Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” thread, for the week of November 30-December 6, 2020. We're heading into a new month, but there's still one last Monday of Shelley Winters movies on TCM. With Thanksgiving behind us, we're also going to get Christmas movies as well. There's a lot of other interesting stuff beyond that too, from 1929 to as recent as 1991, because I know how much you all like more recent movies. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
Halloween was a month ago, but if you still want a good horror movie, you've got a chance to see the original version of The Last House on the Left, at 5:50 AM Monday on Epix. Dr. Collingwood and his wife live in a secluded area of one of the Connecticut suburbs of New York with their teenage daughter Mari (Sandra Cassell). Mari is celebrating her birthday with her friend Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) by going into New York for a concert. By Phyllis is dumb enough to try to score some weed by asking strangers. One of those strangers is part of a gang of psychotic thugs who escaped prison, led by Krug Stillo (David Hess). Krug and his pals torment the two young women in their apartment before stuffing them in the trunk and going to a more rural area to keep going. Car problems stop them, and by a massive coincidence, they just happen to be stopped right near the Collingwood house! The parents see the criminals, who by this point have raped and killed both Mari and Phyllis, and Mom notices something that makes her realize these people are involved in the disappearance of her daughter!
We get one final night of TCM's Star of the Month on Monday in prime time, featuring some of her films from the 1970s. This includes Bloody Mama at 2:15 AM Tuesday. Winters plays Ma Barker, the leader of a gang of bank robbers and other related crime during the Depression. Ma was treated by crap by her husband in the Ozarks, so she takes the kids and leaves. She's got four sons: Fred (Robert Walden), who spent time in prison and brings his cellmate (and likely lover) Kevin (Bruce Dern) to join the gang; the more sensible Arthur (Clint Kimbrough); nasty Herman (Don Stroud); and drug addict Lloyd (a young Robert De Niro). Herman also spent time in prison, and after getting out brings a prostitute Mona (Diane Varsi) with him as another gang member. It's not always one big happy family because Ma isn't able to keep them as disciplined as they need to be. After going around the interior South, they eventually try to escape by going to Florida, but they can't change their criminal ways and the net closes in on them.
After watching Bloody Mama, tune your cable or satellite box to Flix. They're showing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band at 4:45 AM Tuesday. The plot, such as it is, suggests that there was a Sgt. Pepper, who came from the midwestern town of Heartland and took part in World War I with a band bringing a message of peace and love. The grandson of Sgt. Pepper, Billy Shears (Peter Frampton), forms a new band with his friends the Hendersons (the Bee Gees), becoming successful enough to come to the attention of Hollywood music producer Hoffler (Donald Pleasance). However, Hoffler really just wants the original band's musical instruments, while his partner Mustard (Frankie Howard) wants Heartland for his own purposes. Together with Billy's girlfriend Strawberry Fields (Sandy Farina), the band saves the day. The plot is hilariously bad and Peter Frampton couldn't act to save his life. The real reason to see the movie is for how awful it is and for the remakes of Beatles songs. These range from quite good (Earth Wind and Fire's funk rendition of “Got to Get You Into My Life” or the Bee Gees' “Nowhere Man”) to actors who couldn't sing and are as bad as the story (George Burns, who narrates, sings “Fixing a Hole”, while Pleasance joins in on “I Want You”). And a cast of dozens of musicians reprise the title song for finale. See if you can spot Helen Reddy, Tina Turner, or the members of Heart, for example.
A western that I think I haven't recommended here before is Bite the Bullet. StarzEncore Westerns will be running it at 2:28 AM Wednesday. It's 1906, so just right at the end of the “Old West”. The Western Post, a popular newspaper, decides to run a contest. They're sponsoring a horse race, but instead of what you normally think of when you think horse racing, this is an Iditarod-style endurance race across 700 miles. That threatens to be murder on the horses, and that greatly distresses one of the entrants, Sam Clayton (Gene Hackman), a former Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War who hates cruelty to animals. His friend and also former Rough Rider, Luke Matthews (James Coburn), is another entrant, and he's in it for the prize money since he's heavily in debt. The rest of the racers are the sort of character types you'd expect: a woman, Miss Jones (Candice Bergen), who paid the bills by being a prostitute; a gentleman Englishman Sir Harry (Ian Bannen); a young buck (Jan-Michael Vincent); and an old guy who just wants to be remembered for something (Ben Johnson). The harsh conditions force them at times to work together and overcome their differences.
Some movies are classic enough that almost everybody knows them; every now and then I'll recommend one of them anyways for you philistines. This week, that means Citizen Kane, which is on TCM at 11:45 PM Wednesday. Orson Welles plays Charles Foster Kane, a media magnate who dies at the start of the movie, uttering the mysterious final word “Rosebud”. A newsreel company gives one of its reporters the task of doing a report on Kane and if possible finding out what was meant by “Rosebud” in order to differentiate their newsreel from all the other reports. This leads to flashbacks from the people who knew Kane best, among them editor at Kane's first newspaper, Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten). Kane marries one woman (Ruth Warrick) and has an affair with a second (Dorothy Comingore) that scuttles his run for Governor; then he tries to make the second wife an opera star, with disastrous consequences. She winds up a drunk, and the audience learns what “Rosebud” means even if the characters in the movie don't.
Many of you are wiseguys, but this week, I'll mention the movie Wise Girls, shich shows up at 4:45 PM Friday on TCM. J.C. Nugent plays the father in a family with a couple of spendthrift daughters, Kate (Norma Lee) and Ruth (Marion Shilling). Dad's worried that the daughters will spend his retirement fund. Kate at least has a wealthy boyfriend in Duke (Roland Young) who has even published a book she wrote, self-publishing and e-books not being a thing in 1929. But Duke puts his foot down at producing the musical that Kate wants to spend in, so she decides to spite him by marring the first man she sees, who happens to be plumber Kempy (Elliott Nugent, J.C.'s real-life son). Dad would probably be happier if Kate had a rich husband's money to spend, but there you are. Of course, things get much more complicated because one Kempy finally gets to know Kate and the rest of the family, he realizes that Ruth would be much more suitable, and the feeling is mutual.
For those of you who want something a little more recent, you might want to try Bachelor Party, at 1:57 AM Friday on StarzEncore Classics. Tom Hanks plays Rick, a bus driver not making much of a living who somehow has fallen in love with rich girl Debbie (Tawny Kitaen). Rick's friends decide they're going to throw him the bachelor party to end all bachelor parties. Debbie's parents (George Grizzard and Barbara Stuart), meanwhile, are none too happy with their daughter's engagement to someone not rich, and they enlist the help of her former boyfriend, rich Cole (Robert Prescott) to try to break up the impending marriage. Cole's actions screw up both the bachelor party and Debbie's bridal shower, so Debbie and her friends decide they're going to get back at Rich by having a similarly debauched party. The two parties collide, and all hell breaks loose. But will Rick and Debbie be able to live happily ever after? Unsurprisingly, this is slightly raunchier than my other selections this week.
Tuesday is December 1, which means we're into Christmas month, with the concomitant Christmas movies showing up on various movie channels. This allows me to give my annual recommendation for It Happened on Fifth Avenue, which TCM is showing at 5:45 PM Saturday. Victor Moore plays Aloysius McKeever, a homeless man who's come up with a unique living arrangement. He's figured out the habits of wealthy man Michael O'Connor (Charlie Ruggles), who heads south for the winter at a given time every autumn, so at that point he starts squatting in the old guy's house until O'Connor returns, when McKeever goes south. This year things are different, however. He meets Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), a veteran who has just lost his current apartment thanks to the post-war housing crunch, so he invites Bullock to stay with him for a while. Other veterans follow. And then, O'Connor's runaway heiress daughter (Gale Storm) shows up to get some of her things, and finds all of the squatters, but has reasons for not ratting them out, including falling in love with Jim. Dad eventually shows up but doesn't let on who he is, as does Mom (Ann Harding), who has been estranged from Dad.
Up against It Happened on Fifth Avenue is the 1991 version of The Addams Family, starting at 4:32 PM Saturday on StarzComedy. Note, however, that it has a second airing at 11:11 AM Sunday. Based on the cartoon characters created by Charles Addams, this movie stars Raul Julia as wealthy but eccentric Gomez and Anjelica Huston as his wife Morticia. Gomez has a long-lost brother Fester, whom he hasn't seen in over two decades. Gomez' lawyer Tully (Dan Hedaya) is heavily in debt to a loan shark, but one day notices that the loan shark's son (Christopher Lloyd) looks surprisingly like the pictures he's seen of Fester. Tully decides that he's going to pull off a con and pass that brother-in-law off as Fester to try to find out where Gomez keeps the family wealth hidden. He sets up a séance that introduces “Fester” and all goes well at first, but this Fester doesn't remember important details about family history and the vault, leading Gomez to become suspicious. Can they stop their lawyer's nefarious plan? Note that there was also a 2019 animated movie about the Addams family, and that's on Epix this week.
Our final selection this week is The Seven Year Itch, which TCM is showing at 8:00 PM Sunday. Tom Ewell plays Richard Sherman, not a defensive back but a New York publisher with a wife Helen (Evelyn Keyes) and kid. Like a lot of upper-middle-class people in New York, he sends them off to the country for the summer to get out of the heat, and expects to follow them in a couple weeks. Richard has a runaway imagination, fantasizing that other women besides his wife find him irresistible. And then, into the apartment above for the summer, comes The Girl (Marilyn Monroe). She's having some trouble adjusting to the new apartment, and Richard is just being neighborly, but of course he starts thinking that perhaps she's attracted to him. And he's definitely attracted to her. But he's also got that wife, and his imagination starts thinking about what the wife will do when she finds out, which Richard knows is bound to happen. This is the movie that has the iconic shot of Marilyn's skirt being lifted by the wind blown up from a subway grate.
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