Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TCM Tuesday #3

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, all dates based on the SCHEDULE date on TCM.com. Check your local listings.

TCM Tuesday Picks for the Week of 10/22/13–10/28/13
(Full Schedule)

Them! (1954), airing Sunday, 10/27 at 6:00 PM
Look, I'm no monster. There's just no way that I could possibly pick a different movie in a week when Them! is on. If you're unfamiliar, Them! is about giant ants that attack the country, starting in and around the areas where nuclear bomb testing took place. In a way, it's completely typical of the '50s sci-fi trend of movies about science going TOO FAR and inadvertently making bad things—often, as here, evil giant animals. But at the same time, Them! is better than most of those movies. For one, the scientists it depicts are neither clueless nor evil. As played by Edmund Gwenn (best known for Miracle on 34th St) and Joan Weldon, they come across as smart, helpful, and level-headed, a rare set of traits in this sort of picture. Them! also focuses on building scares through suspense, sound effects, and things left unseen. The tactic pays off well; even though we don't see the giant ants for quite a while, and even though they are laughable effects now, they're still effectively scary. Between its moderate-but-tense pacing, its likable, human characters, and the sheer amount of fun it is to watch, Them! is one of the all-time great sci-fi films and is not to be missed.

Check out the rest of the week's selections below the cut:

Vincent Price - Thursday 10/24:
Continuing Price's turn as Star of the Month, this week brings some great classic chillers from his horror heyday. At 8:00 PM, look out for House of Wax (1953), one of the bigger 3D movies from the technique's '50s boom, and one of about a million movies in which Price stars as an unstable wronged person who decides to take bloody vengeance. Then, one of the best of Roger Corman's Price-starring Poe films, House of Usher (1960) comes on at 11:00 PM. Later, the great gimmick-maestro William Castle brings us The Tingler (1959), a movie about fear-eating parasites that attach to your spine. This prompted Castle to install vibrating devices in seats at theaters around the country, because nothing was too over-the-top for that mad showman. Catch the film at 2:15 AM. And if you thought buzzing seats was a dumb gimmick, just picture the "Emergo" technique that accompanied the original House on Haunted Hill (1959). It involved skeletons on wires being flown out over the audience. You can watch the film, sans skellies, at 3:45 AM.

Halloween Horror:
TCM also continues their month-long showcase of horror classics this week. The fun starts on Friday, 10/25. My first recommendation, airing at 10:45 PM, is What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), a macabre, bile-black tale of sibling jealousy and madness that stars the notoriously-acrimonious pair of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Beyond that, I haven't seen too many of Friday's selections, though two early works by auteurs commonly associated with the '70s American renaissance sandwich Baby Jane. First, Francis Ford Coppola's debut feature, the dark family horror Dementia 13 (1963) comes on at 9:15 PM. Then, Brian De Palma's Hitchcockian debut, Sisters (1973), airs at 1:15 AM. Finally, rounding out Friday's titles, you can see the original film version of Village of the Damned (1961)—starring blog favorite George Sanders—at 4:30 AM.

For horror beyond Friday night, there are a few other choices out there. On Saturday, 10/26 at 11:00 PM, you can see the Jacques Tourneur–directed/Val Lewton–produced Cat People (1942), a bizarre tale of lust, murder, and (potentially) were-cats. It stars the wonderful Simone Simon, who I can't help but see as the classic film era's version of Marion Cotillard. But if more traditional monsters are your thing, tune in earlier that night for James Whale's iconic The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), with Elsa Lanchester in the title role, at 8:00 PM. Then at 9:30 PM, see the original, Brendan Fraser-less version of The Mummy (1932), with Boris Karloff's second most famous performance.

The Story Of Film - Tuesday 10/22 and Monday 10/28:
Just as I've done the last two weeks, I will once again remind you to watch Mark Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey. A repeat of the 10/21 episode airs on Tuesday at 3:15 AM, preceded by some of the titles discussed in that episode. Of particular note, catch a young Albert Finney in Karel Reisz's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), a British drama from the emerging "Kitchen Sink Realism" school, airing Tuesday at 8:00 PM. I'll also recommend Ousmane Sembene's Black Girl (1966), which I have not yet seen, but which has been sitting in my Netflix Instant queue for ages based on my enjoyment of the Senegalese master's other films. It airs at 4:30 AM.

On Monday, 10/28, a new-to-air episode of The Story of Film: An Odyssey airs at 10:00 PM. This one covers films from the "New American Cinema" of the late sixties and seventies, so you know there will be some great films airing in conjunction with the episode. Things get kicked off with Mike Nichols's iconic The Graduate (1967) at 8:00 PM. Next, be sure to watch out for Robert Altman's inverted Western, McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), at 11:15 PM. It stars a dandified Warren Beatty and a hard-as-nails Julie Christie, and features a terrific soundtrack from Leonard Cohen. Then, at 1:30 AM, catch Peter Bogdanovich's tribute to young love, the movies, and the death of small-town life in The Last Picture Show (1971) at 1:30 AM. Finally, there's Mean Streets (1973), Martin Scorsese's personal tale of gangs and god in New York's Italian-American community. Set your DVR for 3:45 AM.

Miscellaneous Picks:
- Alfred Hitchcock's great British spy thriller, The Lady Vanishes (1938), comes on Tuesday, 10/22 at 6:15 PM. This post goes live at 3:00, so hopefully you'll still have time to catch this one.
- Henri-Georges Clouzot, often thought of as the French Hitchcock (well, at least until Claude Chabrol came along), directs Diabolique (1955), a taut, unnerving story of lust, betrayal, and murder. See it on Sunday, 10/27 at 3:00 AM.
- On Friday, 10/25, TCM appears to be playing a fun game. From late morning until prime time, the films airing all have the same or similar titles to unrelated later films and TV shows. Choices include Hitchcock's slapstick Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) at 1:30 PM, and a bunch of things I haven't seen, like 1936's The Walking Dead at 6:30 PM, and The Fast and the Furious (1954) at 12:15 PM. I applaud the programming gimmick, guys!
- Finally this week, you can watch one of Paul Newman's most iconic performances as the titular rebellious convict in Cool Hand Luke (1967) on Saturday, 10/26 at 5:45 PM.

Well, that should just about round up this week's selections. Let me know if you like this format better than the daily version. I'm always open to changes and suggestions, especially if they make this series easier for me! I'll try again next week, either way.

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