"Now Listen to Me..."
Just some thoughts on current happenings:
To all of you lovers out there, my sincerest wishes for a most romantic and memorable Valentine's Day Saturday, February 14. (Perhaps the least this can do is serve as a reminder of a special day some may have otherwise forgotten about).
There are 3 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:
The first is a film a few of you may have heard about: 1944's Academy Award Best Picture Winner Casablanca. This choice may come as a surprise to readers more familiar with my past articles since it is included on a list of overrated films, and reviewed here. There is no denying the fact that this film casts a magical spell and is certainly capable of sweeping one up in its appealing blend of romance, sacrifice, and political intrigue. Besides, for those who haven't seen it, or seen it enough, how are they to know if my criticisms are sound? This 1942 classic, one of Hollywood's proudest, and a most appropriate choice for this month, airs Sunday, February 8 at 7pm PST.
The next is a little gem of a film noir: 1950's Mystery Street directed by the very capable John (The Magnificent Seven) Sturges.
For fans of forensic science or perhaps the various CSI: Crime Scene Investigation TV series, this early look into a similar type of crime analysis is a most fascinating must see. Lieutenant Peter Morales (an unassuming Ricardo Montalban) and Harvard Medical professor Dr. McAdoo (a stoic Bruce Bennett) have only the victim's months old bones left to uncover the perpetrator of a cold-blooded murder. Their combined detective work is ingenious and enthralling, care of Leonard Spigelgass' Academy Award Nominated Story and expert adaptation by Sydney Boehm and Richard Brooks. The exceptionally well crafted narrative is further enhanced by a wicked femme fatale (Jan Sterling, customarily dripping with cynicism) who gets more than her just desserts, a wrong-man (a suitably gullible Marshall Thompson) accused of murder, and Elsa Lanchester as a despicably brazen, blackmailing landlord. Mystery Street has the prerequisite dark and sinister noirish look care of master photographer John Alton, and loads of Hitchcockian suspense, especially at its exciting conclusion. It airs (updated) Tuesday, August 15 at 9pm PST.
My final must-see TCM film recommendation is Italian director Vittorio De Sica's neo-realist masterpiece The Bicycle Thief (Ladri di biciclette), one of the most emotionally devastating films of all time (See: Top Ten World Cinema Treasures). No amount of superlatives can possibly describe the spiritual rewards one gleans from witnessing this simple but profound odyssey taken by a father and his dutifully loving son while desperately searching for a stolen bicycle. It airs on Wednesday, February 11 at 9:15pm PST.
TCM's current schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above images.
The Soundtrack recommendation for this month is the glorious 2 CD score to Cleopatra, music composed by Alex North.
The music is reviewed in context to the film here. It is currently available directly from the manufacturer Varese Sarabande by clicking on the image.
I want to shout out a Happy Birthday to legendary cinematographer Douglas Slocombe who turns 102 on February 10! Check it out:
Another Happy Birthday greeting to Composer Gerald Fried who turns 87 February 13th. He composed the music for the first five films of his high school buddy Stanley Kubrick including one of my personal favourites, last month's video recommendation The Killing: A bold audacious score, that right from the (horse's) gate, climbs into the saddle and never gives way. Oh and a note to all "Trekkies", Mr. Fried composed the distinctive music for the original TV Star Trek episodes: Shore Leave, Amok Time, Catspaw, Friday's Child, and The Paradise Syndrome.
This video recommendation is an all together different type of celebratory greeting most appropriate for the month: Roger Corman's little love letter from a Tommy gun: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
This little "B" feature homage to the rip roaring gangster films of yesteryear features an "A" list cast, including Jason Robards (as Al Capone), George Segal (as Peter Gusenberg) and Ralph Meeker (as George Clarence 'Bugs' Moran) who all double chew up everything and everyone in sight. The entire talented cast is, however, upstaged by our unseen newsreel type commentator, the instantly recognizable voice of Paul ("On the last morning of his life...") Frees. You gotta love it! This stylish little showdown between these notorious but colourful gangster bigwigs is making its Blu-ray debut February 10 on the Twilight Time label and is region free. It can be ordered from Screen Archives by clicking on the image below.
As an added treat I've included the above film's sensational trailer: