Saturday, April 30, 2016

God Told Me To

As part of the TCM Underground block tonight, TCM is showing the imaginative God Told Me To overnight at 2:15 AM.

The movie starts off with scenes of everyday life in 1970s Manhattan, just around the time when President Ford was telling the city to drop dead. Suddenly, the quotidian scenes change as one person falls dead from a gunshot wound! And then more and more people start dropping dead too, which unsurprisingly causes panic. There's a mass-shooting sniper someplace high above the city, and NYPD detective Peter Nicholas (Tony LoBianco) is the one who ultimately winds up with the task of bringing him down off the water tower the police spot him on. Peter gets up there, and in trying to talk the man down, hears him say something rather shocking: when asked why he did it, the man answers "God told me to." Then the man jumps to his death.

What an opening. But things are about to get much worse, well at least for the New Yorkers portrayed in the movie; for the viewer, the movie is about to get much more interesting. Other people start comming mass killings as well, and all of them respond by saying "God told me to", just before they too die. Something is going on, and it's especially disturbing to the devoutly religious Peter. So he starts to investigate.

Meanwhile, his investigation is beginning to bring up some uncomfortable things about himself. Peter is a devout Catholic with an estranged wife (Sandy Dennis) now living out on Long Island, and who is living with his girlfriend (Deborah Raffin); presumably he can't bring himself to get a divorce because of that whole Catholic thing. But the investigation starts to bring up evidence of some strange guy named Bernard who has a shadowy past and an even more shadowy birth, but who apparently met all the killers before they went on their rampages.

The investigation into the past is more disturbing to Peter. At first, people give explanations that by most normal observers would be considered just another case of somebody making stuff up about alien abductions. But to Peter, he's getting the sinking feeling that all of this is the unblemished truth, and that what it's leading to is some sort of virgin birth. Oh, there's that pesky Christian doctrine again to torment our devout Catholic detective. Worse, it appears the father may not be God, but the Antichrist!

As I said at the top, God Told Me To is imaginative. It's got a plot that can be a bit difficult to follow at times, as there's a lot crammed in to the relatively brief running time. But for the most part what it does it does well. New York City makes a very good backdrop, especially since this was in the city's crime-ridden 70s phase. The Disneyfied Times Square wouldn't work as a backdrop, but the lower-class New York of the 70s does. Sure, the story winds up being a bit unbelievable, but there are a lot of Hollywood movies that require large suspensions of disbelief.

All in all, God Told Me To is an intriguing and disturbing movie, and one that I think would make an excellent double bill with the original 1970s version of The Wicker Man. God Told Me To is also available on DVD and Blu-Ray at not too bad a price.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Australia day on TCM

TCM is spending this morning and afternoon with a day of movies set in Australia. The last couple, at least, were definitely made in Australia. I probably should have written a post on Picnic at Hanging Rock (airing at 4:00 PM) last night, but there was other stuff on my plate. For those who haven't seen the movie, it's set at the turn of the last century, and involves a group of adolescent schoolgirls at an Australian boarding school who go for a day trip to a park where there's a mountain. Despite being warned not to, a couple of the girls go up the mountain -- and some of them don't return. It's an interesting story, and one that's very gorgeously filmed, having been made in Australia by Australians. Jackie Weaver, who has a bit part in it, presented it on TCM back in May 2014 I think when she was the Guest Programmer and presented movies from the Australian new wave. The movie is available for purchase, but since it's from the Criterion Collection it comes at a pretty steep price

That will be followed at 6:00 PM by ABBA: The Movie. This is a look at the Swedish supergroup's March 1977 concert tour of Australia. There's a framing story about a rural DJ who has the task of trying to get an interview with the group, and always winding up one step behind them, the poor hapless guy. Along the way, he gets man on the street interviews with "regular" Australians. More interesting, of course, are the scenes with ABBA themselves. The concert scenes are good, while the backstage stuff (obviously a lot of it staged since they're talking in English) are even more entertaining. I think this hasn't aired on TCM since New Years Eve between 2004 and 2005, when they showed a night of concert movies and I actually stayed up until 1:30 AM to watch the end of it. This one is also on DVD and a bit pricey, but not as much as Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The TCM Backlot

I never knew that TCM had a backlot like the old Hollywood studios did. Well, it really doesn't, of course. But a couple of days ago somebody on the TCM boards posted that apparently TCM has set up something new called the TCM Backlot. The publicity blurb on the page is breathless:

Welcome to the TCM Backlot – the ultimate fan club for everyone who loves Turner Classic Movies! The TCM Backlot is your ticket to go behind the scenes, attend private gatherings, meet TCM talent and become part of the network like never before. You’ll get insider access to TCM, where you can influence programming and enjoy exclusive benefits only available to TCM Backlot members. Plus, we’re taking you deeper than ever into the world of Hollywood, cinema, and the luminaries who created the greatest movies of all time.

When you join TCM Backlot, you’ll be eligible to:

  • Vote on programming and help shape the network
  • Go on the air as a Guest Programmer
  • Attend special events and member-only gatherings
  • Meet TCM staff, talent, and special guests
  • Watch rare videos and first looks at original programming
  • Go inside the history of TCM and Hollywood
  • Access an exclusive digital version of the Now Playing Guide
  • Preview TCM events, auctions, and upcoming guests
  • Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the TCM studios
  • Enjoy regular contests, discounts and giveaways
  • Be featured in the Now Playing Guide
  • And you can become a charter member for the low, low sum of just $87! OK, that's not so low. And that's about as far as I got before the page hit an error loading on my browser. But it's not as if I was about to join. TCM was breathless about the supposed social networking benefits of the Classic Film Union, and of course that fizzled. And frankly, that's not something I would have been interested in anyway. But $85 a year to become an "ultimate fan" or somesuch seems like nonsense to me.

    Note the difference between the two prices I quoted. Before the signup page crashed on me, I was able to read that you can become a charter member for that $87. But when you look at the reams of terms and conditions, you'll note that it's an annual subscription, costing $85 a year. For however many years this runs. Yeah right.

    I appreciate that TCM need to find revenue streams, but I don't think this is the way to go about it.

    Sophia Loren at the TCM Film Festival

    Ah, today is day thta the annual TCM Classic Film Festival starts in Los Angeles. Nobody got me tickets, so I won't be there. Anyhow, it seems to be the case now on TCM the cable channel that they use the current year's film festival to promote something they did at the previous year's festival, that being one of the older-time actors they scored an extended interview with. In the past they've done Luise Rainer and Peter O'Toole (both no longer with us), as well as Eva Marie Saint.

    Apparently, last year they interviewed Sophia Loren. That's because the interview with her will be airing tiwce tonight on TCM. Between and after the interviews will be a night of Loren's movies. As is often the case with TCM premieres, there's an airing at 8:00 PM for the benefit of people on the east coast, and then another airing after one feature film for the folks out west. This year, there's actually a feature and a short. At 9:15 PM, there will be the 2014 short Human Voice starring Loren as a woman trying to reconnect with an old boyfriend. TCM showed it last year and it was worth one viewing, but not something I'd call particularly great. Then at 9:45 PM there's Marriage Italian Style, which has her tricking Marcelo Mastroianni into marriage after a lengthy affair, only to tell him after he discovers the trick that she says only one of her three sons is his, and she won't tell him which.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2016

    Kameradschaft

    TCM's three-week look at German cinema concludes this week, with among others, the interesting movie Kameradschaft, early tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM.

    G.W. Pabst directed this one with a cast of actors who, I think, wouldn't be much recognized in America. I certainly don't recognize any of the names, but that of course doesn't mean much. The men here are miners, working when they can in a mine not far from Germany's border with France. Or at least, that's where half the men work. The other half of the male characters are French, working in the French mine that's just on the other side of the border. Of course, the French mine owners don't care for the German workers, what with just having fought a war with them a decade earlier. The German owners, likewise, don't care much for the French miners. The border is so strong that it goes underground, through the mine where all of these people work, the French and Germans decidedly not being side by side.

    Anyhow, the French mining engineers have a problem. They keep having flames and embers smoldering, so they've decided to deal with it by walling those areas off, and letting the lack of oxygen burn the fires out. Or, at least, that's the plan. The way the engineers are told just to wall places off gives some obvious foreshadowing even if you don't already know the plot, that something is going to go wrong. And, of course, soon enough, something does go dramatically wrong, as there's a fire on the French side of the mine. As the French rescue crews go down the mine to try to rescue their workers, the German mine owners don't much care. Let them deal with it; it's their problem. Some of the German miners, however, have a different view. They should side with their fellow workers, rather than with their nationality. They decide under their own initiative to take the German rescue equipment and go down the French side of the mine themselves to help in the rescue effort.

    It's not all easy, of course, what with the language barrier, and the Germans not knowing the French side of the mine, and the families of the French workers protesting at the entry gates, and even one old guy going down the mine himself to try to find his grandson. But this is where the movie shines. The scenes in the mines are compellingly claustrophobic, and a fair sight better than the stuff that goes on above ground. The aboveground stuff isn't bad, although there are some conventional scenes of the distraught girlfriend or the distraught mother; it's just that the underground stuff is so good.

    The movie has an ultimate message against the nationalism that was keeping France and Germany apart and presumably threatening peace. This of course was to happen in a few short years when the Nazis came to power, so whatever mesage the movie was trying to send was fairly short-lived. Politics aside, Kameradschaft is a visually compelling movie.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2016

    If it's Tuesday....

    TCM is spending a night tonight with the movies of Tuesday Weld. I think I actually haven't seen Sex Kittens Go to College before; that on is airing overnight at 3:15 AM. One of the movies airing tonight that does deserve a bit more than a brief mention is the one that kicks off the night at 8:00 PM, Rock Rock Rock!

    This was one of those movies made in the early part of the rock and roll era, when promoters were trying to appeal to the young crowd by putting the teens' new music on screen. One of the things that meant is that the plots were rather worse. I've mentioned Rock Around the Clock and its almost shot-for-shot remake Twist Around the Clock before; those at least had the good sense to put their plots in the business side of the music industry . In Rock Rock Rock! however, the plot, such as it is, involves Tuesday (who was about 13 or 14 at the time) tying to get the $30 (in mid-50s dollars, mind you) to buy a dress for the big dance. Her boyfriend, meanwhile, is trying to line up some rock and roll names to perform.

    In a movie like this, it comes down to the performances. The filmmakers got Connie Francis, who I wouldn't exactly call a rock and roll artist although she was quite succesful commercially in the late 1950s and early 1960s, to dub Tuesday Weld's singing voice. Elsewhere in the movie, there's Chuck Berry and Frankie Lymon. But the other interesting thing in a movie like this is to see the artist the producers thought would become famous, but aren't remembered today. Cirino and the Bowties?

    One other thing is that movies actually made in the 1950s probably have a more authentic take on 50s set design (those lamps!) than movies made today looking back at the 50s.

    Monday, April 25, 2016

    Edgar Kennedy Day



    TCM is marking the birthday of actor Edgar Kennedy tomorrow, with a day of his films. Kennedy was a character actor so he didn't really get to be the star of features. But, he was famed for his "slow burn" of exasperation at the antics of the star around him. In addition to all those supporting roles, Kennedy did get to star, although in two-reelers. At RKO, he was the star of a series known as the "Average Man" shorts, and made four or five of them a year in the 1930s and 1940s, being in several dozen of them as a man who just wants to do his job or his work around the house, only to be stymied at every turn by his wife and her family. TCM will be showing eight of those shorts between 5:00 PM and 8:00 PM. The schedule has two 90-minute blocks with four shorts each, so I don't know the order of the shorts. I also haven't seen any of them, so I can't really comment on them. For whatever reason, TCM plays the RKO shorts from the 1930s and 1940s they have a lot less often than the shorts from Warner Bros. and MGM.

    As for the features, one that I'd like to mention is Hold 'Em Jail, which you can catch at 8:00 AM tomorrow. This is a Wheeler and Woolsey movie, starring RKO's comedy duo as a pair of salesmen who get framed and sent to prison. There, they basically wind up running the place, much to the chagrin of warden Kennedy. They also take part in the big inter-prison football game, on which the two wardens have a substantial bet. So Kennedy needs Wheeler and Woolsey to use every trick in the book to win the game for his prison. The result is a football game sequence reminiscent of the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers. There's one other interesting thing about Hold 'Em Jail, which is the sort of family you can only get in a Hollywood movie. Edgar Kennedy as the warden is married to Edna May Oliver, funny as always. They have a daughter played by... a teenaged Betty Grable!

    Sunday, April 24, 2016

    Chaplin's World

    Earlier today I mentioned how I listen to international broadcasters and how there was a movie-related program on China Radio Intertnational. Well, I also understand German well enough to listen to some German-langauage broadcasts. Usually, that's just news, since that's a bit easier to follow, but one of the podcasts I have in my RSS reader is of a weekly travel program that airs on Germany's Deutschlandfunk, that goes to various places around the world and does brief features on three or four of them each Sunday.

    So today in my RSS reader, I was intrigued to see a report titled, more or less Chaplin Museum on Lake Geneva: On the trail of the Tramp and artist. Note that the link above is actually in German; my giving the title in English is just a translation. Apparently there's been a new museum dedicated to Charlie Chaplin that opened up in Switzerland, where he spent his final years. You can read the report, in German, at the link above; if you can understand German, you can download the audio here; that's a 12 MB file around 13 minutes. Deutschlandfunk audio files are all available for six months from the date of publication, so this one will be available until about 1000 UTC on October 31.

    As for the Chaplin's World museum, you can visit their website here; it's also available in French and German for anybody here who's not a native English speaker. I don't go to museums much so I don't know how out of line this is, but the admission fee is CHF 23 for adults, which is about USD 24.

    CRI on the Beijing Film Festival

    I know I've mentioned quite a few times that I used to listen on short-wave radio to various international broadcasters. Most of them are no longer on short-wave, but still offer programs on the Internet, and one can listen to the programs in that manner. China Radio International actually still is on short-wave, although I generally listen to the features by downloading them over the weekend and then listening during the week. Most of the features aren't so time-specific that it makes a difference whether you're listening to a week-old edition.

    Anyhow, the CRI program "In the Spotlight" has, among the reports in the most recent edition (from April 20), a report on the Beijing Film Festival. If you want to read a brief synopsis of all of the reports from the program, you can go here. CRI doesn't package the individual reports into separate downloads, so if you want to listen to the report, you'll have to download the entire 25-minute program, or listen via streaming audio. Both options are available on the link above, but if you want a direct download, you can get it here. It's about 8.4 MB; I'm not certain how long CRI's programs are available for download.

    Saturday, April 23, 2016

    Guy Hamilton, 1922-2016

    I probably should have mentioned the death of director Guy Hamilton earlier, but this week has been busy and then Prince up and died. So I haven't gotten to blog about quite as much as I would have.

    Hamilton started his career as an assistant director to Carol Reed in the late 1940s, working on The Third Man among other things. His career as a lead director started in the 1950s, finally reaching more prestigious movies when he was named director of The Devil's Disciple, a film set during the American Revolution and starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas.

    'You expect me to talk?' 'No, Mr. Hamilton, I expect you to direct!'Hamilton, however, probably became most famous when in 1964 he was tapped to direct Goldfinger, the third James Bond film. Hamilton would later direct three more Bond movies in the 1970s.

    Among Hamilton's other movies are The Battle of Britain and Man in the Middle.

    Friday, April 22, 2016

    100 Years, 100 Shots

    Somebody at the Tribeca Film Festival put together an interesting montage called 100 Years, 100 Shots. The point was to take one shot or sequence from one movie per year for each of the past 100 years, one that's considered iconic. The shot, that is; not necessarily the movie, even those in some ways go hand in hand. The 100 films used are listed in chronological order under the video, which runs a little over six minutes.

    Obviously, it's going to be difficult to select just one shot per year. Consider 1933, for which the editor used King Kong, and who can blame that choice? And yet, 1933 would probably have been the year to select something Busby Berkeley did, since that's the year he changed the Hollywood musical with 42nd Street and then Gold Diggers of 1933. But that's half the fun of a montage like this, debating the creator's choices.

    Thursday, April 21, 2016

    Briefs for April 21, 2016

    I note that there don't seem to be too many shorts on the schedule right now. There's one for today at about 3:00 PM, apparently a promo for a 1960s movie called Quick Before It Melts where I haven't seen the promo or even heard of the movie, with the possible exception that I think I've seen the title of the promo show up before. The reviews make it sound pretty dire. After that, there doesn't seem to be anything until Sunday afternoon

    A couple of lesser-known people from the 80s died over the weekend while my home Internet was out. Rod Daniel, a director who brought us stuff like the original Teen Wolf, died at 73. And then there's Kit West, an Oscar-winning special effects artist from films like the original Raiders of the Lost Ark, who was 79. Wikipedia only links to a Dutch-language obituary.

    I've also seen that TCM changed the graphics package they use when they show trailers for upcoming movies. They use that hard-to-read tyepface -- the one that shows up in the word "Spotlight" of the TCM Spotlight, and also I believe on "Essentials" if that ever shows up again -- for the day of the week, and the whole package looks more naturally high-def than before.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2016

    Murder, He Says

    One of the movies that I watched over the weekend while my home Internet connection was out is Murder, He Says. It's available on DVD, so I'm more than comfortable doing a full-length post on the movie.

    The movie starts off at a general store in what passes for Hollywood's stereotype of a small town in Appalachia or maybe the south. The sheriff is making a speech about the dangers of the Fleagles who live several miles outside of town, because the adult daughter in the family, Bonnie, has just broken out of prison where she had been doing a spell for bank robbery. Into all of this walks Pete Marshall (Fred MacMurray). He's a pollster for an organization doing research on the attitudes of rural Americans, and he's specifically come to this town to look for his colleague, since this was the colleague's last known location and the guy hasn't been seen or heard from for some time. There's reason to believe that the colleague wound up at the Fleagle place, so Pete heads there.

    We fairly quickly learn why the Fleagles are people to avoid. When Pete arrives on the property, he gets chased by dogs, before eventually falling into a booby trap. One of the Fleagles takes him to the house, where he quickly learns that he wants to get away from the place. The Fleagles living in the house now, however, are not Bonnie's parents and siblings, but her cousins. There's Mamie (Marjorie Main), on her third husband, Mr. Johnson (Porter Hall); her twin sons Mert and Bert (both played by Peter Whitney); and her mentally slow daughter Elany (Jean Heather). They are there because they're convinced that the money that Bonnie stole is somewhere on the property, and they perceive outsiders as a threat to them. Also in the house is Grandma (Mabel Paige), who knows that this branch of the Fleagle family tree is up to no good, and knows that they've poisoned her: she literally glows in the dark. But the Fleagles use Pete to try to get information from Grandma, and she gives him a tough-to-decipher clue of a sampler and a song with wacky lyrics.

    Things get more complicated when Bonnie shows up. Only, it's not actually Bonnie, something you'd think the Fleagles would recognize. Instead, it's the daughter of a man who was fired for the bank robbery, and this woman (Helen Walker) wants to find the money to redeem her father. She convinces Pete to stay at the place and try to help her find the money, despite the danger that awaits both of them.

    Murder, He Says is a comedy, however, so all of the seemingly dark plot is in fact handled quite lightly. MacMurray would of course become well-known for the TV show My Three Sons as well as those Disney comedies in the 1960s, but this movie was released in 1945, at a time when MacMurray was doing all sorts of movies. He's more than capable of handling this material. He presents a good contrast to the ruralites, who are well played by Marjorie Main and Porter Hall. This was a year or two before The Egg and I introduced movie viewers to Ma Kettle, the role with which Main is probably best known. She's clearly the villainess here, but she's still portrayed lightly. The sight gags involving the twins are good, but there's an even better one involving a meal that's meant to poison Pete. He realized the food is poisond, and Johnson invented a lazy-Susan dinner table, so that gets put to good use.

    All in all, Murder, He Says is enjoyable light entertainment and more than worth a watch if it shows up on TV. You may find the DVD a bit pricey, however.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2016

    Proof that I don't look too far ahead in the TCM schedule

    At the end of March, I mentioned the Harold Lloyd movie Never Weaken, and even embedded a Youtube video of it. If I had a tendency to look ahead in the TCM schedule, I would have noticed that tomorrow is a day chock full of Lloyd's movies in honor of his birthday. Not only that, but Never Weaken is going to be among the titles, at 6:45 AM.

    Among the features, one that I think I've seen before -- it sure sounds familiar -- but am sure I've never recommended is Girl Shy, at 8:30 AM. This one has Lloyd playing the shy Boy, hence the title, who actually writes a book on how to romance women. On the way to the publisher, he meets a rich Girl (Jobyna Ralston, later of The Freshman), but she's engaged to a man more of her social class. He then learns that that man is all wrong for her, and has to get to the church on time to stop the wedding. If I've seen the movie, than this sequence should include Harold hanging from the arm of a trolleybus that should normally be connected to the overhead electric wires. (A Google search seems to confirm this.)

    TCM Guest Programmer April 2016: Gloria Steinem

    Tonight sees the monthly Guest Programmer on TCM, Gloria Steinem. As far as I am aware, the Guest Programmer segments were done before Robert Osborne's illness led to his absence from introducing films on TCM, so this should have him sitting down with her to present the four movies.

    Steinem's four selections are:

    A Taste of Honey at 8:00 PM, a movie that I have to admit I haven't seen before. It's apparently one of Tony Richardson's "Kitchen Sink" films from the UK in the early 1960s, dealing with the tribulations of a single pregnant teen.
    10:00 PM sees Breakfast at Tiffany's, the story of Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) and her relationship with a writer (George Peppard) who lives in her apartment building. I'm not a particular fan of this movie, to be honest. Watch for Mickey Rooney playing an Asian. Really.
    My lack of affection of Breakfast at Tiffany's, however, is not as severe as my lack of affection for Steinem's third choice, Mr. Arkadin, at 12:15 AM. Orson Welles directed, and I think he re-edited and re-edited this movie up until his death, since the movie makes little sense. But there are people out there who think that Orson Welles directed, so it must be a masterpiece.
    Finally, at 2:15 AM, there is the good political thriller Z. Il est vivant!

    Monday, April 18, 2016

    The Year of Living Dangerously

    I was going to do a post on The Year of Living Dangerously on Saturday, since TCM was running it on Sunday. However, my home internet went down and trying to do a regular full-length post on my smartphone is not really an option. Thankfully, The Year of Living Dangerously is available on DVD, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on the movie even though it's not coming up on TV any time soon.

    Mel Gibson stars as Guy Hamilton. He's a young Australian journalist, who has just gotten his first foreign correspondent assignment in Jakarta, Indonesia, circa 1965. It's a turbulent time both for Australia, which was going through some tough times in its relations with Southeast Asian countries, but even more so for Indonesia. Indonesia had, since independence from the Dutch in the late 1940s, been led by Sukarno, a dictator who was becoming increasingly unpopular by this time. Sukarno's forces are brutally repressing anybody who opposes him. More worrying to the west, however, was the fact that Sukarno seemed to be supporting the Communists and was definitely taking a stance against the West in trying to creat a "third way" with Yugoslavia and newly independent African countries.

    Guy Hamilton goes into all of this more or less like Johnny Jones/Huntley Haverstock in Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent: don't regurgitate the press releases that the various government officials are handing out, but find out what's really going on underneath the surface. That of course is going to be difficult for somebody who doesn't know anybody in Jakarta and doesn't even know what to look for. It's not as if the other foreign correspondents are really that much of a help. They've become cynical enough that they're basically sending out the same old stuff the government releases. You'll learn, too, they seem to imply to Guy.

    But Guy meets a couple of people who might be able to help him. One is Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver), who works at a western embassy. The other is Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt playing a man), an Australian photographer who has gone native, living in a small house away from the western compounds and hotels and even supporting a local woman. Billy has also started to believe that Sukarno is no longer good for the Indonesian people, to the point that he's willing to risk his freedom to protest. But before that he's able to give Guy some pointers as to what's really going on. Meanwhile, Guy learns some information that's probably classified, and if he were to release it he'd get in trouble. More pressingly, there's a military coup started.

    The Year of Living Dangerously is an interesting movie about a period of history that isn't discussed much in America, largely because America was more concerned with the growing involvement in Vietnam and the domestic civil rights struggle at home. Mel Gibson shows that he really could act. Sigourney Weaver is good enough but I didn't find her particularly memorable. It's Linda Hunt who is the standout, however. Then again, she's getting an extremely juicy role of a woman playing a dwarfish man caught between two worlds.

    All in all, The Year of Living Dangerously is a movie I'd highly recommend.

    Sunday, April 17, 2016

    On the bright side

    Although my home Internet has been out and I'm forced to use my smartphone to post here, there is a small benefit. I've been able to watch a bit more in the way of movies than I otherwise would. So I've got a couple of movies I can do full-length posts on as long as they're on DVD.

    The other good thing is that nobody famous has died.

    Saturday, April 16, 2016

    Technical difficulties

    I'm sorry to report that my home Internet connection is currently out, and will be out until Monday. I've got my smartphone, but of course trying to write a post on it is rather more difficult. So as a result, posting is going to be rather briefer.

    It's a shame, since I was nearly through a post on The Year of Living Dangerously (Sunday at 3:15 PM) about 90% finished when the Internet went out.

    Friday, April 15, 2016

    Judy Garland shorts

    Judy Garland is, of course, this month's Star of the Month on TCM. They've been showing her movies every Friday night this moth, and this week sees, in addition to her starring roles, a couple of shorts she made before she became a star.

    First up, before prime time, is Fiesta de Santa Barbara, at approximately 7:39 PM. I blogged about this briefly back in 2013; it's a bunch of MGM stars celebrating, fiesta-style. Garland (who would have been 12 or 13 at the time) and her sisters sing a song; Andy Devine, Robert Taylor, and other stars show up. The color on the TCM print I've seen is gorgeous. Oh, and if you've seen the TCM Extras intro? The guy singing next to the horse is from this one.

    Bubbles comes on around 9:48 PM, a bit after For Me and My Gal, the movie that kicks prime time off at 8:00 PM. I mentioned this one back on Judy Garland's birthday in 2014, as it's a really odd short. Children are performing, which isn't a particularly big deal. Except here they're presented as the children of the moon or something, so the way the short is presented is a bit bizarre, to say the least.

    As you can see from the above link, a very young Judy Garland also appeared in a short called Starlet Revue. That one can be seen overnight at 3:16 AM, or just following The Clock (1:45 AM). The Clock, which I blogged about all the way back in March 2008, is an excellent movie, and well worth watching along with the short.

    Thursday, April 14, 2016

    A movie I should have mentioned coming up on FXM

    There's a movie that I thought was coming up on FXM Retro after a long absence tomorrow and Saturday. (As I've mentioned quite a few times, when FXM brings a movie out of the vault, it's very common for them to show it towards the end of the FXM Retro block one day, and then show it a good deal earlier the very next day.) That movie is The Story on Page One, which I blogged about back in August 2013. I thought it was going to be coming up tomorrow and Saturday, but I was wrong; in fact it reappeared today. But fear not: it's going to be on again tomorrow, at 9:25 AM.

    Out of the Past Blog

    The other day I saw somebody somewhere mention the Lioniel Barrymore movie On Borrowed Time, probably in conjunction with the TCM spotlight on the Barrymores. Anyhow, that made me think of the tree in which Lionel Barrymore traps Death. I was pretty certain it was one particular tree that was on the MGM backlot, which had a bench circling it and which shows up in a whole bunch of MGM movies since so many of them were filmed on the backlot. (Sometimes, it's fun watching the old studio movies and trying to figure out which building fa├žade on the backlot was used in some other movie.)

    So I went and did a Google image search for the movie, figuring there would have to be a picture of Barrymore with Death (Cedric Hardwicke) in that tree. Sure enough, I found one which led me to the Out of the Past blog and her post on the movie.

    Now, any time I come across a new-to-me movie blog, I ask myself two things. First, is it interesting? This blogger certainly wrote a very good post on the movie. Secondly, is the blog still being updated regularly? Again, this blog does seem to get reasonably regular updates. Those two criteria having been met, I feel OK adding the blog to my blogroll. (I probably should clear out a couple of blogs that haven't been updated in ages.)

    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    From Caligari to Hitler: German Cinema in the Weimar Era

    For the next three Wednesdays, TCM will be looking at the topic of cinema in Weimar-era Germany, which is roughly the 15 years before the rise to power of Adolf Hitler. The title is taken more or less from a 2014 German documentary on the subject, which as I understand it is based on a German book that came out decades ago, not long after the end of World War II. I'm not certain if anybody will be sitting down with Ben Mankiewicz to discuss the subject and the movies. I can't see why not, but then when I looked at the TCM article on the series, I didn't notice anything that implied there would be a guest. Of course, the article on this month's spotlight about the Barrymores didn't say anything about the author who would be sitting down with Ben.

    Anyhow, tonight's lineup starts off with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the early expressionist masterpiece. I have to admit I don't think I've watched this one since one of my German courses in college. Since there were intertitles and not dialogue there was no problem following the German. The documentary that I mentioned above will follow at 9:30 PM.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    Too Late For Tears

    Last weekend, I finally got around to watching the DVR of Too Late For Tears that I made at the end of December when TCM honored some of the people who died in 2015. In the case of this movie, that honoree was Lizabeth Scott. The movie has been released to DVD on several inexpensive editions, although there was a more recent restoration so I think those DVDs don't have the best print. In any case, however, since there are DVDs available I feel comfortable doing a review of a movie that I don't think is coming up on TV any time soon.

    The movie opens with Jane Palmer riding in a convertible in the Hollywood hills with her husband Alan (Arthur Kennedy) one evening on the way to a party she doesn't want to attend, because the hostess is better off than the Palmers. Jane, in fact is particularly money-obsessed; she married her first husband for money but he committed suicide after he lost his wealth. But back to the present, where things are about to get a lot more interesting for the Palmers regarding money.

    There's another car stopped on the side of the road, going in the opposite direction. The driver of that car is involved in some shady business, as we can presume from what happens when the Palmers drive past him: he throws a satchel onto the back seat of the convertible. Good thing they didn't have the top up. Of course, when something that out of the ordinary happens, you have to stop , if not to find the person who did it, then to find out what they threw. The Palmers open up the satchel, and discover that it's loaded to the gills with cash! In small, non-sequentially demoninated banknotes, one presumes. In fact it's something like $60,000 in cash, which is a pretty tidy sum by late 1940s standards. Alan quite rightly assumes that they should just turn the satchel over to the police, but Jane wants that money! Eventually, the two compromise, and check the satchel at Union Station, where they plan to leave it for a couple days to see how it will affect them.

    That money has certainly affected somebody else, however. That somebody is Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea), the man for whom the cash was intended. He drove up to make the transfer not long after the Palmers, and was obviously able to get their license plate number, which is how he's able to find Jane at home in her apartment the next day. He wants that money, and if Jane doesn't give it back to him, he's going to be mighty ticked! In her greed, she comes up with an even more audacious plan: double-cross Alan, pick up the money from the baggage claim, and run off with Alan. Or that's her story; one can guess that she's probably trying to come up with a way to double-cross Danny, too.

    Two other people complicate this tale of greed. One is Kathy (Kristine Miller), Alan's sister, who just happens to across the hall from her brother and sister-in-law. She has the distinct impression that something isn't quite right -- to the point that she has a pass-key and is able to spy on her relatives. And then there's Don Blake (Don DeFore). He shows up as Alan's old Army buddy from World War II, but both Kathy and Jane get the impression that he's not telling the truth. Is he a detective? Is he Danny's partner in crime? Or is he really telling the truth?

    Too Late For Tears starts off interesting, and then gets even more interesting with a lot of twists and turns. At times you may think that some of these plot twists are wholly unrealistic, and to be honest, they are. But they make for a story that's never less than entertaining as you try to figure out what's going to happen to whom. If the movie has one problem, it's that it was made during the Production Code. You have to assume that Jane is going to have to be punished if she really is as greedy as she's portraying herself to be. Either that, or some sort of deus ex machina twist that wouldn't fit with the rest of the movie. Still, the story is good, and the actors do a pretty good job too. Scott is poisonous as the bad woman; Arthur Kennedy is solid but doesn't get enough screen time; Dan Duryea is as good as ever playing the nasty guy; and Kristine Miller does fine although it's a shame her career didn't go anywhere.

    As I said at the beginning, the movie has gotten a bunch of DVD releases although they're supposedly of poor prints. TCM showed a copy of the restoration, and it looked quite good.

    Monday, April 11, 2016

    Paul Douglas, 1907-1959

    Today marks the birth anniversary of actor Paul Douglas, a man who was decidedly not a matinee idol, but instead a good example of the middle-aged man who could be overbearing but also had a heart of gold beating behind that gruff nature. Douglas had a substantial career both in the movies and on TV in the last decade of his life.

    His first film was A Letter to Three Wives, which has him paired with Linda Darnell as one of three couples that may be split up by another woman (the never-seen Celeste Holm provides the voice). Full starring roles soon followed, as in Love that Brute pictured above, where he's paired with Jean Peters.

    Other onscreen partners included Judy Holliday in The Solid Gold Cadillac, and Eve Arden in We're Not Married. But Douglas was good in supporting roles, too, such as in Executive Suite or his final movie, The Mating Game.

    Unfortunately, not long after making The Mating Game, Douglas suffered a massive heart attack and died at the young age of 52. Thankfully his films live on, as he's always enjoyable to watch.

    Sunday, April 10, 2016

    A warning regarding tonight's schedule

    If, like me, you download the monthly TCM schedules, you might notice that there is an obvious problem with the schedule for tonight. The schedule has the 86-minute Tillie's Punctured Romance on at 1:30 AM, followed at 2:45 AM by Death of a Cyclist. Oh dear; that obviously can't be right if they're trying to put an 86-minute movie into a 75-minute time slot!

    The daily schedule lists the following:

    12:15 AM sees the first of the two Silent Sunday Nights films, The Extra Girl. This runs 73 minutes.
    Tillie's Punctured Romance comes on at 1:30 AM, listed with an 86-minute runtime.
    At 3:00 AM, you can catch Death of a Cyclist, running 87 minutes.
    Finally, at 4:30 AM, there's Peppermint Frappe, which runs 94 minutes.
    Peppermint Frappe will be followed by a short at 6:07 AM and then the regular Monday schedule at 6:30 AM. The monthly guide listed an episode of MGM Parade at 6:00 AM, but I don't think that's correct.

    So it looks as though the daily schedule should be correct. But there's still a warning for any of you who want to record the movies. I was looking through my box guide, and it didn't get the start time for Tillie's Punctured Romance correct, as well as having Peppermint Frappe end at 6:00 AM. Also, I don't know if there are any wraparounds for the Silent Sunday Nights movies or the Imports. If so, some of those running times are going to come right up against the end of the timeslots. If you want to record any of the movies, you may have to add some padding time at the beginning or end of the time slots and check your own box guide.

    Saturday, April 9, 2016

    Shorts report for April 9-10, 2016

    Last night, I got around to finishing my watching of Lightning Strikes Twice, a terrible RKO B movie I recorded last month. It only runs about 65 minutes and TCM had it in a 90-minute slot, so they filled out the slot with a short, Strange Glory. It's one of those Carey Wilson-narrated shorts, telling of a woman who claims to have given Abraham Lincoln the plan to cut Tennessee in two during the Civil War. The direction, by a young Jacques Tourneur, is interesting, but the short doesn't seem to be available on DVD.

    With that, I'll mention a couple of upcoming shorts on TCM. First up, at 7:48 AM tomorrow, is Doin' Their Bit, which is a late Our Gang short, having the kids putting on a show as their part in the World War II effort.

    The other one, at 11:39 AM tomorrow, is Dixieland, a Vitaphone short from the days before MGM would put out all those Traveltalks shorts. This one goes around the South showing various relics or reminders of the era before the Civil War. This is the sort of short that could have used color, although I suppose trying to lug a Technicolor camera around the South would have been prohibitively expensive for Warner Bros., if they even could have had acces to one of the few three-strip Technicolor camers around at the time. I don't know how James A. FitzPatrick did it.

    Friday, April 8, 2016

    Seven Chances

    A search of my blog claims that I haven't done a full-length post on Buster Keaton's classic comedy Seven Chances before.  It's airing tomorrow morning at 8;15 AM, so now is a good time to rectify that.

    Buster Keaton plays The Boy, here actually named James Shannon.  As is often the case in these silent comedies, The Boy has a sweetheart in The Girl, here named Mary Jones and played by Ruth Dwyer.  He's also in business with Billy (T. Roy Barnes), but the business isn't successful and is on the verge of bankruptcy.  James and Billy are in luck, though. James' grandfather has died, and apparently James was the only grandson, since wealthy Grandpa has bequeathed him several million dollars. There's one catch, however.  James has to be married by 7:00 PM on his 27th birthday.  And today just happens to be James' 27th birthday.  So James proposes to Mary, but she misinterprets his comments about marrying for money, and turns him down.

    Poor James.  To try to find a bride, he goes to the local country club, and chats up every woman he can meet there.  Needless to say, these attempts are thoroughly unsuccessful.  We know that James should end up with Mary, but James is going to have to go through a bit more before the two of them finally come to their senses and tie the know, hopefully before 7:00 PM.  Meanwhile, Billy is just as worried; he could use some of that money to save the business.  So he hits on a bright idea.  He takes out an ad in the afternoon edition of the paper seeking a bride and offering a substanial sum out of those millions if only the bride will marry James at the church at 5:00 PM.  How they'll handle the divorce isn't really mentioned.

    James heads off to the church to await his fate, napping in the front pew of the church.  In one of the film's more entertaining montages, we see, as James naps, the church slowly filling up with prospective brides.  Eventually, by the time James gets up at 5:00 PM and looks around, he finds that there's an entire church full of women wearing makeshift wedding gowns and veils, willing to marry him for his money! Hundreds of such women, in fact, in all ages and sizes!  James is frankly horrified by this and would rather go back to Mary, who by this time has realized that she screwed up too and sent a messenger to try to find James and get him back to her.

    So James leaves the church.  Unsurprisingly, this ticks off all those would-be brides who want to marry him for his money.  They start chasing him through the streets of the city, and even the surrounding countryside.  Who can't help but feel for James being chased by these hundreds of ravenous brides?

    Seven Chances is a wonderful movie.  I think it starts off a bit slow, and the bits at the country club aren't the best, but once the action switches to the church and then the madcap chase, boy is it funny.  One thing was changed, however.  In part of the chase scene, Keaton apparently tripped a bit and kicked up some pebbles, that began rolling down the hill as Keaton was running down it.  Test audiences loved this sequence, so the filmmakers extended it and made it more outrageous, having boulders rolling down the hill threatening to flatten poor Buster if the brides don't get to him first.

    Seven Chances does seem to be available on DVD, but at a pretty steep price for a movie that doesn't even run an hour.  So you may want to record it instead.

    Thursday, April 7, 2016

    Time for a movie I don't particularly like

    Tonight on TCM, there's a night of movies directed by Blake Edwards. Edwards actually did a fairly broad range of movies, as can be seen by the fact that the night begins at 8:00 PM with The Days of Wine and Roses and concludes at 5:00 AM with Breakfast at Tiffany's. He's probably best remembered, however, for the Pink Panther movies that he did with Peter Sellers.

    One other film that Edwards did with Peter Sellers is The Party, which you can catch at 10:15 PM. I'm sorry to say that I wasn't a fan of this movie when I finally got the chance to catch it on TCM on a previous airing. The plot has Sellers as Hrundi Bakshi, an Indian actor who gets blacklisted because of how he screws up location shooting on a movie production. Or, at least, that's the plan. His name is written down with the intention of being on the list of people who are persona non grata, but a secretary miscontrues the presence of the name as being on the list of invites for a swanky Hollywood party. So Bakshi gets an invitation and shows up. What is supposed to be chaos ensues.

    I'm sorry to say that this interesting-sounding plot didn't add up to much of anything for me. I found Sellers' character irritating; the scenes don't add up to much; the other characters are basically ciphers; and there's little reality here. Now, I suppose you could say that Sellers was trying to capture the magic of what somebody like Jacques Tati was doing in his movies, but things like M. Hulot's Holiday look at a topic we're all familiar with and skewer that, which is what makes the movie work so well. Watching The Party gave me the impression that these people were delivering some in-joke that, well, I wasn't in on.

    But, as always, watch for yourself and come to your own conclusion.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2016

    Briefs for April 6, 2016

    Screenwriter Barbara Turner has died at the age of 79. Turner wrote the screenplays for a couple of movies and TV miniseries, but might be better remembered for being the mother of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, from her marriage to Vic Morrow. (Leigh was born Jennifer Leigh Morrow, and took a professional name when she started acting, taking the Jason from family friend Jason Robards.)

    I mentioned on Saturday that I didn't know whether Robert Osborne and Sally Field would be back for The Essentials. It turned out that they werent, with Ben Mankiewicz presenting the movies. Ben, irritatingly, got the name of the author of The Virginian wrong; it's Owen Wister, not Owen Whistler. Supposedly, Robert Osborne is going to be back in May, at least according to somebody who posts on the TCM boards and claims to know somebody at TCM.

    As for the April spotlight on the Barrymores, it was presented as an interview between Ben Mankiewicz and author Carol Stein Hoffman, who wrote the book on the Barrymores. Literally, as she is the author of The Barrymores, Hollywood's First Family.

    Tonight's TCM lineup looks at lesser-known actor Arturo de Cordova. I haven't seen New Orleans (10:00 PM) before; supposedly it's got some of the greats of New Orleans jazz who perform mixed in with the plot, and they're supposedly worth seeing. (Certainly, the jazz greats in Cabin in the Sky were worth seeing, so I can't see why they wouldn't be worth seeing here.) That's followed at 11:45 PM by Incendiary Blonde, in which Betty Hutton plays the real-life entertainer Texas Guinan.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2016

    Angels Over Broadway

    Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to watch Angels Over Broadway, which is one one of those low-priced box sets from Mill Creek. Since it's available on DVD, I have no qualms doing a full-length post on the movie even though I don't know that it's coming up on TV any time soon.

    The movie starts off on a rainy night in New York. Bill O'Brien (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.), looking like he belongs in a Damon Runyan story (the movie was actually written and co-directed by Ben Hecht, not Runyan), is a small-time con artist talking about how he's going to roll a 7 tonight, he just knows it. More on him later, though, as his story is going to cross with that of the other main characters. The movie quickly jumps to the person who should be the real main character, but is only fourth-billed. Charles Engle (John Qualen, with much less of an accent than he normally has, and in a much bigger role than he normally gets), is in his office writing a suicide note. It turns out that his boss Hopper (George Watts) has discovered that Engle embezzled $3,000 from the business to help his estranged wife start a business. Hopper wants the money back by 6:00 AM tomorrow or else it's criminal proceedings for the Engles. Engle, of course, has no way of getting the money back, hence the suicide note.

    Engle is seen by a cop just before he can jump into the river, reminiscent of the opening of Mildred Pierce just after Monty Beragon gets it. So Engle wanders around town, eventually joining a group of people entering one of the city's swankier night clubs. He's giving his money away in preparation for his suicide attempt, so his big tips get him a good table and the perception that he's a rich man. This is where Bill comes into contact with him. Bill has been working as a tout for Dutch, a man running a high-stakes poker game that brings marks to the game to clean them out. Bill spots Engle as a wealthy man, and tells Dutch he can get Engle to come to the game, which will bring a tidy profit to Bill, too. At the club, Bill meets would-be actress and dancer Nina (Rita Hayworth), and cruelly ropes her into the plot to bilk Engle.

    But there's one other person who could do something about the plot. Playwright Gene Gibbons (Thomas Mitchell) is down on his luck, too. He won a Pulitzer several years earlier, but his latest play was a monumental flop, in part because Gene has become a hard drinker seemingly spending more of his time drunk than working on his craft, which is why he's at the nightclub. As he's about to leave, he's given Engle's coat by mistake, which is where he finds the suicide note. Gene realizes he has to come up with some plot to get Engle the $3,000 and allow Engle to go on with life. Gene reclaims a piece of jewelery from a former mistress, but she later informs him that piece is just a cheap copy; no way you're getting $3,000 out of that. But then Gene learns about the poker game, and comes up with the audacious idea of having Engle scam the scammers!

    There are a lot of interesting ideas in Angels Over Broadway, but I found the presentation to be a bit muddled, with the two main stories being developed too slowly and not meshing for a while. Bill's motivations, too, don't quite add up. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was well-suited for light romantic roles, but in this one I think he's a bit miscast. Rita Hayworth isn't given much to do here, but she does what she does well. The honors go to the two "supporting" characters, Thomas Mitchell and John Qualen. Mitchell plays another lovable drunk and delivers Ben Hecht's dialogue with gusto, although he disappears 15 minutes before the end in another implausible plot twist. John Qualen made this one the same year he did The Grapes of Wrath and His Girl Friday, and really sinks his teeth into the part. I've always enjoyed Qualen, but he's a revelation here. It's too bad the material isn't quite good enough.

    Overall, based on the price of the Mill Creek DVD set, I wouldn't have any qualms suggesting you seek that out. You'll get some other really good movies, and can think of this one thrown in as an interesting extra.

    Monday, April 4, 2016

    Gregory Peck's 100th birthday on TCM

    Tomorrow happens to be the 100th anniversary of the birth of Oscar-winning actor Gregory Peck. TCM is going to be spending all morning and evening with Peck's films. Well, technically not quite the entire 24 hours. At 12:15 AM Wednesday, or still late on Tuesday evening in the more westerly time zones, TCM will be running the 1999 documentary A Conversation With Gregory Peck, which looks at Peck in part through personal time with his family and in part with Q&A sessions he did with fans at various movie events. It's a reasonably well-done look at the actor

    One of Peck's movies I thought I had blogged about before is Man With a Million, but it turns out that I've only mentioned it briefly, back when its director, Bryan Forbes, passed away in 2013. Peck plays an American stranded in turn of the 20th century London who is approached by two wealthy Brits having a wager with each other. They give him a £1,000,000 note, with the caveat that he's not allowed to break it for smaller denominations. Since none of the people Peck's character will be dealing with would be able to make change anyway, Peck basically has to live on the credit that the note can bring. The men's wager deals with how people will deal with a man who may or may not have real wealth. It's an interesting idea with a bunch of good performances.

    I could also point out another airing of On the Beach (5:45 PM), although it's not Peck's performance that I'd recommend this one for. Instead, if you're going to watch it, it's Fred Astaire in a dramatic non-dancing role who is really the revelation in this one.

    Peck's Oscar-winning performance in To Kill a Mockingbird is also on the schedule, at 10:00 PM, following his other success from the same year, Cape Fear at 8:00 PM.

    TCM's April Spotlight

    We've already had a night of April's Star of the Month on TCM, Judy Garland, who made enough movies that TCM can easily fill up five nights of prime time with her films. And now it's time for the monthly spotlight. This month, it will look at the Barrymore acting family.

    I'm not certain who, if anybody, will be the guest host for the spotlight, since the TCM article I saw on the subject didn't seem to say anything about that. But, on each of the first three Mondays of the month, the spotlight will be looking at a different member of the family. This first Monday sees the films of John Barrymore, starting at 8:00 PM with the silent version of Don Juan, which was also the first movie with a synchronized music score (and some sound effects). I think I've mentioned that when this movie was released back in 1926, it was released in conjunction with a series of Vitaphone shorts, some of which included regular talking.

    Next Monday will see the films of Lionel Barrymore, and that will be followed on the 18th by the movies of Ethel Barrymore. That leaves one Monday night left, the 25, and that night will have movies featuring collaborations between two of the Barrymores, which mostly means John and Lionel together. Ethel only made the one movie with her brothers, Rasputin and the Empress, which will be airing. Following the making of that movie, she went back to the stage for another dozen years, only returning to Hollywood for None but the Lonely Heart which won her an Oscar and which will be on the schedule at 8:00 PM on the 18th.

    It's too bad, but we don't get any of the movies of John Drew Barrymore, or his sister Diana (although, to be fair, she didn't have much of an acting career, being more famous for her book-turned-into-a-movie Too Much, Too Soon), or heaven forfend, granddaughter Drew.

    Sunday, April 3, 2016

    Oscar Micheaux night

    This week sees several silent movies on TCM. There's the normal Silent Sunday Nights slot, but there are going to be some silents in other places, too. More on those later in the week. This being Sunday, we note that it's Silent Sunday Nights again, and this week looks at a couple of films from pioneering black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.

    The night begins at midnight with Within Our Gates, a movie about a black woman who tries to run a school down south but has funding issues, so she goes to visit her relatives up north, where she faces just as much racism as she would down south. The woman also has a past about her, although that past is really only revealed in the film's climax. It's an interesting idea, but the various plot lines get a bit muddled, which is a shame.

    The other movie is interesting but also has problems: The Symbol of the Unconquered at 1:30 AM. This one deals with a light-skinned black woman from down south who goes north when she inherits some land from a relative. She winds up living next to another black man, who is farming the land until he finds out about the mineral rights underneath the land. Unfortunately for him, the white people find out about those mineral rights, too, and want him off the land. They're willing to go so far as to use Klan force to drive the black man off his land. The story is an interesting one, and the problem here isn't with the film itself. Unfortunately, as with a lot of silent movies, the elements degrade over time, and a couple of reels of The Symbol of the Unconquered have been lost, with a note at the beginning of the movie telling us they will be filled in with stills where available, or intertitles telling us what's on the missing reels. The climax that has our black heroes fighting the Klan -- and winning -- unfortunately wound up on one of those missing reels, so just as we get to the climax, we only get a brief verbal description of it!

    Saturday, April 2, 2016

    Will anything be on The Essentials tonight?

    Four weeks ago, on what was supposed to be the first Saturday of the new season of TCM's The Essentials, I mentioned that the series had been delayed thanks to Robert Osborne's illness and an inability to get his and Sally Field's schedules to mesh in time to get the wraparounds done in time for the first weekend of March. The website only mentioned a "production delay", and said that during March, Ben Mankiewicz would be presenting the movies on Saturday evenings.

    Well, we're into April now. Tonight at 8:00 PM we can see Alan Ladd as Shane, something which would have been on the schedule regardless of whether it's being presented by Robert and Sally, or by Ben. But just who will be presenting it? The Essentials website linked above hasn't been updated, and there doesn't seem to anything on the main TCM page about Robert and Sally returning for another season of The Essentials. The only link on the main page that I could find is to the aforementioned link. And I haven't seen any of the posters on the TCM forums who would normally have more information. There also doesn't seem to be much information gleaned from a Google search.

    I guess we'll find out at 8:00 tonight.

    Friday, April 1, 2016

    TCM Star of the Month April 2016: Judy Garland


    Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in, I think, Babes on Broadway (April 9, 3:00 AM)

    We're into a new month already, as I briefly mentioned yesterday. This means, in addition to some movies back on FXM Retro, that we get a new Star of the Month on TCM. This time, it's MGM star Judy Garland, and her movies will be airing on each of the five Fridays this month.

    Garland having worked at MGM for close to 15 years, TCM should have had no problem getting most of the movies they would have wanted to show. Or, at least, the movies she made before leaving MGM in about 1950. One later movie that doesn't seem to be on the TCM schedule this month is Garland's final film, I Could Go on Singing. Even The Wizard of Oz, which used to show up fairly rarely on the channel, can be seen next Friday at 8:00 PM.

    Tonight starts off with a decided supporting role, in Pigskin Parade at 8:00 PM, one of those college football movies that seem to have been so popular in the 1930s. But just a year or two after making that one Judy was already a pretty big juvenile star, as can be seen by her high billing in the following film, Listen, Darling at 9:45 PM.