Chuck's Classic Movie Picks 9/8 - 9/14

Chuck's Classic Movie Picks 9/8 - 9/14

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Classic Pick of the Week – The Black Stallion (1979) One of the reasons we flock to the movies is that the great ones take us to another places, somewhere far away from out troubles, allowing us to leave the workaday world behind.  Few films do that better than Carroll Ballard’s The Black Stallion, a movie that generates its magic not through special effects but with beautifully captured exotic locations and the sincere portrayal of an undying friendship between a wild horse and his boy.  Based on the novel by Walter Farley, the first half of the film takes place on an island in the Atlantic where young Alec Ramsey (Kelly Reno) and an Arabian stallion have been shipwrecked and must learn to rely on one another in order to survive.  Once rescued and returned home, Alec befriends a former horse trainer (Oscar-nominated Mickey Rooney) in the hopes of turning his equine friend into a racehorse.  The importance of the music by Carmine Coppola can’t be overstated as it beautiful underscores the film’s magical qualities while Ballard succeeds in creating many familiar moments without them ever seeming clichéd.  This is a truly gorgeous, moving experience. TCM – 5:00 pm - Monday

 

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Tuesday – September 9th – Director Brian De Palma has probably had just as many hits as misses in his up and down career but there’s no denying most of his films are daring and audacious.  And while it may be an obvious knock off of Hitchcock’s Psycho, Dressed to Kill (1980), being shown at 5:25 am on the Encore Suspense Channel, is one of his better efforts. Angie Dickinson stars as Kate Miller, a sexually frustrated married woman who gets a startling surprise, and pays dearly for it when she has an anonymous affair with a stranger.  The sexually explicit scenes featuring the 49 year-old actress is only one of the many surprises the film contains, which also features Michael Caine in one of his most unusualroles.  Not for the faint-of-heart or easily confused.Blog Photo

While George Lucas was creating his own mythology with his Star Wars space adventures, Mike Hodges Flash Gordon (1980) has no such concerns.  It’s a cheesy nod to the adventure serial from the 1930’s, reveling in the ridiculous nature of its premise as well as sporting special effects and sets that are purposely cheap in nature. In the title role, Sam J. Jones brings a depth to the part that matches the threadbare script while it’s an absolute hoot to see the great Swedish actor Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless, displaying a flair for broad comedy that you never would have suspected watching him in the many Bergman films that brought him international acclaim.  You can take it all in at 9:00 pm on the MGM-HD Channel.

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Wednesday – September 10th – Though director/producer Stanley Kramer made his name making socially conscious films in the 50’s and 60’s, he was never accused of being a filmmaker with a subtle touch, as he never met a cause he wouldn’t beat into submission with an obviously moral approach.  While that’s certainly the case with The Defiant Ones (1958), airing at 10:50 am on the MGM-HD Channel, that doesn’t dull the power of this tale of two escaped cons – one black, one white – who are shackled together by manacles and a chain.  Credit Kramer for delivering this story in a crisp taut manner while the performances from Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis as the prisoners on the run elevate and transcend the material.

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Many of tried to put into words an accurate description of Greta Garbo’s beauty as well as the sort of hypnotic charisma she possessed.  I don’t think it can be done.  She has to be seen to be appreciated and even after seeing her in numerous films, it proves impossible to accurately convey the effect she has on the viewer.  So captivating and elusive, she came off as remote and cold, that is until Ninotchka (1939) hit the screen in 1939 with the tagline “Garbo Laughs!” a promise the film delivers in an uproarious scene halfway through this comedic romp, a moment that changed how the world saw this Sphinx-like star forever.  This delightful comedy, which features Garbo as a Russian spy whose disdain for Americans changes when she comes to the States and falls for Melvyn Douglas (?) can be seen on TCM at 7:00 pm.

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Thursday – September 11th – There’s no question that Jerry Lewis is a divisive performer – you either love him or hate him.  Undeniable as well is the fact that The Nutty Professor (1963), showing at 7:00 pm on TCM, is his masterwork, the sort of film that stands the test of time and even is seen favorably by those who hold the filmmaker in disdain.  A comedic take on the Jekyll and Hyde story, Lewis is Professor Julius Kelp, a genius who suffers from low self-esteem.  However, when drinking a potion of his own making, the good doctor’s alter ego emerges, an egotistical boor by the name of Buddy Love who’s soon putting the moves on Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens), the apple of Kelp’s eye.  The sight gags are inspired, particularly a sequence in which Kelp is suffering from a massive hangover and the most innocuous of sounds cause him great pain; however, it’s the climax that proves the most surprising, as Kelp delivers a poignant speech about the pain he’s endured from being alone as well as his regret over not being himself.  Nicolas Cage once said he thought Lewis deserved an Oscar for his turn here and after seeing his work here, you can see the merit of this comment.Blog Photo

Walter Hill’s The Long Riders (1980) is far more than a film built on a gimmick as it proves to be a gritty, historically accurate movie, the likes of which is all too rare in the genre.  Real-life brothers James and Stacy Keach are James and Jesse James, Civil War veterans who resort to robbing banks only when hard times hit and the powers-that-be refuse to lend them a hand.  With Cole, Jim and Bob Younger (David, Keith and Robert Carradine) in tow as well as Ed and Clell Miller (Dennis and Randy Quaid), the gang heads to Minnesota for a job that results in their undoing. Well-acted, gritty and with some of the best slow motion effects used in a film, this is a movie that’s been unjustly overlooked for far too long.

 

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Friday – September 12th – TCM continues its look at Hollywood’s Pre-Code Era by devoting 24 hours to films that pushed the morality of the day, before more stringent rules relating to content were instituted in 1935.  At 8:30 pm there’s Design for Living (1933), an Ernst Lubitsch comedy of manners in which an independent young woman (Miriam Hopkins) falls for a painter (Gary Cooper) and a sculptor (Fredric March) and refuses to let society dictate that she choose between them.  This racy love triangle was far ahead of its time in its examination of modern relationships and is a standout due to the work of the three principals and Lubitsch’s trademark light touch.

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Hopkins and March pop up again at 11:45 in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932), the definitive version of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel about a scientist who unleashes his dark side and is unable to control it. Hopkins is alluring as the crass dancehall dame who catches Jekyll’s eye but it’s her reaction to March’s Hyde that’s memorable as she conveys true fear in the face of the madness that’s before her.  March won a much-deserved Oscar for his work here as he gives a dual performance that still manages to shock some 80 years after the fact.

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