Some interesting films on US television, November 7-13
Marty Jonas (MJ) and David Walsh (DW)
7 November 1998
Asterisk indicates a film of exceptional interest. All times are EDT.
Saturday, November 7
*6:30 a.m. (Cinemax)-- The Lady from Shanghai (1948)--Orson Welles wrote and directed this crime thriller, which, like all of his films, is a cinematic tour de force. He plays an Irish seaman (with a brogue that comes and goes), and Glenn Anders and Everett Sloane are two grotesque characters. The two most memorable scenes are of Sloane, as a lawyer, cross-examining himself on the stand, and of the shoot-out in the amusement park hall of mirrors. Also starring Rita Hayworth. (MJ)
7:00 a.m. (A&E)-- Robin and Marian (1976)--Likable, evocative film about the later years of Robin Hood. After years in exile, Robin (Sean Connery) returns to Sherwood Forest, takes up with Marian (Audrey Hepburn) again. Richard Lester directed; James Goldman wrote the script. (DW)
9:00 a.m. (HBO Family)-- The Court Jester (1956)--Classic Danny Kaye farce of confused identities in the Middle Ages. Lots of witty verbal humor. Directed by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama. (MJ)
*9:00 a.m. (TCM)-- Singin' in the Rain (1952)--Is there anyone who hasn't seen this film by now? Anyway, it's a remarkable musical, with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, about the days of silent film. Stanley Donen and Kelly directed. (DW)
10:30 a.m. (Showtime)-- Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)--The pioneer automaker (played by Jeff Bridges) and his company are destroyed by the giants of the auto industry. Director Francis Coppola obviously meant this as a parable about the independent artist versus the film industry, with Tucker standing in for Coppola. The whole thing seems oversimplified. Good performance by Martin Landau. (MJ)
10:35 a.m. (AMC)-- Man Without a Star (1955)--King Vidor-directed Western, with Kirk Douglas as a drifter, Jeanne Crain as a manipulative rancher. (DW)
11:00 a.m. (TCM)-- How the West Was Won (1963)--An "epic" saga, with more weaknesses than strengths, about three generations of western pioneers. Henry Fonda, Carroll Baker, Gregory Peck, George Peppard and countless others star. Co-directed by John Ford, Henry Hathaway and George Marshall. (DW)
*12:05 p.m. (AMC)-- The Killers (1946)--Robert Siodmak directed this film adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway story about a gangster waiting for two hit men to kill him. The film explains why. With Burt Lancaster in his film debut, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien, Albert Dekker, Charles McGraw, Sam Levene. John Huston, uncredited, contributed to the script. (DW)
1:45 p.m. (TCM)-- The Red Badge of Courage (1951)--John Huston's intelligent adaptation of Stephen Crane's Civil War novel, about a young soldier in the Union army who runs from his first encounter with the enemy, but comes to terms with his fear. (DW)
2:10 p.m. (TNT)-- Play Misty for Me (1971)--Clint Eastwood directed and starred as a jazz-playing disc jockey who jilts a woman (Jessica Walter) and is then stalked by her. With Donna Mills. (DW)
10:00 p.m. (FXM)-- All That Jazz (1979)--Choreographer/director Bob Fosse's overwrought autobiographical film about his mental and physical crackup. Not strictly speaking a musical, but it is filled with musical numbers--including a bizarre one occurring during the main character's open-heart surgery. With Roy Scheider and Ben Vereen. (MJ)
8:00 p.m. (AMC)-- Sergeant Rutledge (1960)--Woody Strode plays a black US cavalry officer charged with rape and murder in post-Civil War America. John Ford directed. With Jeffrey Hunter, Constance Towers. (DW)
*9:00 p.m. (Sundance)-- Last Year at Marienbad (1961)--Alain Resnais's enigmatic film is one of the classics of French cinema. It asks questions (never answered) about the nature of time and memory. A marvelous film to watch, with its energetically mobile camera and lengthy tracking shots down ornate corridors. (MJ)
10:30 p.m. (TCM)-- My Man Godfrey (1936)--A millionaire invites a tramp (William Powell) to be his butler in this Gregory LaCava screwball comedy. Carole Lombard is the millionaire's daughter. (DW)
12:30 a.m. (TCM)-- The Gay Divorcee (1934)--One of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals. Not famous for its plot, but for its musical numbers, including "Continental" and Cole Porter's "Night and Day." Directed by journeyman Mark Sandrich. (DW)
12:45 a.m. (TNT)-- Play Misty for Me (1971)--See 2:10 p.m.
Sunday, November 8
*6:00 a.m. (TCM)-- Sylvia Scarlett (1935)--Disconcerting, interesting film about a father (Edmund Gwenn) and daughter (Katharine Hepburn), who take to the road with a touring show, which later includes Cary Grant. Hepburn disguises herself as a boy, which turns all sorts of social and sexual relationships upside down. George Cukor directed. (DW)
*6:00 a.m. (Cinemax)-- William Shakespeare's "Romeo + Juliet" (1996)--Inventive and exciting modern-dress version of the play. Starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio. (MJ)
6:00 a.m. (AMC)-- Christopher Strong (1933)--Katherine Hepburn stars as an aviatrix in love with a married man. A dated film, the work of one of Hollywood's first female directors, Dorothy Arzner. (DW)
7:00 a.m. (A&E)-- The Left-Handed Gun (1958)--Based on a television play by Gore Vidal, Arthur Penn directed this offbeat version of the Billy the Kid legend. (DW)
*8:00 a.m. (TCM)-- His Girl Friday (1940)--Marvelous film version of Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur's The Front Page, co-scripted by Hecht, with Cary Grant as scheming editor and Rosalind Russell as his star reporter trying to get married to Ralph Bellamy. Directed by Howard Hawks. (DW)
9:45 a.m. (Cinemax)-- The Fifth Element (1997)--Vacuous, silly science fiction film in which the future of the universe hinges on a Brooklyn cabdriver (played in proletarian style by Bruce Willis) finding something called "the fifth element." Worth seeing only for its imaginative settings and special effects. Typical scenery-chewing villainy by Gary Oldman. Directed by Luc Besson. (MJ)
12:00 p.m. (Comedy)-- History of the World--Part I (1981)--An example of Mel Brooks's scattershot humor. Many jokes are forced and lame, and most routines just limp along, but the Spanish Inquisition sequence, staged as a Busby Berkeley water ballet, is hilarious and worth staying for. (MJ)
*3:00 p.m. (USA)-- Red Rock West (1993)--Modern attempt at film noir, only partially successful, with Nicholas Cage, Dennis Hopper, and the late (great) J.T. Walsh. Directed by John Dahl. (DW)
5:30 p.m. (HBO Signature)-- Serpico (1973)--Al Pacino plays a loner cop taking on corruption in the New York Police Department. As always, director Sidney Lumet captures the texture of New York City. (MJ)
6:00 p.m. (TCM)-- The Philadelphia Story (1940)--George Cukor directed this film adaptation of Philip Barry's stage play about a spoiled mainline socialite yearning for--well, what exactly? One critic calls it "simply the breaking, reining, and saddling of an unruly thoroughbred," i.e., Katharine Hepburn. (DW)
8:00 p.m. (Comedy)-- History of the World--Part I (1981)--See 12:00 p.m.
9:00 p.m. (HBO Family)-- Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)--See Saturday, at 10:30 p.m.
*10:00 p.m. (Cinemax)-- Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997)--In Copenhagen, a half-Inuit scientist (Julia Ormond) investigates the suspicious death from falling of a young Inuit boy. A quiet, brooding film with beautiful photography of Denmark and Greenland is marred by a conventional melodramatic ending with a conventional corporate villain (overplayed by Richard Harris with evil white hair). Also starring Gabriel Byrne. (MJ)
11:45 p.m. (HBO Signature)-- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)--Steven Spielberg's special-effects-filled take on UFO sighting as a religious experience. Starring Richard Dreyfuss. (MJ)
4:00 a.m. (A&E)-- The Left-Handed Gun (1958)--See 7:00 a.m.
Monday, November 9
6:35 a.m. (Encore)-- The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)--William Wyler's occasionally affecting drama about ex-servicemen in postwar America. With Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Myrna Loy, Virginia Mayo and Teresa Wright. (DW)
*10:00 a.m. (TCM)-- To Have and Have Not (1944)--Howard Hawks classic, based (very loosely) on a short story by Ernest Hemingway, with Bogart as an apolitical fishing boat captain who gets dragged into French Resistance efforts. Lauren Bacall is outstanding in her debut. Dialogue by William Faulkner and Jules Furthman. (DW)
11:00 a.m. (AMC)-- Bright Leaf (1950)--Michael Curtiz directed this interesting saga about the tobacco industry in the nineteenth century. Gary Cooper, seeking revenge on old enemies and old lovers, builds a cigarette empire. With Lauren Bacall, Patricia Neal, Jack Carson. (DW)
*11:30 a.m. (HBO Signature)-- The Year of Living Dangerously (1983)--Love story set against the background of the military bloodbath against the Communist Party in Indonesia in 1966. The political scenes are very powerful. Linda Hunt is marvelous as the diminutive photographer Billy Kwan, for which she deservedly won an Academy Award. Starring Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver. Directed by Peter Weir. (MJ)
8:00 p.m. (TCM)-- Four Daughters (1938)--The Lane Sisters, with Claude Rains as their musical father, star in this film about small town life. The four young women have their lives changed by four young men. Directed by Hungarian émigré Michael Curtiz. (DW)
*9:00 p.m. (Bravo)-- Red Sorghum (1987)--A historical film made by well-known Chinese director Zhang Yimou, about a pair of unlikely lovers. The film, set in the 1920s and 1930s, includes a harrowing sequence about the Japanese invasion of China. With Gong Li. (DW)
10:00 p.m. (TCM)-- Four Wives (1939)--A Michael Curtiz film, sequel to Four Daughters, about a quartet of women in small town America. Sentimental, but well directed and acted. With Claude Rains, John Garfield, and the Lane sisters (Priscilla, Rosemary and Lola.) (DW)
*1:00 a.m. (Bravo)-- Red Sorghum (1987)--See 9:00 p.m.
3:05 a.m. (HBO Signature)-- Frantic (1988)--Roman Polanski's failed attempt to make a Hitchcock-type suspense film. With Harrison Ford. (MJ)
4:00 a.m. (FXM)-- All That Jazz (1979)--See Saturday, at 2:10 p.m.
Tuesday, November 10
8:00 a.m. (HBO Signature)-- Carousel (1956)--Hollywood turned a great dark Broadway musical into a perky feel-good film. Most of the Rodgers and Hammerstein songs are intact, however. Starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones. Directed by Henry King. (MJ)
10:00 a.m. (TCM)-- Gaslight (1944)--Charles Boyer tries to drive Ingrid Bergman mad in George Cukor's period thriller. (DW)
12:00 p.m. (TCM)-- The Good Earth (1937)--Pearl Buck's novel about peasants in China brought to the screen and directed by dull and earnest Sidney Franklin. Despite everything, the film is moving. With Paul Muni and Luise Rainer. (DW)
*12:30 p.m. (AMC)-- The Great Dictator (1940)--Chaplin plays the twin role of a Jewish barber and Adenoid Hynkel of Tomania, in this extraordinary attack, which also manages to be very funny, on Hitler and Nazism. Jack Oakie is Benzino Napaloni of Bacteria. (DW)
*6:00 p.m. (AMC)-- The Third Man (1949)--Carol Reed directed this sharp look at life in post-World War II Vienna, impoverished and corrupt, where the Cold War is beginning to take shape. Orson Welles plays the mysterious Harry Lime and, one suspects, contributed to the overall feel of the film. Score, played on the zither by Anton Karas, is justly famous. (DW)
8:00 p.m. (TCM)-- The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)--Stylishly done version of romance between Queen of England (Bette Davis) and Earl of Essex (Errol Flynn). Directed by Michael Curtiz, from play by Maxwell Anderson. (DW)
*8:00 p.m. (FXM)-- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)--A visitor from another galaxy visits our planet to issue a stern warning. Robert Wise's film is a liberal plea for peace and understanding; as such, it defied the McCarthyite xenophobia and bellicosity dominating Hollywood at the time. It stands up surprising well almost 50 years later. Starring Patricia Neal and Michael Rennie. (MJ)
12:30 a.m. (TCM)-- Queen Christina (1933)--Greta Garbo is memorable as the seventeenth century Swedish queen who gave up her throne for love. John Gilbert, one of her real-life amours, plays her aristocratic lover. Rouben Mamoulian directed. (DW)
2:30 a.m. (TCM)-- Marie Antoinette (1938)--Lavish MGM spectacle about the life of the doomed queen of France. Criticized in its time, it stands up to a certain extent. Robert Morley is memorable as Louis XVI; Norma Shearer is Marie. Directed by W. S. Van Dyke. (DW)
Wednesday, November 11
6:00 a.m. (TCM)-- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)--Not a great, but a remarkable, sensual and disturbing film. Charles Laughton is Victor Hugo's Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer. Maureen O'Hara is unforgettable, in her US film debut, as Esmerelda. (DW)
6:00 a.m. (AMC)-- All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)--Film adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's anti-war novel about German youths' experiences as soldiers in World War I. Some memorable sequences, although the overall effect is not as strong as one would like. Directed by Lewis Milestone, with Lew Ayres. (DW)
*8:30 a.m. (AMC)-- A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958)--Director Douglas Sirk was saddled with two terrible actors, John Gavin and Lilo Pulver, as lovers in this World War II drama, but he managed to salvage a fascinating film. From the novel by Erich Maria Remarque. (DW)
12:00 p.m. (TCM)-- Seven Women (1966)--John Ford's last hurrah as a director, a melodrama about missionaries in China in the 1930s. With Anne Bancroft, Sue Lyon, Margaret Leighton, Flora Robson, Mildred Dunnock. Better than its reputation. (DW)
12:30 p.m. (AMC)-- The Steel Helmet (1951)--Gene Evans stars in this Samuel Fuller war drama about US troops behind enemy lines in Korean War. (DW)
4:00 p.m. (Bravo)-- Charlie Bubbles (1968)--British actor Albert Finney's directing debut, about a married and unhappy writer who begins an affair with Liza Minnelli, as his secretary. It has moving moments. (DW)
4:00 p.m. (FXM)-- The Gang's All Here (1943)--Delightful Busby Berkeley film, with the usual lush and intricate musical sequences, but this time in rich Technicolor. Watch for the not-so-subliminal chorus line of bananas in Carmen Miranda's "The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat" number. (MJ)
*4:30 p.m. (HBO Plus)-- The Year of Living Dangerously (1983)--See Monday, at 11:30 a.m.
10:00 p.m. (Cinamax)-- Breakdown (1997)--Suspenseful thriller in which the wife of a meek computer programmer (played by Kurt Russell) disappears during a cross-country trip. One of the last peformances by the late, great character actor J.T. Walsh. (MJ)
1:00 a.m. (TNT)-- The Big Red One (1980)--Sam Fuller's war film, semi-autobiographical, about an infantry squadron doing battle in World War II. A vivid account. With Lee Marvin. (DW)
4:00 a.m. (Bravo)-- Charlie Bubbles (1968)--See 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 12
6:00 a.m. (FXM)-- The Gang's All Here (1943)--See Wednesday, at 4:00 p.m.
8:00 a.m. (TCM)-- Undercurrent (1946)--In the Gaslight genre: a woman (Katharine Hepburn) discovers her husband is evil and conniving. Robert Mitchum is her ultimate savior. Directed by Vincente Minnelli. (DW)
9:15 a.m. (HBO Signature)-- The Godfather, Part III (1990)--Not the best of the Godfather trilogy, but a cut above most current films. This time, the Corleone family, led by Michael (Al Pacino), gets involved with the sinister machinations of the Vatican and international finance. With Andy Garcia, Diane Keaton and Sophia Coppola. Directed by Francis Coppola. (MJ)
10:45 a.m. (AMC)-- Home of the Brave (1949)--Mark Robson directed this well-meaning film about black GI suffering abuse from fellow US soldiers in the Pacific during World War II. One of the first to deal with racial discrimination. (DW)
12:00 p.m. (TCM)-- Now, Voyager (1942)--A well-done melodrama with a remarkable cast. Bette Davis is an isolated, neurotic woman helped by psychiatrist Claude Rains, and falling in love with Paul Henreid. Directed by Irving Rapper. (DW)
*4:00 p.m. (Cinemax)-- William Shakespeare's "Romeo + Juliet" (1996)--See Sunday, at 6:00 a.m.
4:00 p.m. (Comedy)-- Something Wild (1986)--Melanie Griffith, in one her rare performances of substance, turns out to be trouble for Jeff Daniels, an uptight businessman. Ray Liotta is her psychotic boyfriend. Not a great film, but it has its moments. Directed by Jonathan Demme. (DW)
5:30 p.m. (HBO Plus)-- Young Frankenstein (1974)--One of Mel Brooks's funnier and more successful parodies, this time of the classic horror film by James Whale. Particularly effective because it uses many of the original sets. With Peter Boyle (as the monster) and Gener Wilder (as Dr. Frankenstein). (MJ)
6:00 p.m. (AMC)-- Julia (1977)--Vanessa Redgrave won an Oscar for her performance as the anti-fascist Julia based on Lillian Hellman's autobiographical work, Pentimento. With Jane Fonda, Jason Robards; directed by Fred Zinnemann. (DW)
8:00 p.m. (TCM)-- Jezebel (1938)--Bette Davis again, as an antebellum Southern belle causing trouble with her willful behavior. Also Henry Fonda. Directed by William Wyler. (DW)
8:00 p.m. (Comedy)-- Something Wild (1986)--See 4:00 p.m.
*10:00 p.m. (TCM)-- Madame Bovary (1949)--Vincente Minnelli's film version of the Gustave Flaubert novel about a bored provincial wife who thinks she has found true love. Jennifer Jones is Emma Bovary, with Van Heflin, James Mason. (DW)
11:00 p.m. (HBO Family)-- The Poseidon Adventure (1972)--Of interest because it was made when disaster films were peopled by real actors and not filled with ultra-expensive special effects, cartoonish characters, and pretty faces. The preposterous story has a luxury liner and its passengers being turned over by a gigantic ocean wave; the passengers must find their way out of the upside-down vessel. The good cast includes Gene Hackman, Roddy McDowell, Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, and Jack Albertson. Directed by Ronald Neame. (MJ)
1:10 a.m. (AMC)-- Julia (1977)--See 6:00 p.m.
*1:15 a.m. (TNT)-- The Shootist (1976)--John Wayne plays a gunfighter dying of cancer who returns to his hometown for a last bit of peace. James Stewart is the doctor. This excellent, moving film was Wayne's last. Directed by Don Siegel. (MJ)
1:50 a.m. (TMC)-- Men of Respect (1991)--Fascinating but largely unsuccessful attempt to translate Macbeth into a modern gangster milieu. The effect is bizarre. Starring John Turturro, Peter Boyle, and Rod Steiger. Directed by William Reilly. (MJ)
*2:10 a.m. (TCM)-- Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)--Vincente Minnelli's sentimental, but very evocative musical about turn-of-the-century family life in St. Louis, set during the World's Fair of 1903. Judy Garland is memorable; she sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The Trolley Song," among others. Margaret O'Brien is her younger sister. With Leon Ames and Mary Astor. (DW)
2:15 a.m. (Cinemax)-- Marathon Man (1976)--Exciting, convoluted spy thriller about stolen jewels, Nazis hiding out in the US, and the CIA. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Roy Scheider. Laurence Olivier is particularly effective as a sadistic Mengele-type dentist. Directed by John Schlesinger. (MJ)
3:20 a.m. (TNT)-- High Noon (1952)--Gary Cooper stars in this Fred Zinnemann-directed Western about a sheriff who, on his wedding and retirement day, has to confront a gunman seeking revenge. With Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado et al. (DW)
*4:05 a.m. (TCM)-- An American in Paris (1951)--Classic MGM musical directed by Vincente Minnelli and built around its Gershwin score; Alan Jay Lerner wrote the screenplay. Gene Kelly is an artist torn between gamine Leslie Caron and wealthy Nina Foch. With the irrepressible Oscar Levant. (DW)
4:10 a.m. (HBO)-- The Firm (1993)--Another film that takes a shot at the legal profession. In this paranoid potboiler, a young, ambitious lawyer finds out that his high-toned firm is totally owned by organized crime. An unremarkable film is saved by a remarkable performance by Gene Hackman (always dependable), playing a cynical partner. From the bestseller by John Grisham.
Friday, November 13
7:15 a.m. (AMC)-- Mary of Scotland (1936)--John Ford's sympathetic and largely fanciful, from an historical point of view, account of the last years in the life of Mary Queen of Scots, Catholic queen and rival of Elizabeth I of England. Based on the play by Maxwell Anderson. Katharine Hepburn is Mary. (DW)
*9:30 a.m. (Sundance)-- Last Year at Marienbad (1961)--See Monday, at 9:00 p.m.
12:00 p.m. (TCM)-- Flying Down to Rio (1934)--Early Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film with wonderful dance sequences. The one with the chorus girls dancing on the wings of flying planes is amazing. Directed by Thomas Freeland. (MJ)
*12:30 p.m. (AMC)-- The Blue Dahlia (1946)--Raymond Chandler scripted this melodrama which sees discharged serviceman Alan Ladd come home to his unfaithful wife. When she is murdered, he becomes a suspect. With Veronica Lake and William Bendix. George Marshall directed the film, and John Houseman produced. (DW)
*4:00 p.m. (AMC)-- Saboteur (1942)--Excellent Alfred Hitchcock film, with Robert Cummings as an innocent munitions plant worker accused of sabotage. With Priscilla Lane. (DW)
*4:10 p.m. (TMC)--12 Angry Men (1957)--Gripping film that takes place in only one room as 12 jurors struggle to reach a verdict. During the process each reveals his character. Great cast headed by Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, and E.G. Marshall. Directed by Sidney Lumet. (MJ)
*4:25 p.m. (Sundance)-- Last Year at Marienbad (1961)--See Monday, at 9:00 p.m.
8:00 p.m. (TCM)-- The Dawn Patrol (1938)--Remake of Howard Hawks's 1930 film about World War I flyers. Officer Basil Rathbone is forced by circumstances to send up novices Errol Flynn and David Niven. Edmund Goulding directed. (DW)
*8:00 p.m. (Cinamax)-- The Ice Storm (1997)--Excellent film by Ang Lee of aimlessness and disillusionment in the 1970s. While the middle class disintegrates in suburbia, we see the disintegration of the White House playing out in the background as the Watergate crisis runs its course. The fine cast includes Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Jamey Sheridan and Christina Ricci. (MJ)
11:30 p.m. (HBO Plus)-- Face/Off (1997)--Hong Kong action director John Woo lets out all the stops in this exciting, humorous, and (of course) preposterous film about a government agent (John Travolta) and his terrorist nemesis (Nicolas Cage) exchanging faces. (MJ)
*1:40 a.m. (TMC)-- Hamlet (1996)--Kenneth Branagh starred in and directed this long, unabridged film of Shakespeare's play. It is exciting and lucid, and it dispenses with the oedipal nonsense of other recent versions. Branagh is strong in the part, and Derek Jacobi is the definitive Claudius. Also starring Julie Christie and Kate Winslet. (MJ)
*2:00 a.m. (Sundance)-- Last Year at Marienbad (1961)--See Monday, at 9:00 p.m.