Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” Thread, for the week of December 18-24, 2017. Either the Packers' season will effectively be over after today, or everybody's going to be anxious about the upcoming game against Minnesota. Either way, why not deal with those emotions by relaxing with some good movies? Once again, I've used my good taste to pick out a bunch of movies I know you'll all like. Lana Turner gets more movies on Tuesday night, but there's other interesting stuff as well. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
If British accents are your thing, you're in luck on Monday night, as TCM is showing a bunch of Rex Harrison movies. Among them is Blithe Spirit, at 1:45 AM Tuesday. Harrison plays Charles Condomine, who is living in a Kentish estate with his second wife Ruth (Constance Cummings) while he's working on a new novel. To get background material for the novel, Charles hires a medium, Arcati (Margaret Rutherford), to hold a séance, despite the fact that none of the guests believe this nonsense. Still, something strange happens at the séance in that Charles swears he can hear the voice of Elvira, his dearly departed first wife. Nobody else can, of course. Things get even worse for Charles when, afterwards, he starts seeing Elvira (Kay Hammond) too, even though again, nobody else can. So unsurprisingly Ruth starts to think that Charles is going a bit batty until Charles is finally able to convince Ruth that Elvira is real. Ruth worries that Elvira is trying to off Charles so that Elvira can have him for eternity in the afterlife, and things get more complicated from there. The movie won an Oscar for its special effects.
Monday over on StarzEncore Classics brings The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear. Police Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) is back along with all of the other good guys: boss Hocken (George Kennedy); police partner Nordberg (OJ Simpson); and girlfriend Jane (Priscilla Presley), except that she's no longer his girlfriend, but his ex. Now she's seeing Quentin (Robert Goulet), an energy executive who actually has an ulterior motive. Drebin is working for the President, and the president is bringing in an important scientist (Richard Griffiths) to handle energy policy, which might mean less reliance on the sort of traditional energy sources that Quentin's company deals with. So he plans to kidnap the good scientist before the big speech. It's up to Drebin to stop this. What's the plot? It's something meant to drive the movie along, but that's not important right now. In a Naked Gun movie, you watch for the gags, which probably most memorably involve a parody of the then recently-released Ghost and some symbolic stock footage.
I can't recall whether I've recommended A Scandal in Paris before. It's going to be on TCM at 11:15 AM Tuesday, and is worth a watch. Based on a real-life person, George Sanders plays Eugène Vidocq, a small-time crook and con artist who in real life rose to become the first head of the Sûreté, the French national police force, a criminologist, and a private detective. In this version, he's got a sidekick in Émile (Akim Tamiroff), and eventually befriends high society after returning from the Napoleonic wars. He meets a marquise (Alma Kruger) and her husband (Alan Napier) gets Vidocq into police work because Vidocq seems to have a better brain for solving crimes than the actual head of police (Gene Lockhart). Of course, Vidocq is “solving” some crimes that he himself committed. Eventually Vidocq becomes the head of the Paris police, but Émile's family want to use this to be able to rob the national bank. There's also romantic subplots involving a singer Vidocq robbed (Carole Landis) and the Marquise's granddaughter (Signe Hasso)
Roughly every three months, TCM brings us another installment of “Treasures from the Disney Vault”. There's another edition this Wednesday in prime time. There's a Mickey Mouse short at 8:00 PM; a Disneyland episode at 1:15 AM Thursday, and Pete's Dragon at 2:15 AM. Pete (Sean Marshall) is a nine-year-old boy in the early part of the last century who has abusive foster parents (Shelley Winters and Charles Tyner), so he runs away with his best friend, a dragon. The two wind up in the seaside town of Passamaquoddy, ME, where they make the acquaintance of lighthouse keeper Nora (Helen Reddy) and her father Lampie (Mickey Rooney). Although the dragon causes some problems – what fire-breathing thing wouldnt? – Nora accepts Pete and makes him begin to trust people again. Except that huckster doctor Terminus (Jim Dale) and his assistant (Red Buttons) show up and realize they can use the dragon to their ends.
On Wednesday night, there's a western on StarzEncore Westerns I don't think I've recommended before: Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, at 8:07 PM. Robert Black plays Willie Boy, a young Paiute man who is in love with Lola (Katharine Ross) out in California circa 1910. However, Lola's father disapproves of the idea of his daughter having a relationship with Willie Boy, so he puts the kibosh on the whole thing. Willie Boy, however, isn't going to take that lying down, so he returns to try to win Lola, and eventually winds up in a heated argument with Lola's father which ends with Willie Boy shooting her dad in self-defense. It's a notorious killing, and the sheriff (Charles McGraw) has his deputy Cooper (Robert Redford) lead a massive manhunt in what was one of the last posses in the old west. This was based on a true story, although the real life Willie Boy was probably not as innocent as he's portrayed in the movie from what I've read.
Sunday in New York will be on this week, but it will be on Thursday, at 2:00 PM on TCM. Adam (Cliff Robertson) is a pilot living in a swanky New York apartment, who gets a visit one Sunday from kid sister Eileen (Jane Fonda). She's just left her fiancé Russ (Robert Culp), the reason being that he's been trying to get her to have premarital sex with him, and she's not certain if she's ready for it. Perhaps big brother can give her some advice on the matter. Adam tells Eileen that good guys are willing to wait for a woman who won't put out before marriage. Except that he's lying through his teeth, since his brief layover in New York has him trying to get to see his girlfriend Mona (Jo Morrow) while he's had a series of women in other cities he flies to. Into all this comes Mike (Rod Taylor) who was stood up by his girlfriend. Eileen decides she's going to try to start a relationship with him. Making things much more complicated is that Russ has followed Eileen to New York and shows up unexpectedly.
For another good Christmas movie, you could do far worse than to watch Remember the Night, at 10:00 PM Friday on TCM. Fred MacMurray plays John Sargent, a big-city prosecuting attorney who at Christmastime gets the case of repeat shoplifter Lee (Barbara Stanwyck). Unfortunately, she doesn't have the money to make bail, which means she's going to have to stay in jail over Christmas. John has a heart, however, so he decides to get the judge to release her to his custody until the case goes to trial after Christmas. Meanwhile, John is going to visit his mother (Beulah Bondi) and aunt (Elizabeth Patterson) out in the midwest, which means he has to bring Lee along with her. He isn't going to tell his mom the truth, so Mom doesn't know what Lee really is, and Lee's attempt to make a good impression means Mom thinks she's right for John. And along the way, Lee and John begin to fall in love with each other. But there's still the matter of that court case when they get back to the city after the holidays….
A movie over on FXM Retro that I don't think I've mentioned here before is The Eyes of Annie Jones, which will be on at . 3:30 AM Friday. This one was made over in the UK for Fox when they were distributing a lot of low-budget stuff because of how much money the Elizabeth Burton Cleopatra was burning through. However, they brought over an American actor, in this case Richard Conte, who plays the brother of a missing Englishwoman. Their Aunt Helen (Joyce Carey) wants to find out what happened to her niece, so she's hired Annie Jones (Francesca Annis) to help in the search. Annie is supposedly a psychic, but Annie is also young, an orphan, and has a sleepwalking problem that may or may not have anything to do with those psychic powers. A lot of these 60s Fox B movies have serious problems (and this one is no exception), but all of them also turn out to be interesting, even if in some cases it's only because of how bad they are.
One of this week's TCM Underground selections is Xanadu, which will be on at 2:15 AM Sunday. Michael Beck plays Sonny, a struggling artist who has a dream, that dream being to open his own roller disco. (Never mind that by the time the film was released roller disco's day had passed.) He's almost ready to abandon that dream, however, until he's given help by two people. One is Danny (Gene Kelly in his final musical), who had dreams of his own back in the 40s but they didn't pan out and now he knows regret. The other is Kira (Olivia Newton-John), who is actually a mythological muse sent down to Earth by the gods to help people achieve their dreams. Danny and Kira fall in love even though Kira might not be able to stay with Danny. The film was panned when it was released, probably because it's a severe mish-mash: there's a mix of the 40s and the 80s, and the music is by Newton-John and… ELO, along with a duet between Newton-John and Cliff Richard which in the film is set against a bizarre animated sequence. Sure it's a train wreck, but it's a damn fun train wreck.
Finally, perfect for Christmas Eve is The Man Who Came to Dinner, which will be on TCM at 8:00 AM Sunday. Monty Woolley plays Sheridan Whiteside, a critic and radio presenter who is on a speaking tour of the Midwest. Grasping social climbers the Stanleys (Grant Mitchell and Billie Burke) are desperate to have him over for a dinner party. But when he shows up, he trips on the icy stairs and breaks a hip, leaving him wheelchair-bound and forced by doctors to stay in the house until it's medically safer to move him elsewhere. Sheridan proceeds to take over the house, making life difficult for everybody around him. His secretary Maggie (Bette Davis) stays too, and while there she meets the local newspaperman Bert Jefferson (Richard Travis) and falls in love with him. She's willing to retire from working with Sheridan to become Mrs. Jefferson, something Sheridan wants to prevent, so he brings in an actress friend Lorraine (Ann Sheridan) to try to break up the romance.