Tag Archives: Closely Watched Trains

Film on TV: March 19-25

I picked out a bunch of classics to pull over from this week’s Film on TV post over at Row Three. Some film noir, some Depression-era musicals, some 1950s creature features, and some Czech New Wave classics. Okay, just one of each of those things. But these are all solid films with some variety, and there’s definitely a lot more to choose from if you click over and see the whole post.

Gold Diggers of 1933

Tuesday, March 20 at 8:00pm on TCM
The story’s nothing to get excited about (and in fact, the subplot that takes over the main plot wears out its welcome fairly quickly), but the strong Depression-era songs, kaleidoscopic choreography from Busby Berkeley, and spunky supporting work from Ginger Rogers pretty much make up for it.
1933 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers, Guy Kibbee.

This Gun for Hire

Wednesday, March 21 at 1:30am on TCM (that’s late Tuesday night)
This early noir depicts a hitman (Alan Ladd in his first big role) trying to revenge himself on a former-employer-turned-police-informant, while evading the police (led by Robert Preston), with the help of the policeman’s girlfriend (Veronica Lake), who also happens to be a spy trying to ferret out information on the informant, who is smuggling bomb plans out of the country. Confused yet? It’s intricately-plotted, but most of it makes sense, and the shifting alliances make for engaging viewing. Throw in a sultry magic act for Lake posing as a showgirl, and This Gun for Hire is a more than solid example of a 1940s B-level crime film.
1942 USA. Director: Frank Tuttle. Starring: Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar.


Thursday, March 22 at 6:15pm on TCM
I love a good classic sci-fi film and this one hits all the high points. Radioactive material? Check. Mutant insects? Check. Scientists? Check. Nuclear paranoia? Check. Giant mutant ants (created by radioactivity left by atomic bomb tests in Arizona) start attacking people, first in Arizona, then to Texas and Mexico, and finally in the middle of Los Angeles. A team of scientists works with the police to take the monsters down. One of the better examples of the “atomic mutant” sci-fi films, of which there were many; it builds intensity perfectly (in fact, it’s at least half an hour in before you come close to finding out what’s happening, adding in a very welcome mystery element) and doesn’t spend to long on its obligatory romantic subplot.
1954 USA. Director: Gordon Douglas. Starring: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness.

Bunny Lake is Missing

Friday, March 24 at 5:45pm on TCM
As the title suggests, this is a missing person mystery, but with a twist. When four-year-old Bunny Lake goes missing, her mother frantically tries to track her down, but no one else, including her nursery school teachers, will acknowledge the child ever existed. Is this a vast conspiracy, or a woman gone mad? Otto Preminger keeps the tension tight in this foray into British cinema, and I’ll set this credit sequence against anything else Saul Bass has ever done.
1965 UK. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: Carol Lynley, Laurence Olivier, Keir Dullea, Martita Hunt, Anna Massey.

Closely Watched Trains

Monday, March 26 at 4:30am on TCM (that’s late Sunday night)
One of the most highly regarded films of the Czech New Wave is, typically, about a seemingly mundane subject – a young man who takes a job as a conductor at his tiny town’s train station and seeks to come of age sexually. The basic story has been told many, many times, but the undertones of the Czech resistance to Nazi occupation along with the surprisingly sweet treatment of Milos’ personal quest make this engaging and memorable. Also, you’ll never look at stamp pads quite the same way again.
1966 Czechoslovakia. Director: Jirí Menzel. Starring: Václav Neckár, Josef Somr and Vlastimil Brodský.

Film on TV: May 4-10

Rio Bravo, playing at 10:30pm on TCM on the 6th

Monday, May 4th

3:00pm – TCM – Roman Holiday
A double-feaure of Audrey Hepburn today. Enjoy!

5:00pm – TCM – My Fair Lady

Tuesday, May 5th

3:45pm – TCM – Witness for the Prosecution
Just when you think you’ve seen all the twists, this film throws another one at you. The last great film for Charles Laughton (as an irascible lawyer), Tyrone Power (as his smarmy client, on trial for murder), and Marlene Dietrich (as Power’s wife).

Wednesday, May 6th

8:00pm – IFC – Clerks
Kevin Smith burst onto the indie scene with Clerks, a low-budget dialogue-heavy film about clerks at a convenience store.
(repeats at 2:45am on the 7th)

9:35pm – IFC – Chasing Amy
I think this was the first Kevin Smith film I saw. Liked it enough to check out the others. :)

10:30pm – TCM – Rio Bravo
Howard Hawks’ response to High Noon, which he didn’t like because Gary Cooper kept asking for help to face the bad guy. In Rio Bravo, lawmen John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson refuse all help offered, guarding a captured outlaw against rescue by his gang all on their own. And even have time to break into a song once or twice in the middle! (Image above courtesy of Row Three and Mike’s great post on Escapist Cinema for Recessionary Times)
Must See

1:00am (7th) – TCM – High Noon

2:30am (7th) – TCM – The Man From Laramie
James Stewart made several westerns with director Anthony Mann, and they’re all quite good – you can see the beginnings of the darkness and moral ambiguity that would inform the revisionist westerns of the 1960s and 1970s.

Thursday, May 7th

7:50am – IFC – Primer
Today is apparently mindbender day on the cable stations. Primer is a time travel movie that assumes a) time travel is scientifically possible and b) the audience doesn’t need anything explained to them. Watching it is like being thrown into the deep end of a pool before learning to swim…and there’s an undertow.
(repeats at 12:25pm and 5:05pm)

10:00pm – Sundance – INLAND EMPIRE
And then you can jump over to Sundance and watch David Lynch’s latest magnum opus, which pretty much can’t be understood by any use of normal narrative logic. It works thematically and emotionally though. You know those 3D images that you can only see by throwing your eyes out of focus? Do that with your mind in order to “see” INLAND EMPIRE.

Friday, May 8th

6:00pm – IFC – Closely Watched Trains
This Czech film won the Best Foreign Film Oscar back in 1965, at the forefront of a Czech film renaissance. I’m not a huge fan of it as a whole (because it’s basically a coming-of-age story, and that’s not my favorite genre), but it has a number of great moments in it.
(repeats at 6:25am and 1:45pm on the 9th)

8:00pm – TCM – Goldfinger
My pick for best Bond film of all time. “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond! I expect you to die!”
(repeats at 2:00pm on the 9th)

Saturday, May 9th

12:00N – TCM – Stagecoach
John Ford and John Wayne had worked together before this, but Stagecoach was the film that really solidified how great a team they made. A disparate group of people (outlaw, bank man, town drunk, prostitute, etc.) are thrown together in the closely confined space of a stagecoach – a potent situation even before the Indians start attacking. Thomas Mitchell won an Oscar for his role, and Claire Trevor was equally deserving for hers.
Must See

6:15pm – TCM – The Adventures of the Robin Hood
Must See

10:30pm – TCM – Captain Blood
The first pairing of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (they’d eventually make eight films together) is still one of the best – probably only beaten out by The Adventures of Robin Hood. Plus, pirates!

Sunday, May 10th

6:00am – TCM – Bachelor Mother
Slight Ginger Rogers vehicle, but one I always enjoy – she picks up a baby left on the steps of an orphanage just in time for everyone to think it’s hers, including her boss (David Niven) at the department store where she works. So she has to keep it.

11:00am – TCM – Mildred Pierce

September Recap

Just to say, school really gets in the way of movie-watching. So expect pretty pathetic review recaps for the next couple of years, apparently. Even the films I did watch, I seem to have been highly distracted while watching them, so I hesitated to even mention them, but I did anyway. So expect not only a pathetic number of reviews, but also pathetic writing.

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