"Now Listen to Me..."
Just some thoughts on current happenings:
There are 11 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:
One of the horror genre's finest achievements is The Innocents, reviewed here. You'll have a chance to see this extraordinary film Sunday, April 2 at 11:15am PST.
Another highly atmospheric but less artistically accomplished motion picture is John Huston's Reflections in a Golden Eye. The performances from its superbly chosen cast genuinely convey their characters' turbulent emotions making this an engrossing film-watching experience. It is one of my TOP TEN Guilty Treasures, a previous TCM recommendation here, and is worth eyeing Monday, April 3 (early morning) at 5:15am PST.
Then there's Gold Diggers of 1933, a brilliant extravaganza of romance, comedy, catchy tunes, and outrageous pre-code show numbers, especially 'Pettin' in the Park' with its strange, sexual undertones that even Freud would have struggled to explain. This was also previously recommended here. The fun will begin Tuesday, April 4 at 5pm PST.
Next is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with Humphrey Bogart portraying perhaps his darkest and most psychologically troubled character. Watching his slow transformation from an honest and idealistic adventurer to a tormented, paranoid psychotic is one of the art's most stunning, dramatically forceful experiences perfectly matched to a magnificent and fatalistically ironic conclusion. My previous thoughts on this film are here. This "treasure" can be discovered Thursday, April 6 at 2:45pm PST.
Although film noir’s primary distinction from most previous crime films was a focus on the principal characters' dark psychology, many of these newly emerging genre pieces in the 40s took this dramatic discovery even further by expounding on those sordid thought processes and behaviour to form a bleak outlook on the entire human race. Of the films in this latter category, none had a point of view more nihilistic than the one offered in 1945’s Scarlet Street.
Christopher Cross (a fully devoted Edward G. Robinson), is a humble and simple little man with a kind heart but an obnoxious, shrewish wife. On the evening of his retirement dinner he chooses to walk home instead of taking the train as is his usual custom. That singular decision will take him on a fatalistic journey into noir’s dark subterranean world of disillusionment whereby Cross’ naive sensual desires will increasingly clash with the cruelest of all imaginable circumstances. A couple of urban bottom feeders Cross encounters that fateful night will turn out to be his dream-making enablers: The whiny but seductive Katharine ‘Kitty’ March, (a most convincingly appealing Joan Bennett) being knocked about by her scummy scammer of a boyfriend, Johnny Prince (who else but Dan Duryea)?
Jewish emigre Fritz Lang, who made several masterpieces in his native country before fleeing Nazi Germany, i.e. Metropolis, M, and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, also made a prodigious number of films after coming to America including Fury, You Only Live Once, The Return of Frank James, Western Union, Hangmen Also Die and, just a year before Scarlet Street and with the same three primary cast members, The Woman in the Window. As if to make up for The Woman in the Window’s “easy-out” conclusion, Lang slams Scarlet Street conclusively shut with production-code-breaking horrific events and imagery, the kind that are purposely designed to shock and awe the film viewers' consciousness. No less intoxicating are Scarlet Street's pronounced themes of wildly mistaken perceptions, strong competing desires, and the extreme lengths their possessors will go to maintain, pursue and fulfil them. Finally, there is this emotional maelstrom’s wake, so catastrophic that even noir’s most astute aficionados who take their first astonishing trip down this particular Scarlet Street, may never fully recover. One can accompany Cross on his profoundly tragic walk of destiny Sunday, April 9 at 7am PST. As an added bonus it will be introduced by the "Czar of Noir" Eddie Muller as part of his ongoing series 'Noir Alley'. For more information on 'Noir Alley' click here.
After WW II, the late, great Douglas Slocombe (February 10, 1913 - February 22, 2016) became a camera operator for Ealing Studios and made a most auspicious debut as director of photography on perhaps the studio's finest: The horror movie Dead of Night.
His phenomenal work with light and shadows contributed as much creative artistry as any other element, perhaps even more, considering that Dead of Night is a portmanteau with more than several directors coming and going. Slocombe, however, is our guide throughout the entire journey, ingeniously enrapturing us in a mystically ominous atmosphere informed by his tremendous creative aplomb. One has an opportunity to take this amazing journey with him (the film previously reviewed here) on TCM Monday, April 10 (late evening) at 1:30am PST.
The next 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 Tuesday, April 18 (early morning) at 5:00am PST.
Many cinema buffs prefer the decade older version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to this one, but not I. The psychological terror inflicted in Victor Fleming's 1941 version makes it infinitely compelling, dastardly noirish, suggestively sexual, and contemporarily relevant. My prior review can be read here. The good Dr. and his not so good alter ego, will make their appearance on TCM Wednesday, April 19 at 9am PST.
A true romance film and of the highest artistic calibre has been reviewed in Opening Up a Treasure: Brief Encounter. Director David Lean's emotionally stirring "encounter" will begin on Friday, April 21 at 7:15pm PST.
Next on my list of recommended films to watch is King Kong (1933), who's scheduled to make his grand entrance on Wednesday, April 26 at 10:15am PST. I have previously reviewed this film with a focus on its musical score here.
Those of us cinephiles who have been around for awhile typically bemoan the enormous output of contemporary remakes, often forgetting that in Hollywood’s Golden Age they occurred as well. One of the best was made by director Raoul Walsh who refashioned his 1941 film noir High Sierra into the more expressive and deeper exploratory western, 1949’s Colorado Territory.
Interestingly enough, Walsh looses none of the original’s 'noirish' content even in this newly created “great outdoors” setting: Duplicitous characters are everywhere, chance alone decides one’s fate, which for most of the populace here, is appropriately grim. Walsh’s penchant for delving into his main character’s psychology was already made abundantly evident in his most noir-like western 1947’s Pursued, (produced in-between the two aforementioned titles). Pursued and Colorado Territory together, pretty much “seal the deal” as to film noir’s ability to successfully infiltrate other genres.
Joel McCrea faultlessly authenticates Wes McQueen, an outlaw who considers reforming his dishonest ways especially after meeting up with Dorothy Malone’s Julie Ann Winslow whom he idolises. Of course his outlaw gang have other ideas, particularly since they delivered McQueen his “get out of jail free card", and need him to help pull off a daring train robbery, the ubiquitous "one last job". Along the way he meets up with a different kind of woman, Colorado Carson, vivaciously portrayed by Virginia Mayo, who unlike Winslow, knows of McQueen's criminal means and the price on his head, accepting both.
Walsh’s directorial energy is on full throttle here (spilling over into his next feature White Heat) and is ably assisted by his cast and crew, notably Sidney Hickox’s expert cinematography and David Buttolph’s grand thematic score. Lastly, there’s screenwriter John Twist’s distinctively poetic dialog (an all aces screenplay co-written with Edmund H. North) and an unforgettable, germanely tragic “blaze of glory” finale. McQueen and Colorado will side together Saturday, April 29 at 5pm PST.
TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed here. 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.
This month's Happy Birthday shout-out goes to the incredibly talented and warm-hearted composer Christopher Young who turns 60 on April 28th.
I've had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman more than several times. Chris' immense creative artistry is only matched by his gracious humility. This composer's magnificent compositional works have always helped distinguish the films he's worked on, and often are so creatively memorable, they provide viewers with a singular incentive to see them. Some of his better known films include Hellraiser, Haunted Summer, Jennifer 8, Dream Lover, Murder in the First, Species, Murder at 1600, The Hurricane, Swordfish, The Core, Runaway Jury, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man 3, The Rum Diary, and Killing Season.
In keeping with the composer's birthday this month, April's Soundtrack recommendation is to Unforgettable composed by Christopher Young.
While the film itself may not live up to its title's promise, Chris' beautifully haunting score most assuredly does. This is an expanded, very limited release (only 1200 made) on the Perseverance Label and is currently available through Screen Archives Entertainment. More information, including international ordering is available here.
The DVD recommendation for April is the above reviewed Colorado Territory available from the Warner Archive Collection and can be ordered through Amazon.com here.