Welcome to another edition of Fedya's "Movies to Tivo" thread, for the week of February 18-24, 2019. We're still in the middle of TCM's 31 Days of Oscar, so there's still no Star of the Month, but there's a lot of interesting stuff spanning several decades, so there's sure to be something for everybody, and not just on TCM. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
We'll start this week with Khartoum, which TCM is running at 10:45 AM Monday. Charlton Heston plays British general Charles “Chinese” Gordon, who made his name in the 1860s in China, hence the nickname, and became the Governor-General of Sudan in the 1870s. In Sudan he helped to end the slave trade, but after he left, a religious leader known as the Mahdi (Laurence Olivier) started a rebellion which resulted in the Mahdi's army killing a whole bunch of soldiers in an Egyption army commanded by another Briton. Prime Minister Gladstone (Ralph Richardson) reluctantly sends Gordon back to Sudan, where he is given the task to evacuate British citizens “unofficially”. The people of Khartoum appreciated Gordon for his earlier tenure there, so he ignores orders and sets about trying to defend the city from the Mahdi's army. It's not going to happen, though, unless Gordon can get British troops to relieve the beleaguered city, and Gladstone isn't about to do that unless he absolutely has to.
If you want something that's completely different, you could try The Guru, which is on FXM Monday at 6:00 AM. Michael York plays Tom Pickle, a popular British singer who decides that he's going to go to India to study the sitar under a prominent guru, Ustal Khan (Utpal Dutt). To be honest, Tom is rather more interested in learning the sitar than in any of the cultural and religious significance of the instrument and its music in Indian culture. In India, he meets young Jenny (Rita Tushingham and her garishly made-up eyes) who has also come to India for spiritual enlightenment and is more interested in the religious side of things than the musical. Ustan takes a liking to her and takes the two Britons to the holy city of Benares where Ustan's guru lives. The experience changes both Tom and Jenny, but not necessarily in a good way. This is one of the early movies from Merchant-Ivory productions before the lavish British period dramas of the 80s and 90s, and more interesting for the location shooting in India as it was in the late 60s than in the story.
It's been a while since I've recommend Fury, but It's going to be on this week, at 6:15 AM Wednesday on TCM. Spencer Tracy plays Joe, who would like to marry his girlfriend Katherine (Sylvia Sidney), except that with a depression on, they're short of money. So they split to make that money where they can get jobs, and when Joe gets that money, he drives out to see Katherine again. The only thing is that in a small town, he gets stopped by the sheriff (Walter Brennan) on suspicion of kidnapping since he has some circumstantial evidence. The townsfolk learn of his presence, and decide to lynch him, storming the jail and burning it down. However, Joe escapes. A district attorney (Walter Abel) decides to prosecute for murder, although of course there technically wasn't a murder since the supposedly dead man is still alive. Joe is so bitter that he'd be perfectly willing to stay disappeared and let the people who tried to kill them go to their deaths. But that would also mean not being able to see Katherine again.... Fritz Lang directed, his first Hollywood movie after fleeing Nazi Germany.
You might recall William Conrad as Detective Cannon from the 70s TV series if you watch the digital subchannels. Conrad plays a different sort of law enforcement man in The Ride Back, at 10:01 AM Wednesday on StarzEncore Westerns. Conrad plays Sheriff Hamish, a man who despite being sheriff doesn't have quite the life you'd expect, instead being beset with all sorts of personal demons about his self-confidences. So, when he has to go to Mexico to extradite the killer Bob Kallen (Anthony Quinn), he takes this as an opportunity to redeem himself after all his failure in his personal life. It's not going to be easy, as he finds Kallen has all the personal qualities that he doesn't and that makes everybody like Kallen instead of him. And it's not as if Kallen was ever going to make the job easy for Hamish. And, as you can expect in a western which has the characters traversing large distances, there's the threat of external attack by Apache Indians. Another interesting, if not great, B western from the 50s, a decade that produced a lot of such movies.
Another movie that hasn't shown up in a while is The High and the Mighty, which is going to be on TCM at 12:15 AM Thursday. Made in the days before jet airliners made long-haul flights much safer, the movie stars John Wayne as Dan Roman, co-pilot on a flight captained by John Sullivan (Robert Stack). Sullivan spent a lot of time as a second-in-command, and isn't so confident in his abilities in full command, while Dan was some years back involved in a crash that killed his wife and kid and left him injured. So, sure enough, on this flight from Honolulu to San Francisco over the open ocean, you know that there's going to be a problem. Specifically, one of the engines blows up, and just after the "point of no return" where they can't make it back to Honolulu. So they have to try to fly in bad weather, on one engine, and probably not enough fuel. Oh, and all the all-star cast passengers have their personal problems in addition to having to deal with the stress of a plane that's probably going to crash. Claire Trevor plays a washed-up actress; Laraine Day an heiress; Paul Fix (Micah Torrance from The Rifleman) a terminally-ill man; John Qualen, Jan Sterling, and others are also on board.
At 11:00 AM Thursday, you can watch Sayonara on TCM. Marlon Brando plays Maj. Gruver, an American fighter pilot who served with distinction in Korea and is now being transferred to Japan. One of the big issues of the day is military men falling in love with local women, and Gruver doesn't particularly approve of marriages between US military and Japanese women. This especially because he's being groomed for marriage to the general's (Kent Smith) daughter (Patricia Owens). However, Airman Kelly (Red Buttons) is one of Gruver's friends, and he falls in love with the Japanese woman Katsumi (Miyoshi Umeki), ultimately marrying her despite the military doing everything it can to prevent their happiness. And then Gruver meets a Japanese actress and begins to have emotions of his own.... The Buttons/Umeki relationship is the best part of the movie, with both of them earning Oscars. The most interesting part is Ricardo Montalbán as a Japanese kabuki actor.
I don't think I've ever recommended Days of Heaven before. It's scheduled on StarzEncore Classics for 2:00 AM Friday. Richard Gere plays Bill, a steelworker in 1910s Chicago in love with Abby (Brooke Adams). However, he gets in trouble at the mill, forcing him to leave Chicago, taking Abby and his kid sister Linda with him. They make it to the Texas panhandle, where Bill is able to get a job as a farm laborer working for a wealthy farmer (Sam Shepard). The farmer begins to fall in love with Abby, which understandably bothers Bill. But then he overheard from a doctor that the farmer is terminally ill. So Bill suggests that Abby marry the farmer, the idea being that when the farmer dies, Abby will inherit the estate and Abby and Bill can live wealthy ever after. It turns out not to be so simple. Abby begins to fall in love with the farmer, and the farmer seems to be recovering, not getting worse. The foreman suspects something might be going on, and there's also Bill's past in Chicago....
A movie with a plot you'll probably recognize is Knights of the Round Table, which will be on TCM at 3:45 PM Saturday. You can probably already figure out from the title that it's about King Arthur (played here by Mel Ferrer), and you would be right. Arthur becomes king, although Mordred (Stanley Baker) also claims the throne. Arthur marries Guinevere (Ava Gardner), and Sir Lancelot (Robert Taylor) returns from France to be one of King Arthur's knights. But he falls in love with a woman not realizing until too late that the woman in question is Guinevere, which threatens to cause tragedy for all those virtuous people in the Arthurian circle. Mordred and his partner in crime Morgan Le Fay (Anne Crawford) use this to try to destroy Arthur. Watch also for veteran character actor Felix Aylmer as Merlin. Robert Taylor hated making these movies, but MGM always imbued them with excellent production values, making them worth a watch.
For those of you who like more recent movies, I'll mention Tremors, which isn't even 30 years old. It will be on at 12:44 PM and 8:00PM next Sunday (February 24) on StarzEncore Action. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward play Val and Earl respectively, a pair of handymen trapped in a dead-end life in the small town of Perfection, NV. They'd like to leave for a better life, but when they do, they find that some people have been killed by a mysterious phenomenon. Apparently there are some sort of odd underground tremors not related to earthquakes that have caused a tad student in seismology (Finn Carter) to investigate, and together they discover that there's some sort of wormlike creature underground that can break through to kill people. Val and Earl have to go back to town to warn the townsfolk, and help figure out a way to kill these creatures. Not that they could leave anyway, since the creatures killed a road crew working the only road out of town. It's an homage to the creature films of the 50s, but played for more comic effect.
Finally, I'll mention High Society, at 12:15 PM Sunday on TCM. Grace Kelly plays Tracy Lord, a wealthy heiress who is about to get married to George Kittredge (John Lund). However, just before the wedding, her first husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Bing Crosby) shows up. Anyhow, since this is an important society wedding, a tabloid magazine has sent undercover reporter Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) to the wedding, as well as photographer Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm). All this produces a lot of complications as Mike begins to develop feelings for Tracy, while Tracy realizes that she still holds a candle for Dexter. If all of this sounds familiar, it should, as the movie is a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story. The earlier movie is generally better, although this one has the benefit of having Louis Armstrong playing himself, a bandleader who had performed with Dexter and is here to play at Tracy's wedding. Grace Kelly and Celeste Holm are better singers than you might expect.
The NFL is leaning toward having the Bears host the Packers for next season’s opening kickoff game on Thursday, Sept. 5, according to multiple sources. The move would mark the first time since 2006 that the Super Bowl champion will not appear in the league’s opening game. The newly crowned Patriots likely will host the season’s first “Sunday Night Football” game instead, on Sept. 8.
The NFL is leaning toward having Chicago host the season’s first game as part of its 100th season celebration, allowing it to showcase the league’s oldest rivalry. The Bears and Packers first played in 1921 and have faced each other 198 times.
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