Friday, September 30, 2022

TCM in October: Highlights

It's October, and there's lots of spooky viewing ahead on Turner Classic Movies!

TCM is changing things up from the norm with this month's schedule; the Star of the Month on Saturday nights is "Robots" rather than a specific actor or actress.

One of the first robots featured will be Robby the Robot in FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) on October 1st. Please note there will not be a separate Star of the Month post this month.

The TCM Spotlight for October focuses on "Creepy Cinema" on Monday evenings so between the Star of the Month and Spotlight franchises, TCM has plenty of horror, fantasy, crime thrillers, and sci-fi on the way for the "spooky season."

There's also a Halloween marathon on October 30th and 31st, culminating in the showing of seven '30s Universal Pictures horror films on Halloween night.

There are two "special themes" this month: "The Blacklist" will be the focus on three Thursday nights, and actress Pam Grier will be featured on the last two Wednesdays of the month. I enjoyed hearing Pam speak at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival.

The October Noir Alley films will be THE RED HOUSE (1947) October 1st and 2nd, THE PHENIX CITY STORY (1955) October 8th-9th, THE ARGYLE SECRETS (1948) October 15th and 16th, CAGE OF EVIL (1960) on the 22nd and 23rd, and EL VAMPIRO NEGRO (1953), aka THE BLACK VAMPIRE, on October 29th and 30th.

I really enjoyed seeing UCLA's restoration of THE RED HOUSE at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival a few years ago. Its pleasures include a young and gorgeous Julie London and Rory Calhoun. Check out my review for a nice collection of stills from the film.

I was also impressed with the Argentinian film EL VAMPIRO NEGRO at this year's Lyons Festival. It will be released by Flicker Alley in a Blu-ray/DVD combination set in November.

Below are a few more highlights from among the many interesting films airing on TCM this month. Please click on any hyperlinked title to read my full-length review.

...Sunday, October 2nd, the lineup includes Rodgers & Hammerstein's FLOWER DRUM SONG (1961), which I reviewed this summer. James Shigeta and Nancy Kwan are particularly good.

...A day of films featuring waitresses on October 4th includes the delightful comedy GOOD GIRLS GO TO PARIS (1939) starring Joan Blondell and Melvyn Douglas. This film was an unexpected treat for me a few years ago.

...An evening of obscure films starring black actors, based on the Academy Museum exhibit Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971, has some interesting and unusual titles. I'll be checking out HARLEM ON THE PRAIRIE (1937), a "B" Western starring Herb Jeffries, and REFORM SCHOOL (1939), which has a rare starring role for one of my favorite character actresses, Louise Beavers. The movies will be shown October 5th.

...An eight-film Carole Lombard birthday tribute on October 6th includes SWING HIGH, SWING LOW (1937), which is often only seen in poor public domain prints. I was fortunate to see this film in a nice 35mm print at UCLA a decade ago. Fred MacMurray costars.

...The Saturday morning lineup of "B" films and cartoons on October 8th includes the Tim Holt Western DUDE COWBOY (1941). Marjorie Reynolds costars.

...I've never seen ON OUR MERRY WAY (1948), also known as A MIRACLE CAN HAPPEN, which airs on October 9th. The amazing cast includes James Stewart, Paulette Goddard, Henry Fonda, Harry James, Dorothy Lamour, and Fred MacMurray. It's also got a few actors I'm not so fond of, like Burgess Meredith, Victor Moore, and Hugh Hubert, but I've got to try it out!

...The evening of "Creepy Cinema" on October 10th includes Alfred Hitchcock's ROPE (1948), an unusual film which I reviewed a decade ago. James Stewart, Farley Granger, and John Dall star.

...A day of legal films on October 11th includes some very enjoyable minor films: CRIMINAL COURT (1946) with Tom Conway and Martha O'Driscoll; THE LAW IN HER HANDS (1936) with Margaret Lindsay and Glenda Farrell; and SOCIETY LAWYER (1939), a remake of PENTHOUSE (1933) starring Walter Pidgeon and Virginia Bruce.  I think this is a particularly fun day of viewing.

...The October 12th theme is road trips, including THE HITCH-HIKER (1953), directed by Ida Lupino. Look for a post on one of the movie's locations here in a few days. THE HITCH-HIKER is so scary that I consider it excellent Halloween month programming!

...The first evening of TCM's Blacklist series on October 13th includes a new documentary, HIGH NOON ON THE WATERFRONT (2002). Former L.A. Times classic film writer Susan King wrote more about the series for TCM.

...Along with ROPE on October 10th, a few more John Dall films will air as part of a tribute to the actor on the 14th. Titles include the classic crime film GUN CRAZY (1950) which I consider "must see" viewing for anyone who loves cinema. Peggy Cummins costars.

...A birthday tribute to Montgomery Clift on October 17th includes Hitchcock's I CONFESS (1943), costarring Anne Baxter. Clift plays a priest who has a terrible conundrum when someone confesses a murder to him and he can't say anything to break the seal of the confessional. Even "lesser" Hitchcock is worthwhile!

...A Margaret Sullavan tribute on October 18th includes THE SHOPWORN ANGEL (1938), costarring James Stewart and Walter Pidgeon. I recently caught Sullavan and Stewart in NEXT TIME WE LOVE (1936) for the first time and look forward to THE SHOPWORN ANGEL, another new-to-me Stewart-Sullavan film.

...A day of "career transitions" on October 19th includes BEAUTY FOR THE ASKING (1939), a very good "B" film starring Lucille Ball as a successful businesswoman.

...I tend to like Val Lewton's horror films as they're more about mood and suspense than anything graphic. One of my favorites is THE LEOPARD MAN (1943), showing on October 20th. Dennis O'Keefe and Jean Brooks star.

...October 21st features a lineup of football movies including Harold Lloyd in THE FRESHMAN (19250, a wonderful film which costars Jobyna Ralston. I most recently saw it as a drive-in movie a couple years ago.

...Humphrey Bogart stars as a cheesecake-loving gangster who ends up battling Nazi saboteurs in ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT (1942). Worth seeing for the deep, deep supporting cast alone. It's on October 24th.

...The low-budget film noir MURDER IS MY BEAT (1955), starring Barbara Payton (TRAPPED), is worth seeing simply because it's so odd, including documentary footage of a ceramics factory midway through the movie for no particular reason. It airs October 27th.

...A tribute to costume designer Edith Head on October 28th includes an October showing of CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945), providing some alternative holiday programming to all the films inspired by Halloween!

...A favorite Hitchcock film, DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954), will be shown October 29th. Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, and Bob Cummings star, with a marvelous supporting performance by John Williams.

...There are more Val Lewton films on October 30th, including the classics CAT PEOPLE (1942) and I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943).

For more on TCM in October 2022, please visit my Quick Preview of TCM in October and TCM's online schedule.

Happy October!

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Photos From the Road: A Summer Visit to Lone Pine, Part 1

This year's summer road trip began with a long weekend in Lone Pine, California.

Like our 2021 winter visit to Lone Pine, our trip afforded us the opportunity to do exploring we don't always have time for during our busy Lone Pine Film Festival visits.

I previously wrote about visiting all of Lone Pine's cemeteries on this trip, as well as seeing a wall which is all that remains of Lone Pine as it existed prior to the great earthquake of 1872.

After our morning hike at Red Rock Canyon we rolled into town right on time to eat lunch at our favorite place in Lone Pine, the Alabama Hills Cafe.

The hotels were busy due to the annual Concert in the Rocks taking place that weekend, so instead of our usual motel, the Dow Villa, we stayed at the Best Western Frontier Motel on the south end of town.

It was our first time to stay there, and we thought it was as nice as the Dow. The only drawback is that, unlike the Dow, it's not in the heart of town and thus not in easy walking distance of restaurants and other locations.

The wing of the motel where our room was located had rooms named after actors who worked in Lone Pine, and there was one room -- ours -- named after a movie filmed in the area.

The artwork in the room included framed stills from the "Lone Pine" movies GUNGA DIN (1939)...

...and YELLOW SKY (1948):

Here's a sampling of a few of the other room names:

A few years ago we went on a Lone Pine Festival movie locations tour which included Keeler, 13 miles outside Lone Pine. Several movies were filmed in Keeler, including I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES (1955) with Jack Palance.

We were quite amused to learn that the Best Western where we were staying was another location from that movie! Jack Palance is seen walking through the Best Western parking lot in the film. Please visit the wonderful Sierras/Highway 395 locations blog The Great Silence for a screen shot.

We returned to Keeler this summer for another look. It was rather sad that the vintage gas pumps seen in I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES, which looked like this when I photographed them in 2014... look like this:

We also revisited the old train depot in Keeler, seen in GREED (1924) and the Hopalong Cassidy film SINISTER JOURNEY (1948). I shared photos of the depot along with screen shots of SINISTER JOURNEY at Classic Movie Hub in July.  Here's another shot:

Keeler is an interesting, admittedly slightly creepy semi-ghost town, population roughly 70. It still has a post office:

A scene in Keeler:

Coming soon: Photos From the Road: A Summer Visit to Lone Pine, Part 2.

Additional Summer 2022 road trip posts: Photos From the Road: Red Rock Canyon; Photos From the Road: Lone Pine Cemeteries; A Visit to Marysvale Cemetery.

For my Classic Movie Hub Western RoundUp column: Another Look at Western Movie Locations! (includes additional photos of our visit to Keeler, along with several locations around Moab, Utah); The Violent Men (1955) (includes photos of Lone Pine locations).

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Violent Men (1955) at Classic Movie Hub

This month at Classic Movie Hub my Western RoundUp column takes a look at THE VIOLENT MEN (1955).

THE VIOLENT MEN has a great cast headed by Barbara Stanwyck, Glenn Ford, Edward G. Robinson, Brian Keith, and Richard Jaeckel. It was directed by Rudolph Mate.

Please visit Classic Movie Hub to check it out, and, as always, thanks very much for reading!

Previous Classic Movie Hub Western RoundUp Column Links: June 2018; July 2018; August 2018; September 2018; October 2018; November 2018; December 2018; January 2019; February 2019; April 5, 2019; April 30, 2019; May 2019; June 2019; July 2019; August 2019; September 2019; October 2019; November 2019; December 2019; January 2020; February 2020; March 2020; April 2020; May 2020; June 2020; July 2020; August 2020; September 2020; October 2020; November 2020; December 2020; January 2021; February 2021; March 2021; May 2021; June 2021; June 2021 (No. 2); July 2021; August 2021; September 2021; November 2021; December 2021; December 2021 (No. 2); January 2022; February 2022; March 2022; April 2022; May 2022; June 2022; July 2022; August 2022.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Quick Preview of TCM in November

It's time for a quick look ahead at TCM in November! A partial schedule has provided enough information for a preview.

James Mason will be the TCM Star of the Month in November. He was last honored nearly 20 years ago, in 2003.

Over two dozen Mason films will be shown on Thursdays. Some of the choicest titles, including NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) and THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1952), will be shown on Thanksgiving night.

The November Noir Alley films will be CITY OF FEAR (1959), TENSION (1949), THE UNFAITHFUL (1947), and DEATH OF A CYCLIST (1955).

The TCM Spotlight on Wednesdays will focus on "Tales of Royalty," with films such as THE LION IN WINTER (1968), ROYAL WEDDING (1951), and HER HIGHNESS AND THE BELLBOY (1945).

Veterans Day will be celebrated on November 11th, and Thanksgiving will feature a nice assortment of family films, including THE SECRET GARDEN (1949), LITTLE WOMEN (1949), and NATIONAL VELVET (1944).

November movie themes will include jewel thieves, clowns, ships, literary classics, snow, Egypt, and Westerns featuring women.

Filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes in November include Gig Young, Robert Ryan, Hedy Lamarr, Dick Powell, Rock Hudson, and Virginia Mayo. There will also be a memorial tribute to James Caan.

I'll share more details about the November schedule here around Halloween.

In the meantime, there's one more evening of Humphrey Bogart as the September Star of the Month, and there will be a special horror them in October instead of the usual Star of the Month.

Update: For more on TCM in November 2022, please visit TCM in November: Highlights.

Celebrating 50 Years of Emergency!

Last month I attended a 50th Anniversary tribute for the TV series EMERGENCY! (1972-79) in Cerritos, California.

"50 Years of EMERGENCY! on Television" was hosted by the Los Angeles County Fire Museum at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. I was thrilled to attend, as this series was a key part of my childhood -- "appointment viewing" every Saturday night. I was always so excited when the opening theme music started, eagerly anticipating the week's new adventures.

The series, created and produced by Robert Cinader and Jack Webb, originally aired just as the nation's first paramedic program was rolling out in Los Angeles; the show's popularity is widely credited with helping to inspire paramedic programs to become standard throughout the United States. As stated here, the show was "the first time most Americans had heard the term 'paramedic.'"

Such was the show's importance that today Los Angeles County Fire Station 127 in Carson, where the show's exteriors were filmed, is the Robert A. Cinader Memorial Fire Station. Cinader became such an expert on issues related to paramedics and emergency medicine that he was appointed to the county's Emergency Medical Services Commission in 1975, serving until his passing in 1982.

There were some wonderful cast photos in the lobby when we arrived. It was difficult to get good photos of all of them due to the glare of lobby lights and windows off the glass, but every single cast member was honored with a photo, including one of the stars, Julie London (above) and numerous supporting players such as Tim Donnelly (who sadly passed on in September 2021) and Marco Lopez:

The series inspired many people to become first responders. A large percentage of the audience stood up when paramedics and fire fighters were asked to stand.

An entire weekend of events and tours had been organized along with the anniversary program, with some fans flying in from around the country.

Stars Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe were in attendance and interviewed as part of the program. Star Robert Fuller is still with us at the age of 89 but was not there that evening.

Randolph Mantooth's sister, Tonya Mantooth, moderated their interview. Mantooth and Tighe struck me as still very much "Johnny" and "Roy" in their relationships and responses to one another. I felt as though perhaps the actors were cast to portray characters fairly close to their real-life personalities.

I don't take notes of interviews at such events, so that I can be "in the moment," and consequently I don't tend to have a lot of anecdotes to share later on. My main takeaways were 1) The importance of the show encouraging the development of paramedic programs; and 2) The affection the actors and everyone involved with the series felt for one another. The actors especially loved Julie London!

Along with the lead actors, separate interviews were held with the show's paramedic and medical advisors and Hannah Louise Shearer (below right), who wrote many episodes.

Mantooth and Tighe are seen here with two of L.A. County's original paramedics, who served as technical advisors on the show.  The moderator on the right is Steve Martin, a retired firefighter.

Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe remain close friends to this day. Together they have recently coproduced a documentary, INTO THE UNKNOWN: THE PARAMEDICS' JOURNEY.

I happened to enter through a side door and sadly didn't realize that the Squad 51 truck was parked out front, so I missed a chance to photograph it, but someone else shared photos on Twitter!

A 50th anniversary documentary on EMERGENCY!, subtitled THE SHOW THAT SAVED YOUR LIFE, recently aired on Cozi TV. The documentary features some of the same guests at we saw the live program and utilizes some of the same "clip reels" we saw that night. The documentary is currently available on YouTube, and I recommend that my fellow fans check it out.

The EMERGENCY! series is available on DVD. When my own kids were young they loved it just as I had and watched the show in its entirety. It's recommended viewing.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Tonight's Movie: The Last Train From Madrid (1937) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

A touch of SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932), a bit of CASABLANCA (1942), a dash of ARISE, MY LOVE (1940), and a large cast add up to THE LAST TRAIN FROM MADRID (1937), just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

THE LAST TRAIN FROM MADRID is set during the Spanish Civil War, which took place from 1936 to 1939, but viewers are never told exactly which characters are fighting for which side. Indeed, one of the film's opening title cards reads "We neither uphold nor condemn either faction of the Spanish conflict. This is a story of people...not of causes."

It rather reminded me of how the enemy was never disclosed in TOP GUN: MAVERICK (2022). Truly, "everything old is new again."

The 1937 film's noncommittal attitude about good guys and bad guys is all the more interesting given contemporaneous events in Europe. One suspects Paramount Pictures didn't want to lose a foreign market when future European business was already on shaky ground.

As THE LAST TRAIN FROM MADRID begins, a radio announcer (Henry Brandon) tells listeners that the title train will be leaving at midnight and that only those with special passes will be allowed to board.

In short order we're introduced to numerous characters, beginning with Captain Ricardo Alvarez (Anthony Quinn), who is working at the office where the train passes are distributed. Quinn is billed ninth but deserved more prominent billing playing one of the film's most significant characters.

Captain Alvarez manages to save his old army friend Eduardo de Soto (Gilbert Roland) from execution, at great risk to his own life. The men belatedly realize that they both love Carmelita (Dorothy Lamour).

Meanwhile American newspaperman Bill Dexter (Lew Ayres) is highjacked by young Maria (Olympe Bradna), a Spanish soldier who flees certain death at the front in order to visit her condemned father in prison. Bill takes Maria to see her father and the two grow close.

Juan Ramos (Bob Cummings) is another military defector "sentenced" to death at the front; he hopes to board the train with Lola (Helen Mack). Karen Morley plays a Baroness attempting to help Eduardo leave Madrid, but Michael Balk (Lee Bowman) stands in her way...

THE LAST TRAIN FROM MADRID is a mid-range film which isn't especially distinguished, but I found it worth seeing for its interesting cast and relatively unusual setting. It has a few excellent moments, including an exciting opening credits sequence, and everyone in the cast looks great thanks to the beautiful black and white photography of Harry Fischbeck.

As someone who loves "train movies" I would have rated the film more highly if we had seen more of the title train, which doesn't appear onscreen until the movie's final minutes.

Roland is impossibly handsome, Quinn and Cummings impossibly young, and Bowman impossibly sleazy. (I'm a Bowman fan and was quite surprised by his character!) Lamour is lovely and haunting, Ayres dashing and kind, and Bradna appealing as a girl who falls head over heels for Ayres in short order. (Well, I probably would have too.)

Alan Ladd is said to have had a bit as a soldier, but despite being a huge fan I didn't spot him on this viewing. There are lots of other familiar faces in the film including Lionel Atwill, Charles Middleton, Bess Flowers, Harry Woods, Francis Ford, Stanley Andrews, and Robert Middlemass.

One of the moments I enjoyed most was when Maria (Bradna) is marching in a column of women soldiers...and "Spain" turned out to be Iverson Ranch. When the camera pulls back to show a plane strafing the group, I've stood exactly in the spot where everyone is running for cover. That kind of personal experience definitely makes viewing a film more fun.

The screenplay by Robert Wyler (brother of director William Wyler) and Louis Stevens, based on a story by Paul Hervey Fox and Elsie Fox, might be described as serviceable; it's nothing especially memorable -- and at times it's overly melodramatic -- but it gets the job done while being entertaining enough to hold viewer attention.

The film was directed by James P. Hogan at a fast clip, running 77 minutes; incidentally, IMDb says it's an 85-minute film but that was not the case.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray, from a brand-new 2K master, looks very good, showing off the polished Paramount Pictures look at its best.

Extras consist of the trailer; a gallery of trailers for six additional films which are available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by Bryan Reesman which I'm looking forward to hearing soon.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Tonight's Movie: See How They Run (2022)

It was looking like a fairly bleak fall, in terms of new movies, when SEE HOW THEY RUN (2022) popped onto my radar screen. My attention was immediately caught by a trailer with the appealing actress Saoirse Ronan and the period London setting.

SEE HOW THEY RUN is a comedic murder mystery which takes place in the London's West End in the early '50s; more specifically, it's centered around the original theatrical production of Agatha Christie's THE MOUSETRAP. To which I must add that I had no idea Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim (A CANTERBURY TALE) were in the original cast!

I found the film's concept particularly enjoyable as, like many tourists, I've seen the London production of THE MOUSETRAP, which has now been running for seven decades; in my case, I saw it on a college trip to London in the early '80s.

Adrien Brody plays U.S. movie director Leo Kopernick, who intends to film THE MOUSETRAP from a screenplay by Mervyn Cocker-Norris (David Oyelowo). They're a bit stymied by the fact that the movie contractually can't be made until the play closes -- and it shows no signs of closing soon! However, that might be a good thing as they can't agree on the script. Of course, the inside joke for viewers in the know is that the thing will never close, rendering all the arguing moot!

Kopernick, in fact, is a pretty unlikeable fellow who ends up dead in THE MOUSETRAP's costume department in the movie's opening minutes. Whodunit?! It's up to Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and Constable Stalker (Ronan) to find out.

SEE HOW THEY RUN, written by Mark Chappell and directed by Tom George, isn't entirely successful, but overall I found it a fun watch.

Running through the down sides first, the movie gets overly silly in the late going, particularly regarding the Agatha Christie (Shirley Henderson) character, and the mixture of characters based on real people (Harris Dickinson and Pearl Chanda as Attenborough and Sim) with fictional is a bit distracting.

I was also pulled out of the story by the colorblind casting, wondering how realistic the characters played by Oyelowo and Pippa Bennett-Warner were -- although I have the impression there was less segregation in the UK than in the U.S. in that era, so maybe it works?

Finally, Sam Rockwell has many fans but I felt he underplayed so much as the alcoholic inspector that he was dull. I would have liked a detective with a bit more "oomph" and a lot less drinking, though he does have some good moments as Ronan's straight man.

That's the extent of my complaints. On the positive side of things, Ronan is quite adorable as the earnest constable, who writes everything down in her notebook, and she's also not quite as silly as it appears from the trailer. I enjoyed her tremendously, and since she's onscreen a majority of the time, it works! It's particularly fun since she plays a film fan, given to murmuring comments such as "Rex Harrison, wonderful actor" in the middle of her investigatory questioning.

The movie also has a good time with some clever "meta" concepts. I just about choked on my popcorn laughing when a character complained he hated a flashback! The movie is filled with little moments like that which are quite entertaining. The creative editing, with multiple perspectives onscreen at the same time, also gives the movie a little something extra which is distinctively different.

And it's only 98 minutes long! With so many movies these days dragging things out for 2-1/2 hours or so, a compact hour-and-a-half-plus film was delightful; the movie never felt like it was going on too long and didn't know when to stop.

SEE HOW THEY RUN was attractively filmed by Jamie D. Ramsay.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG-13. There's a dead body (or two...or three), but it's easy to look away, and there are some mildly inappropriate moments such as the wrong sketch making it in the director's movie storyboards. There is also a bit of cussing. Overall, it's a fairly mild PG-13, as these things go these days, and age 13 seems just about right.

All in all, SEE HOW THEY RUN was a fun "popcorn movie" which provided a pleasant hour and half "at the movies."

Previous reviews of Saoirse Ronan films: BROOKLYN (2015), LADYBIRD (2017), and LITTLE WOMEN (2019).

Newer›  ‹Older