Monday, June 30, 2014

The Doris Delay Show II: Texas Blood Money

I had every intention of having a brand-spanking new edition of Doris Day(s) completed and up today…and then a series of unusual incidents unfolded that kinda sorta distracted me from getting it done.  Just…unusual sitcom-like incidents—for example, over the weekend some person or persons unknown left a dresser drawer in our front yard.  Not an actual dresser, just…the drawer.  The ‘rents and I have no freaking idea how it got there; we speculated that perhaps it fell off a truck while someone was moving (and once it was discovered missing, the individuals involved said “Damn if I’m going back for that”) but that didn’t make sense to me because the drawer was laying perfectly on the ground—it wasn’t tipped over or at an angle or anything.

When I pointed this out to Ma and Pa Shreve, the ensuing conversation sounded a little like an edition of that Hee Haw soap opera, The Culhanes

ME: Did either of you notice that there’s a dresser drawer on our front lawn?
DAD: I haven’t been out today—my leg has been botherin’ me somethin’ fierce…
MOM: It’s been there all weekend…but I wasn’t about to lean over and pick it up, only to risk being hit by a beer truck…
(I should point out that one of my mother’s gravest concerns is that one day either she or I will be hit by a beer truck as we venture across the road to collect the mail.  This despite the fact that I have never even seen a beer truck on our street in the time we’ve lived here.)
ME: So…what do we do?  Leave it for the squirrels to make a house?
MOM: If you want to risk being hit by a beer truck, go right ahead…
DAD: I’d go after it…but my leg has been botherin’ me somethin’ fierce…

The drawer finally got moved by the landscaping people, who tossed it in a wooded area near the house so the lawn mowing could commence.  Which was a shame as we were starting to get used it; if it was melting, it would have been like living in a Dali painting.

So…no Doris today, but I will do my darndest to get it done and up tomorrow unless something else wacky happens.  As long as I’ve rented the hall, I will let you know that Barnes & Noble has got one of their Criterion Collection 50% off sales going on until July 28th; I know you’ll find this stupefying to believe but I actually bought just one title—the Blu-ray of A Hard Day’s Night (1964).  (I know, I couldn’t believe it myself.)  I told myself I’d be good this time because I’ve got a couple of Blu-ray orders out already; I could not fight off the temptation of pre-ordering Flicker Alley’s The Mack Sennett Collection, Volume One nor was I powerless to resist a pre-order of Sleeping Beauty (1959), which Disney is dragging out of the “vault” again in October when they release Maleficent (2014) to disc.  (I missed getting it the last time it was released.)

I also ponied up some couch cushion money for Ben Model’s latest Kickstarter campaign—a DVD of ten rare silent comedy shorts starring Marcel Perez, with new scores by Mr. Model and gleaned from 35mm archival prints.  I have to come clean here—I had to do a little research on Perez because I honestly haven’t been exposed to any of his work.  But that’s the great thing about these discs from Ben’s Undercrank Productions—I’m able to make contact with funnymen that have slipped off my radar; an excellent example of this is another recent effort by Ben and author-historian Steve Massa to bring some of the “Mishaps of Musty Suffer” comedies starring Harry Watson, Jr. to the attention of silent comedy/classic film fans.  Ben and Steve used original 35mm prints from the Library of Congress for that release, and I can’t adequately express in words the gratifying feeling I received in knowing that just a few spare shekels went towards this rewarding film preservation project.

So mosey on over to Ben’s campaign and see what you can do to help the cause, hokay?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Get your ‘thon on!

If you were worried that we might not have an installment of Doris Day(s) ready to go up tomorrow…fret ye not; I’m working on it as you read this (though it might be posted later than is the norm).  Now that you’ve all scattered to the four corners of the Blogosphere, I thought I’d bring your attention to a pair of upcoming blogathons in which you might wish to participate.

Having seized control of the levers of Blogathon power, Fritzi at Movies Silently is determined not to surrender without a major skirmish.  (By my count, this is Movies Silently’s third blogathon this year—we may have to stage an intervention.)  This time ‘round, it’s Accidentally Hilarious—which will concentrate on those classic movies that, in Fritzi’s words, “are amusing for all the wrong reasons.  The ones that ended up as gems of unintentional comedy.”  I’m going to have sit this one out—mostly because I’ve got some prior commitments, both blog-related and un-blog-related—but I wish her all the best.  The festivities will get underway from July 13-15.

Over at A Shroud of Thoughts, my man TTC is gearing up for The British Invaders Blogathon, scheduled from August 1 -3 and spotlighting “the best in British classic films. While many people think of Hollywood when they think of movies, the fact is that the United Kingdom has made many many significant contributions to film.  From Alfred Hitchcock to Hammer Films to Tony Richardson, the cinema would be a poorer place without the British.”  Certainly can’t argue with that.

I was thinking I’d have to take a pass on this one, too—but then I remembered that among the movies I’m hoping to clear from the U-Verse Total DVR-For-Life© is Went the Day Well? (1942), and I thought that would be a great fit for the ‘thon so I told Terry I’m in.  He’s got a few ground rules for this one so if you’re interested in participating, click here for the details.

Coming distractions: July 2014 on TCM

July is merely a day or two around the corner, and so it seemed as good as a time as any to check out what’s in store for that month on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ (ka-ching!—Rick Brooks wants that Honeymooners set on Blu-ray, and he don’t mean maybe).  In the past, TDOY’s policy on “Coming Distractions” was that I prepared the column sometimes a month or two ahead of schedule…particularly if Laura at Miscellaneous Musings had received the skinny on whether TCM’s website placeholder had been updated.  But sometimes what Tee Cee Em schedules isn’t always set in stone, and even though I always made certain to issue a disclaimer that programming was subject to change, the legal department suggested it would be prudent to be safer than sorry if I did the “Distractions” as close to the new month as possible.

Fridays on the channel, the TCM programmers have set aside a month-long tribute to “The Great War”; it’s the 100th anniversary of World War I, and each of the films scheduled that day deal with that conflict…with the exception of the daylight hours on July 4, which will celebrate the U.S. of A.’s Declaration of Independence with movies spotlighting Revolutionary War and likewise patriotic content.  Here’s a rundown of the schedule for June Fridays:

July 4, Friday (July 4th lineup)   
06:00am Give Me Liberty (1936)
06:30am John Paul Jones (1959)
08:45am Sons of Liberty (1939)
09:15am The Howards of Virginia (1940)
11:15am The Scarlet Coat (1955)
01:00pm The Declaration of Independence (1938)
01:30pm 1776 (1972)
04:15pm Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
06:30pm The Devil's Disciple (1959)

July 4, Friday (World War I centennial)
08:00pm Sergeant York (1941)
10:30pm The Fighting 69th (1940)
12:15am The Dawn Patrol (1938)
02:15am Wings (1927)
04:45am Von Richthofen and Brown (1970)

July 11, Friday
06:00am The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
08:15am The Spy in Black (1939)
09:45am Hell Below (1933)
11:30am Flight Commander (1930)
01:30pm Ace of Aces (1933)
03:00pm Lafayette Escadrille (1958)
04:45pm Waterloo Bridge (1931)
06:15pm Suzy (1936)
08:00pm Paths of Glory (1957)
09:45pm All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
12:15am The Big Parade (1925)
03:00am Westfront 1918 (1930)
04:45am Kameradschaft (1931)

July 18, Friday
06:00am J'Accuse (1919)
09:00am Today We Live (1933)
11:00am A Farewell to Arms (1932)
12:30pm Stamboul Quest (1934)
02:00pm Ever In My Heart (1933)
03:15pm British Intelligence (1940)
04:30pm Dark Journey (1937)
06:00pm Rendezvous (1935)
08:00pm Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
12:00am Gallipoli (1981)
02:00am Grand Illusion (1937)
04:00am King & Country (1964)

July 25, Friday
06:00am The Last Flight (1931)
07:30am Heroes for Sale (1933)
08:45am They Gave Him a Gun (1937)
10:30am Marianne (1929)
12:30pm The Shopworn Angel (1938)
02:00pm The Better 'Ole (1926)
03:45pm Shoulder Arms (1918)
04:30pm Doughboys (1930)
06:00pm King of Hearts (1966)
08:00pm Random Harvest (1942)
10:15pm Waterloo Bridge (1940)
12:15am Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
02:45am Mata Hari (1931)
04:30am After Tonight (1933)

The channel’s Star of the Month is a longtime TDOY fave (oh, you have no idea!)—it’s “The Queen of Technicolor,” Maureen O’Hara, who will be the focus of twenty-six feature films on Tuesday nights in June.   Here’s what’s on tap for fans of the actress born Maureen FitzSimmons in 1920 and who’ll be celebrating her ninety-fourth birthday (knock wood!) this August 17th!

July 1, Tuesday
08:00pm The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
10:15pm How Green Was My Valley (1941)
12:30am Sentimental Journey (1946)
02:15am The Forbidden Street (1949)
04:00am A Woman's Secret (1949)
05:30am The Fallen Sparrow (1943)

July 2, Wednesday         
07:15am This Land Is Mine (1943)

July 8, Tuesday
08:00pm Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
09:45pm They Met in Argentina (1941)
11:15pm Do You Love Me? (1946)
01:00am Sitting Pretty (1948)
02:30am Our Man in Havana (1960)

July 15, Tuesday
08:00pm The Black Swan (1942)
09:30pm The Spanish Main (1945)
11:15pm Sinbad the Sailor (1947)
01:15am At Sword's Point (1951)

July 22, Tuesday
08:00pm Immortal Sergeant (1943)
09:45pm Buffalo Bill (1944)
11:30pm McLintock! (1963)
01:45am The Deadly Companions (1961)
03:30am The Wings of Eagles (1957)
05:30am The Long Gray Line (1955)

July 29, Tuesday
08:00pm Rio Grande (1950)
10:00pm Spencer's Mountain (1963)
12:15am The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (1965)
02:15am Fire Over Africa (1954)

And if you think that’s all you have to look forward to—silly classic movie fan…TCM is for…uh…I’ve apparently misplaced the joke I was going to use here.  Well, anyway—here’s a rundown of some of the other monthly highlights that await your simple command…

July 1, Tuesday – Two-time Academy Award-nominated actress-singer-dancer Leslie Caron turns eighty-three on this date, and every time her appearance in the Law & Order: SUV episode “Recall” is shown, I start humming The Night They Invented Champagne…much to my musical-hating mother’s annoyance.  Check out some of La Caron’s finest flicks beginning at 6am with the 1951 Best Picture Oscar winner, An American in Paris, followed by The Man With a Cloak (1951; 8am), Glory Alley (1952; 9:30am), Lili (1953; 11am), The Story of Three Loves (1953; 12:30pm), The Glass Slipper (1955; 2:45pm), Gaby (1956; 4:30pm) and The Doctor’s Dilemma (1958; 6:15pm).

July 2, Wednesday – TCM kicks off the morning with four films directed by the man who was not only one of the original Keystone Kops but was also married at one time to TDOY goddess Louise Brooks.  (Lucky bastard.)  Some of the oeuvre of Albert Edward Sutherland is spotlighted with Secrets of the French Police (1932; 9am), The Flying Deuces (1939; 10am), Nine Lives Are Not Enough (1941; 11:15am) and Secret Command (1944; 12:30pm).

The last film in this quartet co-stars Chester Morris, who takes over the afternoon with some of his feature film work—one of which, Moonlight Murder (1936; 4:45pm), I did a “Where’s That Been?” write-up for at ClassicFlix.  The remaining movies with The Man Who Would Be Boston Blackie are The Marines Fly High (1940; 2pm), Pacific Liner (1939; 3:15pm) and Playing Around (1930; 6pm).

In the primetime hours, the channel invites us to talk to the animals…learn their languages…maybe get an animal degree.  Okay, I’ve never seen Doctor Dolittle (1967; 9:45pm)—I just know the song from some freaking children’s record I owned in my misspent youth.  Frances (1950) starts the ball rolling at 8pm, and the lineup also includes The Day of the Dolphin (1973; 12:30am), Black Moon (1975; 2:30am) and The Raven (1963; 4:30am).

July 3, Thursday – George Sanders celebrates what would have been his 108th birthday today.  Spend the daylight hours with moviedom’s greatest cad with the following features: The King's Thief (1955; 6am), The Last Voyage (1960; 7:30am), Death of a Scoundrel (1956; 9:15am), The Moon and Sixpence (1942; 11:15am), Village of the Damned (1960; 12:45pm), Journey to Italy (1955; 2:15pm), Foreign Correspondent (1940; 3:45pm) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945; 6pm).

Come nightfall, TCM invites viewers to come up and see the legendary Mae West beginning with my personal favorite, I'm No Angel (1933) at 8pm, then She Done Him Wrong (1933; 9:45pm) and Belle of the Nineties (1934; 11:15pm).  It’s the teaming of Mae and W.C. Fields in My Little Chickadee (1940) at 12:45am and then following that, The Heat's On (1943; 2:15am)—the one West starrer that I had not seen…and when I finally caught it during TCM’s previous daytime tip-of-the-hat to Victor Moore I was underwhelmed, to say the least.  (Not a good picture.)

July 5, Saturday – Happy birthday to my sister Debbie!  Snip turns (mumble mumble) today, and it’s only fitting that TCM honor the occasion with the first of the four films in Warner Brothers’ Nancy Drew franchise at 10:30am with Nancy Drew, Detective (1938).  (Debbie was a big Nancy fan in her youth.)  The rest of the month will showcase Nancy Drew…Reporter (1939; July 12), Nancy Drew, Trouble Shooter (1939, July 19) and Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (1939; July 26); all films will run at 10:30.

In the evening hours, TCM’s Drewssentials Essentials showcases examples from the oeuvre of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Burton; Dick and Elizabeth Taylor square off in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) at 8pm, followed by continued sparring in The Taming of the Shrew (1967) at 10:30pm and closing the bout with The V.I.P.’s (1963) at 12:45am.  And it looks as if—barring last-minute changes—TCM Underground is finally going to run Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) at 3am.

July 6, Sunday – It’s gratifying to see that the channel’s Essentials, Jr. is going to expose the younger set to the movie magic of the incomparable Ray Harryhausen…and I can’t think of a better introduction than my personal favorite of his films, Jason and the Argonauts (1963) at 8pm…and then as a fitting encore, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) at 10.  At midnight on Silent Sunday Nights, enjoy Ronald Colman in one of his earliest (along with Norma Talmadge) in 1926’s Kiki.

July 7, Monday – Happy natal anniversary to director George Cukor, celebrating what would have been his 115th birthday today!  The Cukorfest starts at 6am with Romeo and Juliet (1936), followed by A Life of Her Own (1950; 8:15am), The Marrying Kind (1952; 10:15am), A Star Is Born (1954; 12noon), Bhowani Junction (1956; 3pm) and My Fair Lady (1964; 5pm).

Following the song stylings of Lady is more musical fun in the primetime hours with a doff of the cap to the cinematic contributions of the Oscar-winning Oscar Hammerstein II (see what I did there?), with Show Boat (1951) at 8pm, then Carousel (1956; 10pm), Rose Marie (1936; 12:15am) and The Desert Song (1953; 2:15am).

July 9, Wednesday – The channel’s evening hours feature movies with the theme “At Your Service,” and the programming starts off in high style with a true comedy classic, Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), at 8pm.  There’ll be much butling and valeting afterward with Step Lively, Jeeves! (1937; 9:45pm), Holy Matrimony (1943; 11:15pm), On Again, Off Again (1937; 1am), The Earl of Chicago (1939; 2:30am) and Fools for Scandal (1938; 4:15am).

July 10, Thursday – Nightfall will bring on some “classic” documentaries…though to be honest, TCM seems to have a rather flexible definition of that word.  (They originally had Harlan County, USA on the schedule—which I think is more in keeping with “classic.”)  Salesman (1969) starts off the evening at 8, then it’s The Times of Harvey Milk (1984; 9:45pm), Come Back, Africa (1959; 11:30pm), Calcutta (1969; 1:30am) and Sans Soleil (1982; 3:30am).  (Maybe I just need to watch more documentaries.)

July 12, Saturday – TCM is going to show Nicholas Ray’s neglected The Lusty Men (1952) at 10pm as part of a three-film “rodeo cowboys” theme that begins at 8 with The Essentials’ scheduling of Bus Stop (1956), and then finishing out the night with The Unholy Wife (1957) at midnight.  The channel had originally scheduled 1972’s The Honkers in place of Wife, which I quite frankly would have preferred watching since it’s one of three rodeo-themed films released that year (the others being Junior Bonner and J.W. Coop) I have not seen.

July 13, Sunday – The theme for this evening’s Essentials, Jr. is “The Princess Diaries”…and I know you’ll all join me in thanking my amigo Baby Jeebus that it’s not that god-awful Disney film that foisted Anne Hathaway on an undeserving public.  No, as much as it pains me to say this—I’d much rather sit through The Little Princess (1939), which unspools at 8pm (Page is going to love that).  That’s followed by Princess O’Rourke (1943) at 10, which I’m pretty sure is not aimed at the children in the viewing audience.

July 14, Monday – Now here’s something you don’t see every day, Edgar—a primetime tribute to BBFF Stacia fave Kay Francis!  For the Defense (1930) starts things off at 8pm, then it’s Trouble in Paradise (1932; 9:15pm), I Found Stella Parish (1935; 10:45pm). Jewel Robbery (1932; 12:15am), Raffles (1930; 1:30am), Stranded (1935; 3am) and Allotment Wives (1945; 4:30am).

July 16, Wednesday – Two classic film female faves are in the daytime spotlight today: first off, four features spotlighting Ginger Rogers, beginning at 6am with The Tip-Off (1932), followed by You Said a Mouthful (1932; 7:15am), Finishing School (1934; 8:30am) and The First Traveling Saleslady (1956; 9:45am).  After the Sally Field-hosted documentary Barbara Stanwyck: Fire and Desire (1991) at 11:30am, it’s Babs for the rest of the afternoon with Jeopardy (1953; 12:30pm), Witness to Murder (1954; 1:45pm), These Wilder Years (1956; 3:15pm), Crime of Passion (1957; 5pm) and Trooper Hook (1957; 6:30pm).

It’s after dinner, and the dishes are put away, and…oh, look, kids!  It’s Uncle Bobby Osbo pulling out the projector again for some after-supper entertainment.  Starting things off at 8 is Fanny (1961), followed by more Babs at 10:30 and The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933).  Mr. O caps off the evening with Experiment Perilous (1944; 12:15am) and Yolanda and the Thief (1945; 2am).  I’m more interested in what’s being offered at 4am; it’s one of the two Dr. Kildare series entries I don’t own on DVD (Dark Delusion) other than Internes Can’t Take Money (1937)…which, oddly enough, features Barbara Stanwyck.  (Life’s a funny old dog, isn’t it?)

July 17, Thursday – Happy 115th birthday to the incomparable James Cagney!  TCM decides to fete the Oscar-winning actor with some of the lesser known entries on his movie resume, beginning with Taxi! (1932) at 6am, and then following that up with Winner Take All (1932; 7:15am), Footlight Parade (1933; 8:30am), Hard To Handle (1933; 10:30am), Lady Killer (1933; 12noon), The Mayor of Hell (1933; 1:30pm), Picture Snatcher (1933; 3:15pm), Here Comes the Navy (1934; 4:45pm) and Jimmy the Gent (1934; 6:15pm).

For primetime viewers, the channel hits upon the discovery that Hollywood had a thing for remaking Howard Hawks films.  Hawks’ The Criminal Code (1931) will be shown at 8pm, followed by Convicted (1950) at 10…then it’s the classic Scarface (1932) at midnight, followed by the unbelievably overrated 1983 Brian De Palma remake at 2am.  (Seriously—why do people like this movie so much?  “Say hello to my little fren…”)

July 19, Saturday – A number of sources report that my favorite Red Skelton vehicle, A Southern Yankee (1948; 6am), is a remake of Buster Keaton’s The General (1926)…and while there are similarities (both are set against what folks down here continue to call “The Woah of Nawthun Aggresshun”) I don’t think that’s accurate…Yankee doesn’t have a train, for one thing.  (Keaton did work on Yankee, however, as an uncredited gag man.)  You can make a stronger case that Watch the Birdie (1950; 7:30am) is a reworking of Buster’s The Cameraman (1928)…but Texas Carnival (1951; 8:45am) is pretty much a Red original (that doesn’t make it a good movie, however).

Where was I?  Oh…yeah…come nightfall, the music of maestro John Williams is spotlighted with his uncredited contributions to The Sugarland Express (1974; 8pm) and The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973; 11pm).  Sandwiched between these two features is AFI's Master Class – The Art of Collaboration: Spielberg-Williams (from 2011) at 10.

July 20, Sunday – I’ve related a number of times here on the blog that my introduction to classic movies was largely the result of watching the great silent comedians in my youth (thank you, 70s nostalgia boom!), chiefly the aforementioned General and Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925).  TCM tries to create a brand-new generation of Ivans (staggering to consider, no?) with a scheduling of Gold Rush at 10, and preceding that at 8 are a quartet of strong silent comedies: The Immigrant (1917), Coney Island (1917), Never Weaken (1921) and Two Tars (1928).  At midnight, Silent Sunday Nights offers up more comedies from the Golden Age: Court House Crooks (1915), A Submarine Pirate (1915), Look Pleasant, Please (1918), Take a Chance (1918) and Captain Kidd’s Kids (1919).

July 21, Monday – Those members of the TDOY faithful (both of you) who enjoyed the write-up on And Then There Were None (1945; 8pm) some time back might be interested to know that the movie kicks off an evening of flicks inspired by the works of mystery author Agatha Christie.  Evil Under the Sun (1982) follows at 10pm, then it’s Murder She Said (1961; 12mid), Ten Little Indians (1966; 1:30am) and TeamBart fave Witness for the Prosecution (1957; 3:30am).

July 22, Tuesday – A daylong tribute to Western-themed films released in 1948 features several true TDOY favorites in Two Guys from Texas (8:30am), Station West (10am) and Blood on the Moon (3:45pm).  Rounding out the schedule are Return of the Badmen (6:45am), Silver River (1948; 11:45am), 3 Godfathers (1:45pm) and Rachel and the Stranger (5:15pm).

July 23, Wednesday – It’s major Powell action today on TCM: you have Dick in Hollywood Hotel (1938; 8:30am) and Naughty But Nice (1939; 10:30am); Eleanor in Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940; 12:15pm) and Lady Be Good (1941; 2pm); and Janie in A Date with Judy (1948; 4pm) and Three Darling Daughters (1948; 6pm).

In primetime, Oscar-winning director William Friedkin is this month’s Guest Programmer…and I think it’s amusing that he starts his movie quartet with Bullitt (1968) at 8pm because he was clearly inspired by that movie’s memorable car chase for his own The French Connection (1971).  After racing around San Francisco, we go gold hunting with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948; 10:15pm), then Belle de Jour (1967; 12:30am) and Blow-Up (1966; 2:15am).

July 24, Thursday – The indefatigable Kirk Douglas is the subject of a 2009 documentary, Kirk Douglas: Before I Forget, that will be shown at 10:15pm this evening as part of a tribute to the actor (who will turn 98—knock wood—in December this year) that also features Lust For Life (1956; 8pm), Young Man With a Horn (1950; 12mid), Out of the Past (1947; 2am) and The Hook (1963; 4am).

July 26, Saturday – If you perused my I Love Lucy essay for the Classic Television Blog Association’s Summer of MeTV Blogathon, you might remember that it was Oscar-winning cinematographer Karl Freund who designed that legendary sitcom’s revolutionary three-camera system, later adopted by so many of Lucy’s sitcom brethren and sistren afterward.  Among the movies “Papa” Karl worked on were Metropolis (1926), in the TCM Essentials spotlight at 8pm, and The Seventh Cross (1944), which follows at 10:45.  The Mummy (1932), one of Freund’s rare directorial forays, caps off the evening at 12:45am.

July 27, Sunday – Ask me to show younger viewers a Val Lewton film, and I’ll probably choose The Seventh Victim (1943) only because I’m sorta twisted that way.  (Though this might not work to my benefit—the little tykes would never sleep again.)  Instead, TCM decides to introduce impressionable young minds to the disturbing implications of Cat People (1942) at 8pm, and Curse of the Cat People (1944) at 9:30pm.  (And you thought I was warped.)  If by some remote chance you have no idea who Val Lewton was—Martin Scorsese is teaching a class in Val 101 with the documentary Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007) at 10:45.

Oh, and on TCM’s Silent Sunday NightsPandora’s Box (1928) at 12:15am.  (I’m telling you…A. Edward Sutherland was one lucky son of a bitch.)

July 28, Monday – Popular 1930s movie comedian—and inspiration for Hanna-Barbera’s Peter Potamus—Joe E. Brown celebrates what would have been his 122nd birthday on this date.  The “Regular Joe” lineup consists of The Tenderfoot (1932; 7am), Elmer the Great (1933; 8:15am), Son of a Sailor (1933; 9:45am), 6 Day Bike Rider (1934; 11am), The Circus Clown (1934; 12:15pm), A Very Honorable Guy (1934; 1:30pm), Alibi Ike (1935; 2:45pm), Bright Lights (1935; 4pm), Earthworm Tractors (1936; 5:30pm) and Polo Joe (1936; 6:45pm).

In the evening hours, a salute to the film great best remembered for playing opposite Humphrey Bogart in…um…it would appear I have the two Bergmans mixed up.  Ingmar is in the spotlight tonight, beginning with Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) at 8pm.  My favorite Bergman film, Wild Strawberries (1957), follows at 10 and then it’s The Seventh Seal (1957) at 11:45…followed by the “Silence of God” trilogy of Through a Glass Darkly (1961; 1:30am), Winter Light (1962; 3:15am) and The Silence (1963; 4:45am).  (I’ll definitely be DVRing these last three.)

July 30, Wednesday – A more deserving actress one could not find the channel’s spotlight this evening: Academy Award winner Lee Grant is the focus of four films on the schedule beginning with her celebrated debut in a real TDOY favorite, Detective Story (1951), at 8pm.  It’s The Landlord (1970) at 10pm then Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968; 12mid) and Middle of the Night (1959) wrapping the evening up at 2am.

July 31, Thursday – To close out the month, the channel serves up some laughs with premier comedy filmmaker Mel Brooks.  Sadly, you won’t find his two greatest movies in the lineup (probably because they’ve been cut to ribbons over at the once-proud AMC) but there is the joys of The Twelve Chairs (1970) at 8pm, followed by Silent Movie (1976; 9:45am) and High Anxiety (1977) at 11:30pm.  At 1:15am, a 2006 edition of The Dick Cavett Show is described on the TCM schedule as “comedian Mel Brooks discusses his life and career with Dick Cavett”…but if past performance is any indication, it’ll be more along the lines of “Dick Cavett namedrops every comedian from Groucho Marx to Bob Hope.”  Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft team up for the 1983 remake of To Be or Not to Be at 2:15am; my advice to those of you not familiar with this remarkable film is to watch the 1942 Jack Benny-Carole Lombard original beforehand—it airs at 4:15am.

Next month’s Coming Distractions will be a bit abbreviated, owing to TCM’s annual Summer Under the Stars festival…but look around at the end of August for a look at what’s headed our way in September.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Government Agents vs. Phantom Legion – Chapter 9: Peril Underground

Last time on (Big) Government Agents vs. Phantom Legion, our hero, Hal Duncan (Walter Reed)—Special Government Agent!—was taken on a little maritime excursion over the bounding main by bad guys Regan (Dick Curtis) and Cady (Fred Coby)…with a little help from their sailor pal Payne (Eddie Parker).  Payne ends up being riddled with bullets from the gun of this slightly overzealous Coast Guard guy…

…seriously, I wasn’t aware that the Coast Guard was that gung-ho.  To avoid contracting a severe case of dead like their buddy, Regan and Cady hop off the vessel…and it naturally follows that Hal, having avoided confrontation at every turn simply by figuratively abandoning ship, would literally head for the briny deep seconds before the Coast Guard cutter rams the boat.

Chapter 9 is an unusual episode in that it doesn’t feature a meeting of the Interstate Truck Owners Association—instead, Hal regales ITOA secretary Kay Roberts (Mary Ellen Kay) with edge-of-your-seat details of his narrow sea escape.

HAL: The cutter picked me and we looked around for Regan and Cady…but we never found them…
KAY (looking at a newspaper on her desk): Maybe this explains why…”Two unidentified men were picked up by a fishing boat just outside the harbor last night…they refused to explain what happened to them and disappeared as soon as they were landed…”

Must not be a lot of news for the papers to cover in that town.

HAL: Well, that’s probably the answer…so we’ll be having trouble with them again…
KAY: Are there any more important shipments scheduled?
HAL: Just routine stuff…nothing the hijackers would be interested in…say…I’ve got an idea

Hal’s cunning plan involves the listening device planted at the ITOA in Chapter 8, which has apparently been sitting in an adjoining room all this time—yet is still working away, eavesdropping on casual conversations.  I’m sure this will come as a surprise to Hal’s sidekick, Sam Bradley (John Pickard), who took one of the cleaning crew into that room for a little “what-have-you,” if you know what I mean…and I think you do.  Hal decides to give his nemeses a little something to do, and without further ado we present a little production by The Interstate Truck Owners Association Players.

HAL: Good morning, Kay…
KAY: Hello, Hal…anything important today?

“Yes, Kay…I’ve fallen in love with another secretary, so collect your two weeks’ severance and have your desk emptied by noon.”  Regan and Cady listen to the rest of this counterfeit charade via a radio in The Voice’s office.

HAL: Yes, I have to prepare shipping instructions for another consignment of uranium…
KAY: Same usual sealed orders?
HAL: No, we’re going to try something different this time…we’ve had the uranium packed in dummy boxes marked ‘soap powder’—we’re going to bring it in as ordinary cargo…
KAY: Oh, I see…and…who’s going to haul it?
HAL: Well, give it to Armstrong…just make out a regular shipping order and have him bring it in on his number seven truck over Highway 26 tomorrow morning…I’ll take the orders over myself…goodbye!
KAY: Goodbye, Hal…

Bro…ther.  As corny as this plays out, Regan and Cady take the bait.

CADY: They sure laid it on the line for us…
REGAN: Yep!  That’s all we need to know—the boss will pay plenty for that uranium!

The henchman hurry out of their office as Hal gingerly places the device back into the spare room.  “Well, I hope someone was listening in to appreciate our little act,” says Kay breathily.

“Well, if they were—they’ll certainly get a surprise when they stick up that truck tomorrow!” says Hal in a celebratory tone.  Since Regan and Cady are real rats, they’re naturally attracted to the cheese in the trap—which, in a dissolve, is in the form of a truck being driven by a nondescript guy named “Joe.”  Regan and Cady force the truck to the side of the road and order Joe at gunpoint to open up the back.

Surprise!  “This is the soap powder you’re looking for, boys,” crows Sam, “but I don’t think you want it.  It really is soap!”  Haha, it’s a joke because the two thugs are dirty.  Hal and Sam disarm Regan and Cady, and Joe is told to be on his way (he’s probably relieved that he’s not going to die in this chapter).  Hal and Sam will take charge of their prisoners in their own Bad Guy Sedan.

HAL: Hold it…well, I see that you have a radio…can you get in touch with your boss?

“And is he hiring?”

HAL: Well, think it over…you two have got an awful lot of charges against you to be taking the whole rap alone…
REGAN (after a pause): What’s the deal?

“Pretty much how all our deals operate…volume, volume, volume!”  Hal orders Regan to get on the horn and contact The Voice—to let him know they’ll meet the Head Bad Dude at the same barn from Chapter 5 (the one where Kay was kidnapped).

REGAN (with mike in hand): Calling V-317…calling V-317…
VOICE: Come in, Regan…
REGAN: We got the uranium but…it doesn’t look like the real stuff…

“Looks more like solium—it could be Rinso, for all I know…”

REGAN: …you better come out and look it over…
VOICE: You want me to come out from here?
REGAN: Yeah, you’d better…this is very important
VOICE: Very well…where will I meet you?

The Voice is given instructions to head out to The Barn, and no sooner does he over-and-out with Regan than he contacts another one of his men, Barnett.  Barnett is played by Eddie Dew, a B-western veteran who also appeared in such serials as King of the Texas Rangers (1941) and G-Men vs. the Black Dragon (1943).

VOICE: Calling R-46…calling R-46…
BARNETT: Barnett speaking…come in…
VOICE: Regan’s in trouble…I don’t know just what’s wrong…but he asked me to meet him at the old barn on Oak Mountain Road…he knows I never allow myself to be seen, so he must have been forced to call…

“I never venture out in the daylight.  I freckle easily, you understand.”  Barnett is ordered to drive out to the barn and investigate.  A dissolve finds Barnett arriving near the barn, where he quickly spots the Duncanmobile—meanwhile, our heroes are holding the other two goons captive inside.  Upon reaching Hal’s car, Barnett pulls out his gun and fires one shot into the air.  Hal runs to a window in the barn to investigate.

SAM: What’s up?
HAL: I don’t know…I can’t see from here…I’m going out the back door—watch ‘em…

Doubling back to the front of the barn, Hal spots Barnett and orders him to come out in the open.  Barnett responds by shooting at Hal, and an outbreak of gunfire commences.  Inside the barn, Sam goes over to the window to get a better look.  As Hal manages to kill Barnett, the unsuspecting Sam is hit with something Regan found on the floor of the barn, and the useless Bradley falls to the floor unconscious.  Grabbing Sam’s gun, Regan and Cady wait for Hal to return by hiding behind the barn door.  Hal enters and is immediately disarmed.

REGAN: Okay, copper…we’re taking over…

“I’m no flatfoot—I’m a Special Government Agent, and don’t you forget it!”

REGAN: Now you’re gonna get a chance to meet our real boss…he’ll be glad to get some information about your government shipping schedules…get goin’!
HAL: What about my friend?
REGAN: He can take care of himself when he comes to…

“I got news for you—he can’t take care of himself when he’s conscious!”  This development of the henchies taking Hal to meet the REAL boss is sort of interesting, however, because you’d think they could have done this earlier instead of waiting until the ninth chapter.  Think of all the time this would have saved.  We could have had a nice dinner, maybe take in a movie…

So having put the snatch on Hal, the baddies are forcing him at gunpoint to drive their sedan…and here’s where things get a little odd.  (Clearly, screenwriter Ronald Davidson was at a loss as to how to bridge the new material with the stock footage at the end of this one.)  Looking around, Duncan puts pedal to metal and begins driving like a drunken maniac, terrifying the sh*t out of Regan and Cady in the back seat.

REGAN: Slow down, Duncan—you’ll kill us all!
HAL: Why not?  I’m a dead duck anyway, so I might as well take you along with me!

Yikes!  The pressures of being a Special Government Agent! have clearly got to Hal, and in his suicidal state he enacts such darn fool craziness as driving up this embankment…

…and then down the other side…

He’s a wild man, I tell you!

CADY: What’s the deal?
HAL: Drop your guns here in the front seat!

So they…drop their guns in the front seat.  (I swear I’m not making this up.)  Hal does a bit more crazy driving, with the sound of squealing tires being drowned out by the rolling of the audience’s eyeballs.  He eventually comes to a stop, and directing Regan and Cady to get out of the car, the two goons will now be taking in some fresh air with a brisk hike…with Hal following close behind in the car.

They go a-walkin’ a little ways, and then Regan shouts out “Now!”  The two bad guys run down an embankment into the woods, with Hal apparently deciding not to shoot them right in that instant (even though he had his pistola drawn) because it wouldn’t be sporting, old sock.

Regan and Cady run through scenery we’ve seen in a hundred serials, and luckily stumble onto a cave.  They duck inside, and with more idiotic scripting from Davidson more fool luck, find that it’s actually an ore mine.

REGAN (coming to a stop): Wait…

REGAN: …the doors are closed—that means the ore dump’s loaded…we’ll fix Duncan…here…let’s dump this car over and block the tunnel…

Tipping over a mine car, the two men then attach a handy rope (hell, everything in this serial has been handy) to the lever that opens the ore dump’s doors…and then lie in wait for Hal to come blundering in.  He does not disappoint them, having to use stock footage from King of the Forest Rangers (1946) (Chapter 4, “Deluge of Destruction”).