"Now Listen to Me..."
Just some thoughts on current happenings:
There are 16 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:
For those who enjoy the best in creative romantic comedy and missed last month's airing of Pillow Talk (reviewed here), TCM is having a repeat performance Tuesday, April 3 at 1pm PST.
Also repeating this month from last is Alfred Hitchcock's dazzling thrill ride, Foreign Correspondent (reviewed here), whose precarious globe trotting assignment will begin Friday, April 6 at (early morning) 5:30am PST.
Later that same day is Todd Browning's shockingly bold and terrifying 1932 film Freaks, previously reviewed here. They will arrive Friday, April 6 at 5pm PST.
Director Howard Hawks was known for his confident, straight-forward westerns like Rio Bravo, El Dorado and Red River which is perhaps his finest. Selected and reviewed as one of the Top Ten (#6) westerns here, the story concerns the opening of the Chisholm Trail, used after the Civil War to drive cattle from Texas to Kansas. John Wayne plays one of his darker, least heroic characters most earnestly. The "drive" will begin on TCM Saturday, April 7 at 10:30am 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 Thursday, April 12 at 5pm PST.
Like the previous recommendation Red River, this next western is another on my Top Ten list (#10 in fact) reviewed along with the other best westerns here. Unlike Red River however, The Tall T is not shown nearly as often on TCM, so take advantage of the good luck and see this remarkable film Friday (April) the 13th at 5pm PST.
Before director Roman Polanski gave us Mia Farrow’s panic-stricken mother-to-be in Rosemary’s Baby (his devilish portrayal of a very real horrifying threat from without), there was his equally terrifying portrayal of a deadly threat from within: Catherine Deneuve’s deteriorating psyche, keenly examined in the filmmaker’s genre masterpiece, the aptly named Repulsion.
We slowly come to realise that the film’s titular emotional response concerns (and spreads like some insidious virus inside) Deneuve’s Carol, specifically her attitude toward the opposite sex. Carol shares a London flat with her sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) and works at a nearby beauty parlour. At first, Carol’s interactions with others, including Helen’s boyfriend Michael (Ian Hendry), and potential suitor Colin (John Fraser), simply indicate her shyness, strong reliance on female support and dislike of male attention. When her sister leaves Carol alone in the apartment for several days, these previously repressed feelings consume Carol’s imagination, and the scary events begin. Her thoughts and fears both hallucinated and appallingly real allow Polanski a virtuoso depiction of the most hypnotic and yet frightening imagery viewers will ever see on film. The famous (not to mention infamous) director is assuredly enabled by his cast’s devoted performances, Chico Hamilton’s off-kilter score and Gilbert Taylor’s intensely atmospheric photography. This landmark horror film is one of the genre’s best: shocking yes, but also deeply affecting, enigmatic and memorable. Prepare yourself for this captivating visual presentation Friday, April 13 at (late night) 12:45am PST.
Anatomy of a Murder is one of the most authentic and enthralling courtroom dramas of all time. Previously reviewed here, the trial will begin Saturday, April 14 at 9am PST and repeat again Monday April 30 at 2:15pm PST.
Director John (The Magnificent Seven) Sturges helmed a few nifty entries in the film noir genre, including 1950's Mystery Street previously reviewed here. This CSI noir with a Hitchcockian twist can be checked out Saturday, April 14 at 9pm PST and again on Sunday, April 15 at 7am PST. Additionally, one can find this particular dark and treacherous "street" down noir expert Eddie Muller's Noir Alley.
One of film noir's finest is Gun Crazy, previously reviewed here. Noir's most distinguishing feature, a focus on their criminal participants' psychology, marks a major shift regarding motive: In the earlier "gangster" films, money and power provided enough reason for the pursuit of illegal gains whereas in noir, the internal cause behind the action is paramount, and runs so much deeper... and darker. See for yourself Tuesday, April 17 at 5pm PST.
Director Michael Curtiz brings inspirationally to life the unsuspectedly stylish film noir The Unsuspected, previously reviewed here, Wednesday, April 18 at 9am PST.
Casablanca is a film I've often recommended in the past. Occasionally, however, I catch some flack for not being as enamoured with this adored classic as the vast majority of viewers. For those who consider Casablanca to be one of the finest motion pictures ever made, just the inclusion in my series entitled Top Ten Fool's Gold: The Overrated can be objectionable enough to completely ignore my critique. In my defence, "Fool's Gold" only refers to the mineral pyrite, not to those who hold the film dear, and there are many qualities attributed to the motion picture and contained in my review. In any event, please have a look at both the film and my write-up to see for yourself if my appraisal has merit. Casablanca is on TCM's itinerary for Wednesday, April 18 at 5pm PST.
Some of the films previously listed here as "Hidden Gems" are today not so hidden due to their release on home video and that's a good thing. One praiseworthy "diamond in the rough" is 1951's Cry Danger, as solid and black as the pressurised lump of coal from whence it came.
In 1944, song and dance man Dick Powell, feeling he was getting too old for the kind of amorous boyish crooners he frequently portrayed (in 1933 alone he appeared as such in three motion pictures: 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933 and Footlight Parade) successfully managed to reinvent himself as the big screen's first hard-bitten detective Philip Marlowe in that same year's Murder My Sweet. He went on to consolidate his newly forged tough-guy persona in other exceptional films noir such as Cornered (1945), Johnny O'Clock (1947), Pitfall (1948) and The Tall Target (1951). In Cry Danger, Powell plays ex-con Rocky Mulloy, just released from prison on a phoney alibi. His current "get-out-of-jail free" friend is Delong, an admitted alcoholic (played with gusto by Richard Erdman) whose main motive in vouching for Rocky lies in the hope he'll share the hidden loot he thinks Rocky actually stole! Rocky, however, has other ideas, like looking for the person/s who set (and sent) him up for an armed robbery he claims not to have committed. Additionally, he wants to clear his friend who's still in prison, convicted for being in on the same job. Rocky will have to get awfully down and dirty in this dangerously dark L.A. cesspool, where sinister threats against him come from both sides of the law, duplicitous friend and foe alike, involving perilous encounters with often shockingly violent results. This terrific little cinematic sleeper (and Hidden Gem #45 ) is filled with deliciously contemptuous dialogue, suitably grim locations, vibrant characters, intense conflicts and, thanks to the collaborative efforts of screenwriter William Bowers and director Robert Parrish, noir's certified seal of approval stamped all over it. Viewers can "cry danger" Saturday, April 21 at 9:15pm PST and again on Sunday, 7am PST, the next stop in Eddie Muller's Noir Alley.
If by chance one hasn't seen the explosively confrontational The Wild Bunch, remedy that Monday, April 23 at 9:30pm PST. For those who have, please see my review Opening Up a Treasure: The Wild Bunch as to why it was, and still is, one of America's finest contributions to the cinematic arts.
Throughout his career, actor Burt Lancaster frequently alternated between playing introverts (Sorry Wrong Number, Criss Cross, Birdman of Alcatraz, Conversation Piece, et al) with extroverts (The Crimson Pirate, Vera Cruz, Elmer Gantry, The Professionals, etc). Occasionally, he took on parts that offered a fascinating combination of both personality types, seen in films such as The Train, The Swimmer, and this 1951 biopic on the life of Native American and Olympic Gold Medalist Jim Thorpe, entitled Jim Thorpe - All American.
Perhaps the star had an affinity for depicting these dual forms of emotional expression because characters like Thorpe felt truer to himself. As a result, Lancaster brings a unique sincerity and heartfelt dedication to the role. He’s equally as convincing and engaging in scenes of Thorpe’s supreme athleticism and confidence as he is in conveying disappointment, bitter cynicism and withdrawal when his character’s life turns tragic. The director here is Michael Curtiz (being featured this month on TCM) who does a superb job of marshalling the talents of his actors and production crew. Besides Lancaster, the other real standout performance (and authoritative narrator of the story) is Charles Bickford as Glenn ‘Pop’ Warner, Thorpe’s coach at Carlisle College.
As with most biopics, there were changes made to some of the facts regarding Jim Thorpe’s life (mostly regarding the athlete's personal relationships). While these alterations may seem dramatically inconsequential, they remain obligatory for narrative conciseness, and help focus on those conflicts of a more compelling nature. This is, after all, a fictional recreation of a very special man's multilayered life... one of adversity, triumph and hope, offering a timeless inspirational lesson for us all. Burt Lancaster will bring Jim Thorpe—All American emphatically to life on TCM Wednesday, April 25 at 3pm PST.
Raoul Walsh's Colorado Territory is the impassioned director's artistically superior western remake of his previous film noir High Sierra. Readers can discover why I make this claim here, and for those familiar with the earlier Humphrey Bogart vehicle, decide for themselves when Colorado Territory is explored Saturday, April 28 at 11:15am 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.
This month's Happy Birthday shout-out goes to the ever so distinctive character actor Burt Young, who turns 78 on April 30th.
Born in New York and of Italian descent (could you tell?), Burt trained under Lee Strasberg at the Actor's Studio. He has helped to create some strikingly colourful characters in films such as The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, Across 110th Street, Cinderella Liberty (the first of many with James Caan), Chinatown (as Curly who "can't eat the blinds"), The Gambler, The Killer Elite (for director Sam Peckinpah), Rocky (as Paulie and in all of its sequels), Twilight's Last Gleaming, Once Upon a Time in America, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Back to School, Last Exit to Brooklyn, Mickey Blue Eyes, and so many more including almost a dozen currently in various stages of production. I also have to applaud his exceptional guest performance in the TV series The Sopranos as Robert "Bobby" Baccalieri, Sr. in the episode entitled "Another Toothpick".
April's Soundtrack recommendation is Dave Grusin's lovely, sensitive and moving score to The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a limited (only 3000 produced) Film Score Monthly release.
This beautifully made film was previously reviewed here. The accompanying music, certain to evoke the film's strong emotional resonance, can currently be ordered from Screen Archives Entertainment by clicking on the accompanying image.
The Blu-ray recommendation for the month is one of TCM's encouraged watchings and reviewed above, Repulsion. Roman Polanski's supreme psychological horror film has been meticulously transferred by Criterion (North America Region A locked) and is available by clicking on the accompanying image.