Film on TV: July 9-15
Monday, July 9
2:00pm – TCM – The Count of Monte Cristo
I have yet to see a film version of The Count of Monte Cristo that stays true to the book (I’d love to – the book transcends adventure, while the movie versions tend to remain solidly stuck in it); this certainly isn’t, but if you refrain from comparing it to the book, it’s still a very solid 1930s-style adventure, and one of the few American films Robert Donat ever made.
1934 USA. Director: Rowland V. Lee. Starring: Robert Donat, Elissa Landi, Louis Calhern, Sidney Blackmer.
6:00pm – TCM – Scaramouche
Stewart Granger was sort of a poor man’s Errol Flynn in his 1950s swashbucklers – never quite had Flynn’s panache, but hey, he tried. Scaramouche (from the novel by Rafael Sabatini, who also wrote Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk, which became Flynn vehicles) is one of his better films, and does boast the longest sword fight in cinema history. So there’s that.
1952 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Stewart Granger, Janet Leigh, Eleanor Parker, Mel Ferrer.
8:00pm – TCM – The Adventures of Robin Hood
I will state almost categorically that this is the greatest adventure film ever made. Maybe it’s a dead heat between this one and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Errol Flynn is Robin Hood, Olivia de Havilland is Maid Marion, a whole raft of fantastic character actors fill out the rest of the cast, and it’s all done in gorgeous Technicolor (it’s one of the earliest Technicolor films).
1938 USA. Directors: William Keighley & Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Patric Knowles, Una O’Connor.
8:25pm – Sundance – Thank You For Smoking
Jason Reitman’s breakout film was also one of my favorites of 2005 – sure, it’s a bit slight and isn’t perfect, but its story of a hotshot PR guy working for cigarette companies struck just the right note of cynical and absurd humor. The really high-quality cast doesn’t hurt either, with everybody, no matter how small their role, making a memorable impression.
2005 USA. Director: Jason Reitman. Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, Rob Lowe, Maria Bello, David Koechner, J.K. Simmons, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott.
(repeats at 3:00am on the 10th)
10:00pm – TCM – The Three Musketeers
This is not the best version of The Three Musketeers, maybe not even in the top three best versions. But where else are you going to see Gene Kelly in a non-musical role as a swashbuckling hero? Nowhere. That’s where.
1948 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, June Allyson, Van Heflin, Angela Lansbury.
Tuesday, July 10
10:30am – IFC – Dear Frankie
Emily Mortimer is a young mother who writes responses to her son’s letters to his father; when her elaborate ruse to convince him his father is just away at sea starts to fall apart, she hires a handsome stranger to pretend to be his father. A charming and unassuming tale, and the Glaswegian accents don’t hurt either, at least for me.
2004 UK. Director: Shona Auerbach. Starring: Emily Mortimer, Gerard Butler, Jack McElhone.
6:15pm – TCM – Point Blank
One of the quintessential existential crime films, with a betrayed Lee Marvin trying to recover a stash that was stolen from him when his parters double-crossed him and left him for dead. Lots of twists, but it all has a very detached point of view.
1967 USA. Director: John Boorman. Starring: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn.
8:00pm – TCM – The Petrified Forest
Bette Davis and Leslie Howard are top billed in this 1936 crime drama, but the thing you’ll remember is Humphrey Bogart in his first major film role as criminal-on-the-run Duke Mantee. They’re all holed up in a remote gas station while Mantee figures out his scheme to escape the manhunt for him. He fairly sizzles on screen.
1936 USA. Director: Archie Mayo. Starring: Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart, Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran.
8:00pm – IFC – The Prestige
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins follow-up, a wonderfully twisty and evocative period thriller about a pair of stage magicians and their potentially deadly rivalry. Some great ideas elevate this far above what you might expect, and solid performances all around carry it through nicely. Definitely deserves mention among the finest thinking-man’s films of the past decade.
2006 USA. Director: Christopher Nolan. Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall.
(repeats at 1:00am on the 11th)
11:15pm – TCM – Of Human Bondage
Bette Davis won a Best Actress Oscar in 1935 for the film Dangerous, but it’s widely believed that it was a bit of a consolation prize for not winning for this film the year before – one of her first prestigious leading roles, in an adaptation of a W. Somerset Maugham novel.
1934 USA. Director: John Cromwell. Starring: Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, Francis Dee.
Wednesday, July 11
6:00am – TCM – Sullivan’s Travels
Sullivan’s Travels is a slightly more serious turn for Preston Sturges, but ultimately upholds his comedic tendencies. Joel McCrea is a filmmaker known for his comedies who decides he wants to make a serious film about the depression; but as a successful Hollywood director, he doesn’t know anything about poverty and the working class, so he embarks on an odyssey to learn about them, picking up waifish Veronica Lake as a traveling companion.
1941 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake.
7:45am – TCM – Going My Way
Best Picture winner, but a bit overly sentimentalized for my tastes, with Bing Crosby a priest who brings a relatable quality to the church’s ministry to a gang of kids, as well as reigniting a love of life in his aging superior.
1944 USA. Director: Leo McCarey. Starring: Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Gene Lockhart, Frank McHugh, Jean Heather.
8:45am – IFC – Che
Steven Soderbergh’s ambitious two-part epic about South American revolutionary Che Guevara. IFC is playing both parts back to back.
2008 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Julia Ormond, Rodrigo Santoro.
10:00am – TCM – Them!
I love a good classic sci-fi film and this one hits all the high points. Radioactive material? Check. Mutant insects? Check. Scientists? Check. Nuclear paranoia? Check. Giant mutant ants (created by radioactivity left by atomic bomb tests in Arizona) start attacking people, first in Arizona, then to Texas and Mexico, and finally in the middle of Los Angeles. A team of scientists works with the police to take the monsters down. One of the better examples of the “atomic mutant” sci-fi films, of which there were many; it builds intensity perfectly (in fact, it’s at least half an hour in before you come close to finding out what’s happening, adding in a very welcome mystery element) and doesn’t spend to long on its obligatory romantic subplot.
1954 USA. Director: Gordon Douglas. Starring: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness.
8:00pm – TCM – The Sting
A couple of conmen team up to pull an elaborate con on criminal kingpin who killed one of their partners. A great 1920s setting and the solid chemistry between Paul Newman and Robert Redford make their follow-up to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid a highly enjoyable romp, if not quite the quintessential classic that film is.
1973 USA. Director: George Roy Hill. Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan.
2:15am (12th) – Sundance – Red Riding: 1974
For some reason Sundance is only playing the first part of the Red Riding Trilogy, but I suppose it’s good they’re playing it instead of one of the other parts. I did quite like the first entry in the sprawling crime series, and it’s the one that stars Andrew Garfield, so there’s that.
2009 UK. Director: Julian Jarrold. Starring: Andrew Garfield, David Morrissey, John Henshaw.
Thursday, July 12
12:30pm – TCM – The Damned Don’t Cry
Widely considered one of Joan Crawford’s finest roles, this film noir has her as a woman sleeping her way to the top – of a national crime syndicate, a position that gives her the wealth and power she’d always wanted, but also places her in quite a bit of peril.
1950 USA. Director: Vincent Sherman. Starring: Joan Crawford, David Brian, Steven Cochran, Kent Smith.
8:00pm – TCM – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
A solidly entertaining and slyly witty film, quite worthy of being one of Howard Hawks’ few ventures into the musical genre. Marilyn Monroe gets probably her best role here – yes, better than Some Like It Hot for my money – and her wide-eyed dumb blonde show (which is exactly what it is, a show) is perfectly complemented by Jane Russell’s cynical but playful wit. Add in iconic moments like “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and you have a film that I refuse to call a guilty pleasure. It’s simply wonderful.
1954 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Tommy Noonan, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid.
9:45pm – TCM – Stormy Weather
In the 1940s, African-American actors were sadly almost always either relegated to servant roles or incidental musical sequences, but MGM did a couple of movies to showcase the prodigious talents of their African-American stars, including this one starring Lena Horne in one of only two starring roles she ever had, as a popular singer being romanced by an up-and-coming dancer (Bill “Bojangles” Robinson). There is a ton of talent on display here, all the way down to the virtuouso title number featuring one of the Nicholas Brothers’ most amazing dance sequences ever.
1943 USA. Director: Andrew L. Stone. Starring: Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, The Nicholas Brothers, Dooley Wilson, Katherine Dunham.
Friday, July 13
8:00am – TCM – The Lion in Winter
Katharine Hepburn won her third (of four) Oscars for her role in this film as Plantagenet matriarch Eleanor of Aquitaine, a woman who probably had more to do with the course of British and European history than most men. The film concerns her, her husband King Henry II of England, and their quarrelsome sons Richard and John (who’d make their fair share of history as King Richard Coeur de Leone and King John, of the Magna Carta) during a particularly tense Christmas reunion. It can be difficult to make medieval-set films seem immediate, but this one does.
1968 UK. Director: Anthony Harvey. Starring: Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry, Timothy Dalton, Jane Merrow.
6:00pm – TCM – Wait Until Dark
Audrey Hepburn is a blind woman set upon by a trio of home invaders in search of some smuggled heroin they think ended up hidden at her house – an all-around good little thriller, with a fantastic climactic set-piece.
1967 USA. Director: Terence Young. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
11:00pm – TCM – Shock Corridor
One of memorable director Samuel Fuller’s most memorable films has a journalist hungry for a Pulitzer Prize get himself committed to an insane asylum in order to investigate a murder. But not everything is as it seems, and it turns out to be harder than he expects to maintain his own sanity surrounded by lunatics.
1963 USA. Director: Samuel Fuller. Starring: Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best.
12:45am (14th) – TCM – The Naked Kiss
The Naked Kiss signals its unconventionality right from opening credit sequence, which features a young woman beating the crap out of the camera, a stand-in, as we soon learn, for one of her male clients. She’s a prostitute, but she’s had enough of being misused and heads to a new town to start a new life as a teacher at a school for crippled children. Sounds hopeful, right? Wrong. Murder, pedophilia, and creepy scenes of kids singing creepy songs are in store. This is a really weird film that goes places you don’t really expect and yet remains utterly spellbinding pretty much the whole time.
1964 USA. Director: Samuel Fuller. Starring: Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly.
Saturday, July 14
10:45am – Sundance – Paris je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.
2006 France. Director: various. Starring: many.
9:45pm – TCM – The Princess Comes Across
A combination screwball comedy and mystery, as Carole Lombard pretends to be a princess to get on board an ocean liner, but ends up mixed up with a bandleader trying to woo her, a blackmailer who knows who she is, an escaped killer who’s committing murders on the ship, and the police trying to track all of them down. Lombard excelled at zany fun, and with frequent costar Fred MacMurray in tow, this is a slight but enjoyable good time.
1936 USA. Director: William K. Howard. Starring: Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Douglass Dumbrille, Alison Skipworth, Wiliam Frawley, Sig Ruman, Mischa Auer.
4:30am (15th) – TCM – Too Many Husbands
A relatively slight screwball comedy, but it makes an interesting comparison with another 1940 film, My Favorite Wife. That film stars Irene Dunne, and this one stars Jean Arthur, two of the better comediennes of the 1930s, but both have essentially the same story, only gender-flopped – here Arthur’s husband is believed dead so several years later she remarries, only to have her husband turn back up. This is a weaker film overall than its role-switched doppelganger, but I’d argue that Arthur still manages to prove herself a stronger comedienne than Dunne.
1940 USA. Director: Wesley Ruggles. Starring: Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray, Melvyn Douglas, Harry Davenport.
Sunday, July 15
6:00am – IFC – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Julian Schnabel’s intensely moving retelling of the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was almost completely paralyzed in a car accident, able only to move his left eye. The impressionist storytelling lends an otherworldly beauty to the film, already solid due to the script and acting.
2007 France. Director: Julian Schnabel. Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze.
(repeats at 1:15pm)
8:30am – IFC – Doubt
An acting tour de force thanks to the presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman as a priest and Meryl Streep as the nun who accuses him of getting a bit too close to the children he teaches. Amy Adams acquits herself well as the novitiate caught in the middle, while Viola Davis is a standout in a very small but intensely memorable role. The film tends toward the stagy side thanks to its origins as a play (and the fact that it’s directed by the playwright), but the showdowns between these actors is well worth it.
2008 USA. Director: John Patrick Shanley. Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis.
(repeats at 3:45pm)
8:30am – TCM – Night and the City
Richard Widmark is a small-time schemer with a plan to become a major player in the London underworld by breaking the local monopoly on boxing, the major gambling outlet. The plot is very intricate; everybody is double-crossing everybody, playing mind-games, and setting each other up. The noir visuals are even more striking when you take into account that this film was shot on location – unusual for the time, especially for a little crime film. Director Jules Dassin was shipped off to London in the midst of the McCarthy blacklist, but went on to make some of his most memorable films (especially this one and Rififi) in Europe.
1950 UK. Director: Jules Dassin. Starring: Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hugh Marlowe, Francis L. Sullivan, Herbert Lom.
4:30pm – TCM – Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
A favorite film among Cary Grant fans, with Grant and wife Myrna Loy (reteaming from the previous year’s The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer deciding to leave their small New York City apartment and build their dream home in the country, but the process is fraught with far more difficulty (and comedy) than they expected.
1948 USA. Director: H.C. Potter. Starring: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Reginald Denny.
6:00pm – IFC – Pan’s Labyrinth
One of my absolute favorite films of the past decade (or ever, really), an absolutely beautiful and terrifying fantasy that juxtaposes the gruesome horrors of the Spanish Civil War with an equally horrifying fantasy world that provides, if not escape, at least some measure of importance and control to the film’s young heroine. Guillermo Del Toro solidified my view of him as a visionary filmmaker with this film, and it still stands to me as a testament to what fantasy can and should do.
2006 Spain/Mexico. Director: Guillermo Del Toro. Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Meribel Verdú, Doug Jones.
(repeats at 12:00M)
12:00M – TCM – The Films of Georges Méliès
According to the TCM website, this program of Méliès films includes 16 shorts total, including A Trip to the Moon. I’m not sure what the other 15 are, but I definitely say it’s worth checking this program out. Méliès was one of the first to realize the trickery that motion pictures were capable of, bringing his magician background onto the screen with some of the first special effects ever created. If you’ve seen Scorsese’s Hugo, you’ll know these films retain their magic, and it’s pretty rare for TCM to play a whole chunk of them like this.
roughly 1900-1905. Director: Georges Méliès.