Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” Thread, for the week of May 17-23, 2021. It's hard to believe we're already halfway through May, but here we are. Since there's little movement on the Packers front, instead of sitting around bullying people for having a view you disagree with, why not watch some interesting movies instead? Once again, I've used my good taste to select a series of movies I know you're all going to enjoy. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
We'll start off with this week's TCM Import: Run, Lola, Run, at 2:00 AM Monday on TCM. Franka Potente plays Lola, a woman living in Berlin who has a boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu). Manni is a runner for gangsters, taking money from one place to another. Unfortunately, in his latest job, he made the serious mistake of leaving a bag with DM 100,000 on the subway, and his boss wants that money in 20 minutes. Mannis calls Lola for help, asking if she can get the money from her father who's a banker; otherwise, he'll have to rob a supermarket and get the cash from the tills and the safe. Both ideas seem far-fetched, but wouldn't you know, they get to try both, as well as a third way that seems even more far-fetched. The movie is interesting for its rather different story structure which I won't give away for people who haven't seen it before, along with the surprising outcome.
It's not just an early computer game; The Oregon Trail was a movie. That movie will be on StarzEncore Westerns at 3:54 AM Tuesday. It's the mid-1840s, and American settlers are moving west. One of the places they're moving to is what is now Oregon, which might be a bit of a problem because they're getting awfully close to the borders claimed by the British. President Polk may or may not be disguising army officers to be among the settlers in order to make the Americans' claim to the region more tenable. Neal Harris (Fred MacMurray) is a reporter for the New York Herald, and he decides to go west with one of the wagon trains, not to grow up with the country but to find out if those rumors about the embedded soldiers are true. What he gets is all the standard adventures you can think of in a Hollywood western about pioneers like Indians attacking the fort. William Bishop plays the Army captain; Henry Hull is leading the wagon train; and Gloria Talbott is the mixed-race woman who renounces her Indian heritage because everybody knows the whites are so much better.
The Month of Roberts on TCM continues on Monday night into Tuesday morning, with Roberts like Mr. Stack in The Last Voyage, at 6:00 AM. Stack plays Cliff Henderson, a father traveling by boat to Japan with his wife Laurie (Dorothy Malone) and young daughter on the SS Claridon. This is an old ship that's going on its last voyages before it's going to be scrapped, and as you might be able to guess from the title, something is about to happen. Namely, that something is one of the boilers exploding. The ship's captain, Robert Adams (George Sanders) doesn't want to alarm everybody although you'd think they could feel the explosion and loss of power, but it fairly quickly becomes clear that the bulkheads aren't going to hold and that the ship will go down, necessitating an evacuation. Unfortunately for Henderson, Jill has gotten trapped beneath a girder, and there doesn't seem to be anybody from the crew willing to help her since the crew has its own problems. Eventually Engineer Walsh (Edmond O'Brien and Hank Lawson (Woody Strode) may be able to help.
If you want to see Aaron Rodgers, you won't find him in Jeopardy, airing at 10:15 AM Wednesday on TCM. Barbara Stanwyck plays Helen Stilwin, a wife going for a fishing vacation on an isolated beach in Baja California with her husband Doug (Barry Sullivan) and son Bobby (Lee Aaker). On the beach is a rotting pier, which is a blatantly obvious piece of foreshadowing. Sure enough, Bobby runs out on the pier, and when Dad goes to get him, it's too much weight, trapping Dad under one of the timbers. That's bad enough, but the tide is coming in, threatening to drown Doug if they can't extricate him. Mom heads out to a gas station to try to get a rope. On the way, she runs into an American named Lawson (Ralph Meeker), who might be able to help since he speaks English. The bad news is that Lawson is also a criminal on the run from the Mexican police, and he's going to demand a pretty steep price if Helen thinks he's going to help her. MGM made quite a few interesting programmers in the 1950, often more interesting than the big-budget musicals.
If you want a good laugh, you may want to catch Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip. It'll be on SHOxBet at 12:15 AM Thursday (which is still 11:15 PM Wednesday LFT). Richard Pryor did a couple of stand-up shows at the Palladium on Los Angeles' Sunset Blvd in December 1981, and a concert film was edited together from two of the performances. Pryor talks about a bunch of different topics, most of which haven't dated too badly in the past 40 years since most of the telling is based on his life experiences. Among the bits that work best are the segment where he discusses his early days working in a Mob-owned nightclub, as well as the finale, which has to do first with being addicted to cocaine (and helped out of it by Jim Brown), and then severely burning himself in an accident trying to freebase cocaine. Of course, there's a lot of frank discussion of sex and some raw language, so some people might not consider it so family-friendly.
I'm so glad to see that The Firemen's Ball is back on TCM this week, and not in the TCM Imports slot. Instead, you can catch it at 8:15 AM Thursday. Miloš Forman directed this in his native Czechoslovakia, using a lot of locals. In a small town in Moravia, the long-time chief of the local fire brigade is now dying of cancer, and the rest of the fire department decides that they're going to give him a big send-off by honoring him for his 50 years of service with a party inviting the whole town. However, the firemen all seem to care more about making themselves look good than about whether the old guy enjoys the night. And everything that can go wrong does, such as somebody stealing prizes from the tombola, young people making out under one of the tables, and a literal riot starting when the lecherous firemen decide to have an impromptu beauty contest to decide who will award the old guy his ceremonial fire axe. And what will they do if a real fire breaks out? It's easy to see why the Communist authorities considered this a subversive look at the lack of solidarity in a communist society and banned the movie for years.
FXM is bringing some movies out of the vault this week for the first time in ages. One of them is All About Eve, at 8:50 AM Friday. Anne Baxter plays Eve, receiving a prestigious theater award at the beginning of the movie. In flashback, we learn how she got here. Margot Channing (Bette Davis) is an aging star about to start aging out of choice roles, although she gets one more in the new play by Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe). When Eve shows up at the stage door, she claims to be Margot's biggest fan, eventually working her way into the theater production. Critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders), however, knows that Eve is a phony and up to no good, even as she starts to work her way up to becoming Margot's understudy. Eventually she engineers her big break. Celeste Holm earned an Oscar nomination as Lloyd's wife; Thelma Ritter did too as Margot's dresser. Bette's husband Gary Merrill plays her love interest here, had Marilyn Monroe has a bit part. A spectacular movie all around.
Carol Burnett did a “Star of the Month” piece for TCM on Lucille Ball many years back, and commented that it often seemed as though the studios just didn't know what to do with Lucy. A good example of this is Beauty for the Asking, which will be on TCM at 5:45 PM Friday. Lucy plays Jean Russell, a beautician in a high-class salon who's in love with Denny Williams (Patric Knowles). However, he feels the need to be financially set for life, leading him to propose to heiress Flora Barton (Frieda Inescourt). Jean's reaction even gets her fired. But she's been doing some tinkering in her kitchen at nights, coming up with a tremendous new cold cream. If only she can get anybody to notice it, however. She and an advertising man (Donald Woods) decide to pass her off as a fake countess to get other rich people to back the cream. And wouldn't you know who decides to back it but Flora. Needless to say, Flora is going to learn the real truth about Jean at some point. Interesting, but definitely not playing to Lucy's comedic strengths.
Hollywood has always been lazy in that they've turned programming for one medium into programming for another medium. Of course, since TV came along later it's only more recently that TV shows became movies, such as The Flintstones, on HBO Family at 7:45 AM Sunday. Based on the animated TV series, this live-action version stars John Goodman as Fred Flinstone, married to Wilma (Elizabeth Perkins) and working with his best friend Barney Rubble (Rick Moranis). The nominal plot involves Barney helping Fred get an executive position at the Slate company where they both work. But what neither knows is tht this particular executive position is being created as a front for an embezzlement scheme that Mr. Slate has, so that the new executive will be the one caught out and not Slate. But the movie is really an excuse for fan service such as giving some old-timers small roles (like Elizabeth Taylor or Jonathan Winters) and various sight gags like the B-52s playing the BC-52s. Unsurprisingly, it also got a sequel.
Finally, on Sunday night (May 23), TCM has a triple feature of movies directed by James Whale. I'll mention the lesser-known The Kiss Before the Mirror, at 11:00 PM Sunday. Paul Lukas plays Walter Bernsdorf, a prominent doctor married to Lucy (Gloria Stuart). Walter follows Lucy and finds out that she's having an affair (Walter Pidgeon in a small role not at MGM), and in a fit of jealousy Walter shoots her dead. It should be obvious murder, but Walter calls on his best friend, lawyer Paul Held (Frank Morgan in an atypical role for him) to defend him and try to get a lighter sentence. Paul takes the case, but as he's defending Walter, he starts to get the distinct feeling that his own wife Maria (Nancy Carroll) might be stepping out on him. Perhaps if she really is unfaithful, and Paul can get Walter off the hook, then that would provide justification for Paul to kill Maria for her unfaithfulness. Needless to say, it's a horrifying idea for everybody else to think about.