently, Get Shorty.
As for Leonard's screenplays, the first of them was for The Moonshine War in 1970; TCM has in the past few weeks been running a featurette on the making of this one as part of its TCM Extras between movies.
During Saturday's Wallace Beery marathon on TCM, they showed a short called Hot News Margie, from 1931. The one-sentence synopsis sounded interesting: a tabloid reporter gets the story on whether a college football star is married. The movie is certainly silly. Marjorie Beebe stars as Margie, and to get the story she goes undercover as a player on the football team! This completely strains credulity, especially as she's trying to run down the field alongside the target of her story, a football quarterback named "Babe Booth", which seems pretty clearly a reference to baseball player Babe Ruth and his outsized celebrity status.
Hot News Margie is a one-reeler from Vitaphone, which strikes me as uncommon, at least when it comes to the comedy shorts they were making by this time. Certainly in later years they were putting out a lot of two-reelers. But a full two reels would be a bit too long for this one, which is really a one-joke plot. At least, until the stunning ending.
I have to admit to never having heard of Marjorie Beebe before seeing this short. It doesn't seem to be on DVD as an extra to anything; it would probably fit in with one or another of the newsroom comedies that the Warner Archive could put out. Someplace like a Torchy movie would be good for it, for example. But, somebody put it up on Youtube:
Monday, August 19, 2013
Not to be confused with the movie David and Lisa is the totally different 1962 film Lisa. Lisa is airing today at 1:00 PM on the Fox Movie Channel, with a repeat tomorrow morning at 9:15 AM and another repeat in September.
Lisa, played by Dolores Hart, is Lisa Held, a survivor of the concentration camp at Auschwitz who is trying to survive in the Europe of 1946. Or, more accurately, she's trying to make it to Palestine, which in 1946 was not yet the independent state of Israel, and still part of the British Mandate. Jews were trying to make it to Palestine, but the British were trying to stop them, leading to a terrible refugee crisis. So when we first see Lisa, she's actually with a smuggler (Marius Goring in a small role) who's trying to get her to Palestine, by way of Amsterdam and London.
Except, of course, that the smuggler isn't really trying to get her to Palestine. He's a Nazi who's part of a human trafficking operation that sends the women on to Latin America, where they'll presumably be sex slaves. Dutch police inspector Peter Jongman (Stephen Boyd) is on the case, and follows Lisa on the ferry to the UK, where he doesn't have any jurisdiction. Still, he follows her to the trafficker's house. In addition to trafficking in women, he sells old Nazi daggers, and in a struggle with Jongman he accidentally stabs himself to death with one of the daggers. Jongman knows Lisa didn't do it; she knows she didn't do it; both know they'll be accused of it -- or more specifically her because she's weak as a refugee. So it's smuggling her back to Amsterdam and figure out what to do from there.
The thing is, Jongman had done some work with the resistance in the Netherlands, but lost his Jewish fiancée to the Nazis. So he feels a particular obligation to Lisa that nobody else in the Dutch police does, and Jongman is willing to break the law to get Lisa to Palestine. This first involves getting Lisa on a barge captained by Captain Brandt (Leo McKern), who was also involved in the resistance and whose barge can still hide people trying to escape the Nazis. Eventually, Lisa and Peter make their way to Tangiers in Morocco, which is a jumping off point for smuggling people by sea to Palestine. There are several problems, though. First is getting the money to pay to smuggle Lisa. She and Peter don't have it; the good smuggler van der Pink (Hugh Griffith) wants it -- a lot of it. Second is the fact that the British know Jewish refugees are congregating in Tangiers to try to get to Palestine, and the British are watching the place. Specifically, there's one watching Peter and Lisa, since they are after all wanted by the British authorities for that justifiable homicide back in London. And then there's the medical examination for Lisa to get her clearance by the Haganah into Palestine. Lisa has a particular fear of medical examinations....
On the whole, Lisa is an interesting and worthy movie. Dolores Hart, who about a year after this movie was made would leave Hollywood for a Catholic convent in Connecticut, doesn't come across as particularly Jewish, but she's more than adequate as a refugee. Stephen Boyd is good enough as her sturdy protector who could really be of any nationality. Of the supporting characters, Leo McKern is probably around the most since they spend a seemingly long time on that barge. He does well as a devoutly Christian man who knows fully well his two passengers are lying through their teeth about their identities but keeps them aboard anyhow. If the movie has problems, it's that it feels as though it goes on too long (as I said, they spend a lot of time on that barge), and even more than in a Hitchcock movie Peter and Lisa get saved by coincidence. Still, it's well worth your time.
Lisa has received a DVD release from the Fox MOD archives There are several movies with the title Lisa, however, and the one that the TCM Database advertises on its page for the 1962 Lisa is actually for a more recent movie. The 1962 Lisa, however, is available at Amazon.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
As part of Natalie Wood's day in TCM"S Summer Under the Stars, this week's Essentials Jr. selection is The Great Race, at 8:00 PM tonight. I reviewed the movie here back in July 2010, and as you can tell, I had some serious problems with the movie.
That having been said, I can see why somebody else might think it's an interesting selection for any sort of "classic movies for kids" programming. The situations are absurd, and the humor is almost cartoonish in nature. This is especially true with the visual humor. The scene, for example, of the racers stuck on the iceberg, is particularly the sort of thing you can imagine being in a cartoon. The pie fight also fits in well with the sort of scenes of plans backfiring on Tom going after Jerry, or Wile E. Coyote's failed Acme schemes.. If memory serves -- and I have to admit that I haven't bothered to watch the movie since I blogged about it -- it's not as if there's anything particularly objectionable in the movie either. At least, no more objectionable than the old studio-era cartoons.
Of course, the movie still has problems, with the chief one being the long running time. I think a lot of kids, especially the younger ones, are going to have trouble with the over two and a half hour running time. Will they get to Paris already? I also think that my criticisms from 2010 are still going to hold. Although there are going to be people who like this movie, I doubt I'm alone in finding The Great Race tiresome.
I suppose it's too bad if TCM couldn't get the rights to run The Ghost and Mrs. Muir for an Essentials Jr. movie with Natalie Wood.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 7:58 AM
Saturday, August 17, 2013
I could swear that I'd already blogged about A Cry in the Night before. A search of the blog, however, claims that I haven't. It's airing tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM on TCM, so now would be a good time to do a post on the movie.
The film starts off late one evening on a Lovers' Lane type place where all the teens and other people who want to make out in secret congregate -- nobody's going to let out the other people's secrets, lest their own secrets be relesaed, too. Among the neckers is young Liz Taggart (Nathalie Wood), daughter of police detective Dan (Edmond O'Brien). She's here with her fiancé Owen (Richard Anderson), but hasn't had the courage to tell Daddy about Owen yet; she knows he won't approve. But that's soon about to become the least of her problems. Hanging around all those couples is Harold Loftus (Raymond Burr), engaging in some voyeurism. His actions are heard but not seen, and Owen gets out of the car to figure out what's going on. At this point, Harold hits Owen over the head, knocking Owen out. Harold then takes Owen's car, with Liz in it! The other lovebirds flee, not wanting to be caught making out or accused over what happened to Owen.
Eventually, Owen is found by a cop, and brought to the station, where the night captain on duty (Brian Donlevy) thinks Owen is drunk. The doctor diagnoses a concussion and some short-term memory loss, and when all that clears up, Owen is able to tell them what happened, and how the police must have a kidnapping case on their hands. Worse than that, it's the kidnapping of a member of a cop family. Worst of all, it's the daughter of a cop who's going to go through the roof when he discovers that his precious little daughter was making out on a lovers' lane with this Owen guy; kidnapping only makes it that much worse.
Ah, but back to Harold the kidnapper. He's the much more fun character than Detective Taggart. He's taken Liz to his hideaway, an abandoned foreman's shack in a disused brickworks. He's not just a kidnapper; he's a psycopath, too. Apparently, he's never been with a woman before, as he has no idea of how to treat Liz. At times he's almost trying to romance her; when she undesrtandably refuses his romances, he goes ballistic. Harold is the way he is in part because of his mother Mabel (Carol Veazie). He lives with her and supports her, and when he doesn't come home that night, having kidnapped Liz (of course, Mom knows nothing about this), Mabel calls the police! The police aren't that stupid, and eventually are able to put two and two together and figure out that perhaps they and Mabel are interested in the same person.
If A Cry in the Night has one problem, it's that it was made during the era when the Production Code was still being enforced; that means that there's really only one possible outcome. The brickworks, however, provides a nice backdrop for the eventual climax, somewha reminiscent in terms of industrial imagery of the refinery in White Heat or the industrial-sized gas tanks in Odds Against Tomorrow. Burr had played psycho bad guys in several earlier movies, and is pretty good here. Nathalie Wood's purpose in the movie is little more than the damsel in distress, and she pulls off that role well enough. O'Brien is OK if a bit too strident as the angry cop, while Carol Veazie gets the fun stuff as the mother who's given her son issues. A Cry in the Night is another of the many movies that's nothing particularly groundbreaking, but is quite enjoyable.
As far as I know A Cry in the Night has not received a DVD release, so you're going to have to catch the TCM showing.
Friday, August 16, 2013
Ann Blyth (l.) in a tense scene with Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945)
I didn't realize that today was the 85th birthday of actress Ann Blyth, who is probably best remembered for playing ingrateful daughter Veda in the 1945 classic Mildred Pierce, for which Blyth was nominated for an Oscar. That's airing tonight at 8:00 PM on TCM, as TCM has made Blyth today's star in Summer Under the Stars. If for some bizarre reason you've never seen Mildred Pierce before, I can strongly recommend it. However, having blogged about it before and having recommended it on a number of other occasions when TCM aired it, I'd like to mention a different Ann Blyth film: Slander, which is airing at 6:30 PM.
Blyth plays Connie Martin, a housewife and mother who is married to Scott Martin (Van Johnson). Scott is a successful puppeteer, working on one of those kids' shows that were a staple of local television back in the 1950s when there was a lot of locally-produced non-news programming. (News is a cheap moneymaker for local broadcasters, which is why there has been such an increase in the amount of news on most local stations. That, and it can be passed off as a public service for the FCC licensing reviews. But that's another story.) Scott, however, has a secret, which is that before becoming a puppeteer, he had a past life that included a stint in prison for armed robbery. For understandable reasons, Scott doesn't want this to become public, as he'll lose his audience when parents freak out over a criminal entertaining their kids. Connie knows, and still loves him.
Enter HR Manley (Steve Cochran). Manley is the publisher of one of those gossip rags from the era that predated even the National Enquirer. Nowadays, Scott Martin's story would wind up on TMZ, but back then there was no internet. And frankly, Manley isn't all that interested in Martin's past on its own. Scott, however, grew up in the same town as some woman who has gone on to become a famous actress, and knew her fairly well when they were both young. Surely there must be some dirt on her. So Manley comes to Connie, and tells her of Scott's prior conviction. Connie of course knows about this, but Manley has a trump card: either Scott and spill the beans on the famous actress, or Manley can spill the beans on Scott. Nice.
Slander is one of those shorter black-and-white movies with a conscience that MGM was making a lot of in the 1950s. For the most part, it's an OK movie, although the movie's sympathies are obvious, as Manley is too much of a one-dimensional character. I mean, even his mother (Marjorie Rambeau) hates him for printing the scandal sheet. And yet, there have always been a lot of people who read the stuff then, and watch it now. Manley's magazine was based on real magazines like Confidential, which even used juvenile armed robbery convictions in the case of Rory Calhoun. Ironically, I don't think there's any slander in the movie. If the magazine were guilty of anything, it would have been libel and not slander. But truth is a defense to libel, and the movie never suggests that there are any lies to be printed about Scott Martin.
All of the actors give competent performances, even if the movie has the decided feel of a second-tier production while the executives would have been more interested in something like Silk Stockings that MGM released in the same year. The movie is also hurt somewhat by an ending that seems unrealistic. Still, it's more than worth a watch. Even though it's stuck firmly in the 1950s, Slander is about a theme that will always be with us. As far as I'm aware, Slander hasn't received a DVD release, not even from the Warner Archive.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Duel in the Sun, which I blogged about back in February 2008, is on TCM again overnight tonight at 12:30, or this evening at 9:30 PM Pacific Time for those of you out on the west coast. I didn't make any mention at the time of its DVD status, which is that it got multiple DVD releases according to Amazon, but they all seem to be out of print. TCM Shop doesn't list it as available for putchase.
The last of the movies in Peck's day of Summer Under the Stars is How the West Was Won at 3:00 AM; that's followed a little after 5:45 AM by the Traveltalks short Natural Wonders of the West. I have to admit I'm not quite as big a fan of those Traveltalks shorts that look at natural things that are still around as I am of the shorts looking at places that have changed: the Hungarian peasants of 1938, "Modern" Tokyo as it was in 1935, the bombed-out buildings of London; and so on. But Natural Wonders of the West has one of those, in the form of brief scenes of Mount Rushmore while the four faces were still being carved. It's a shame we couldn't get a longer Technicolor short focusing solely on Mount Rushmore and its sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, as he was making the monument.
Ann Blyth will be the star spotlighted by TCM tomorrow. Her day kicks off at 6:00 AM with One Minute to Zero (available from the Warner Archive), a movie that I've seen the beginning of several times but never bothered to sit all the way through. But what's interesting is that it's a Korean War film that was actually made during the war, in 1952. The Korean War didn't go on as long as World War II, and didn't have the public support that World War II did, so I don't think the studios were lining up to make movies about it to keep up the morale of the folks back home. Also, Ann Blyth plays a UN worker, back in the days when the United Nations was viewed much more positively by the American people.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
1930s RKO comedy team Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey
Today is 125 years to the day since the birth of Robert Woolsey. Woolsey started his career on Broadway, and it was during the production of the Broadway musical Rio Rita that he met Bert Wheeler. The two were brought out to Holywood by new studio RKO in 1929 to make a movie version of the musical, and when that movie proved to be a hit, it made Wheeler and Woolsey a star comedy team for RKO, making a good 20 movies or so together over the next eight years until Woolsey's untimely death in 1938.
I don't know if I've done a full-length review of any of Wheeler and Woolsey's movies before, although I did mention the two of them back in October 2009, mentioning Girl Crazy as one of my favorite of their films. Their version isn't as well known as the 1943 version starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, which just aired last night. It doesn't help that George Gershwin's wonderful songs are not nearly the focus of the 1932 film the way they are in the 1943 version. The Wheeler and Woolsey version involves the two of them getting brought out west by a playboy friend (Eddie Quillan) to help him turn his ranch into a vacation resort; Wheeler gets elected sheriff and all sorts of comedic complications ensuing. A couple of Wheeler and Woolsey's early films had scenes in two-strip Technicolor, but Girl Crazy is not among them; the aforementioned Rio Rita is. Also, Rio Rita has received a Warner Archive release to DVD while Girl Crazy hasn't. I'd like to think that Wheeler and Woolsey deserve one of those four-film box sets that TCM likes to hawk, or even Girl Crazy deserves to be part of a two-movie set with the Garland/Rooney version. But I despair to think how few people would buy a non-MOD DVD of a Wheeler and Woolsey film. It's also far too infrequently that TCM shows any of these.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
TCM's star for Summer Under the Stars on August 14 is Bette Davis, which gives TCM the opportunity to show one of those zippy little movies she made at Warner Bros. at the beginning of her career. This time around, that movie is Parachute Jumper, which kicks the day off at 6:00 AM.
Davis plays a character who has the nickname "Alabama" because of her southern accent. But she doesn't show up right at the beginning of the movie. That honor goes to the male lead, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., playing Marine pilot Bill Keller. Bill and his friend "Toodles" (Frank McHugh)are leaving the Marines because they're going to get more lucrative jobs as commercial pilots. The only problem is that, when they get to New York, they find out that the airline for which they were going to work has gone bust. There's a depression on, don't you know. Unemployed and without much money, Bill meets Alabama, who, like thousands of other people, has migrated to New York in search of a job. She hasn't been able to find a job either, so Bill comes up with an idea: why not have Alabama shack up with him and Toodles, Three's Company-style? Well, the genders are reversed, and there's no busybody landlord to overhear things but comedically misinterpret them. In fact, the movie isn't a comedy at all.
With the depression on, Bill is forced to take on any work he can get, including doing stunt parachute jumping. This nearly gets him hit by a train, but it also brings him in contact with the rich Mrs. Newberry (Claire Dodd) and the servant set, from whom he hears that Newberry needs a new chauffeur. Bill takes the job, and eventually finds out that Newberry is the mistress of smuggler Kurt Weber (Leo Carrillo). When Kurt finds out that Bill was a pilot in the Marines, Kurt enlists Bill to fly shipments of booze over the border from Canada. Since there was a strong sentiment in society that Prohibition was immoral, Bill takes the job. But then he finds out that Kurt is also smuggling harder drugs. Apparently it's OK to alter your brain chemistry with some chemicals, but not with others, because this is where Bill draws the line, leading to an exciting climax in the air. Or, at least, in sets designed to look like airplane interiors, combined with process photography of planes in flight.
Parachute Jumper runs a brief 70 minutes or, but like a lot of the short movies of the 1930s, it packs a lot into those 70 minutes. (TCM's database lists multiple running times, all of which are different from the schedule's mention of 72 minutes; IMDb lists 65 minutes.) It's not one of the highest points of Bette Davis' career, although she's enjoyable enough. Fairbanks is adequate too, with what comedy there is provided by McHugh. If I were going to introduce people to 1930s programmers, I think there are quite a few other movies I'd pick before Parachute Jumper in that they're higher-quality overall; have things in them that I find fun; and would be easier for people who aren't movie buffs to get into. But for anybody who already likes such programmers, Parachute Jumper is a good entry that successfully enterains the viewer.
I don't believe Parachute Jumper has ever received a DVD release, not even courtesy of the Warner Archive.
Monday, August 12, 2013
TCM will be putting its Summer Under the Stars spotlight on Mickey Rooney tomorrow. Rooney was Star of the Month back in December 2010, as I blogged about multiple times during the month when I wanted to recommend one or another of his movies. The first of those posts was for Death on the Diamond, which will also be the first of tomorrow's movies at 6:00 AM. It still hasn't received a DVD release, not even from the Warner Archive, which I suppose is mildly surprising considering the presence of Mickey Rooney in the cast.
TCM is also showing the first of the Andy Hardy movies, 1936's A Family Affair, at 9:15 AM tomorrow. I'm not certain if I've seen that one before. I've seen some but not all of the Andy Hardy movies, and have a tendency to get them mixed up. This is one that preceded the arrival of Ann Rutherford as Polly Benedict in You're Only Young Once in 1937. Anyhow, it doesn't seem to be on DVD either, which might be more surprising than Death on the Diamond: while Death on the Diamond was decidedly a B movie, A Family Affair was at least part of a big series for MGM, you'd think it might have ended up on one of those four-film box sets that TCM likes to hawk between movies.
Speaking of those, I noticed yesterday that TCM was hawking some of the two-movie sets, and notably saying they were avaiable at Walmart. For those who worry this means more advertising is coming to TCM, the promos used to mention that you could buy the box sets (at least the four-movie sets) at Barnes and Noble. So this isn't new so much as a change of sponsor.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
TCM's star in Summer Under the Stars for tomorrow, August 12, is Catherine Deneuve. We're going to get quite a few French-langauge movies, but there is an Englihs-language movie or two along the way, including Repulsion at 7:45 AM.
Deneuve plays Carol, a young woman from Belgium who is working in an upscale beauty salon in London, while living with her sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux). Carol has a boyfriend pursuing her in the form of Colin (John Fraser), Carol keeps pushing him away: as we see in quasi-flashbacks involving photographs, Carol has a hang-up when it comes to men, or more specifically when it comes to male sexuality. This is a problem, because Helen also has a boyfriend, Michael (Ian Hendry), who is at the apartment enough to leave some of his things in their bathroom. It doesn't make Carol feel any better that Michael is married, too. But, things are about to get better for Carol. Helen and Michael are going to go away together for the weekend, so Carol will have the place all to herself, without having to deal with any of those men who bother her if she doesn't want to.
Yeah, right. Michael's wife calls, thinks Carol is Helen, and gives her the business, which naturally unnerves Carol. And she starts to imagine the worse. Did I see something moving under the door? Are the walls closing in on me? Colin is at the door. Is he here to hurt me? It's fairly quickly becomes clear that there's something very wrong with Carol, although we the viewers have been given some foreshadowing of this by the way she's been acting at work. Will Carol wind up like Julie Harris' character in The Haunting? Or will the people who love her be able to save her in time? Sadly for Carol, the visions continue to get worse. Suffice it to say that the things she sees are very disturbing, and that it would give a bit too much away to go into further detail.
Most reviewers consider Repulsion to be a masterpiece from director Roman Polanski. Unfortunately, the movie left me feeling not so much disturbed as just emotionally cold. This isn't to say that it's a bad movie, or even that I disliked it. It's easy enough to understand why somebody like Carol might be uncomfortable with men, even if no reason is explicitly given. It's also clear the effect that Polanski is trying to go for as Carol begins her slow downward spiral into madness that picks up in speed as the movie goes along. It's just that I didn't really feel the desired effect. Something about Carol's descent doesn't seem as natural as, say, what happened in The Haunting or to Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit. It's not as laughable as Polly Bergen's nervous breakdown in The Caretakers, however; in fact, I wouldn't even use the term laughable at all. That would be unfair to Repulsion. I'm clearly in the minority, so watch Repulsion yourself. You'll probably feel what Polanski wanted the audience to feel.
Repulsion has received a DVD release courtesy of the Criterion Collection, which means that while you can buy it on DVD, it is rather pricier.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 1:45 PM
The death was announced yesterday of Haji, who along with Tura Satana and Lori Williams played the team of go-go dancers who try to find a fortune in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Haji was 67.
Haji appeared in multiple Russ Meyer movies, inclduing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but unsurprisingly was known for the cult movies she made and not serious stuff. Indeed, I don't think she had any big roles in serious movies. But it only takes one cult classic to become an immortal. Lori Williams made even fewer movies than Haji, and yet everybody is going to remember her from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! too.
Needless to say, I don't expect TCM to pre-empt Summer Under the Stars, or even anything come September, to do a tribute to Haji.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
When I was looking at TCM's on-line schedule this morning, I noticed in the sidebar that there was a link to a review of a new DVD of Terror on a Train. It's a movie that I blogged about back in November 2011, and back at the time I mentioned that it was not yet available on DVD. Thanks to the Warner Archive, it's now on DVD. Actually, it's been on DVD for a good two months already, according to the TCM Shop, but I only recently saw the blurb for it. I'm not so sure about the cover art, though. The only time I can think Anne Vernon might have been running is during the climax, and it wouldn't have been an empty train track. And she wouldn't have been running from Glenn Ford. And yet one presumes those images have to be taken from something pertaining to the movie. (The train track, of course, is a drawing, not part of the photo.)
Somwhere in looking through TCM's site during all of this I noticed that there was an article about a Warner Archive release of The Silver Chalice, although that one has previously been released to DVD too.
Posted by Ted S. (Just a Cineast) at 8:04 AM
Friday, August 9, 2013
TCM has been running 24 hours of movies with Steve McQueen as part of his day in Summer Under the Stars. I didn't blog about any of them because, to be honest, I wasn't all that excited about today's lineup. But there are a few other Steve McQueen things that have gotten DVD releases and are worth mentioning.
First is the documentary Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool. This was produced for the 75th anniversary of McQueen's birth back in 2005, which I thi9nk is also when TCM first showed it as part of a Star of the Month salute to McQueen. Has it really been eight years already? I don't think TCM have shown it recently; my recollection of it is that it was no less interesting than any of their other documentaries. It's been released to DVD as part of a two-disc special edition of Bullitt, so you get two things for the price of one.
The other thing worth mentioning is An Enemy of the People. I first learned about this one when watching the Steve McQueen documentary, and it's something I wouldn't mind seeing, since it's based on a Henrik Ibsen play. The basic plot is of a town that is famous for its mineral waters. Unfortunately, the town doctor (McQueen) discovers that other industry is ruining the mineral waters, but when the doctor tries to inform the rest of the town, they don't want to listen, and make him persona non grata because making this bad news public would harm both the spa toruism as well as the other industry. I was surprised when I looked it up on IMDb today and saw that it's received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection. Apparently it was originally distributed by Warner Bros. back in the late 1970s. If it could get a Warner Archive release, then presumably TCM should have an easier time getting the rights to broadcast it, what with working with a corporate partner and all.
The death was announced yesterday of Oscar-nominated actress Karen Black, who died at the age of 74. Black earned her nomination for playing pianist Jack Nicholson's girlfriend in Five Easy Pieces (pictured above), but lost to Helen Hayes' performance as a stowaway in Airport. Coincidentally, Black would go on to be one of the stars of Airport '75.
Black played in several more or less memorable pictures in the 1970s, with the one that's most memorable for me being Alfred Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot. Black, a natural brunette, plays a kidnapper whose disguises include an obviously phony blonde wig; she and partner in crime William Devane get foiled by phony psychic Barbara Harris and her taxi driver boyfriend Bruce Dern. The plot is rather more complicated than that, and to be honest Family Plot really deserves a full-length post.
I'll admit to not recognizing most of Black's work from the 1980s and beyond, which includes a lot of horror movies.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Tomorrow, August 9, TCM's Summer Under the Stars is going to be spending 24 hours with Steve McQueen. If you want something other than McQueen, you'll have to switch over to the Fox Movie Channel, which is running The Story on Page One at 9:00 AM. Despite the title, this is not a movie about the world of newspapers at all.
The movie starts off at the "office" of Los Angeles lawyer Victor Santini (Anthony Franciosa). This is one of those offices that's not in a nice building downtown, but what looks like a former residence converted into business space where businesses for the lower strata of of society have sprung up elsewhere along the road in a poorer part of Los Angeles. Combined withe Santini's sleeping on his couch, it all seems to imply that Sntini has fallen on hard times. And yet, Mrs. Brown (Katherine Squire) has decided to come to his office. Obviosuly, she needs help: her daughter Jo (Rita Hayworth) has been charged as an accessory to murder in the death of her husband! Santini isn't so sure he wants to take the case, especially since Mrs. Brown doesn't have that much money, but she eventually convinces him to investigate.
So, Santini goes to jail to visit with Jo, now the late Mrs. Morris. Her story isn't necessarily sympathetic. She married policeman Mike Morris (Alfred Ryder), and with her mother living with them, having a young daughter, and a husband who has become domineering, the relationship has turned sour. Jo, feeling trapped, sought companionship with accountant Larry Ellis (Gig Young). Mrs. Brown knows about the relationship, and is actually supportive of it! Jo, however, isn't so certain if she's doing the right thing, and for her it's almost an on again, off again affair. Especially when Larry's mother (Mildred Dunnock) comes to the Morris residence to visit Jo and tell her she knows about the relationship, and she certainly doesn't support it! Not long after this, Larry comes to see Jo at their house, Lt. Morris finds the two lovers, and in the ensuing scuffle, Morris gets shot and killed.
All of this is presented in such a way that we the viewers know that Larry is not guilty, but that the people in the world of the movie -- the district attorney and the jury -- could all reasonably believe that Larry actually pulled the trigger. It's also all presented in the first hour of the film, so the second half focuses on the trial. Santini proves himself to be a capable lawyer, although he's up against a powerful DA with all the resources of the government behind him. That, and Ellis' lawyer, Judge Carey (Raymond Greenleaf), who seems to be acting less in Larry Ellis' interests than those of his mother. Indeed, it's the relationship between Larry and his mother that eventually holds the key to the outcome of the trial....
The Story on Page One is another in a long line of movies that is competent if not earth-shatteringly great. Rita Hayworth was in her early 40s when she made this movie, and you can see why she's somebody a man would have wanted to marry years ago, but is no longer in love with, looking frumpy and meek. Gig Young is also good at portraying his hen-pecked character. Franciosa isn't bad at all, but his character is a trope, and more of an archetype than a realistic character. The screenplay and direction were both handled by Clifford Odets, who isn't quite as heavy-handed as he was when writing Golden Boy, The Big Knife, or Bigger Than Life.
As far as I am aware, The Story on Page One is not available on DVD. In addition to tomorrow's airing, it's scheduled for one more showing in early September.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
TCM is airing the short Tale of a Dog tonight a little after 9:45 PM, or just between Murder, He Says (starts at 8:00 PM) and Double Indemnity (starts at 10:00 PM). The short is listed as the last of the Our Gang shorts. I didn't realize Our Gang shorts were still being made as late as 1944, but there you are. That having been said, I'm really posting about the short because I was thinking it would be something different. At some point during World War II, there was a short about a blind man who worked in his workshop without any lights, making surpsingly good woodwork; a couple of people from one of the airplane plants discovered the guy and put him and his seeing-eye dog to work as a machinist. I thought that the short I had in mind was a Pete Smith short, but a cursory look through his credits doesn't show anything that sticks out as being the short. The Pete Smith shorts from World War II with titles that are obviously dog-related weren't the short I'm thinking of. So, my second thought was a John Nesbitt Passing Parade short, but it doesn't seem to be that either. Anybody know which short I'm thiking of?
I mentioned back on Monday that tomorrow is going to be 24 hours of Ramon Novarro movies. I mentioned Across to Singapore, back in March of 2008; that's airing tomorrow at 11:30 AM. But the real reason I'm mentioning Across to Singapore is that, in the five years since I blogged about it, Warner Home Video has seen fit to release it to DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive. Tomorrow's schedule, in fact, has quite a few silents in addition to Across to Singapore or Ben-Hur for those who are big fans of silents. Meanwhile, fans of the Traveltalks series will be pleased to know that Across to Singapore is followed at approximately 12:55 PM by the 1938 short Singapore and Jahore.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
TCM's Summer Under the Stars dedicates 24 hours each day to the films of one paricular star. Well, more or less. They're still running shorts to fill out the time, and those shorts don't have to star whoever is being honored in Summer Under the Stars. Case in point is From the Four Corners. It's airing this evening at about 7:40 PM, or just after Joan Fontaine's Suspicion (starts at 6:00 PM) and just before Rebecca (starts at 8:00 PM).
There's no plot here. Three soldiers from various far-flung parts of what is now known as the British Commonwealth -- one each from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand -- are on leave in London, where they all meet on a street corner together. These are actually real soldiers; the short was produced by the British Ministry of Information. And who did the Ministry have show up to oh-so-coincidentally meet these three soldiers? Why, Leslie Howard of course, since he was working tirelessly for the war effort. Howard than proceeds to show these soldiers some of London's cultural landmarks, and tells them about what it is they're fighting for.
After all, the soldiers aren't fighting for the UK. Or, at least, that's what the British government was at great pains to let people know. It's a theme that was discussed as well in 49th Parallel. In Canada, whether to have a draft was a very controversial subject, especially among the French-Canadians, many of whom already felt like second-class citizens. The memories of World War I, when there had been a political crisis, would also have been fresh in people's minds. So the soldiers coming "from the four corners" weren't fighting for Britain. They were fighting for the ideas of liberty and self-determination that Britain and its cultural descendants in America had spread around the world.
I don't know what the effect was on the viewers of the day; I'm not even certain whether this was intended for people serving in uniform, or the civilians back home. Howard, though, is quite good at what he does, and the historical value of this short make it worth watching.
Monday, August 5, 2013
Today, TCM is honoring Charlton Heston in Summer Under the Stars with 24 hours of his movies. (Well, one of them, a 1980s version of A Man For ALl Seasons, in which Heston plays Thomas More, is actually a TV movie, if I understand correctly.) Heston won n Oscar for Ben-Hur back in 1959, and it's not surprising that TCM chose to include Ben-Hur for their salute to Heston. Slightly interesting is that it's coming on at 10:30 PM, which is an incovenient time for those of us on the east coast, but is great for those out west, since that's 7:30 PM in California.
Not that I'm a huge fan of the 1959 version of Ben-Hur, to be honest. Oh, sure, it's well made, and the chariot race scene is spectacular. But at 220-something minutes, it's needlessly long, about an hour and 20 minutes longer than the 1925 Ramon Novarro version, which itself is long for a silent epic. I can't help but wonder if director Fred Niblo, who did the 1925 version, wouldn't have been able to come up with some stunning images of his own if he'd had wide-screen photography back in his day. I'm always reminded of this when TCM shows that piece about letterboxing, with Sydney Pollack saying he gets the heebie jeebies thinking about Ben-Hur panned-and-scanned. After all, there is a 4:3 chariot scene, and one that was designed that way. And it's just as well done as the one in the 1959 version, once you take into account that there were technical limitations in the 1920s.
If you want to compare the two versions of Ben Hur, Ramon Novarro is getting his Summer Under the Stars spotlight day on Thursday, and his 1925 version of Ben-Hur is airing at the much more civilized hour of 8:00 PM ET.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Tonight's selection for Essentials, Jr. on TCM is the 1935 comedy Ruggles of Red Gap, a movie which contrasts well with a lot of the screwball comedies that were being made at the time.
Charlie Ruggles plays Egbert Floud, a man in the first decade of the 20th century who's made a fortune in ranching in the decidedly uncultured town of Red Gap, Washington. Egbert's wife Effie (Mary Boland), wants Egbert to get some culture, so she's taken him to Paris, which is where the movie opens. Egbert, for his part, doesn't seem so interested in soaking up that culture. He's gotten himself into a poker game with the very British Earl of Bumstead (Roland Young), and is winning: to pay off the debts, the Earl has to give up the services of his butler, Marmaduke Ruggles (Charles Laughton). Although Effie doesn't like her husband gambling -- in Paris, no less, where she should be learning culture! -- she realizes that this could be an opportunity for the proper English butler to teach her husband some things about the finer points of life.
Egbert, for his part, plans to have nothing of that. He treats Marmaduke as just as good as he is; none of that class-conscious stuff here. Although Effie intends for Marmaduke to be their butler once they return to Red Gap, Egbert arranges things so that everybody in Red Gap will believe Marmaduke is actually a former British Army officer visiting Red Gap. Indeed, Marmaduke's coming to America has less of an effect on Egbert than it does on Marmaduke, who begins to start taking on the American attitude about the country being a land of opportunity and all men being created equal and all that stuff.
By this time Effie and her high-class brother have fired Marmaduke, forcing him to try to earn a living elsewhere, which he plans to do with the help of local widow Prunells (ZaSu Pitts). He's cooked for her, and she was impressed enough with it to suggest that he go into business for himself by opening a restuarant. Just as the restuarant is about to open, however, the Earl shows up, with the intention of renewing his contract for Marmaduke's services....
Ruggles of Red Gap has something in common with some of those great screwball comedies of the 1930s in that you've got a clash of classes and cultures, with the level-headed guy getting changed just as much as the ditzy people. Just as William Powell changes Carole Lombard and family in My Man Godfrey and he gets changed by them; or the journey that changes Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night, so class-sytem imbued Marmaduke Ruggles' journey to America changes him completly when the journey was supposed to change the other party. But there's also a big difference in tone between Ruggles of Red Gap and the movies that first spring to mind when we think of screwball. There's no daffy heiress here for one, and the rich people are the nouveaux riches instead of the old money families. And everybody in the cast is decidedly more normal looking -- not ugly, but certainly not Hollywood glamorous.
As for the acting, Charlie Ruggles was the one known as a comedic performer (along with ZaSu Pitts), but Charles Laughton also shows how surprisingly good he could be at comedy. Mary Boland is doing something here that could have been done just as easily by Billie Burke; I'm imagining Burke's obsession over Lord and Lady Ferncliffe in Dinner at Eight. But Boland is more than adequate putting on her airs in Paris while showing that she really doesn't belong.
Ruggles of Red Gap has made it to DVD thanks to Universal's DVD MOD scheme. So, you can buy it at Amazon, but not at the TCM Shop.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
The death was announced yesterday of actor Michael Ansara, who actually died Wednesday at the age of 91. I saw on Wikipedia's "notable deaths" page that Ansara starred in Broken Arrow, but that was actually a late 1950s TV series, and not the 1950 movie. Indeed, Ansara did a lot of TV work, and that's probably more prominent than the movies he appeared in.
IMDb lists an uncredited appearance in Diplomatic Courier, which I'd love to see show up somewhere again. Five years is long enough for it to have been off the Fox Movie Channel schedule. Ansara was also an uncredited Judas in The Robe. He was also in The Ten Commandments, but I think the entire population of Los Angeles at the time was in one or another of the crowd scenes.
Today's featured star on TCM's Summer Under the Stars is Alec Guinness. Perhaps I should have blogged about him yesterday, since the day's first movie, Great Expectations, would be worth a post. But by the time this gets posted to the blog the movie will be over, although you can catch it on DVD. Hollywood may have had better production values when it came to adapting the great works of British literature for the screen, but the Brits had acting, as well as British authenticity.
I think I've stated before that I'm really not a fan of Doctor Zhivago, which is airing at 4:30 PM. That's probably because I read the novel before seeing the movie, which gives the story away at the beginning by taking material from the book's first epilogue and putting it as an expository opening scene. (The book starts with the funeral of Zhivago's mother.)
Doctor Zhivago is followed by the even more tedious Lawrence of Arabia, which is this week's Essential at 8:00 PM. Give me ten minutes of Maurice Jarre's score; that's more than enough.
And then there are the repeats. The Ladykillers, which I was a bit too harsh towards in September 2010, airs at noon. It's not that I disliked the movie so much as I don't think it lives up to its reputation as one of the great British comedies of all time. Heck, two of Guinness' movies today are better in my opinion. The Lavender Hill Mob, which I find fun and less forced than The Ladykillers, airs at 10:15 PM. And at midnight is the wonderfully inventive Kind Hearts and Coronets.
One thing I've mentioned a couple of times before that doesn't have Alec Guinness in it is the short All Eyes on Sharon Tate, which is coming up overnight at about 3:50 AM.
Friday, August 2, 2013
Another movie that's currently in heavy rotation over on the Fox Movie Channel that I've never blogged about before is A Walk With Love and Death. It's airing tomorrow morning at 11:15 AM on the Fox Movie Channel, with two further airings in August.
The movie starts off ith on-screen text telling us that our story is set during the Hundred Years' War, and involves the story of two young lovers who were born after the war began, and were fated not to see the war end. Considering that the war actually continued off and on for over 110 years, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that people lived their entire lives during the war. But the introduction also foreshadows that people aren't necessarily going to live happily ever after -- as if you couldn't get that from the title.
Anyhow, Heron of Fois (Israeli actor Assaf Dayan) is a student at the Paris university at some point in the Hundred Years' War. Well, he was a student. One day he walked out of class because he decided he wanted to see the sea, and from there go wherever a boat would take him. The movie is more or less the story of that quest, and the people Heron meets along the way. Now, you'd think that being in Paris, which is right on the Seine river, Heron would have been able to find a boat that was going down the river, which would get him to his destination quickly. One has to guess that because of the war, travel by river wasn't possible, so Heron starts off going on an overland journey, with the first boat he sees belonging to what is basically a cult leader who thinks women are evil, and that our hero needs to give up earthly desires, presumably by having himself castrated. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
Heron had in fact met a woman. At one of the places he was allowed to stay for a night he sees the duaghter of the estate, the lovely young Claudia (Anjelica Huston). As Heron is preparing to leave to continue on his journey, they meet, find love at first sight, and exchange gifts: he gives her a poem, and she gives him a piece of her outfit. Claudia is the reason Heron can't join the "pure" Christian sect. And who would want to join such a wacky sect, anyway? But with the country being in the midst of war, and with the depradations war has brought upon the people of the countryside, perhaps some felt that this is a better way out. Who's to say whether it's a better or worse pilgrimage than the one Heron himself is taking?
Heron finally gets to the sea, or at least the other side of some high dunes across which he'll be able to see the sea in the morning. It's there that he meets a group of troubadours who have a rather odd performance. But less important than the performance is the conversation Heron has with them. Since they're a group of itinerants, they've been able to see a good deal of the countryside, and were at Claudia's estate. Not long after Heron left, a bunch of peasants sacked the place, killing everybody inside. Claudia, however, was fortunate enough to escape into the forest and avoid death. Heron, however, decides that finding Claudia is more important than getting to the sea, and on the cusp of his goal, decides to go back for Claudia.
A Walk With Love and Death, and Heron's pilgrimage, isn't quite up to the level of the one Art Carney's Harry takes across the US in Harry and Tonto. That's partly down to Dayan not being as good an actor as Carney, and not giving us a reason to care about his journey as much as Carney does. But it's also in part because of the people Heron meets. They don't have anywhere near the emotional impact that and of Harry's fellow travellers do. With the war raging around them, everybody in A Walk With Love and Death has sheer simple survival on their minds, and Heron's pilgrimage is, for the most part, a contrast to that. In fact, a pilgrimage by land seems like it would be impossible, with Heron and Cluudia on more than one occasion being saved by coincidence. This, I think, is also to the movie's detriment.
That having been said, A Walk With Love and Death is an interesting idea that deserves a viewing, since it's so different from what we normally think of from John Huston that it's clear he cared about this movie. It also deserves a restoration of the original widescreen print, since what FMC is running is a pan-and-scan version that takes away from what would presumably be some nice location cinematography. (IMDb says that Italy and an Austrian castle substitute for French locations.) Fox's MOD archive collection has released A Walk With Love and Death to DVD, but I don't know if the DVD has the original aspect ratio. There aren't any reviews on Amazon, but I'veread from other reviews that Fox's MODs have done a terrible job of not doing anything to improve the TV prints before releasing the movies to DVD.