The Cinema Cafe

Serving Cinema's Tastiest Treasures

"Now Listen to Me..."

Just some thoughts on current happenings:

 

There are 10 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month. Many of these are previous recommendations, the reviews for which will be linked.

 

The first is John Boorman's bullet from a gun, 1967's Point Blank, previously recommended here. This is perhaps the best neo-noir ever made: Focused, stylish and tremendously impactful. It hits TCM (updated) Thursday, August 18 at 5pm PST.

 

 

 

 

Next is Barbara Loden's incredible directorial debut Wanda, Hidden Gem #29, a previous TCM recommendation here. Her appearance will occur on TCM Thursday, October 8 at 5pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of last year's October recommendations was made in keeping with the Halloween spirit and is also showing this month on TCM: Georges Franju's terrifying Eyes Without a Face reviewed here. This is one of the horror genre's greatest accomplishments. All will be revealed Friday, October 9 at 1:15am (technically Saturday morning) PST. 

 

 

 

 

The next recommendation concerns an other worldly spirit but could hardly qualify as having a "horror" or even "haunted" theme, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, one of the most beautifully touching love stories ever brought to film. This incredibly moving drama is reviewed here. The romance will commence Wednesday, October 14 at 7pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next “must see” film is Mervyn LeRoy’s Gold Diggers of 1933, an absolute delight for many reasons, foremost of which is its lively optimism in the face of America’s Great Depression.

Like many of the films made during this time, the premise is about putting on a show. Sure, there are obstacles in the way, (and here they are most creatively employed) but the deterrents always seem to be enthusiastically overcome due to the characters’ resilience, creative resourcefulness and hopeful attitudes.

 

 

 

There’s a wonderfully engaging, romantic-comedy subplot involving Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Aline MacMahon and Joan Blondell. They go to some rather risqué ‘pre-code’ lengths to set up Powell’s on-screen brother, actor Warren William, creating many wildly funny situations.

 

 

 

Then there are the outlandishly inventive show numbers themselves with their marvelous songs written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. “We’re in the Money” is the first to be presented and has numerous scantily clad chorus girls dressed in coins performing to a catchy, upbeat tune about prosperous times. Busby Berkeley, the great behind-the-scenes overseer of these musical interludes, provides a few seconds of close-up fame for some of the girls when each beauty reveals her glowing, sun-shiny face behind a hand-held “coin shield.” One of these performers is none other than Fred Astaire’s future dance partner Ginger Rogers who oddly enough sings the title song in pig Latin!

 

 

The Great Depression’s reality may be ignored in the aforementioned song but not in the film. This direness is introduced early on when the authorities come busting in, interrupting the opening number’s rehearsal and forcing the entire show to be cancelled due to unpaid creditors. In fact, The Great Depression and WW1’s aftermath is dealt with head-on throughout the story, most evident in the last and timely musical feature “My Forgotten Man.” This final showpiece was an attempt by the film's producers to galvanise Government support not only for veterans but for the greater populace desperately facing extreme poverty in uncertain times.

 

 

There’s also the electrifying (perhaps literally for the girls who were “wired” to perform it) “Shadow Waltz” (See: Top Ten Image #29). This sequence is like most of Berkeley’s other numbers; his boundless imagination simply could not be confined to a single setting and therefore cinematically transcends the dimensional stage in elaborately unexpected, dreamlike ways.

 

 

 

Berkeley’s most ‘pre-code’, audaciously bizarre number has to be "Pettin’ in the Park", with Billy Barty dressed as an infant chasing a ball into a woman’s skirt, shooting peas at a policeman, lifting a curtain to expose some girls undressing after a sudden rainstorm, and assisting Dick Powell in cutting open Ruby Keeler’s metallic outfit! What would Freud have made of this?

 

 

 

Gold Diggers of 1933 perfectly balances deliriously uninhibited escapism with some poignant underlying reminders of our collective humanity and brotherly responsibilities. The show must go on TCM (updated) Tuesday, April 4 at 5pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above images. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right-hand corner of TCM's programme.

 

 

 

 

Another pre-code film to see is Dark Hazard: Hidden Gem #52 , also previously reviewed as a TCM recommendation here. He’ll “race from the gate” Friday, October 23 at 9:30am PST. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Peckinpah’s elegiac Ride the High Country is my next recommended film. It was previously reviewed as Top Ten Western #4 and will ride into TCM Monday, October 26 at 3:15pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

My final three TCM recommendations, in keeping with the Halloween spirit, are all Horror films and distinguished ones at that. This genre, at least in the last 4 decades, has been dominated by an admittedly popular share of cheaply made “slasher flicks” many of which exist solely to sensationalise physical human suffering in new and creatively gruesome ways. These come off as made by technicians rather than sophisticated cinematic storytellers, no matter how much their lucrative popularity points to an enormously receptive, perhaps intellectually challenged, audience. There are exceptions, even with horror’s gorier representatives, where the characters possess engagingly complex personalities and the perilous circumstances they find themselves in have enough dramatic structure to allow them and the plot to both synergistically develop. None of the three recommended films that follow actually portray any physically revolting acts. In order to effectively communicate the horror within the events portrayed, they didn’t have to.

 

 

 

The first of the three is Todd Browning’s 1932 shocker Freaks.

The horror comes about not because of the title’s aberrations of human nature populating a touring circus (although many at the time didn’t see it that way), but because of what they are compelled to do at the story’s conclusion. Browning’s ability to infuse all of his participants with such multi-dimensional personalities (assisted and inspired by the director having worked at a circus in his youth) is one of this genre’s great accomplishments. They are all vividly presented with compassion but never sentimentalized, expressing a multitude of emotions, weaknesses, and aspirations. By the time the “freaks” conspire to exact their revenge, we’re totally captivated in witnessing the outcome. It’s actually the two so-called “normal” people, portraying Hercules and Cleopatra in the side-show group who turn out to be the real monsters. Their wicked nature is finally demonstrated to the others in a bravura scene involving a celebratory feast when drink and pride help divulge the couple’s true disdain for their hosts. This and the duo’s murderous intentions once revealed to the others, will set up some of the most memorably dark and chilling imagery this genre has to offer. Upon its initial release, Freaks encountered an overwhelmingly hostile reception from critics and audiences alike, so the film was truncated, shorn of about 30 minutes, with a happier ending inserted. The cut footage, unfortunately, has long been considered lost. Even so, it packs a wallop. The ‘freaks’ are coming to TCM Thursday, (morning) October 29 at 4:45am PST.

 

 

 

 

My next horror recommendation is a different kind of feature, more atmospheric, mysterious and psychologically oriented than the one above: The Seventh Victim.

In examining cinema’s history, especially from a critical perspective, it’s pretty rare when a film’s producer receives the artistic accolades. Val Lewton, however was no ordinary producer. The Russian born Lewton after working for David O. Selznick as a story editor, was hired by RKO to head their new horror production department, where he made his most famous and well regarded low cost movies. Although Lewton hired the writers who made contributions, he alone was responsible for their stories (having been given only their titles) and always wrote the final shooting scripts. When the studio graduated Lewton from B to A features such as The Curse of the Cat People and The Seventh Victim, Lewton’s recognition of talent handed future noteworthy directors Robert Wise and Mark Robson their first directorial assignments, respectively.

Val Lewton (1904 - 1951)

Val Lewton (1904 - 1951)

The film's title The Seventh Victim was provided to Lewton before he took the story in a completely different direction and therefore doesn't really pertain to its macabre tale. The story concerns a young woman’s (the fabulous Kim Hunter making her film debut) search for her missing sister and the discovery of a Satanic cult that may be implicated. The Seventh Victim represents cinematic storytelling at its finest. Everything here: Writing, direction, performances, photography, music, coalesces perfectly to bring mystery, suspense, horror, even criminal noir elements to its finest apotheosis. And when that kind of magic comes together from all of its collaborative elements, credit the film’s producer. The Seventh Victim will “meet her fate” on TCM (updated) Monday, March 20 (early morning) at 4:15am PST. TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above images. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right-hand corner of TCM's programme.

 

 

 

 

My final TCM recommendation is one of Britain’s finest that just so happens to be a horror film: Dead of Night. This previously reviewed TCM recommendation here concerns a continuous recurring nightmare, set to begin Halloween evening Saturday, October 31 at 8:30pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above images. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right-hand corner of TCM's programme.

 

 

 

 

The October Soundtrack recommendation is Jerry Goldsmith’s powerhouse score to the WWII drama In Harm’s Way.

This recently released expanded presentation from Intrada Records contains both the original RCA album and newly discovered multi-track masters, the latter of which, along with three added cues, is presented for the first time. It contains some of Goldsmith’s most rhythmically exciting action music plus a stirring Shostakovich-like standout piece for the film’s final credits. More information including ordering details on this sensational score can be read by clicking on the image. Intrada ships worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Happy Birthday shout-out to actor Richard Dreyfuss who turns 68 on October 29th. His consummate professionalism has enlivened some truly inspired characters from Baby Face Nelson in 1972’s Dillinger and Curt in American Graffiti to Hooper in Jaws and Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. His distinctively infectious personality has also bettered some lesser known films such as The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Let It Ride and The Tin Man. I have included a very short but poignant clip with Richard speaking about actor Robert Shaw whom he worked with on Jaws.

 

 

 

 

 

Now, in an apparent contradiction from what I negatively referred to above regarding cinematic "gore-fests", my Blu-ray recommendation has to be one of the most astonishingly gruesome entries in the genre: Stuart Gordon's 1985 Re-Animator.

This film is so inspirationally over-the-top and unrelentingly revolting however, it becomes practically satirical while still managing to keep a straight face in developing the dramatic side of its narrative. As the story progresses the filmmakers keep pushing the boundaries of expectation so outrageously past any perceived limitation, they shatter whatever mold or record for indecency that's ever existed and I'm honestly not sure it's been topped since. The ever so strange and distinctive characters here follow a logical progression of behaviour according to their goals and interests but once they start interacting with one another, all hell breaks loose; the chaotic goriness ensues and makes this wild ride an absolute jaw dropping, (dare I say it) pleasure to behold. Everyone behind the camera may have their tongue firmly in cheek but no one is letting on. You have to see it to believe it. The region A Blu-ray is available from Image Entertainment and can be ordered from Amazon U.S. by clicking on the image.      

 

A.G.