Welcome to another edition of Fedya’s “Movies to Tivo” thread, for the week of July 26-August 1, 2021. If you want a break from all the idiocy surrounding Packers personnel and the upcoming start of training camp, this is the place for you! We’ve got a series of interesting movies spanning a good half century and a bunch of genres. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
According to a search of the site, it’s been almost seven years since I recommended Heat Lightning. It’s going to be on again this week, at 6:00 AM Monday on TCM. Aline MacMahon plays Olga, who runs a service station/motor hotel/diner out in the Mojave between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. She’s there with her kid sister Myra (Ann Dvorak), trying to keep Myra safe from the big world that caused Olga so much heartache back in the day. And that heartache is about to come back in the form of an old boyfriend, George (Preston Foster). He’d like to have Olga back, and he’s brought with him a friend Jeff (Lyle Talbot) who finds about Myra, and boy is Jeff interested in Myra! Meanwhile, there’s a pair of women, Mrs. Tifton (Glenda Farrell) and Mrs. Ashton-Ashley (Ruth Donnelly) who just got their divorces over in Nevada and are on their way back to the big city with their chauffeur (Frank McHugh) and a bunch of jewelry. George and Jeff are crooks, which is part of why Olga left George, and when they find out about the jewelry, naturally they want it, leading to film’s surprising climax.
The listings sites suggest that the 1975 version of Rollerball is going to be on Flix at 2:30 PM Monday. (I apologize if it’s the 2002 version instead.) Hollywood predictably gets the future way wrong again, claiming that in 2018, corporations will be running the world and that they will have created a sport called Rollerball that more or less replaces organized religion. James Caan plays Jonathan, one of the more popular and better players on the team from Houston sponsored by the Energy Corporation. After a particularly successful match, one of the Energy bosses, Bartholomew (John Houseman) approaches Jonathan and says the company wants to do a PR piece on him. However, the PR piece is really supposed to be a retirement announcement as the company doesn’t want his services any longer. Jonathan isn’t quite ready to retire yet, so when he discovers what’s going on, he decides to resist. The powers that be come up with a plan to change the game into something even more violent than it already is, so that another team can beat Jonathan and his friends on the Houston team out of the league. No, the Packers don’t have the power to do this to Aaron Rodgers.
Last week I mentioned George Arliss in The Millionaire. This week I’ll mention him in The Man Who Played God, at 6:30 AM Tuesday on TCM. Arliss plays Montgomery Royle, a concert pianist who has a protege in Grace Blair (Bette Davis, only billed third) who thinks she loves him. He tells her wait six months, and if she still loves him, he’ll marry her. Meanwhile, at a command performance for a king, an anarchist tries to kill the king, but the bomb blast only results in Montgomery becoming completely deaf, which won’t do for a concert pianist. So Monty becomes a recluse until he learns to use his ability to read lips to watch the people in the park below his apartment through binoculars and use his wealth to solve their problems anonymously. However, one of those people who has problems is Grace. She’s fallen in love with a nice young man named Harold (Donald Cook) who would be right for her, but she’s afraid of letting Monty know this because she believes he’ll take it as a rejection due to his having gone deaf. It’s a vehicle for Arliss (he did a silent version of the movie a decade before this), but he saw Bette Davis’ talent and championed her, and the rest is history.
A search of the forum doesn’t bring up a mention of the movie Arizona Raiders before. You can see it this week at 10:04 AM Tuesday on StarzEncore Westerns. Audie Murphy plays Clint Stewart, a member of Quantrill’s Raiders in the Civil War. Union Capt. Andrews (Buster Crabbe) captures several of the Raiders, but spares Clint and his friend Willie Martin (Ben Cooper) from death, instead having them sentenced to 20 years’ hard labor instead. Andrews gets restationed to Arizona, and wouldn’t you know it, but those members of Quantrill’s Raiders (well, minus the Jameses and Youngers) who didn’t get captured have also fled to the Arizona territory to keep attacking the Army. The feds have no idea what to do, and Andrews comes up with an interesting proposal for Clint: join up with me and infiltrate the remaining raiders so that we can end their depredations, and will give you your freedom. If that’s not complicated enough, they also have to worry about Indian attacks.
If you want a John Wayne movie based on a true story, you could try Chisum, which will be on TCM at 4:00 AM Wednesday. Wayne plays John Chisum, who migrated west from Texas to the New Mexico territory where, in the 1870s, he owned almost the entirety of Lincoln County, raising cattle to sell for meat to the US government. He’s friends with a British immigrant rancher, Tunstall (Patric Knowles), and both note the arrival of Lawrence Murphy (Forrest Tucker). He buys up a bunch of the businesses and is clearly intending to get more power in the region, by violent means if necessary. Meanwhile, Chisum’s niece Sallie comes from back east for a visit, adding to the tension. As Murphy continues his depredations, getting the legal system on his side much like in last week’s The Spoilers, the ranchers realize they’re going to have to fight back. Luckily, one of Tunstall’s ranch hands is William Bonney (Geoffrey Deuel), better known as Billy the Kid, who really did take part in the Lincoln County War.
I may have mentioned Twilight Zone: The Movie ages ago, but I can’t remember when the last time was. At any rate, it’s on StarzEncore Suspense at 11:12 PM Tuesday, so I’ll mention it now. Based on the classic TV show, the movie is an anthology telling four of the sort of stories that Rod Serling gave on the original Twilight Zone, directed by four different name directors of the early 1980s. Well, actually, three of them are updates of classic episodes, but the first is more or less original, “Time Out”. Here, Vic Morrow, who was killed in an accident in the making of the movie, plays a bigot who finds that he’s suddenly turned into the various ethnic groups he hates. Then comes “Kick the Can”, with Scatman Crothers bringing youth to an old-folks home; directed by Steven Spielberg. Third is “It’s a Good Life”, has a teacher (Kathleen Quinlan) entering a family where everybody seems unusually afraid of the little boy. Joe Dante directed. Finally is the classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, directed by George Miller, telling the story of a man (John Lithgow) who insists he sees a gremlin on the wing of the airplane he’s a passenger on – but no one else can seee it.
TCM is spending Thursday morning and afternoon with William Powell, including some of his early movies at Warner Bros before he moved to MGM and played Nick Charles. I mentioned High Pressure (3:30 PM) not too long ago; this week I’ll mention Private Detective 62, at 6:30 AM Thursday, instead. Powell plays Donald Free, an alleged newspaper correspondent in Paris who’s actually spying on France for the US. In order to escape the French, who want to bring him back for questioning, he jumps ship just off the US coast, returning to a country in a depression and unable to get a job. That is until he runs into detective Hogan (Arthur Hohl) again, and starts a partnership. Don has the brains but Hogan has the license, and a complete lack of morals. So when Hogan decides he wants to go for the big money by teaming up with casino owner Bandor, it’s going to cause problems for Don, who by this time is investigating a woman with whom he falls in love. Hogan tries to double-cross everybody.
If you want a movie that has more Oscar-winning stars in it than you can shake a stick at, try The Swarm, which will be on TCM at 4:15 AM Saturday. There’s been some sort of strange attack at a US nuclear base in Texas, with a bunch of people killed; Maj. Baker (Bradford Dillman) and Gen. Slater (Richard Widmark) investigate. A civilian vehicle, a van driven by Dr. Crane (Michael Caine) has trespassed onto the base, but it was an emergency as he and his group was attacked by bees. Those same Africanized killer bees attack a pair of helicopters, and then go on to attack the town of Marysville, seeming to get ever more aggressive and deadly, as even one sting can kill people, although most people get stung multiple times before their hilarious flailing deaths. Another scientist, Dr. Krim (Henry Fonda), tries to find an antivenom for the bee stings before the real danger of the bees reaching Houston comes. Also in the cast are Olivia de Havilland, Fred MacMurray, and Ben Johnson as three Marysville residents in a romantic triangle; Lee Grant as a TV reporter; Katharine Ross as a doctor; and Patty Duke as a waitress.
I didn’t expect to mention Kathleen Quinlan twice this week, but she’s in a movie that recently started showing up in the FXM rotation: Warning Sign, on again this week at 1:20 PM Saturday. At a putative agronomics company in southern Utah, one of the researches in full PPE accidentally picks up a test-tube, and when he and his colleagues stupidly break protocol, the test tube gets broken. It turns out they’re working on some sort of biological warfare weapon which infects all of them, causing a containment incident which guard Joanie Morse (that’s Quinlan) has to deal with from the inside. Dealing with it on the outside are Joanie’s husband Cal (Sam Waterston), the local sheriff, and government cover-up man Major Connolly (Yaphet Kotto). Thankfully, all of the infected scientists have died – until the bodies go missing from the security cameras, and the agent that they inhaled is some sort of psychogenic thing that turns people into homicidal maniacs. Joanie, however, seems immune, which may offer a solution to the problem. It’s amazing how in 35 years we’ve gone from conspiracy theory movies like this to absolute blind obedience to government agents speaking on lab leaks.
Sunday is August 1. For those of you who have been following these posts, you’ll know that means the start of TCM’s annual Summer Under the Stars, in which each day brings 24 hours of the movies of a different star. It kicks off this year with Bette Davis all day Sunday, including Pocketful of Miraclesat 3:45 PM. The last movie directed by Frank Capra, and a remake of his Lady for a Dayfrom 28 years earlier, the movie stars Davis as Apple Annie, an old lady living in the Depression by selling apples and getting markups from Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford), a gangster who sees Annie as a sort of good-luck charm. However, Annie has a daughter Louise (Ann-Margret), who’s been living in Spain and is engaged to a count there. She wants to introduce him to her family, but Annie’s been lying about her background, claiming to be high society. It would kill Annie to have to reveal the lie, so perhaps Dave can do something to help her set up an illusion of actually being a lady? Of course, Dave being a gangster doesn’t exactly know high society.