Tuesday, October 15, 2013

TCM Tuesday #2

TCM Tuesday is a weekly feature where I'll take a look at the upcoming week's schedule on Turner Classic Movies—the best and greatest of all television channels—and pick some stuff for you to watch or save to your DVR. All times are EST, check your local listings.

TCM Tuesday for 10/15/13–10/21/13
(Full Schedule)

Pick of the Week:

US, 1944
Directed by George Cukor

Airs Wednesday, Oct. 16th at 7:30 AM

Based on a play by Patrick Hamilton (already filmed under the same name only four years earlier), Gaslight is a dark, occasionally melodramatic story of treachery, manipulation, and madness. Ingrid Bergman stars as Paula Alquist, who, as a child, interrupted a thief in the process of robbing and murdering her guardian Aunt (a famous opera singer). She is then raised to become a singer herself, and eventually meets the charming Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), who sweeps Paula off her feet and marries her, becoming her overprotective de facto controller. Paula begins hearing and seeing strange things, and Anton isolates her, claiming he's doing it for her own good, but it's clear (to us, at least) that he's a villain. Paula has allies—a charming police detective and opera fan named Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten)—and adversaries—a crude Cockney maid played by a young Angela Lansbury in her first film role—but Anton's perception-altering tricks may have her doubting herself too much to be saved. We now refer to this sort of behavior as "gaslighting" largely because of the film's success.

I made this my pick of the week largely based on its atmosphere and tone. Joseph Cotten also happens to be one of my favorite classic stars, and I wrote about this period of his career in grad school, so my opinion may be biased, but still. George Cukor, usually thought of as a comedy director, does well here in a noirish milieu, creating a disorienting ambiance to match Paula's mental state. Joseph Ruttenberg's cinematography and Cedric Gibbons and team's Oscar-winning art direction help set this mood, turning a sumptuous, privilege-infused home into a shadowy, sinister space. Despite this effective tone-setting, I fully admit that the film sometimes verges on camp. Boyer's Anton is a cartoonish scoundrel that beggars belief, and Bergman's hysteria can come across as overplayed, now, though she, Boyer, and Lansbury were Oscar-nominated for the film (with only Bergman winning). At any rate, it's a suitably creepy film that highlights an experience that a lot of women have in abusive relationships. There's little worse than being made to distrust your own sanity, and Gaslight shows us the true horror of someone else reshaping your reality to suit his own purposes.

So that's this week's must-see pick. Look for the daily highlights below the cut.

Daily Highlights:

Tuesday, Oct. 15th: First, we have a rerun of Monday's episode of The Story of Film: An Odyssey at 1:45 AM. No, I will not stop telling you about it. Yes, it is worth it. Also, some great movies mentioned in the episode air in the lead-up. At 8:00 PM, look for A Fistful of Dollars (1964), Sergio Leone's spaghetti western remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo (and the first film starring Clint Eastwood as the iconic Man With No Name). Then, Jean-Luc Godard's crime caper Breathless (1960), one of the best examples of nouvelle vague experimentation and genre-blending, is on at midnight. Also, earlier in the day, catch an oddly chilling psychological thriller from Otto Preminger, Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) at 4:00 PM.

Wednesday, Oct. 16th: Not many things I can recommend today, barring our pick of the week, but John Frankenheimer's original version of The Manchurian Candidate (1962), a political thriller starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, and a villainous Angela Lansbury, comes on at 5:45. I'll also put in a word for The Mark of Zorro (1940), Rouben Mamoulian's take on the famous swashbuckling hero, even though I'm not an overly big fan of its star Tyrone Power (to whom tonight's prime time lineup is dedicated). Watch that at 11:45 PM.

Thursday, Oct. 17th: October's Star of the Month, Vincent Price, once again gets the spotlight tonight in prime time, highlighted by While The City Sleeps (1956) at 8:00 PM. The movie, about a group of journalists competing to capture a criminal to flatter their boss (Price), the vain head of a media empire, features three of my favorite classic stars (Price, George Saunders, and Thomas Mitchell). That alone makes it worth seeing, but it also happens to be dark, cynical, and loads of fun—and directed by the brilliant Fritz Lang (yes, he of M and Metropolis fame). Earlier in the day, you can catch John Huston's Beat the Devil (1953) 9:00 AM, a tonally-mismatched parody/international crime caper starring Humphrey Bogart. It's a strange film and never seems quite sure what to do with itself, but it's definitely of interest.

Friday, Oct 18th: Just like last Friday, tonight again features selections from TCM's library of horror classics. The best of the bunch are a pair of Jacques Tourneur–directed pics: Curse of the Demon (1958), with Dana Andrews as a skeptical psychologist investigating a cult figure (Niall MacGinnis) involved in a potentially-demonic slaying, at 12:30 AM. Then, Tourneur's Lewton-produced I Walked With A Zombie (1943) at 2:15 AM, a gothic melodrama that also features a very different, more traditional take on the zombie mythos. But if that's past your bedtime, one of Roger Corman's (very broad) adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe, the Vincent Price–starring The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), airs at 9:45 PM.

Saturday, Oct. 19th: Today is a perfect day for marathon watching, it seems! The highlights come fast and furious, starting with a fiery Tennessee Williams adaptation. Richard Brooks's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), starring Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, airs at 2:00 PM. Next, John Ford's classic take on Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1940) comes on at 4:00 PM. Then, one of the darkest satires ever filmed, Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) comes on at 6:15, and that (to me) is the one you SHOULD NOT miss if you've never seen it. Finally Tod Browning's seminal Freaks (1932), a controversial and creepy horror/drama film, comes on at 8:00 PM.

Sunday, Oct. 20th: Inevitably, there will be days for which my film watching experience fails me, and this is one of them. The only thing I've seen, here, is William Wyler's Wuthering Heights (1939) with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, and it's not even all that great. But if I actually had TCM, rather than just recommending things from it for you, I would be watching Häxan (1922), Benjamin Christensen's silent horror/documentary about superstitions around witchcraft. The good news is that it's also available on HuluPlus's Criterion channel, if I ever get around to it.

Monday, Oct. 21st: Let's bring things full circle with another new episode of The Story of Film: An Odyssey at 12:00 AM, this time covering the echoes of the French New Wave around the world. Before that, Roman Polanski's feature debut—the terrific, dark, claustrophobic psychological thriller Knife in the Water (1962)—is on at 8:00 PM.

That brings another edition of TCM Tuesday to a close. As ever, feel free to suggest or recommend any titles I may have missed. I'm still not sure that this is the ideal format, but I'll keep thinking about it until I find a better one. Any suggestions, there, would also be welcome.

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