Wednesday's line-up of Oscar-recognized films from Turner Classic Movies is an impressive one, but three stand out. The first is a movie that caused a sensation when it was first released in 1962, the second is one of the great anti-war film and the third is the greatest monster movie ever made. Remember, these films run on Wednesday, February 6th and all times listed are CST.
Lolita – The miracle of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s notorious novel isn’t that it's a coherent yet tactful telling of one man’s obsession with a teenage girl, but rather that the film got made at all. The novel caused a sensation when first released telling the tale of Humbert Humbert, an author who sets out to seduce the 12 year-old daughter of his landlady. Needless to say, a bit of a scandal arose surrounding the novel, making it all the more desired by readers desperate to get their hands on a copy. For the film version, Lolita’s age was changed to 14 but that hardly defused the racy nature of the material. Having just made Spartacus, Kubrick was looking for a departure and gravitated towards the material. The same can’t be said for the leading men he sought as Cary Grant, David Niven and Laurence Olivier were all approached but refused to participate for fear of the fallout that might occur. James Mason was Kubrick’s first choice but had already committed himself to starring in a Broadway play. Eventually he withdrew from the production and went on to deliver one of his best film performances. After Joey Heatherton and Hayley Mills turned down the title role, over 800 young actresses auditioned before Sue Lyon was cast. She’s quite good in the film, as is Shelley Winters as her mother, but ultimately her efforts did not lead to stardom. (9:00 AM)
All Quiet on the Western Front – Though the story takes place in Germany during World War I, this adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war novel contained a universal message that American audiences responded to. Recounting the experiences of an eager young German soldier (Lew Ayres), who finds out too soon that war is far from a romantic adventure, this proved to be a shocking experience for audiences in 1930. Far more violent than any film made before then, Universal Pictures felt that audiences needed to see these graphic displays to drive home the futility of war. Interestingly, when the movie was shown in Germany, the up-and-coming Nazi Party interrupted screenings by releasing rats in theaters or setting off stink bombs, as the sting of the country’s defeat during World War I was still too much to bear. Still packing a powerful punch, the film’s final image is a hard one to shake, as it should be. The movie would take home the Oscar for Best Picture as would its director Lewis Milestone. (7:00 PM)
The Bride of Frankenstein – The crowning achievement of Universal’s horror cycle of the 1930’s finds Frankenstein’s monster seeking a mate and forcing his creator to make another like him. The film was far ahead of its time when it was released in 1935 and it remains a distinctive vision today what with its deft mixture of humor and horror, while the timelessness of its setting keeps it fresh and vibrant, all of which is the product of director James Whale who demanded and received full artistic control. Moving along at a crisp 75 minutes, the film features the finest performance of Boris Karloff as the monster, as he brings a childlike innocence to the role yet also a sense of danger that’s palpable. As the mad Dr. Pretorius, Ernest Thesiger steals every scene he’s in with his arch haminess while Elsa Lancaster as Mary Shelley in a brief prologue and then the title character at the end is captivating. Curiously, the Bride is on screen just a little over four minutes and yet has become a part of pop culture ever since. Not to be missed. (11:30 PM)