Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” thread, for the week of February 22-28, 2021. We've got one final week of Star of the Month John Garfield on TCM, along with a bunch of interesting movies spanning nearly half a century from the 1940s through the 80s. There's comedy, mystery, musicals, horror, and more. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
If you want a bizarre artifact of its times, you might want to try The Wizard, which you can catch at 8:28 PM Monday on HBO Family (or three hours later if you only have the west coast feed). Luke Edwards plays Jimmy, a boy mentally scarred by the death of his sister who has retreated into Nintendo games and is put into an institution by Mom after the parents (Wendy Phillips and Beau Bridges) divorce. Luke's two older brothers, Nick (Christian Slater) and Corey (Fred Savage) run away from Dad and break Jimmy out of the institution, intending to take him to California. Along the way, they meet Haley (Jenny Lewis), another kid looking to get home to Reno, who informs them of a video came contest with a big prize. The two big brothers are convinced that their kid brother can win, although there are other kids with better training regimens. There's also the fact that Mom has hired a bounty hunter to try to find Jimmy. If you had a love for 80s video games, this one might interest you.
TCM is spending a morning and afternoon with the films of British actor Dirk Bogarde on Tuesday, even though his birth anniversary is in March. The first of the movies is Cast a Dark Shadow, at 6:45 AM Tuesday. Bogarde plays Edward Bare, who at the start of the movie is married to elderly Monica (Mona Washbourne), who inherited the family business and is worth a fair amount of money. Edward plans to bump her off in order to inherit the family money, but due to an error he does so before she can write a new will, and the money goes to her sister living in Jamaica (still a British colony at the time). So Edward has to look for a new rich lady to bilk, picking on Freda Jeffries (Margaret Lockwood). However, she's no dummy, and insists that the two of them are going to be financial equals, each spending their own money. Trying to get at Freda's money doesn't work, so when another heiress, Charlotte Young (Kay Walsh) shows up, Edward tries to figure out a way to put the moves on her, at least until a big twist with about 20 minutes left in the movie.
We get one final night of Star of the Month John Garfield on TCM in prime time on Tuesday. One of his movies that I don't think I've recommended before is Dangerously They Live, which you can see at 4:45 AM Wednesday. Garfield plays Michael Lewis, an intern at a hospital in New York. One day he comes across the patient Jane (Nancy Coleman), who has a serious case of amnesia. But she tells Dr. Lewis that this is a ruse and that she's really a British agent who is being chased by Nazis, and that the car accident she was in was from trying to escape those Nazis. Naturally, Lewis doesn't believe any of this at first, until a man claiming to be a Mr. Goodwin (Moroni Olsen), Jane's father, shows up. He is in fact not her father but a Nazi agent, and after seeing the way he and Jane are treated at what is ostensibly Jane's house, Lewis is finally convinced Jane might be telling the truth. The fact that he falls in love with her along the way doesn't hurt. However, the Nazis still have a bunch of tricks up their sleeves.
We've got a couple of completely different World War II movies this week. First up is The Eagle Has Landed, at 6:07 AM Wednesday on Cinemax. The tide of the war has turned against Germany, but the SS was able to rescue Mussolini, so Hitler gets the idea that perhaps a similar commando group can go to England and kidnap Winston Churchill! Col. Radl (Robert Duvall) is given the task of determining whether it's feasible, and when a German agent in a Norfolk coastal town reports Churchill may be coming for a visit, a complex plan is put into motion. The Germans parachute in a bunch of men disguised as Polish soldiers led by Steiner (Michael Caine), who are putatively there for a training exercise Helped by Irishman Devlin (Donald Sutherland), who's only in it for the money, they get ready for the fateful day that Churchill is going to be in town. But will they be figured out beforehand? (Well, we know that Churchill was never kidnapped or assassinated by the Nazis.) There's a pretty good all-star cast here; I haven't mentioned Donald Pleasance or Larry Hagman yet, for example.
The other World War II movie I had in mind is A Soldier's Story, at 10:00 PM Wednesday on TCM. In Louisiana in 1944, a black sergeant at the local army base, Sgt. Waters (Adolph Caesar) is shot to death. Conventional wisdom is that somebody in the Klan killed Waters, but the Army, not being happy with this pat explanation, still send an officer down from Washington, Capt. Davenport (Howard E. Rollins Jr.) to investigate, something which isn't going to be easy because as the white base commanders point out, the locals aren't going to take kindly to a black guy contradicting the police. As Davenport investigates, he finds a very complicated situation, with the murdered sergeant having been very tough on his recruits and very proud of his race and his honorable service in World War I, looking down on those blacks who he thinks make the rest of the black people look bad. Meanwhile, everybody is also beginning to fester that as blacks, they're not being allowed to give as much to the war effort as the whites in the military….
I don't think I mentioned Carnival of Souls when TCM ran it during October. It's on again this week, at 7:45 AM Thursday, so now is a good time to mention it. Candace Hilligoss plays Mary Henry, a church organist in Kansas who goes out riding with her girlfriends one day. They get to racing with some guys, and their car goes off a bridge, killing them all. Well, not so fast. While everybody is looking for the car in the river, Mary somehow makes her way to a small island in the river. Traumatized by the experience, she takes an organist job in Utah, in a small town near an abandoned carnival. For whatever reason, she feels an intense connection to this carnival. Back in town, at times she feels as if nobody can see or hear her, and has other really unnerving experiences. It should be pretty easy to figure out what's going on, but the low-budget nature of this movie still makes the predictable story work.
Another creepy movie on Thursday, but creepy in a different way, is The Conversation, which is on Showtime 2 at 4:50 AM Thursday. Gene Hackman plays Harry Caul, a private-sector surveillance expert who is so good at what he does and so much of a loner about it that it makes everyone around him uncomfortable, from his business partner Stan (John Cazale) to his mistress Amy (Teri Garr). One day, he's approached about a woman Ann (Cindy Williams) who is the wife of a powerful figure but who is also possibly having an affair with Mark (Fredric Forrest). Harry's job is to get the goods on them. However, as he tries to piece together the conversation and what's really going on with Ann and Mark, he finds that his relationships are getting even worse, that Ann and Mark may be getting set up for murder, and that the husband's representative Martin (Harrison Ford) may be surveilling Harry himself. Harry grows increasingly paranoid, but why?
For a different type of romantic movie, you could always try The Palm Beach Story, at 8:00 PM Thursday on TCM. Joel McCrea plays Tom Jeffers, a struggling inventor who can't pay the rent on the luxurious apartment he and his wife Gerry (Claudette Colbert) share. When Gerry, in a series of misunderstandings, gains the sympathy of a Wienie King (Robert Dudley) who pays the rent, she gets the idea of getting a divorce of convenience, heading down to Palm Beach, FL where all the millionaries live, and marrying one of them to fund Tom's latest invention. On the train down to Florida, she meets multimillionaire J.D. Hackensacker (Rudy Vallee) who immediately falls in love with Gerry but gets the wrong impression of Tom. Tom, learning the truth, follows Gerry down to Florida, where he meets J.D. and his wacky sister, the Princess Centimilia (Mary Astor), who immediately falls in love with Tom. How will Tom and Gerry be able to extricate themselves from the situation?
Looking at the movies that are back in the FXM rotation, I see that they've got Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which is on at 11:25 AM Friday. Marilyn Monroe plays Lorelei Lee, a chorus girl hoping to marry for money, and in love with an oilman's heir, Gus Esmond Jr. (Tommy Noonan) Dad, however, doesn't approve of the marriage, and when Lorelei and her friend Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) get on the same boat for Paris as Gus, Dad hires a private investigator Ernie (Elliott Reid) to find something compromising that can prevent any marriage between Gus Jr. and Lorelei. Of course, there are a lot of eligible bachelors, both the good-looking and the rich, depending on whether you want to marry for money or for love. Thanks to some misunderstandings, Dorothy falls in love with Ernie, and Ernie gets a photo of Lorelei with a rich old guy, Sir Francis (Charles Coburn). All the complications will work themselves out somehow by the time they get to Paris. There are a bunch of musical numbers along the way, most notably the “Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend” number.
A movie that's always timely is A Man for All Seasons. TCM has it on this week, at 3:30 PM Saturday. Paul Scofield plays Thomas More, Chancellor in the England of King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw). Henry needs a male heir to the throne, and his Queen Consort, Catherine of Aragon, has not borne him one. So he looks to marry Anne Boleyn. But there's a huge catch, which is that in Catholicism, Henry can't simply divorce Catherine. Henry wants to come up with some flimsy excuse that will get the Pope to grant an annulment, but More, being a devout Catholic, says that just won't do, so he resigns his position as Chancellor. That's not good enough for Henry and for More's other powerful enemies, who conspire in the person of Richard Rich (John Hurt) to get More caught on trumped-up bribery charges. Thomas Cromwell (Leo McKern) prosecutes. The fine cast includes Wendy Hiller as More's wife; Susannah York as More's daughter; and Orson Welles with a cameo a Cardinal Wolsey, head of the Catholic Church in England. And there's More's memorable speech about not going around the rule of law: