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Just some thoughts on current happenings: 

 

There are 18 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:

 

The caper film first laid its roots in The Asphalt Jungle previously recommended here. The depth of its characters and their fascinating interactions as the drama builds to a cathartic resolution, is why this film has become one of America's finest cinematic achievements. The 'best laid plans' will be made on TCM Tuesday, August 1 at 6:30am PST.

 

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

What exactly is film noir? Many enthusiasts and experts continue to debate the subject, with numerous examples of films that should, and just as many that should not, be included in the category. Some, who most likely feel that noir films rely on a certain look, dismiss any colour film as unworthy of being categorised as such. Others, like myself, prone to distinguishing noir by its subject matter, are more inclined to include some of those colour films produced during noir's classic time period, that focus on crime and the psychologies of those involved. This brings me to my next TCM selection, which will also be August's Blu-ray recommendation and forthcoming review (printed below), 1953's Niagara, one of the strongest arguments for colour noir that exists. See for yourself on Tuesday, August 1 at 7pm PST.  

 

 

 

 

 

Another of my past TCM recommendations, previously reviewed here, is The Lost Weekend. Billy Wilder's portrayal of a struggling alcoholic contains a powerhouse performance by Ray Milland. The bottle can be found on TCM Wednesday, August 2 at 11pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

MGM's 1952 musical Singin' in the Rain was not adapted from a stage production, though the film was later turned into one, being first presented on stage in 1983. Its abundant creativity, innovation, and driving energy place this film at the top of all cinematic musicals ever produced. Singin' in the Rain has been reviewed as a past Blu-ray selection here, and will joyously dance its way onto TCM Saturday, August 5 at 5pm PST.

(From left) Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly

(From left) Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

Fans of film noir who haven't seen John Brahm's 1946 The Locket do not want to miss the opportunity to experience this hypnotically mesmerising drama.

Laraine Day

Laraine Day

Laraine Day, Robert Mitchum

Laraine Day, Robert Mitchum

The film’s similarities to Citizen Kane may not be apparent at first. Still, they are fascinating and worth noting. Both films were produced by RKO and are about individuals strongly influenced by childhood experiences sharing a past connection to highly cherished emblematic objects. In addition, the adults in both stories are described in a complex series of flashbacks through the perspectives of those who knew them. 1945’s film noir, a previous recommendation here, is a dream-like cinematic journey crying out to be discovered. The secret surrounding the locket will be revealed Sunday, August 6 (early morning), at 3am PST.  

 

 

 

 

 

TCM is having a centennial tribute to Robert Mitchum (born on August 6, 1917) and later on Sunday there are 2 more films of his worth relishing in. The first was reviewed in Opening Up a Treasure: The Night of the Hunter. He will appear on Sunday, August 6 at 5pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following The Night of the Hunter is Out of the Past, one of film noir's finest, and most highly recommended here. She will arrive Sunday, August 6 at 7pm PST. 

 

 

 

 

 

Tension suffuses The Bedford Incident, not only in the situational danger at hand, but between various crew members on board a U.S. destroyer patrolling the Greenland/Antarctic waters during the Cold War.

(From left) Martin Balsam, Wally Cox, Sidney Poitier, Richard Widmark

(From left) Martin Balsam, Wally Cox, Sidney Poitier, Richard Widmark

The ship's Captain, Eric Finlander (played with total commitment and aggressive determination by Richard Widmark) is on the lookout for Russian submarines, especially ones that might stray illegally into U.S. territorial waters. He keeps his crew wound tight, on high alert, ready for "the hunt" as well as any confrontation that might ensue. Finlander's unique wartime environment, seemingly embraced by his dedicated underlings, becomes an increasing concern for a doctor (Martin Balsam) and a journalist (Sidney Poitier) newly helicoptered on board. Once he discovers a nuclear armed Russian sub caught where it shouldn't be, Finlander, in a growingly Ahab-like obsessional pursuit, pushes both his crew and his adversary to such extreme levels that even his own most trusted advisors begin insisting he's gone too far. One of Finlander's confidants is former U-boat commander and now West German Navy Commodore Wolfgang Schrepke, authentically portrayed by Eric Portman, almost as if he's channeling his most persuasive Nazi role from 49th Parallel. The complex and highly-charged character interactions here are of vast intelligence, intellectually absorbing and coalesce perfectly with the increasingly suspenseful seafaring standoff, ingeniously juxtaposed throughout this timely tale. Even after this film's stunning conclusion, don't be surprised if you just stare at the screen in shock, not only for what has happened, but for the supreme level of creative multilevel storytelling just witnessed. Credit debut director James B. Harris, (Producer of The Killing, Paths of Glory, and Lolita) and James Poe's adaptation of Mark Rascovich's novel for the superb results. The Bedford Incident is Hidden Gem #32 and will occur on Thursday, August 10 at 11pm PST.      

 

 

 

 

 

Then there's John Ford's masterpiece The Searchers, previously reviewed here. It is Top Ten Western #2 and is as likely as any film to provide one with a truly unforgettable, rich and rewarding movie-watching experience. The search will begin Saturday, August 12 at 7:30pm PST.

Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood

Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood

 

 

 

 

 

On Sunday, August 13th, TCM is showing a host of excellent films starring Barbara Stanwyck including The Lady Eve, All I Desire, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Baby Face, and the last of which is probably her least known, but just as worthy of viewing, 1953's Jeopardy, a fabulous Production Code-breaking film noir previously reviewed here. The hazardous games will begin Sunday, August 13 (late evening) at 1:45am PST (technically Monday morning).  

Ralph Meeker, Barbara Stanwyck

Ralph Meeker, Barbara Stanwyck

 

 

 

 

 

Director John Sturges, who helmed the previous recommended film noir Jeopardy, made another nifty entry in the genre, 1950's Mystery Street reviewed here. This CSI noir with a Hitchcockian twist can be checked out Tuesday, August 15 at 9pm PST.

(Crossing the street) Marshall Thompson, Jan Sterling

(Crossing the street) Marshall Thompson, Jan Sterling

 

 

 

 

 

1967's Hotel was taken, like 1970's Airport, from a novel by Arthur Hailey, and is the far better crafted of the two films. This proficient and underrated motion picture was previously reviewed here and will open its doors Friday, August 18 at 12:45pm PST.

(From left) Rod Taylor, Richard Conte

(From left) Rod Taylor, Richard Conte

 

 

 

 

 

The expression "Don't judge a book by its cover" certainly applies to the film Kind Lady, a previous TCM recommendation here. She may be as the title says, but her nemesis and his ghastly gang of home invaders will dominate this tensely twisted thriller Saturday, August 19 at 11am PST. 

(From left) Maurice Evans, Ethel Barrymore, Keenan Wynn, Angela Lansbury

(From left) Maurice Evans, Ethel Barrymore, Keenan Wynn, Angela Lansbury

 

 

 

 

 

The challenge between those holding a reputation of being "the fastest" draw had already become a staple of the cinematic western (1950's The Gunfighter with Gregory Peck comes to mind) by the time Mel Brooks made 1974's Blazing Saddles. The famous comedic director parodied the idea when Gene Wilder's notorious gunman states: "Well, it got so that every piss-ant prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out the Waco Kid. I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille. It got pretty gritty. I started to hear the word 'draw' in my sleep. Then one day, I was just walking down the street when I heard a voice behind me say, 'Reach for it, mister!' I spun around... and there I was, face to face with a six-year old kid."

This is also the (albeit deadly serious) dilemma facing George Temple a.k.a. George Kelby, Jr., played appropriately sombre by Glen Ford, in the remarkable 1956 western The Fastest Gun Alive. George and his wife Dora (a lovingly sincere Jeanne Crain) keep having to leave the various towns they take up residence in when word gets around about how proficient he is with a gun for fear of all those who would challenge him. Their latest home in Cross Creek is also George's best and perhaps final chance to keep his past a secret. 

Glenn Ford

Glenn Ford

The Fastest Gun Alive is, however, unexpectedly far from cliche and distinguishes itself by presenting many unique complications to its familiar premise, while focusing on the main character's tormented soul, effectively increasing the film's suspense, intelligence and engagement. It boasts inventive cinematography by George Folsey, Frank D. Gilroy's lean script based on his short story, and assured direction from Russell Rouse maintaining praiseworthy performances from his cast.

(From left) Noah Beery Jr., John Dehner, Broderick Crawford 

(From left) Noah Beery Jr., John Dehner, Broderick Crawford 

George is bored silly in his latest role as a shopkeeper and has to keep listening to a local resident describe how amazingly fast a bandit he witnessed, Vinnie Harold (played with typical fast-talking gusto by Broderick Crawford) was on the draw. After getting a few too many drinks in him, George is busting at the seams to show everyone who's really the fastest, but if he does, will severely upset his wife, make precarious their social standing and especially this time, endanger his own and possibly some of the townspeople's lives. Vinnie is a particularly nasty evil-doer whose boastful proclamation of being the fastest draw has become a diabolical obsession and is headed George's way. The dramatic discords merge and come to a head in an enthralling and intense finale, making this film like a fine wine: Bold, mature, and with a strong finish. The Fastest Gun Alive will draw (updated) Wednesday, September 27 at 3:15pm PST.           

(From left) Glenn Ford, Broderick Crawford

(From left) Glenn Ford, Broderick Crawford

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.

 

 

 

 

 

For anyone with even the slightest interest in sophisticated crime dramas, this next, very rarely shown 1976 French film is not to be missed. It is based on the novel The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing which noir fans might correctly surmise was turned into the 1948 classic film by the same name starring Ray Milland. Fearing's novel was adapted again for 1987's No Way Out with Kevin Costner. Police Python 357, however, is in a completely different class than either of the aforementioned films because of its sharply defined central characters, their magnified personal and occupational connection concerning, and unorthodox responses to, the enveloping crime at hand.

Yves Montand

Yves Montand

Stefania Sandrelli

Stefania Sandrelli

Stars Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, François Périer, and Stefania Sandrelli are mesmerising thanks in large part to Alain Corneau's efficient direction. Police Python 357, a monster of a neo-noir is Hidden Gem #5, guaranteed to rivet viewers to their seats, with the aftereffect one would expect from the titular device. This explosive firearm will go off Friday, August 24 (late evening) at 12:15am 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.     

 

 

 

 

 

James Cagney, Joan Blondell

James Cagney, Joan Blondell

Still another semi-obscure film, this time Hidden Gem #63 will be showing this month on TCM, the pre-code classic Blonde Crazy with James Cagney and Joan Blondell, previously recommended here. This mischievious but enchanting couple will con their way into your heart Saturday, August 26 (early morning) at 3am PST.  

 

 

 

 

 

Later that same Saturday, James Cagney moves to noir territory in the appropriately titled White Heat, also lauded here. The screen will heat up Saturday, August 26 at 5pm PST. 

 

 

 

 

My final, somewhat half-hearted recommendation is another crime film, surely enjoyed by die-hard fans of the genre for its craftsmanship but admittedly lacking in meaningful revelation. Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway, formerly reviewed here, will bond viewers with moments of supreme adrenaline rush and takes off Monday, August 28 at 12:45pm PST.   

Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw

Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw

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.

 

 

 

 

This month's Happy Birthday shout-out goes to the immensely talented and accomplished actress, Tuesday Weld, who turns 74 on August 27th.

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She's brought real vitality to a host of captivating characters in such diverse but worthy films as High Time, Soldier in the Rain, The Cincinnati Kid, Lord Love a Duck, Pretty Poison, I Walk the Line, A Safe Place, Play It As It Lays, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Who'll Stop the Rain, Thief, Once Upon a Time in America, and Falling Down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August's Soundtrack recommendation is this special 3-disc set, Elmer Bernstein: The Ava Collection consisting of legendary Elmer Bernstein recordings made for the Ava label between 1962 - 1965. 

The six classic albums represented here, Walk on the Wild Side, Movie and TV Themes (including Saints And SinnersTake FiveAnna LucastaSudden Fear, and Sweet Smell Of Success, amongst others), To Kill a Mockingbird, The Caretakers, The Carpetbaggers, and Baby the Rain Must Fall have had various releases on vinyl and CD over the years, but almost every album with inferior sound. Now, these near audiophile quality recordings can be heard complete, all in stereo from their original session masters. For more information from Intrada Records, including international ordering, click on the image.

 

 

 

 

 

Right from the start of 1953's Niagara, lead actor Joseph Cotten is dwarfed by the majestic Niagara Falls, practically a character itself in this dramatically rich and compelling colour noir capably directed by Henry (Kiss of Death) Hathaway.

niagara-hd-movie-title.jpg

Cotten's opening soliloquy describes the Falls' hypnotic allure while matching in character insight, relevance, and metaphor, the thunderous power and sumptuous beauty associated with one of nature's most stunning natural wonders.

 

 

 

Marilyn Monroe, Jean Peters, Max Showalter

Marilyn Monroe, Jean Peters, Max Showalter

The stalwart actor from Citizen Kane is neurotic Korean war veteran George Loomis, suffering from what would probably be described today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He's married to a much younger Rose, portrayed to the sexually enticing hilt by Marilyn Monroe, who adds a contemptuous jealousy to George's already volatile psychological profile. They are staying at a cabin near the Canadian side of the Falls, when a newly arrived vacationing couple, Polly and Ray Cutler, played by Jean Peters and Max Showalter, take up residence in a cabin nearby. The Cutler's become acquainted with the Loomis' and thereafter, more and more unwittingly involved in their deadly affairs. 

 

Joseph Cotten

Joseph Cotten

The benevolent but highly revealing early scenes (most apparent when Polly Cutler tends to George's self-inflicted hand wound), appear naturally occurring due to the skilful writing of screenwriters Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, and Richard L. Breen. These insights will also provide further character enhancement that will substantially increase the emotional impact in the narrative's more explosive transgressions to come. This is especially true regarding George Loomis, whom the filmmakers have succeeded in eliciting tremendous sympathy for, despite Loomis' severely destructive tendencies. 

 

Richard Allan, Marilyn Monroe

Richard Allan, Marilyn Monroe

Even though Niagara was photographed in glorious technicolor (and the film's relatively recent restoration makes everything look like we're right there), this motion picture has noir stamped all over it. There's a cunning and seductive femme fatale, an afflicted, mentally unstable war veteran, impressionistic cinematography (care of Joseph MacDonald's artistry), Sol Kaplan's high-voltage melodramatic score, a sultry and seductive song ("Kiss") that figures, like the Niagara Falls, prominently into the unfolding treachery, narrative twists, and last but not least, an overriding sense of fatality, bringing us full circle to George (his final look of hopelessness is unforgettable) and those perilous, magisterial and never-ending Falls.

niagarabelltower.png

Niagara is August's Blu-Ray recommendation and in terms of faithfulness to its source material, there is no better transfer to be found. Its visual perfection is simply beyond belief. For more information, including ordering from Amazon in the U.S., click on the accompanying image.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

A.G.