British Science Fiction: A Poster Gallery

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Today (May 14th) TCM has programmed a batch of entertaining and inventive British science fiction films beginning with THE TUNNEL aka TRANSATLANTIC TUNNEL (1935) in the early morning hours of 5:45 AM EST/2:45 AM PST followed by FIVE MILLION YEARS TO YEAR aka QUARTERMASS AND THE PITT (1968), VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1961), THE COSMIC MONSTER aka THE STRANGE WORLD OF PLANET X (1958), THE GIANT BEHEMOTH aka BEHEMOTH, THE SEA MONSTER (1959), FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1964), THESE ARE THE DAMNED aka THE DAMNED (1962), X THE UNKNOWN (1956), and SATELLITE IN THE SKY (1956). In an effort to entice viewers and rouse the imaginations of the most sedate classic film fans I thought I’d showcase some striking film poster art for these surprisingly imaginative films. The timid among us might be put off by the bold graphics, eye-popping layouts and outrageous claims they make but my fellow adventure seekers should relish the opportunity to dream bigger and embrace the improbable. So without further ado, I bring you British Science Fiction Films: A Poster Gallery.

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Ass, Grass, and Mishegoss. An American Hippie in Israel (1972) and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968) on TCM Underground!

American Hitch-Hiker

A disillusioned Vietnam veteran escapes the madness of modern living and attempts to establish a Utopian commune on a desert island.

AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL (1972)

aka HA-TREMPIST, THE HITCHHIKER, THE HITCHHIKER: A HIPPIE’S GUIDE TO ISRAEL

ast: Asher Tzarfati (Mike), Shmuel Wolf (Como), Lily Avidan (Elizabeth), Tzila Karney (Francoise), Susan Devor Cogan, Fran Avni (Hippie Singers). Director Amos Sefer. Producer: Amos Sefer, Amatsia Hiuni. Cinematography Ya’ackov Kallach. Music: Nachum Haiman.

Color. 95 minutes

Showtime: Saturday, May 16th, 11:30pm PST/2:30am EST. [...MORE]

The Show Must Go On: 42nd Street (1933)

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When sound came to cinema, the musical came along with it. The tremendous box office returns of The Jazz Singer (1927) had producers reeling, and the market was soon flooded with song and dance. But the Depression-era audiences began tuning them out,  preferring the patter of William Powell to the tapping of another chorine. By 1931 the studios had slashed musicals from their slates and were brainstorming what went wrong. In the May 1931 issue of the Motion Picture Herald, Paramount’s Jesse Lasky was optimistic about the future of the genre:

A gradual but inevitable return of music to the screen is predicted by Lasky. He believes the future will bring a sprinkling of operettas, a reasonable number of musical comedies, dramatic pictures with backgrounds of symphony orchestras. Citing the public’s attitude toward musical comedies, he contends that picture audiences were given something before they were prepared for it. “There is merely a need of a little more skillful technique and a better understanding on the part of the public”, explained Lasky. “The public was not prepared for the license of the musical comedy. For years we had trained the public to realism. The stage naturally had a dramatic license which was impossible in pictures. Audiences could not get used to music coming from nowhere on the screen. Nevertheless, musical comedies will come back and the public will become accustomed to that form of entertainment. In the next two or three years they will have forgotten that there ever was any question about musical comedies.”

In 1933 all questions were dropped after the massive success of WB’s 42nd Street, a snappy, streetwise backstage musical that introduced the world to the symmetrical spectacles of Busby Berkeley’s dance choreography. Now out on a sparkling Blu-ray from the Warner Archive, it’s clearer than ever why this was the film that brought the musical back into the spotlight.

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A Forgotten Film to Remember: The Last of Sheila

LAST OF SHEILA, THE

Film historians often proclaim the 1960s and 1970s to be one of Hollywood’s most creative eras. Dubbed the Film School Generation, or New Hollywood, directors, producers, and writers enjoyed a level of creative control in the film industry that few filmmakers have experienced before or since. Directors such as Scorsese, Coppola, Penn, Nichols, Bogdanovich, Altman, Lumet, DePalma, Kaufman, and others were influenced by the work of European filmmakers, inspiring them to experiment with form and content. The result is an era of original films that as a group challenge, entertain, and provoke.

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Your Mother Should Know

TCM celebrates Mother’s Day by offering up a selection of cinematic mothers who reinforce the ideals upheld by most of us when thinking of great mothers.  Barbara Stanwyck’s Stella Dallas is a classless, gaudy, hoot of a mama who, once she discovers the embarrassment and distinct lack of social climbing she offers her daughter, voluntarily boots herself out of the picture so her daughter can know happiness and ease.  Her sacrifice is practically ultimate: her daughter was her life and she gave that up to make her happy.  But what about those moms that aren’t so great?  Frankly, showing a few of them might actually make lots of real moms feel better because, no matter what their failings, they could point to these moms and say, “Well at least I’m not that bad!”  To make it even more inclusive, I’m including moms that never even appear on the screen because how many times can we vote for Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate as the Worst Mother Ever?

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May 9, 2015
David Kalat
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Downton Valley, or Ruggles Conquers the West

Ruggles of Red Gap is an odd duck. It is a crucial turning point into the formative genre of screwball comedy, but it isn’t easily recognizable as a romantic comedy nor is it especially female driven. It was Charles Laughton’s favorite screen role, but he’s not known for comedy, and his performance here consists substantially of standing still and trying to suppress an awkward smile. It’s a 1930s Hollywood comedy for the Downton Abbey set, whose most famous scene involves a British valet reciting the Gettysburg Address to a bar full of Wild West toughs.

In other words, it’s a movie that calls for some unpacking. So let’s get started!

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KEYWORDS: Charles Laughton, Leo McCarey, Ruggles of Red Gap, Screwball Comedy
COMMENTS: 3
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Who Directed This Thing Anyway?!

Anyone who knows classic Hollywood knows that there have been many occasions where the name under the “directed by” credit isn’t the actual person who directed the picture.  One of those happens to be on tonight, Journey Into Fear, nominally directed by Norman Foster, but mapped out in its entirety by Orson Welles.  Other famous cases include Christian Nyby who helmed The Thing from Another World and eerily duplicated all the trademark touches of director Howard Hawks (wink, wink).  Tobe Hooper, who had his former directorial style disappear into an almost exact duplicate of Steven Spielberg’s directorial style with Poltergeist (nudge, nudge) and of course, almost everyone with a directing contract in Hollywood at the time who took a turn behind the camera and emulated David O’Selznick’s style, even though he wasn’t a director, with Gone with the Wind (say no more, say no more).  Which brings up the question, what does a director do anyway and at what point can we declare who the director is?

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Think Pink: The Enduring Appeal of Lady Penelope

ladyp01Last week I celebrated the 100th birthday of Orson Welles and this week I’m celebrating another milestone, the 50th anniversary of THUNDERBIRDS and the International Rescue team featuring secret agent extraordinaire, Lady Penelope.

This popular “Supermarionation” series of television shows and feature-length films debuted on British TV in September of 1965 but Lady Penelope made her first appearance nine months early within the pages of the comic book magazine, TV Century 21. Lady Penelope’s early introduction indirectly resulted in her becoming somewhat of a special ambassador for THUNDERBIRDS and she managed to entice both male and female comic readers with her stories of “Elegance, Charm and Deadly Danger.” This coming Saturday (May 9th) TCM viewers will be able to see Lady Penelope as well as her fellow International Rescue team members in THUNDERBIRD 6 (1968) airing at 8 AM EST – 5 AM PST. In anticipation of THUNDERBIRD 6 and in celebration of the THUNDERBIRDS 50th anniversary, I thought I would explore the enduring appeal of Lady Penelope who, along with her pink six-wheeled Rolls-Royce and trusty sidekick Parker, has managed to capture the imagination of children and adults for the past 50 years.

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World premiere of Jim Akin’s The Ocean of Helena Lee, Friday May 8th, at the Egyptian Theatre!

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I haven’t been everywhere but I’ve been some places, some pretty good places. At the top of the Eiffel Tower. in the labyrinth of the Dorsodura in Venice, gazing down into the belly of the Coliseum in Rome. idling on Carnaby Street in London and Central Park in New York and meandering without purpose in Amsterdam. I’ve been on a thousand thrill rides and in a thousand carnival fairways and more houses of horrors than churches but I don’t think of them all that often. When my mind wants to go to somewhere special, some place that has value, like treasure, like magic… I find myself in the most mundane of places. With my mother in the supermarket as a kid in the 60s or watching my then-girlfriend/now-wife water plants on the fire escape of her then-apartment on the Upper East Side in the late 90s (a moment that lasted for mere seconds, but which has stayed with me for nearly 20 years), or gazing at the green, green grass of a field somewhere one day in the 70s, or feeling the first breeze of summer come in through the open window of my Yorkville tenement apartment on some anonymous Saturday morning of the New Millennium, a day which holds for me no other memories. I remember colors and smells and far off sounds and what was on the radio that one time and I think it’s this inclination towards favoring sensation over sensational that brings me back to the films of Jim Akin. The LA-based filmmaker’s second feature, THE OCEAN OF HELENA LEE (2015), is having its world premiere at the Egyptian Theatre (under the auspices of the American Cinematheque) in Hollywood on Friday, May 8th, at 7:30pm.  [...MORE]

This week on TCM Underground: Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive (1974)

ItsAlive

An expectant couple’s newborn baby emerges from the womb a monster.

IT’S ALIVE (1974)

Written, produced and directed by Larry Cohen. Cast: John P. Ryan (Frank Davis), Sharon Farrell (Lenore Davis), James Dixon (Lt. Perkins), William Wellmann, Jr. (Charley), Shamus Locke (The Doctor), Andrew Duggan (The Professor), Guy Stockwell (Bob Clayton), Daniel Holzman (Chris Davis), Michael Ansara (The Captain), Robert Ermhardt (The Executive). Cinematography: Fenton Hamilton. Music: Bernard Herrmann.

Color-91 m.

Showtime: Saturday May 9, 2015 11:45pm PST/2:45am EST  [...MORE]

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