Monday, January 26, 2009

Movies I’ve recently stared at on TCM #17

Kind of a spotty weekend, movie-wise…outside projects ate up some of my viewing time and most of the movies I watched were ones I’d already seen: The Bad News Bears (1976), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), Silverado (1985—I remember taking my Dad to see this when it came out, and it’s still as enjoyable as the first time I saw it). I would have watched The Whole Town’s Talking (1935), except I programmed the fershlugginer DVD recorder wrong (and I’m still seething over that). (Oh, and I also took advantage of TCM on Demand and watched the immortal Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) for what is probably the umpteenth time. As Maxwell Smart would say: “And…loving it!”)

The Man Between (1953) – Caught this Carol Reed-directed thriller Saturday night, with Claire Bloom as a British lass who travels to Berlin to spend some time with her brother (Geoffrey Toone) and his wife (Hildegard Knef, who for some reason reminded me of Eve Arden as I watched this). Hildy begins behaving rather strangely upon Claire’s arrival, and it is soon revealed that Knef’s first husband (James Mason) is still hale and hearty and walking amongst us (he was reported as having been killed), making sis-in-law a bigamist. Claire falls for James (I loved Mason in this part, by the way; he’s his usual suave self but adopts the lightest of German accents to make the character believable), who’s being blackmailed by a gangster (Aribert Waescher) to stop undercover agent Ernst Schroeder; Claire ends up kidnapped by Waescher and Mason must get her safely out of East Berlin. There’s a lot of suspense in this one (the last few minutes of Between will have you on the edge of your seat) and it resembles Reed’s classic The Third Man in many ways…I wish I had thought to record this while I was watching it because it’s really a dandy little feature film.

The Garden of Eden (1928) This week’s TCM Silent Sunday Nights offering was a frothy little concoction (directed by Lewis Milestone) that stars “Orchid Lady” Corinne Griffith (who authored Papa’s Delicate Condition, a book adapted as a film in 1963 starring The Great One himself and TDOY fave Glynis Johns) as aspiring Viennese opera singer Toni LeBrun, who is lured to Budapest on the pretext of getting a job singing at a “prestigious” opera house that is in reality nothing more than a cabaret run by Madame Bauer (Maude George). Bauer takes responsibility for introducing naïve young women to the lecherous Henri D’Avril (Lowell Sherman), and when his planned assignation with Toni goes south, she’s invited by the cabaret’s seamstress (Louise Dresser) to take a trip to Monte Carlo. Rosa the seamstress is in actuality the Baroness Rosa de Garcer—she has a two-week blowout in Monte Carlo every year with the pension money she gets due to her husband’s death, and she “adopts” Toni as her daughter…which comes in handy when young Richard Dupont (Charles Ray) comes a-courtin’, intending on asking for her hand in holy matrimony.

Eden isn’t particularly a great silent (it’s got the nutritional value of cotton candy) but I enjoyed it tremendously, particularly Griffith…who relies on her charms and facial expressions (her reaction to eating her first oyster is particularly risible) to put her character across. I was a little less impressed with her co-star, Ray, only because I couldn’t quite reconcile him as a leading man-type (though when the film was released he was quite the silent film star, usually playing a bucolic rube who learns a good deal about life from his misadventures in the big city); he seemed more of a Grady Sutton-character actor to me. There are some really nice moments in Eden; my favorite is when D’Avril attempts to ravish the unsuspecting Toni by turning out the lights in the room they’re in and the only illumination comes from the headlights of cars speeding by…the lights are then turned on, and D’Avril finds himself in Rosa’s embrace. A pleasant diversion, to say the least—and a movie that, I believe, was available on DVD (it’s now out-of-print, but Netflix may have a copy) from the good people at Flicker Alley.

4 comments:

Barry said...

Ivan,

I watched The Man Between on Saturday too and I was wondering why TCM was showing such an old movie in letterbox format. Then I saw the post-credit logo: Studio Canal... The French did it!

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Vive la France!

TCM has been showing quite a few of these films lately, and it's nice to see such beautiful prints. The recent showings of A Taste of Honey and Billy Liar on Flix on Demand were letterboxed as well.

silentfilm said...

Flicker Alley is supposed to re-issue The Garden of Eden on DVD some time this year. I think that their original stock was exhausted, and they are switching DVD manufacturers.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Thanks for the additional info, Mr. Film!