Sweet Smell of Success, playing on TCM on Sunday
Of special note this week is the tribute to Tony Curtis that TCM is running on Sunday; besides everything else that TCM does well, I’m always impressed by how quickly they clear off room on their schedule to memorialize classic Hollywood stars and directors upon their deaths. They’re running Operation Petticoat, Sweet Smell of Success, and The Defiant Ones, among other Curtis films. Also newly featured this week are a pair of early Tarantino-related films on IFC on Wednesday: his directorial debut Reservoir Dogs and From Dusk Till Dawn, which he penned. Also on Wednesday, TCM has a pair of films from Max Ophüls, including the delectable The Earrings of Madame de… And there are an extraordinary number of great films this week that we’ve featured before – I rarely bring attention to those up here, but do always keep a look out in case you’ve missed something earlier that you wanted to catch.
Monday, October 4
7:45am – 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.
9:45am – TCM – Kiss Me Kate
It’s hard to improve Shakespeare, but it usually works best to place his stories and words in a new context. Kiss Me Kate does just that by coupling a musical version of Taming of the Shrew with a backstage story that mirrors Shrew’s fighting protagonists. Great supporting work from Ann Miller, James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn, etc. helps out leads Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson considerably, as do Cole Porter’s songs.
1953 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller, James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn.
10:00am – IFC – Paranoid Park
I go back and forth on whether I think Gus Van Sant is brilliant or a pretentious bore – maybe some of both. But I really quite liked the slow, oblique approach in this film about a wanna-be skateboarder kid who relishes hanging out with the bigger skateboarders at the titular skate park – but there’s a death not far from there, and it takes the rest of the movie to slowly reveal what exactly happened that one night near Paranoid Park. Gets by on mood and cinematography.
2007 USA Director: Gus Van Sant. Starring: Gabe Nevins, Daniel Lu, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen, Lauren McKinney.
(repeats at 3:15pm)
11:00am – Sundance – Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog has made the savage beauty of nature one of his themes throughout most of his fiction films, so perhaps it’s only natural that he has moved onto explicitly non-fiction explorations of some of nature’s most remote locales, in this case, Antarctica.2007 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
(repeats at 4:40pm)
6:20pm – IFC – The Uusal Suspects
One of the earliest in the late 90s wave of “twist” films, and still one of the few that did it best. Spoiler warnings may not have been invented for The Usual Suspects, but it was certainly one of the films that popularized anti-spoiler sentiment (and the converse glee for spoiling, I suppose). Thanks to Christopher McQuarrie’s tight script and great acting turns, though, the film is about more than the twist, which is what makes it continue to be worthwhile over a decade and multiple viewings later.
1995 USA. Director: Bryan Singer. Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Bryne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollack, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite.
(repeats at 9:05am and 2:05pm on the 5th)
11:30pm – TCM – Touch of Evil
Likely the last great noir film, with Orson Welles directing and starring as the corpulent corrupt sheriff of a corrupt border town, and Charlton Heston as a cop trying to solve a case with little, no, or negative help from Welles. Throw in Marlene Dietrich in one of her last roles and a virtuoso opening tracking shot, and you’ve got one of the most memorable noirs ever.
1958 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff.
1:30am (5th) – TCM – I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Paul Muni plays an initially optimistic and energetic young man who struggles to find a job during the Depression. Eventually he ends up unwillingly involved in a robbery and sentenced to the chain gang. One of Warner Bros’ best “ripped from the headlines” socially conscious films – they did a lot of them in the 1930s.
1931 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson.
3:15am (5th) – TCM – Cool Hand Luke
One of Paul Newman’s most memorable films, with Newman playing a renegade prisoner on a Southern chain gang who refuses to do what he’s told, escaping time and time again only to be recaptured as the guards attempt to break him.
1967 USA. Director: Stuart Rosenberg. Starring: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, J.D. Cannon, Lou Antonio.
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