"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:
The Searchers is one of the finest Westerns ever made and perhaps director John Ford's most artistically successful film. It has been previously reviewed in Opening Up a Treasure: The Searchers and will begin on TCM Tuesday, July 5 at 6:45pm PST.
Another Top Ten Western (The Searchers is #2) is Sam Peckinpah's elegiac Ride the High Country coming in at number 4 on the list here and will ride into TCM territory Wednesday, July 6 at 5pm PST.
From one of America's greatest westerns, star McCrea "travels" to one of the country's best comedies, Sullivan's Travels, a prior Blu-ray recommendation here. His adventure will begin on TCM Friday, July 8 at 5:30am PST.
Then there's one of film noir's finest representatives: the estimable The Asphalt Jungle, a standard-bearer for all heist films. This monumental work has reaped much praise here and will also avail itself on Friday, July 8 (later in the day) at 2:30pm PST.
Moving right along to the cream of another genre, horror, TCM is showing the British anthology film Dead of Night. This not only stands at the head of its class, the film remains one of Britain's finest cinematic achievements. A previous TCM recommendation was written here. Dead of Night will reappear on Sunday, July 10 at 6:45pm PST.
Another British cinematic treasure, this time in the romance category, was reviewed as such in Opening Up a Treasure: Brief Encounter. Director David Lean's emotionally stirring "encounter" will begin on Monday, July 11 at 7pm PST.
Then it's back to westerns, another Top Ten (#3) and Hidden Gem #19, Devil's Doorway. Anthony Mann's staunch indictment of the U.S. Government's harsh and unfair treatment of native Americans is one of the most uncompromising films on the subject. It has been "inspected" (reviewed) here and will make its stand Tuesday, July 12 at 11pm PST.
Director Don Siegel's follow-up to Dirty Harry was a little crime caper that comparatively few took notice of perhaps because its title didn't suggest anything too exciting on the cinematic menu. The fact that it starred the often comedic Walter Matthau may have also contributed to the public's confusion over just what kind of film Charley Varrick was. U.S. TCM subscribers unfamiliar with this film have the chance to find out Saturday, July 16 at 7pm PST. It is also my Blu-ray recommendation this month and is briefly reviewed below.
The next to last TCM recommendation has been reviewed in Opening Up a Treasure: The Night of the Hunter. This highly expressionistic Grimm-like fable appears as if conveyed from a child's point of view. The "hunter" will appear Monday, July 18 at 10:30pm PST.
My final TCM film to see is The Lineup. Like this month’s earlier TCM recommendation Charley Varrick, this tightly-woven little crime caper was directed by expert craftsman Don Siegel. Released in 1958, this film's focus, the ongoing thoughts and behaviour of its criminals, makes The Lineup an important contributor to film noir's concluding classic timeline (1940 - 1959).
The story begins as a police procedural. Even though the film's setting is San Francisco, moves quickly and vividly utilises some of the city’s prime locations, this initially looks like a rather dull affair with a few nondescript cops trying to solve the mysterious activities of a deceased drug smuggling cab driver. After a spell, however, the perspective abruptly shifts from the investigators to some of the craziest and most distinctively deplorable perpetrators of crime seen in all of film noir. Eli Wallach stars as Dancer, a sort of collector/hit man for the mob. His method of retrieving shipments of heroin, hidden in various tourist’s belongings (unbeknownst to them), is really no method at all since it consists of doing whatever it takes, even murder, to get the goods. Nothing stands in his way and he’s got one helluva nasty temper to boot. Like director Don Siegel’s later cinematic degenerates, i.e. the hitman Lee in 1964's The Killers, the Scorpio Killer in Dirty Harry, and Molly in Charley Varrick, Dancer is more than willing to take out his psychopathology on any perceived adversary including a helpless child, disabled employer or even his partner in crime. Watching the complex Dancer alternately exhibit inquisitiveness, rage, vulnerability, even fear when doing his occupational “dance”, provides gripping fascination and suspense especially when plans go awry. Assisting him is Julian, played by Robert Keith, who has a morbid obsession with writing down the last words spoken by Dancer’s victims! This is one of several narrative nods to existentialism with its feeling of pre-determined destiny for both the evil doers and their unwitting drug smugglers. Both groups appear to be involved in circumstances beyond their control or even awareness. The immediacy of the violent events portrayed for both victims and victimisers emphasise the here and now over some concept as to what the future holds especially when everyone’s circumstances can (and so often do) drastically change in the blink of an eye. The truest example of this French philosophy’s (and come to think of it noir's) theme of fatalistic absurdity is, however, saved for the almost literally cliff-hanging finale when our trio of baddies, driven by a no-nonsense Richard Jaeckel, attempt a fast track getaway on a freeway that leads to nowhere. Taken from Sterling (In the Heat of the Night) Silliphant’s concisely composed script, this is bravura Siegel: efficient, intense and memorable. The lineup will commence Saturday, July 30 at 8:15 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.
A Happy Birthday shout-out to the wonderfully talented Canadian-born actor Donald Sutherland who turns 81 on July 17th.
The wildly diverse range of characters this consummate actor has vividly portrayed is a true testament to his amazing versatility and total commitment to the acting profession.
The Soundtrack recommendation for July is the recently released 2 CD set of Thomas Newman's emotionally wide-ranging and rich score to the popular film The Shawshank Redemption.
More information on this limited release from La-La Land including ordering is available from Intrada Records by clicking on the image.
Seldom do I recommend a Blu-ray whose release has been restricted to outside the U.S. but in this case Don Siegel's dynamically potent crime thriller Charley Varrick, issued only on high-definition in Germany at the present time, is worth special mention.
Siegel's top-of-the-line craftsmanship is on full display in this tightly organised crime drama that delivers with boldness a royal flush of suspenseful thrills and chills. First-time viewers are bound to be fooled by the film's laid-back opening of mundane awakening life in a small New Mexico town and the subsequent arrival of an elderly looking gentleman (played with subdued but formidable intent by Walter Matthau) at the municipality's nondescript bank. Once the title character's true objective is revealed, however, and Lalo Schifrin's music kicks into high gear, the suspense goes off the rails especially when the situation gets chaotically out of hand for these bank robbers as they attempt their speedy getaway. Not even after the tragic death of Matthau's wife and two of the bandits' successful escape are the dramatic surprises over. In fact, they've just begun: Although the gang only expected a small take, the bank they robbed was used as a money-drop by the mob, and they've hit the mother lode, triggering a "mother" of a deadly and decisive response.
Economical, precision filmmaking in crime's raw and gritty milieu is Don Siegel's forte and there is simply no one better at it. He cuts all the fat off the bone. There's not a scene or even a shot wasted. The attention to detail is meticulous. Everything times out perfectly, the narrative's transitions are as smooth as a baby's bottom. His perfectly chosen cast (including a surprising array of holdovers from Dirty Harry) have responded with lively, fully dedicated performances. Siegel's past noir accomplishments in the classic time period, not to mention his early montage work for Warner Brothers, helped him earn a richly deserved auteurism that he proudly displayed in the latter part of his career and can be seen in the opening credits of this, "a Siegel film".
The Blu-ray is from Koch Media and is Region B locked with removable subtitles. It is available from Amazon Germany who ship internationally. It sports an all-around excellent transfer and can be ordered by clicking on the Blu-ray image below. In addition, Amazon.de has supplied an English-friendly version of their site which can be adjusted at the extreme left-hand top of the page.