"Now Listen to Me..."
Just some thoughts on current happenings:
There are 8 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:
If I was in charge of choosing a single film noir for someone only willing to see one in the entire canon, I would select Double Indemnity as its most fulfilling and accomplished representative. It has been previously reviewed in Opening Up a Treasure: Double Indemnity. Thoughts of adultery, greed and murder will manifest themselves on TCM Friday, June 3 at 9pm PST.
Next is one of the western genre's finest and another excellent pairing of star James Stewart with director Anthony Mann: The Man from Laramie.
This was the last western the duo made together and perhaps their finest. Previously they collaborated on Winchester '73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur, and The Far Country in that order. In this film, Mann's by now familiar themes of buried hostility, vengeance, familial loyalty and expectation seem developed in a more complex fashion, therefore affording the director a deeper exploration of his characters' conflicts, motives and desires. As always the situations are masterfully presented and infinitely captivating. The Man from Laramie has been previously reviewed as Top Ten Western #7 and will appear Saturday, June 4 at 3pm PST.
The next film to see is Guys and Dolls, a rollicking "good time" musical.
It's a previous TCM recommendation here. Those distinctively funny and delightful characters will present themselves Thursday, June 9 at 12am (midnight).
Next up is Ace in the Hole: Billy Wilder's scathing examination of American opportunism and moral depravity via cocky newspaper reporter Chuck Tatum, played with unrelenting cynical ferociousness by Kirk Douglas.
He's stuck in small town U.S.A. having been fired from 11 big city newspapers and winds up working for the local humdrum Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin while hoping for that one sizeable human interest story to take him back to the big time or even better, the "big apple." His chance finally arrives when poor Leo Minosa, attempting to retrieve Indian artefacts from a cliff dwelling in nearby Escudero, becomes trapped after a cave-in. While investigating, Tatum will tell his young protege Herbie Cook of a prior situation (and true-life story): Floyd Collins, similarly trapped in a cave and the reporter on the scene who wound up winning the Pulitzer Prize.
Tatum's interactions with everyone he meets are spellbinding, including Leo's fed-up, stingingly caustic and apathetic wife Lorraine portrayed to perfection by noir-great Jan Sterling. We can feel Tatum's lust for that brass ring and are convinced of his willingness to prolong the rescue operation, to cut out other hungry reporters with the help of a corrupt Sheriff, and embellish the situation with "evil spirits." This will allow him to build the story to a feverish pitch, ultimately to get his former employers to forgive his past transgressions and desperately call on his services. He succeeds all too well: The practically once deserted 'Minosa's Trading Post' is turned into a carnival with masses of hungry spectators lured to the scene by Tatum's sensational, highly descriptive reporting. The big city newspapers come soliciting, including Tatum's ultimate prize: New York. His orchestrated success, however, will come at a terrible price. Finally, Tatum's own conscience, his previously buried humanity (metaphorically like Leo Minosa himself) triggers his demise.
The sad figures who are genuinely concerned for Leo's well-being, like his father, are engulfed by not only the press, the Sheriff and Lorraine with their insatiable appetite to exploit the tragic circumstances, but the public at large, portrayed by Wilder and company as a mob-like feeding frenzy mainly because so many others are, like themselves, drawn to a situation by an overwhelming attraction to human volatility. Even the morally upstanding Mr. Boot, the Sun-Bulletin's publisher, is happy to enjoy the fruits of another's misfortune: His paper's increased circulation. As Tatum acerbically informs young Herbie: "Bad news sells best. 'Cause good news... is no news." After the guilt-ridden reporter realises his worst possible fears, he venomously delivers the tragic news like a sermon on the mount to his anxious followers. Fuelled with as much contempt as he can muster, Tatum wraps it up with: "Now go on home, all of you! The circus... is over." The few surrounding opportunists who ultimately pay for their selfish sins or compliance, will, however, like Tatum, only include those capable of "knowing some touch of pity." The rest, like Leo's wife Lorraine, are in a way, worse off, already dead inside with nary a trace of human compassion.
Billy Wilder's tragedy of Shakespearean proportions comes full circle in a final series of ruinous resolutions like nothing seen before. This auteur has grabbed us by the throat, squeezed and devastated us into submission with virulent words and striking images so potent, they'll remain with us for the rest of our lives. Despite the film's disappointing box office results, there is a notable degree of pathos here, ironic considering this ultimate indictment of human nature's darker side. This is Wilder's wildest cinematic ace in the hole and he plays it magnificently. He'll show his hand on TCM Friday, June 7 at 7pm PST.
John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is indeed an unforgettable American treasure and a prior TCM recommendation here. Its cinematic riches can be uncovered on TCM Tuesday, June 14 at 5pm PST.
Another prior TCM recommendation is Robert Siodmak's expert 1949 film Criss Cross with Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo imbuing their characters with passion and complex individuality.
Criss Cross was previously reviewed here. It will cast its noirish spell on TCM Saturday (early morning), June 18 at 3:45am PST.
The spirited, eccentric, super-cool, and notorious con-artist of rural Kentucky, Mordecai Jones (George C. Scott radiating his usual abundance of charisma), takes on army deserter Curly Treadaway (Michael Sarrazin perfectly cast), as his young protege in director Irvin Kershner's delightful situation comedy The Flim-Flam Man.
Watching their relationship develop as the two initiate their scams, along with the increasing precariousness of their circumstances, offers many humorous anecdotes along the way. Additionally, a touching bond grows between them despite Curly's guilty protestations over their dishonest escapades. Some of the film's personalities and situations appear overdrawn; its tone shifts awkwardly on occasion. Nevertheless, there's much to appreciate along the pair's journey including a hilarious car chase helmed by second-unit director and famous stuntman Yakima Canutt. There's also a diverse cast of characters and the notable actors who play them, e.g. Curly's love interest Bonnie Lee Packard naturally portrayed by a fetching Sue Lyon. Scott's grandiose performance is 100% proof, clearly evident in the film's subtle but precious closing moments. Last but not least, there's a hidden character of sorts, making perhaps the most endearing contribution of all: Jerry Goldsmith's infectious and charming score. The Flim-Flam Man will stop by TCM Saturday, June 25 at 7:30 pm PST.
Finally, there's Diary of a Country Priest a.k.a. Journal d'un curé.
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.
A Happy Birthday shout-out to gonzo filmmaker and serious dramatic actor Robert Downey Sr. who turns 80 June 24th.
Some of the choice films he wrote and directed include Chafed Elbows, Pound, Greaser's Palace, and one of my Top Ten Guilty Treasures: Putney Swope. As an actor, he's given memorable performances in To Live and Die in L.A., Family Man, and Tower Heist amongst others.
June's recommended Soundtrack is the pulse-pounding score to the action hit Predator.
The energetically inspired music is by Alan Silvestri who inventively combines other-worldly atmospherics with super-charged rhythmic dynamics in creating this most distinctive musical soundscape. A definitive release of this highly popular soundtrack was produced by Intrada Records and is available directly from the manufacturer. More information including international ordering is available by clicking on the image.
The Blu-ray recommendation for the month is one of TCM's encouraged watchings and is reviewed above, Ace in the Hole a.k.a. The Big Carnival. There are 2 equally fine transfers to choose from. That choice will probably depend on where one resides.
The first is a Blu-Ray/DVD combination from Criterion (for North America) and is region A locked.
The second is a region B (locked) Blu-Ray compatible for the U.K., Europe, and Australia. It has become available from Masters of Cinema.
More information including ordering from Amazon U.S. (top) and Amazon U.K. (bottom) can be obtained by clicking of either of their respective images.