Friday, September 30, 2016

More California legal lunacy

A few days back, I commented about a new California law regarding websites posting the dates of birth of paid subscribers. I talked particularly about how it would affect IMDb (since, after all, an actress had sued them), but I suppose it would affect other resume sites too.

There's another interesting new law coming out of California. This one would require selling things with signatures to have a certificate of authenticity. I suppose you can say this sounds good on the face of it, but there are some problems when it comes to movie fans.

Consider some star, be it a star of today or an old timer, who's just written a book. It's not uncommon for authors to go on book tours, to bookstores where they'll do a sort of lecture/question-and-answer session on the book, and then sign copies of the book for people who bought it at the bookstore. Well, now you'd have to provide a certificate of authenticity with all those books.

I presume an auction house like Bonhams which partners with TCM for those movie memorabilia auctions has the provenance of all the items it's received in consignment, but when it comes to autographed stuff, I'd think getting a provenance for that is rather more difficult. Cary Grant signed a North by Northwest poster back in 1959? (That's just a hypothetical example; I don't know if it actually happened.) Good luck figuring out what happened to the poster after the movie's initial theatrical run. And what about the re-selling of autographed books?

I hope the TCM Film Festival wasn't planning on doing any book signings.

Lewis Milestone, 1895-1980

Lewis Milestone with one of his Oscars

Today marks the birth anniversary of director Lewis Milestone, who emigrated from what is now Moldova, a former Soviet republic between Romania and Ukraine, just after the Communist revolution of 1917. Milestone eventually ended up as a director in Hollywood toward the end of the silent era, and worked through the transition to sound, making close to 40 films in a career that lasted into the early 1960s.

In silents, he won an Oscar for Two Arabian Knights, as the Academy's first awards presentation had two directing categories, one for comedy and one for drama. He also did dramatic silents like The Racket.

In the sound era, there's another Oscar for All Quiet on the Western Front, all the way through to Ocean's 11 in 1960 and the Marlon Brando version of Mutiny on the Bounty two years later.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pat Neal is Back!

Well, she's still dead, of course. And there's no way she's going to be not dead any time soon. But I noticed while looking for the order of the movies in the Gene Wilder tribute that following The Frisco Kid, at about 4:20 AM, TCM is showing Pat Neal is Back, which is a promotional short for Neal's 1968 movie The Subject Was Roses. This was the first movie Neal made after the serious stroke she had suffered. The short doesn't seem to be available on Youtube, so you'll have to do with Neal hawking Anacin instead:

But the real reason I mention Pat Neal Is Back is because it looks like shorts are finally being listed again on TCM's daily/weekly schedules. There was a while where there were a few shorts that began on a half hour, as though they had been regularly scheduled like a feature, and that was it. (Well, the shorts in TCM Underground were there, too. but of course those are scheduled in the same regular way as the features.) But there are several shorts on the schedule through Saturday evening. Perhaps TCM will once again be showing the upcoming shorts.

TCM's Gene Wilder programming tribute

Gene Wilder (l.) and Jill Clayburgh in Silver Streak (1976)

Gene Wilder died at the end of last month, and TCM is finally getting around to running its programming tribute tonight. Unfortunately, some of Wilder's better-known movies aren't showing up probably because TCM couldn't get the rights to run them. But at least they've got Young Frankenstein at 9:15 PM. In and around that there's:

8:00 PM Role Model: Gene Wilder, an interview Wilder did for TCM with Alec Baldwin some years back;
9:15 PM Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks' spoof of the horror genre;
11:15 PM a reprise of the Role Model interview;
12:30 AM Start the Revolution Without Me, about twins getting caught up in the French Revolution;
2:15 AM The Frisco Kid, a comedy about a rabbi out west; and
4:30 AM Bonnie and Clyde, in which Wilder has a small part getting carjacked by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How old was Joan Crawford, anyway?

Stories of age discrimination have always been a thing in Hollywood. You have people at the young end trying to claim they're older than they really ae so they can be adults, and then at later ages, people claiming they're younger than they are so that they won't be preceived as old. I've seen various years of birth listed for Joan Crawford and Jane Wyman, for example, with the younger ones turning out to be the correct one as far as anyone can tell.

Apparently there are people still worried about age discrimination. Somebody actually tried to sue IMDb for putting out their real age; the person had been a subscriber to IMDb Pro which apparently people in the industry use for information. I'm not in the industry so I wouldn't know. But the Screen Actors Guild has responded by getting the California legislature to pass a law preventing web-sites from revealing dates of birth of paying subscribers. On the face of it, this seems reasonable, in that one shouldn't have one's personal information released. But this is a site where people are publicizing themselves.

The law is probably unconstitutional, and it's interesting that one of the only lawyers to say it does pass constitutional muster is the one working for SAG. But with today's judges, who knows what they'll find constitutional?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The last week of slapstick

This month's TCM Spotlight, on slapstick comedy, concludes this week with movies of the 1970s on Tuesday and 1980s and more recent movies on Wednesday in prime time. Some people may be shocked to see Anchorman on tomorrow night's schedule, but if you're doing a general survey that looks at the history of a genre, including something from only 10 years ago isn't that ridiculous.

The other interesting thing is that tonight kicks off at 8:00 PM with Bananas. Now, I happen to enjoy the movie, but there are a couple of scenes that I'm surprised to see showing up on TCM that early in the evening. There's a whole scene where he's trying to buy a pornographic magazine, as well as the final scene of Howard Cosell doing play-by-play of a married couple's first night. TCM doesn't cut movies, but they do tend to leave more difficult stuff for later in the evening.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Roller Boogie

So one of the movies I watched off my DVR over the weekend was Roller Boogie. It's available from the TCM Shop on both DVD and Blu-ray, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on it even though I don't think it's on the TCM schedule any time soon.

The movie opens to the strains of Cher singing a disco-styled song, with a bungh of people getting ready to go out roller skating in Venice Beach, CA, in what looks like Busby Berkeley meets the 1970s. Well, not quite Busby Berkeley, but close. Bobby (Jim Bray) is the best skater around, to the point that he's training for the Olympics! Now, of course, roller skating was not an Olympic event then, and still isn't one, but whatever. Suspend your disbelief here.

Meanwhile, over in Beverly Hills, there's rich girl Terry (Linda Blair). She's misunderstood by her parents (Roger Perry and Beverly Garland). Although she's an excellent flautist and is on her way to getting a scholarship to Juilliard, she wants to roller skate, and takes her car, gets friend Lana (Kimberly Beck), and goes off to Venice Beach. Now, you know she's going to meet Bobby, because there's no point in having a movie otherwise if you don't have a hoary plot point like this. Not only that, but she's going to fall in love with him, which is of course going to be a problem since they're from completely different social classes and because Terry's parents think the hilariously square Franklin (Chris Nelson) is right for her.

Once Bobby and Terry meet, Bobby teaches Terry how to skate, and spends some time with her at the skater's hangout rink, owned by past champion Jammer Delaney (Sean McClory). Jammer's rink is going to host the big roller boogie competition, too, and Terry is set on entering with Bobby and winning. There's one catch. Property developer Thatcher (Mark Goddard) has been trying to buy up the land, and has reached the point that he's willing to use his hired goons to intimidate Jammer into selling. Complicating things is that Terry's father happens to be Thatcher's lawyer, although Terry doesn't realize this.

Now, you can guess exactly where the movie is going to go, that the roller boogie competition is going to be held after all, and that Bobby and Terry are going to win, all obstacles during the movie aside. And yet the movie is still worth watching. Why is that?

Roller Boogie, it turns out, is hilariously awful. The plot is insipidly unoriginal, and not helped one bit by a male lead who couldn't act. To be fair to the producers, however, the role called for somebody who could actually roller skate almost as well as Sonja Henie could ice skate. Henie wasn't the greatest actress, although she got plots suitable for her limited range. Bray isn't even that good an actor. The movie is hilarious in all the wrong places.

Roller Boogie also winds up being worth a watch because it's a paean to the late 1970s. The fashions will, by turns, fascinate, astonish, and horrify the viewer. The 70s short-shorts combined with knee-high tube socks are interesting. Everybody gets to wear skimpy stuff, whether it's the women in either bikini tops or skin-tight leotards, or the men wearing shirts open all the way down the chest (or even the one guy in the opening number roller skating in the sort of old-fashioned wrestling singlet that covers up very little -- watch for the old Adidas logos in various spots too). There's also the 1970s technology; watch for the telephones as well as the one black character's headphones and cassette player.

And then there are the musical numbers. I mentioned the opening one reminiscent of Busby Berkelery; there are a couple other crowd numbers too. More shocking is a solo number Bobby does when he learns Jammer is closing down the rink. What's up with that one.

Roller Boogie goes off the rails in oh so many ways, but it winds up being fun because of this.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

High and Dizzy

I couldn't think of anything to post about this morning without checking to see which movies I've watched recently are in print on DVD, so I decided to present the 1920 Harold Lloyd short High and Dizzy. It's available on Youtube, and since the copy shown doesn't seem to have a score (at least, not in the opening credits that I watched, there's no copyright problems for those who would worry:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Rome Express

Some months ago, I bought a copy of the movie Rome Express on DVD. Although I bought my copy cheaply at Amazon, it's not out of print since you can get it at the TCM Shop too. I finally got around to watching it last weekend, and I can certainly recommend it.

The movie opens at a railway station, presumably one of those in Paris since there's an overnight train going to Rome and there was no Chunnel yet for trains to use. Various characters embark. Alistair McBane (Cedric Hardwicke) is a millionaire in the days when that was a lot of money; he wants to use his money to make himself look better and seems to enjoy spending his time treating his servant like dirt. There's an actress Asta (Esther Ralston) with a past, and her publicist Sam (Finlay Currie) trying to puff her up; a divorcée; and the very nervous Poole (Donald Calthrop). He's trying to get away from the mysterious Zurta (Conrad Veidt) and Zurta's companion.

It turns out that there's been a Van Dyke painting stolen, and Poole and Zurta both know something about it. Zurta just knows that Poole has it in his possession to fence it but that Poole is trying to double-cross him. Poole obviously thinks that Zurta is on to this which is why Poole wants to avoid him. Humorously, Poole winds up getting "introduced" to Zurta -- as if they don't already know each other -- at a poker game in the club car!

Poole takes his attaché case, which happens to have the painting hidden inside, to the club car, but wouldn't you know it, McBane's servant/secretary has a very similar-looking case, and he's in the club car doing some late night work. Obviously you can figure that the two cases are going to get mixed up and that this is going to add to the suspense. It's also going to get a bunch more people involved in the robbery, if at least unwittingly or as witnesses.

One of the reviewers on IMDb made a comparison between this movie and Grand Hotel, both of which came out around the same time. I think a better reference would be to Union Depot, since it has the same conceit of intersecting stories but set at a train station. (I thought I had done a full-length post on Union Depot, but apparently not.) More similarly, Union Depot and Rome Express both come across as lower-budget (the former having Warner Bros.' realism and the latter being British) without the gloss that MGM could give to Grand Hotel.

That doesn't mean Rome Express is in any way a bad movie. The intersecting stories work well together in the end, although you'll have to pay a lot of attention. There's a fair amount of suspense here, which is in part down to the screenplay of Sidney Gilliat, who would later do the screenplays for Alfred Hitchcok's The Lady Vanishes and Carol Reed's Night Train to Munich. Conrad Veidt and Cedric Hardwicke are both quite good, albeit in different ways. All in all, Rome Express is well worth watching.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Briefs for September 23-24, 2016

So I got to watch the beginning of TCM's recent presentation of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and noticed that it had the overture. I have to get up at 4:30 to work the early shift, so I didn't get to stay all the way through the end, and didn't get to see if it was the full ~190-minute version, or whether the short that had been on TCM's schedule ran.

As for shorts, I'll repeat that there's a paucity of them on the schedule right now for whatever reason. TCM's online schedule only lists three, with two of them starting right on a half hour and the third being part of the Underground schedule. As for the first two, those were already on the printable monthly schedule that I would have downloaded at the end of August. Wedding in Monaco at 4:00 PM is clearly there since it's at the end of a half day of Grace Kelly movies. Hollywood Handicap at 7:30 PM, well, I'm not certain why it's there, but there it is.

I actually watched a DVD over the weekend. I've been meaning to get around to doing a post on the movie, since it's obviously available, what with my having purchased it from Amazon earlier this year. But various other things have prevented me for the time being. Probably this weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Idiocracy screenings

Somebody on another forum notified me that, in view of the movie's 10th anniversary and because of what's happened in American culture over those last 10 years, the movie Idiocracy is getting a special one-night showing, along the lines of what TCM does with Fathom Events showing classic movies. (Of course, this is in conjunction with a diffferent set of people, but that's beside the point.) Anyhow, the link for it is here; the nearest theatre to me is down in Yonkers so I won't be going.

Apparently, director Mike Judge and star Maya Rudolph will be doing a question and answer session in conjunction with the showings; the joys of having movies be presented digitally rather than by film. It would have been much harder to do such a Q&A if you didn't have the digital link, I'd presume. I'm reminded of the ending of Five of a Kind, where the Dionne quintuplets are shown in a movie theather via a television hookup, this being the infancy of television.

There's also the time I saw Idiocracy show up on Comedy Central. My goodness did they have to edit a lot out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Curtis Hanson, 1945-2016

Oscar-winning screenwriter/director Curtis Hanson has died aged 71. Hanson's career started in the 1970s and continued up until his death. As for that Oscar, it came in the screenwriting category: Hanson both wrote the screenplay for, and directed, L.A. Confidential. The screenplay won him the Oscar; he was also nominated for directing, and producing, as the producer(s) of a movie receive the nomination for Best Picture.

Among Hanson's other work, he directed the thriller The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, as well as 8 Mile.

Another It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World heads-up

Back in October 2012 when Spencer Tracy was TCM's Star of the Month, they ran It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as part of the salute. Unfortunately, the running time was only listed as 159 minutes, which implies it's a cut version. In the past, TCM had been running what I think was the roadshow version, with an overture, intermission music, and exit music, and well as one scene that's not in the 159-minute version; IMDb lists the "original version" as 192 minutes, which I think is about how long the print TCM used to run that had the overture et al. ran.

Well, TCM is showing It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World again tonight as part of its salute to slapstick, and once again it's the 159-minute version, with a short coming up at 10:44 PM. The next feature, The Great Race, begins at 11:15 PM, so just in case TCM does get the ~190-minute print, they'd probably have just enough time to run it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The latest film festival audio story

The Gdynia Film Festival opened yesterday in Poland for a six-day run. Radio Poland's English service ran a report on the festival on yesterday's program, which I just got around to listening to today. They don't seem to have transcripts of their reports, just brief synopses. If you want to listen to the report, apparently you can listen live on that page by clicking the little speaker in the block below the headline. Alternatively, you can download the report directly; that's a 4.6 MB MP3 which should mean just under five minutes.

One of the films at the festival is Smolensk, about the plane crash that killed a large section of the Polish governing elite several years ago. It looks as though today's English-language program ran a report on that movie; you can download that report directly here (8.9 MB MP3, which should be nine minutes and change).

If you're actually interested in finding out more about Radio Poland's broadcasts yourself, they have a list of their podcasts. The "News from Poland" podcast at the top is the whole half-hour weekdaily broadcast; the "Society and Culture" podcast has many of the individual stories.

Hard Contract back on FXM

I can't believe it's been nearly three years since I blogged about Hard Contract. You've got another two chances to catch it on FXM Retro, tomorrow morning at 4:05 AM and then again at 11:30 AM. The listings sites don't mention it as being on any more than that in the next two weeks, but it might come up again after that, since FXM usually takes stuff out of the vault for more than two weeks.

That having been said, the IMDb page for the movie still doesn't list it as being available at Amazon, so if you want to catch it, you'll have to do so on FXM Retro. I don't recall what they've done with the aspect ratio, and three years ago, I didn't have a HD box for my TV, even though the TVs were 16:9. FXM seems to be stretching all the movies, even the old 4:3 movies, out to 16:9, however.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Briefs for September 19-20, 2016

I notice that Charmian Carr died over the weekend aged 73. I have to admit that I wouldn't have recognized the name; she didn't do much acting. She played Liesl, the eldest of the Von Trapp Children, in The Sound of Music, and is the one who sings "I'm just 16/going on 17". I'm not a fan of the movie, because in general I'm not a fan of musicals. In fact, I've always thought it would be a more interesting story if the screenplay had the Nazis catch the Von Trapps.

TCM's lineup for tonight is listed as "Featuring the Gettysburg Address". They've included the movie Hitler's Children overnight at 1:00 AM. I have to admit to not recalling where Lincoln's speech shows up in this one. I find the ending of this movie to contain some huge plot holes: the Nazis plan a live show trial, which they would never do since they couldn't control what the defendant was going to do.

One thing that's not listed on tonight's schedule is the short You, John Jones, which has young Margaret O'Brien reciting the speech. In fact, the schedule doesn't have all that much in the way of shorts on it right now. (Having said that, I don't think there's room in between any of tonight's currently scheduled movies to run You, John Jones.)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wild in the Streets

So over the weekend I've had the opportunity to watch Wild in the Streets off the DVR, having recorded it when it was part of the TCM salute to American International Pictures back in May. It's available from the TCM Shop, which I'm assuming means it's in print on both DVD and Blu-Ray; with that in mind I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on the movie. The movie is certainly an odd one.

Max Flatow (Christopher Jones) is the son of overbearing mother Daphney (Shelley Winters) and henpecked Max Sr. (Bert Freed). As we see in a series of brief vignettes at the beginning of the movie, it leaves Max wanting to rebel, which he does by learning chemistry and then forming a rock band. The rock band becomes successful, and Max Jr., having changed his name to Max Frost, is living the wealthy life in Beverly Hills with the rest of his band. Watch for Diane Varsi as Max's girlfriend, and a young Richard Pryor as the band's drummer.

This is the late 60s, so there's the whole counter-culture thing. Max's accountant is a boy wonder Billy (Kevin Coughlin) who graduated law school aged 15, so when they hear politicians talking about lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 (the 26th Amendment still hadn't been ratified by this point), Max points out that the majority of the population is under 25 and thus the voting age should be lowered even below 18.

US Rep. Johnny Fergus (Hal Holbrook) is running for Senate, in part on a campaign of lowering the voting age. He more or less teams up with Max to get the youth vote on his side, ultimately winning the election. But that's not the end of it for Max and company. The election campaign resulted in getting tens of thousands of young people out on the streets, and that bloc, of which Max is the de facto leader, can be used for further political reform. Max ultimately comes up with the idea of amending the Constitution to lower the age of eligibility to become President, and then coming up with such wacky ideas as putting all old people in camps and drugging them on LSD to keep them docile! Needless to say, things hit a snag.

As I said that the beginning, Wild in the Streets is one strange movie. The plot, of course, strains credulity, but I don't think that's really a problem for the movie. I can't help but think the movie wasn't taking itself any more seriously than the beach movies American International was releasing in the first half of the decade. Times had changed and with the disintegration of the Production Code, more daring things could be tried. There are a bunch of "generation gap" movies from that era where I think the filmmakers and big stars were seriously trying to appeal to the youth and failing spectacularly. Here, I think several of the older stars -- especially Shelley Winters -- are in on the joke, giving over the top performances that fit with the bizarre nature of the movie. Using Paul Frees as the narrator and having a bunch of cameos also adds to the surreality

That doesn't mean Wild in the Streets is a particularly good movie in the typical sense. The acting is poor, especially from the younger actors, and the musical scenes are tedious. The acid trips are, well, interesting if a bit wacky. And it all has a bit of a cheap vibe to it. The result is a movie that's a bit hard to rate. It's not in the "so bad it's good" category; it's not in the "so bad it's terrible" category; and it's certainly not terribly good. It's an overall strange experience.

Watch Wild in the Streets for yourself. I think you'll have an interesting experience.

Mentioning the same shorts over and over

I notice that TCM is filling out its Silent Sunday Nights slot by re-running the 1925 Studio Tour at 1:30 AM. I've mentioned this one three or four times over the last five years, and since the first mention I've managed to see the whole thing. That having been said, it's worth another mention, since it has now been released to DVD and Blu-Ray, as an extra on The Big Parade.

It does seem to have shown up on Youtube as well, but it's not in the public domain as far as I know.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A couple of obituaries

Several writers have died this week , and it's worth mentioning their connection to the movies.

Dennis Shryack died on Wednesday aged 80. He wrote the screenplay for the Clint Eastwood film Pale Rider, but also did Turner & Hooch, a movie I always mix up with Tango and Cash. Turner & Hooch has cop Tom Hanks adopting a murder victim's dog; complications ensue.

W.P. Kinsella died yesterday at the age of 81. He was a prolific author, but will probably be remembered for one story, "Shoeless Joe", since it was turned into the dreadfully mawkish film Field of Dreams.

The most prominent of the deaths would be that of playwright Edward Albee, who also died yesterday. Albee was 88. Albee's most famous plays is likely Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which was turned into a movie that won Elizabeth Taylor another Oscar. Apparently, not too many of his plays have been turned into movies, although IMDb does list several TV filmings of his plays around the world; I'm not certain how much these are just filming what happened on a stage and how much these are cinematic since I haven't seen any of these foreign adaptations. However, one of his plays that was turned into a relatively prominent movie is A Delicate Balance, which received the all-star treatment in the early 1970s, with Katharine Hepburn, Paul Scofield, Lee Remick, and Joseph Cotten.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Upcoming shorts on TCM, September 16-17, 2016

I haven't mentioned shorts recently for a whole host of reasons, one of which being that for a time, TCM didn't seem to have shorts going out too far ahead. But there's several things worth mentioning.

As part of the prime time lineup, there are a couple of making-of featurettes, such as one on the 1968 version of Mayerling at approximately 1:50 AM. Mayerling is a movie I actually haven't seen before, and would be curious to see how much or how little the featurette shows Vienna as it was back in 1968. (Was the 1972 version of The Great Waltz filmed on location? IMDb doesn't have anything about that on its page.)

Tomorrow morning, TCM is running a pair of shorts back to back. First up, at about 9:49 AM, is the Robert Benchly one-reeler An Evening Alone. That's followed at 10:00 AM by They're Always Caught, which is one of the Crime Does Not Pay shorts. This scheduling is interesting, since it was in the TCM monthly schedule roughly from the beginning, as opposed to the way shorts normally seem to be scheduled. This is in the place on the schedule that had previously been occupied by the series that were running in the slot just before the Bowery Boys movies, which are still on at 10:30. I haven't counted to see how many Bowery Boys movies are left. Note that this is by far not the first of the Crime Does Not Pay shorts, and TCM is not running them as a series in this time slot, as next Saturday morning it seems to be just regular features.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fay Wray, 1907-2004

Fay Wray being held by a giant prop, in King Kong (1933)

Today marks the birth anniversary of Canadian-born actress Fay Wray, who was born on this day in 1907. Wray is best known for her role in the 1933 version of King Kong, as the woman with whom the giant ape falls in love and carries up the Empire State Building.

Wray, of course, did a lot more than that in her career. Many years ago, I recommended some of her other horror stuff; The Mystery of the Wax Museum is particularly worth a watch. Unfortunately, both that and Doctor X seem to have gone out of print on DVD, which is a shame since they're both interesting movies.

Queen Bee, on the other hand, does seem to be available on DVD.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cleopatra (1912)

Somebody over on the TCM boards was asking about a shorter version of the Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra; apparently, the original theatrical release was shorter than what's available now. I don't think I've sat down and watched the whole four hours end-to-end in one go, so I wouldn't quite know, and I wasn't around for the original release anyway.

So I thought about the silent Cleopatra. It turns out that Theda Bara's 1917 Cleopatra is one of those lost movies, unless a version turns up in a mental hospital or somebody's attic or something. However, there was an even earlier version, from 1912, which is available on Youtube since it's in the public domain:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back on FXM after only a year?

I notice that FXM Retro is running The Day Mars Invaded Earth today at 1:45 PM and again tomorrow at 4:45 AM. I thought these where the first two airings in a while, and from my experience of looking at the FXM schedule I've had the impression for a decade or more that they have a policy of running a few movies into the ground, putting those back into the vault, and then running a different set of movies into the ground. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So when I saw The Day Mars Invaded Earth back on the FXM schedule, my natural instinct was to do a brief post on how it was back on the schedule, and include a link to the blog post I did on it, since it's actually a fairly interesting movie despite its ultra-low budget. I was surprised to see that my blog post was from May 2015. I would have guessed a good year earlier than that. But apparently it's only been about 16 months since the last set of airings.

I'd guess this is just a fluke and whoever programs the "Retro" portion of the FXM schedule didn't pay any attention to the amount of time the movie had been in the vault. But it is interesting to see something come back out fairly quickly, while other things -- even prestige movies -- languish in the vault for years.

Monday, September 12, 2016

TCM and AFI salute John Williams

Apparently, the most recent recipient of the AFI's Lifetime Achievement Award was movie score composer John Williams. Certainly, his film scores are memorable, going back to Jaws (9:15 PM tonight on TCM) if not earlier. As you can guess, tonight is the night that TCM is airing its programming salute to Williams in response to the AFI's giving him their award.

If you noted the odd starting time for Jaws, that's with good reason: the prime-time programming is beginning at 8:00 PM with the AFI-produced show in which they actually gave Williams the award. That show will be on again overnight at 2:30 AM. Interestingly, TCM is only running three movies, but I'd bet that's due to difficulties getting the rights. Williams worked a lot with Steven Spielberg and I think many of those popular movies show up on other channels. (TCM has run Close Encounters of the Third Kind several times; I'm not certain about most of the later Spielberg/Williams movies.) Indeed, TCM is rerunning their special on Williams' collaboration with Williams, at 11:30 PM. But somehow I don't think TCM is going to have an easy time getting the rights to E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, or Raiders of the Lost Ark, any time soon.

The first Spielberg/Williams collaboration, The Sugarland Express, can be seen overnight at 12:30 AM, or late Monday evening in more westerly time zones. The third movie is the John Wayne western The Cowboys, at 3:45 AM. Williams' movie composing career actually goes back well before The Cowboys, as he scored a substantial number of movies in the 1960s, often credited at Johnny Williams. Better examples would include How to Steal a Million or Fitzwilly.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Briefs for September 11-12, 2016

Apparently there's going to be a Guest Programmer on TCM tonight. This being September 11, somebody got the brilliant idea of having an ex New York City cop come on and present a couple of movies. (I have a feeling that the guy is actually a member of the TCM Backlot, and they picked him that way. Last weekend they had Backlot members presenting one movie apiece.) Our Guest Programmer is only picking two movies before Silent Sunday Nights and TCM Imports show up; those choices are Casablanca at 8:00 PM and The Dirty Dozen at 10:00 PM.

My most recent movie viewing is stuff that's not currently available on DVD, which is part of the reason why I haven't been doing so much in the way of full-length posts. It's a shame, since there are movies I'd like to post on, such as To the Ends of the Earth.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Battle of the Somme

One of the British-based bloggers I read (not a movie blogger) mentioned how this year is the 100th anniversary of the World War I battle of the Somme. Apparently, the British had a cinematogapher there, Geoffrey Malins, to document the battle. Some of the footage from the battle was combined with reenactment to make a movie, The Battle of the Somme. (I find it interesting that the IMDb page gives the American title for what was a British movie.) The movie was apparently a huge hit in the UK at the time; IMDb claims 20 million tickets were sold, at a time when Britain's population was around 45 million as best I can tell.

The movie, having been released in the summer of 1916, is in the public domain, although I don't know if every print is, since there's been a restoration and music added. At least one is available on Youtube:

Friday, September 9, 2016

Saturday series

I've posted several times how TCM is currently going through the 50-plus Bowery Boys movies every Satuday around 10:30 AM, or just before the noon time slot. TCM took time off for that for Olivia de Havilland's Star of the Month tribute and then the 31 Days of Oscar, but now that we're in September, those Bowery Boys movies have returned.

What hasn't returned are the other series. Before the summer, TCM was running the Ace Drummond serial in the time slot just before the Bowery Boys movies, but finished that up by showing the final five episodes at the end of July. There doesn't seem to be a replacement series, however. Last Saturday, TCM showed one of the four Brass Bancroft movies, in which Ronald Reagan played Secret Service agent Brass Bancroft, this in the days when the Secret Service was more about stopping counterfeiting than protecting the president. But they're not running any more of the Brass Bancroft movies. Tomorrow, they're running Torchy Blane in Panama at 9:30 AM. This is the Torchy Blane movie that doesn't even have Glenda Farrell as Torchy!

Tomorrow also looks to be the last of the movie series in the slot before the Bowery Boys. From next week, there's not another Torchy movie, and there's not even a "series" movie in that slot. It makes me wonder what TCM is going to do when they get to the end of the Bowery Boys movies.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The latest installment of Treasures from the Disney Vault

Tonight brings another round of Treasures from the Disney Vault to TCM. I have to admit that other than Treasure Island at 8:30 PM, I don't know much about any of tonight's movies. There's a couple of shorts kicking the night off as is often the case, a few other features, and a couple of episodes of the TV show that went under various names.

Walt's going to be showing people around Disneyland as it was not long before he died and was cryogenically preserved beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, at 11:45 PM. That sounds like the most interesting thing of the night to me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

An Enemy of the People (1978)

Over the long weekend I had the chance to watch An Enemy of the People off of the DVR, having taped it when it ran on TCM back in March. (Shows how far behind I am in my movie viewing.) It's gotten a release to DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive collection and is available from the TCM Shop, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on it, even if it isn't coming up any time soon.

Steve McQueen stars as Dr. Thomas Stockmann, the doctor in a small Norwegian town in the late 19th century. (The movie is based on a play by Henrik Ibsen, hence the setting.) Thomas spent time working in the northern part of the country and has apparently returned relatively recently, to work at the town's new spa, managed in part by his brother Peter (Charles Durning), who is also the town's mayor. Peter and the rest of the townsfolk are pinning their hopes on the spa, in that it will become, like Carlsbad or Baden-Baden, a place for the rich people to come and get the spa cure, thereby pumping a lot of money into the town's economy.

However, Dr. Thomas has had some worries that he hasn't wanted to admit to anybody else. There's a tannery upstream, and the good doctor has the sinking feeling that the runoff from the tannery is in fact polluting the spa water because the town fathers put the water supply for the spa in the wrong place. So instead of getting a healthful cure, the spa visitors would be getting a miasma of toxins. Sure enough, Thomas sent some samples to the university chemistry department, and his worst suspicions have been confirmed.

So Dr. Thomas is writing up a scientific report on the water, and is going to have it published in the local paper, one edited by Hovstad (Michael Christofer), a man with radical ideas. Hovstad would like nothing better than to take the town fathers down a peg or two, and damn the consequences. Most of the people in the town, however, don't see things that way. They're understandably worried that if news about the spa's water not being all it's cracked up to be gets out, that nobody will want to visit the spa, and it will condemn the town to poverty and a slow death. That, and fixing the problem is pretty darn costly and is going to take years.

With those concerns, the mayor tries to impress on his brother not to publish the report. And when that doesn't work, the mayor tries to impress on everybody else not to publish the report. Can Dr. Thomas stand alone with an entire town against him?

An Enemy of the People is an interesting story idea with some universal ideas about principle and consequences. It could be set pretty much anywhere and in any time, but McQueen, who co-produced the movie, didn't move it out of Ibsen's Norway. McQueen is quite different here than in any other movie I've seen him in, and if you didn't know it was him, you might not recognize him; his Dr. Stockmann has long hair and an unkempt beard. Different doesn't mean bad, and McQueen does more than a good enough job. Charles Durning sometimes seems as though he's out of place playing a 19th century Norwegian, but since this is a universal story, that doesn't really matter. Bibi Andersson is obviously more of a natural as Thomas' wife Catherine, and young Robin Pearson Rose, who has done a lot of TV work, is notable as Thomas' daughter Petra.

If An Enemy of the People has a flaw, it's in the adaptation. McQueen used an adaptation by Arthur Miller, and at times it comes across as overly obvious and almost didactic. It also drags a bit toward the end because the big conflict comes a bit too long before the ending. But that's not McQueen's fault or that of any of the actors. It also doesn't detract from the movie anywhere near enough to make it not worth a watch.

If you only know Steve McQueen from films like The Great Escape or Bullitt, watch An Enemy of the People. I think you'll be surprised.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

TCM Spotlight September 2016: Slapstick

Once again now that we're out of Summer Under the Stars, we get back to having the regular features show up on TCM. Among them is the monthly spotlight, which focuses on slapstick comedy. Every Tuesday and Wednesay in September, comedian Greg Proops will be presenting a series of slapstick comedies.

TCM has a mini-website dedicated to the spotlight. But as usual, their mini-websites are terrible. At least this one isn't a whole bunch of Flash crap. But there doesn't seem to be any mention of who's hosting; I saw a promo someplace and had to google to make certain that it is indeed Proops hosting the spotlight. There's a schedule, some pointless Groucho Marx download, and a link to some college professor writing a series of lectures to go with the movie series. Terrible.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Telluride has gone missing

Telluride, the city or film festival, hasn't gone missing, but it seems as though it has gone missing from the TCM schedule. For years, every Labor Day would see TCM run films that had been honored by Telluride, did the festival thing at Telluride, or had involvement from somebody who got a lifetime achievement-type award at Telluride.

This Labor Day, however, has a series of movies first alternating between having the word "devil" in the title and the word "angel" in the title. I figured at first that the Telluride salute was going to be prime time only, but the TCM schedule page lists tonight's schedule as movies celebrating an anniversary this year. Intolerance is 100; Citizen Kane is 75, and so on.

Back on FXM in September 2016

I notice that on the FXM Retro schedule for today and tomorrow, you can find A Letter to Three Wives. I find it hard to believe that it's been seven years since I blogged about it, but there we are. I think it actually showed up once or twice on TCM since then, but I'm not certain. Anyhow, it's going to be on FXM Retro at 1:15 PM today, and then again tomorrow at 11:15 AM.

The Tuesday showing will be followed at 1:00 PM by The Paper Chase, which will be on FXM Retro again early Wednesday. I blogged about that one at the end of 2014. I think it took so long for me to get around to The Paper Chase because it wasn't on for a while, and then TCM finally got the rights to run it. (It is nice to see TCM getting the rights to run more Fox films.)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Yacht Party

Over on the TCM boards, somebody asked about a singer they saw, probably in a short between movies about a week earlier. Thankfully, the TCM schedule from that day was still up, so it was easy enough to find that the short in question was The Yacht Party, featuring Roger Wolfe Kahn and his orchestra; the singer in question was Gertrude Niesen, somebody I'd never heard of.

However, the short also features a dancer named Melissa Mason, whose dance routine is, shall we say, interesting:

The full short doesn't seem to be up on Youtube, but it is up on DailyMotion. There does seem to be an embedding option, but the embedding doesn't seem to offer quite as many options, and not in a size that would fit this blog well, consdiering how I set the margins for the main table.

A Youtube search on Gertrude Niesen will bring up one of the songs she sings in The Yacht Party, as well as a whole bunch of other songs she did.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Another month without Robert Osborne

Well, I was able to catch Robert this morning because I watched something I had recorded on my DVR late last year. But, Robert's long, and I'd presume permanent, absence from TCM continues. This month, the guest host is Michael Phillips, a movie reviewer for the Chicago Tribune. (I can't remember whether that's the paper that had Siskel or Ebert.)

Phillips apparently hosted the TCM Spotlight back in September 2013, titled "Future Shock". He's going to be on Friday and Saturday nights. Apparently he only needs to be on twice a week since this month's TCM Spotlight will be running two nights each week, which leaves the other three nights for Ben Mankiewicz.

I caught the intro to Downhill Racer, and Phillips seemed to be competent enough, but another of those people who's not as naturally comfortable in front of the camera as Ben Mankiewicz or Robert Osborne are. But that's something that takes time.

Friday, September 2, 2016

TCM Star of the Month September 2016: Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman next to Warren Beatty in Bonnie and Clyde, tonight at 8:00 PM

Now that we're in a new month, we start to get new features on TCM. Among them is a new Star of the Month, which this time is Gene Hackman. I posted several photos from his movies in a post back in 2012 because I had nothing better to do. But it turns out that some of those movies aren't airing this month. Or, at least, a search of the TCM monthly schedule didn't bring up any matches. Bonnie and Clyde is not one of those, kicking the salute off at 8:00 PM tonight. It's also going to be showing up at the end of the month when TCM does its programming salute to the late Gene Wilder. For those who haven't seen the movie, Wilder plays a man out for a drive who gets carjacked by Clyde and his gang.

The French Connection shows up at 10:00 PM September 16. Hackman plays New York police detective Popeye Doyle, who together with his partner (Roy Scheider) investigate a planned importation of heroin.

Some of Hackman's better-known pictures, such as Hoosiers and The Poseidon Adventure, are not on the schedule, presumably because TCM couldn't get the rights this time around. I'm less surprised that they couldn't get the rights to Superman: The Movie, in which Hackman plays Lex Luthor. On the other hand, there are going to be some movies I haven't seen before.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Upcoming on TCM, September 1-2, 2016

Now that we've finished with Summer Under the Stars for another year, we get different spotlights. Tonight, for example, are a bunch of movies directed by Preston Sturges. I think I've recommended all of them with the exception of The Sin of Harold Diddlebock before; that one I've never actually seen. In between the movies are some Traveltalks shorts, as well as another airing of Tree in a Test Tube, at about 3:07 AM, or following Hail the Conquering Hero (1:15 AM, 101 min).

Tomorrow morning and afternoon brings several of the Falcon movies to TCM, but the series ran too long for TCM to run all of the movies on one day. Well, maybe one day and one night; I'd have to check and see exactly how many movies were in the series. No shorts during the day tomorrow.

I'll have to look and see if there's anything back out of the vaults on FXM Retro.