Thursday, July 17, 2014

Boris Karloff night, of a sort

Tonight's lineup on TCM is a pair of crime movies, both of which were remade. The twist, however, is that TCM is running both the originals, and the remakes. It's also mildly interesting, although purely a coincidence I think, that both of the originals have Boris Karloff in decidedly non-horror roles. (It's probably also coincidental that Howard Hawks directed both originals.)

The first of the movies is The Criminal Code at 8:00 PM. Unfortunately I only got to see about two-thirds of this the last time it showed up on TCM, and then something interrupted me and I never got to see the end, so I'm looking forward to tonight's airing. Walter Huston plays a DA turned prison warden who tries to rehabilitate the young naïf (Phillips Holmes) he sent to prison. Things, however, get complicated when Holmes falls in love with Huston's daughter (Constance Cummings), and even more so when he sees his cellmate commit a murder. It's Boris Karloff playing that cellmate. There's shades of Robert Montgomery in The Big House here, but the two-thirds that I saw were certainly interesting. A bit of trivia: The Criminal Code is the movie that Boris Karloff's character is watching on TV at the beginning of Targets. The Criminal Code was remade in 1950 as Convicted, which TCM is showing at 10:00 PM. I haven't seen that one at all.

The other original is Scarface at midnight, which has Paul Muni starring as a gangster who's based somewhat loosely on Al Capone. Karloff plays an Irish gangster who gets a memorable scene in a bowling alley. But it's Paul Muni's movie all the way as he plays the ultraviolent mobster. Scarface was remade in the early 1980s by Brian De Palma, starring Al Pacino as the gangster and moving the action to Miami's Cuban-American community and having Scarface control the drug trade. That version is on at 2:00 AM, as TCM won't show a film with so much bad language at a more reasonable hour. Personally, I find the De Palma version overlong and bloated. But, I know that a lot of critics would disagree with me on that one. As always, judge for yourself.

Now TCM really needs to dust off fellow horror star Bela Lugosi's comic turn in Broadminded.

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