Welcome to another edition of Fedya’s “Movies to Tivo” thread, for the week of September 13-19, 2021. There’s really no baseball of note until the postseason, so you guys can sit back for a couple of weeks and watch some good movies while waiting for the postseason. The Packers kick off their season today, but they only play once a week, and there’s no way people can bicker enough to fill an entire six days, is there? There’s a lot of interesting stuff on TCM this week, from historical dramas to fantasy, to femmes fatales. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
TCM has a night of Paul Newman movies on Monday in prime time, including Exodus at 10:30 PM. Widowed American nurse Kitty Fremont (Eva Marie Saint) is visiting Cyprus in 1947, which is where Britain is taking those Jewish refugees who survived the Holocaust and trying to break Britain’s blockade of Palestine which is still under British control. Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman) is a member of the Haganah, Jewish freedom fighters hoping to create an independent state of Israel. He smuggles 611 of the refugees on Cyprus to Israel, with Kitty in tow because the ship needs a nurse. But when all of them get to Israel, they find that’s only half the battle. The Jews desperately want the UN to partition Palestine so that the Jews will get their state, and are willing to use terrorism to get the UN to vote their way. Even then, there’s still going to be a war for independence after partition. The all-star cast includes Lee J. Cobb as Ari’s father; Ralph Richardson as a British general on Cyprus; Sal Mineo as an Auschwitz survivor who wants to work for the Haganah’s more militant arm the Irgun; and many more.
A new-to-me movie that started showing up in the FXM rotation a few months back is The Fiercest Heart. It will be on again this week, at . Stuart Whitman plays Steve Bates, a British soldier in prison in 1830s South Africa for sleeping with an officer’s wife. But he gets busted out of jail with his native friend Nzobe (Rafer Johnson, former Olympic champion), also breaking out Carter (Ken Scott) in the process. The three hide out in a barn owned by the leader of the local Boers, Willem Prinsloo (Raymond Massey). The Boers are about to set off on their great trek to find suitable farmland not under British control, and Prinsloo lets the three come along since they might serve as useful scouts and definitely are handy with a gun. Steve and the other two plan to leave the Boers eventually and head for the coast, but along the way, Steve finds himself falling for Prinsloo’s granddaughter Francina (Juliet Prowse) even though she has a fiancé. That, and Carter plans to double-cross everybody. If you want a Disneyfied version of history even though this wasn’t produced by Disney, this movie is for you.
MGM kept putting Robert Montgomery in romantic comedy programmers in the 1930s, probably because he was so adept at them. An example is Three Loves Has Nancy, at 3:00 PM Tuesday on TCM. Montgomery is obviously not Nancy; that’s Janet Gaynor. Nancy is a girl from the South who is supposed to get married to George (Grady Sutton), but he never returns from New York for the wedding, and her family (Guy Kibbee as her father and Charley Grapewin as Grandpa) send her to New York to find him. Along the way, she keeps meeting Malcolm Niles (that’s Montgomery), a writer living in New York who’s doing a tour to promote his new book. He’s got girl trouble himself in the form of girlfriend Vivian (Claire Dodd). Eventually, Malcolm realizes he can use Nancy to make Vivian jealous. But by this time Malcom’s publisher Bob Hanson (Franchot Tone) has also met Nancy, and begun to fall in love with her. Which of the three men is Nancy going to wind up with in the final reel?
I know I’ve mentioned Conan the Barbarian before, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned the sequel, Conan the Destroyer. The sequel is going to be on at 7:00 AM Wednesday on The Movie Channel. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as Conan, who is approached by Queen Taramis (Sarah Douglas). She has a mission for Conan and his companion Malak (Tracey Walter), which is to take the queen’s niece Jehnna (Olivia d’Abo) to a castle where they should find a magical gem and horn. Conan doesn’t want to accept the mission at first, but the queen makes him an offer he really can’t refuse, which involves resurrecting Valeria. She doesn’t actually return for the movie, because Taramis is setting a trap for Conan and Jehnna. The head of her palace guard, Bombaata (Wilt Chamberlain) is to accompany Conan as well, and kill him once they retrieve the gem. Along the way they also encounter the warrior Zula (Grace Jones), who was briefly big in the mid 80s. Eventually Conan destroys all the bad guys and sets the movie up for another sequel that never actually was made.
For those who haven’t seen enough World War II movies, you could always watch Back to Bataan, airing at 8:00 PM Wednesday on TCM. John Wayne plays Col. Joseph Madden, who is serving under MacArthur in the Philippines when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Since the Philippines were a US possession at the time, it was only natural that Japan would attack them too. Sure enough, that comes, and sure enough, the Japanese are brutal because that’s the way Hollywood presented them at the time the movie was released in 1945. Anyhow, while MacArthur retreats, some Americans like Madden are ordered to stay behind and help the Filipino guerillas who are going to be fighting the Japanese, people like Capt. Bonifacio (Anthony Quinn). There are also American civilians in the country, such as schoolteacher Bertha (Beulah Bondi). You just know that her schoolchildren are going to get involved in the resistance to the Japanese. Eventually, Madden and his men prepare for MacArthur’s return, but have to hold out against a much bigger Japanese force.
If you like the gratuitous violence of Sam Peckinpah films, there’s one I don’t think I’ve mentioned before: The Killer Elite, at 3:35 PM Thursday on Epix. James Caan plays Mike Locken, who works in what is nominally a private intelligence firm together with a friend George Hansen (Robert Duvall). However, it’s really a front for the CIA, which is their biggest client. On one job, however, Hansen has taken a bribe and decides to “retire” Mike by shooting him in the arm and leg, effectively making him fit only for desk duty. However, Mike won’t have any of that, trying to recuperate and learn to use the braces that he has to wear and the cane he now uses as part of the martial arts that he’s learning, with the intention of ultimately gaining revenge on his former friend. He might just get that chance when the firm is asked to handle some of the protection of a visiting Taiwanese politician. That is, if he can get his boss Collis (Arthur Hill) to let him do fieldwork.
Although there are Paul Newman movies on TCM on Monday night, I’m also going to recommend one of his movies playing on Saturday: The Prize, at 2:00 PM Saturday on TCM. Newman plays Andrew Craig, a writer of mystery novels who has inexplicably won the Nobel Prize in Literature, so he goes off to Stockholm to pick up the prize. In Stockholm, he meets Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson), who will be awarded the Physics prize. But then he runs into Stratman again, and this time Stratman doesn’t remember seeing him at all, which sets off a sense of mystery in Andrew’s mind. Eventually he comes to the conclusion that Stratman was replaced by a double who will defect to the East so that the communists can kidnap the real Stratman. Of course nobody believes him, and he’s now in danger. And the other winners are having their own personal problems, such as the married-in-name-only Chemistry laureates, or the Medicine winners (including Kevin McCarthy) who did the same work independently but think the other stole the work. Diane Baker plays Stratman’s niece, and Elke Sommer plays Craig’s Swedish minder. There’s an amusing scene in which Craig escapes into a building, not realizing he’s walked into a meeting of nudists.
I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned Shoot Out before. But it’s on this week, at 6:23 AM Saturday on StarzEncore Westerns, so I’ll mention it now. Gregory Peck plays Clay Lomax, who has just gotten out of prison after having served several years for robbing a bank. During the robbery, Clay was shot by his partner Foley (James Gregory), who also took all the money and got away, and is now a rich guy in Gun Hill. So Clay would like to get revenge on Foley. However, he’d also like to find his old girlfriend Teresa, who hopefully is waiting for him after all these years. Meanwhile, Foley knows Clay will be coming for him, so he hires a gunman Bobby Jay (Robert F. Lyons) to get Clay first. Things get more complicated when the young girl Decky shows up claiming to be the daughter of Clay and Teresa, and that Teresa has since died. The other women in this include Susan Tyrell as the prostitute Alma, and Patricia Quinn as a widowed rancher.
This week’s Noir Alleyselection is Human Desire, at 10:00 AM Sunday. A remake of the French proto-noir La bête humaine, this one stars Glenn Ford as Jeff Warren, a Korean War veteran returning to his job as a railroad engineer. At one of the stations along the line Jeff works on is station-master Carl Buckley (Broderick Crawford). Or, former station-master, since he’s just been fired. He also has a high-maintenance wife in Vicki (Gloria Grahame). Buckley tries to get his job back, but is enraged to find that his wife basically seduced the boss to get Buckley’s job back, so Buckley murders him on one of the company’s trains. Unfortunately, Jeff is also riding that train and is having a smoke between cars when Carl and Vicki run into him. But at the inquest, Jeff is stupid enough to lie to try to keep Vicki out of trouble, and this leads to the two of them going straight down the line as Edward G. Robinson would have said in Double Indemnity. Vicki envelops him further when she says her husband has a piece of evidence that would incriminate her.
Chevy Chase is one of the Saturday Night Livealumni who went on to a fairly successful movie career, including films such as Fletch, airing at 3:32 PM Sunday on StarzEncore Classics. Chase plays Irwin Fletcher (hence the nickname), an investigative reporter in Los Angeles who often goes undercover for his stories. Currently, he’s playing the part of a beach bum junkie to get a story on the drug trade. This is where he’s approached by Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson). Alan claims to be a rich executive with terminal bone cancer who wants Fletch to kill him so his wife can get the insurance money. Fletch, by the nature of his job, investigates Stanwyk and finds that things aren’t what they seem at all, as Stanwyk seems to be healthy, and his job as an aviation executive may be allowing him to get involved in transporting drugs; the murder plot is a cover. But on the other side, the police, led by LAPD Chief Karlin (Joe Don Baker), is worried about what Fletch’s story might do to the police’s own efforts to deal with the drug trade.